Lionel Curtis, THE COMMONWEALTH OF NATIONS ... on how the British Empire must evolve into a World State, with the United States brought back in.

Selections by Peter Myers, August 15, 2001; update March 4, 2022.

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For the last 150 years, the leading ideologists of the British Empire, and now the British-American Empire, have presented it as a sort of Imperial Democracy based on the model of Ancient Athens.

Britain, and now America, proclaimed itself the bastion of Freedom, whereas other systems were Oriental Despotisms (a hundred years ago, they were talking about Germany in this way; now China).

This ideology of Freedom within the Empire was enunciated by Lionel Curtis, in books disseminated by the Round Table organisation, whose American counterpart is the Council On Foreign Relations.

Curtis explicitly likens Britain to Athens, and the continental systems to Persia, harking back 2400 years to the time when the Athenian Empire and the Persian Empire were neighbours in conflict.

His books include The Commonwealth of Nations (1916) and Civitas Dei: The Commonwealth of God (1938). In the former book he writes, "We now begin to see what a Greek commonwealth was and where it differs from an Asiatic theocracy" (p. 23).

His very use of the word "commonwealth" to describe the Athenian and British systems establishes the isomorphism.

Carroll Quigley writes of Curtis,

'Lionel Curtis is one of the most important members of the Milner Group, or, as a member of the Group expressed it to me, he is the fons et origo. It may sound extravagant as a statement, but a powerful defense could be made of the claim that what Curtis thinks should be done to the British Empire is what happens a generation later. I shall give here only two recent examples of this. In 1911 Curtis decided that the name of His Majesty's Dominions must be changed from "British Empire" to "Commonwealth of Nations." This was done officially in 1948. Again, about 1911 Curtis decided that India must be given complete self-government as rapidly as conditions permitted. This was carried out in 1947. As we shall see, these are not merely coincidental events, for Curtis, working behind the scenes, has been one of the chief architects of the present Commonwealth.'

From Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 63: quigley.html.

L. Curtis (ed.), The Commonwealth of Nations: An Inquiry into the Nature of Citizenship in the British Empire, and into the Mutual Relations of the Several Communities Thereof, PART I; MacMillan and Co, London, 1916.

{p. i} PREFACE

IN 1910 groups were formed in various centres in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa for studying the nature of citizenship in the British Empire, and the mutual relations of the several communities thereof. In course of time others were constituted in the United Kingdom, India and Newfoundland, and they all came to be known informally as 'Round Table Groups,' from the name of the quarterly review instituted by their members as a medium of mutual information on Imperial affairs.

The task of preparing or editing a comprehensive report on this subject was undertaken by the present writer. Preliminary studies were distributed to the groups for criticism, and their criticisms, when collected, were printed and circulated for their mutual information. On the basis of materials so gathered, the final report was projected in three principal parts. In Part I. it was proposed to deal with the question how and why the British Commonwealth came to exist, to trace the causes which led to its disruption in 1783, and to the establishment of a separate commonwealth in America. The subsequent growth of the dismembered Commonwealth was to be dealt with in Part II. In Part III. it was proposed to examine the principles upon which, and the means whereby, the members of its widely

{p. ii} scattered communities can hope to retain their present status as British citizens in a common state {i.e. the Empire was considered a single state}.

Part I. was prepared in five instalments, four of which were completed before the war. Each instalment was printed and circulated to the groups as it was finished. The text was revised in the light of the corrections and criticisms sent in, and at the close of 1914 was reprinted for private circulation under the title of The Project of a Commonwealth, Part I.

Meanwhile, in view of the situation created by the war, it was decided to anticipate the completion of the main report by a brief study of that aspect of the subject which most nearly concerns the self-governing Dominions. This short volume has now been published under the title of The Problem of the Commonwealth. Part I of the larger work is now given to the public in order that students may examine the foundations upon which the conclusions adduced in The Problem of the Commonwealth are based. To avoid confusion with the smaller volume, the title of the main report has been changed to The Commonwealth of Nations.

The Round Table groups were organized for the purpose of study, and men representing every shade of opinion joined them, on the understanding that they would not be committed to conclusions of any kind. The only way in which this understanding can be observed in the spirit, as well as in the letter, is for the editor to make himself solely responsible for producing these reports, and for all they contain. They must not be presumed to express the opinions of any Round Table group, or member of such group, other than himself. On the other hand, it must be emphatically stated that the main report is the work of various brains and pens. It is the product not of one writer but of many working in close collaboration. No single brain could master the facts required for an adequate

{p. iii} survey of the human race. However, for the reasons given above, the editor must be treated as the sole target of criticism.

For further information with regard to these reports the reader is referred to the preface of The Problem of the Commonwealth already published.

{p. 1} ON the sheet opposite this page the population of the globe, represented in graphic form, is divided into the communities which are recognized by each other as sovereign states. Upon opening this diagram the reader is at once impressed by the fact that two such states contain between them no less than half mankind. The Chinese Empire includes about one quarter of the human race, and the British Empire another quarter.

Here, however, the resemblance ends, and the essential difference in the character of the two Empires is clearly shown by a glance at the map of the world as presented in Plate II. The people of China are one race inhabiting one country. They constitute, as it were, an important wing of the social edifice. In the British Empire, on the other hand, are comprised people of every gradation in the human scale.

{p. 2} But the special feature of this great international state, upon which it is desired to dwell for the moment, is the variety of the elements which it connects.

{p. 6} Throughout the East obedience has been rendered to authority primarily as a religious duty. Rulers when not revered as actually divine have been regarded as vicegerents {he means "viceregents"} of God appointed to enunciate His mandates and to enforce them. ... Briefly we may say that the theocratic state is the distinctive product of the peoples of Asia, and represents an important advance on the merely tribal organization of primitive man.

{p. 7} To the Oriental mind the wisdom of rulers was, as in the case of King Solomon, less the product of experience than a gift from on high.

{p. 8} It is a commonplace that states had developed and civilizations were flourishing in Asia at a period when Europe was still plunged in a barbarism as primitive as that prevailing in the other continents.

{p. 9} The Medes and Persians were typical Orientals {but Aryans like the Greeks & Romans} in their idea that the law cannot be altered even in response to the experience which people subject to the laws have gained. In India the difficulty of altering the sacred law constantly impedes the reforming zeal of the government. In Turkey, the Sultan, though Sovereign, is subject to the Sheriat or Sacred Law, which he cannot alter; and which no power exists capable of altering. ... The natural fatalism of the Oriental is thus fostered by the notions underlying theocracy. Whatever form his religion takes he tends to regard himself and his kind as puppets of forces which are entirely beyond human control. Believing himself to be the slave of destiny he does in fact become so. The consequence is that any society inclines to be static so far as it rests on ideas which are narrowly religious rather than moral.

{p. 10} This confidence of the European in his own power to control circumstance has encouraged exercise of the power and led to its development. The Oriental, regarding the framework of society as divinely ordained, has treated man as though he were made for the law: the European has treated the law as though it were made for man, as a framework which must not be allowed to cramp social methods and habits, but which must, when necessaly, be modified to suit, and indeed to foster, change. {But the Eastern idea of law is a barrier to private power, whereas Curtis' idea fosters a private takeover of the state.} The idea that the law is human and subject to

{p. 11} alteration has necessarily led to a conception that the changes must be effected in accordance with the experience of the people it affects, determined so far as possible by themselves, and ultimately in accordance with their will. But the essence of a law is that it is a rule controlling the conduct of a number of people, and it obviously cannot be modified to suit the interest, or in response to the will, of each separate individual. The European conception of government, therefore, assumes the possibility of a public opinion which is as much entitled to prevail {that public opinion, however, may be shaped by private interests which own the media} over individual wills as the edict of an autocrat to command the unhesitating obedience of his subjects. But, to command obedience, public opinion must be capable of formulation in terms as precise as those of an edict. The further assumption is therefore involved that a certain number of citizens are capable of formulating public opinion in the light of experience. To do this they must have some intellectual capacity for judging the public interest, and, what is no less important, some moral capacity for treating it as paramount to their own. It follows that all citizens who have the necessary qualifications ought, in the interests of the whole community, to be admitted to a share in the work of formulating public opinion. The principle is one which travels in the direction of democracy as naturally as the theocratic principle travels towards despotism.

This briefly is the principle of the commonwealth, and its fundamental notion is that society is at its best when able and free to adapt its own structure to conditions as they change, in accordance with its own experience of those conditions. Freedom is the power of society to control circumstance, and that is why freedom and the institution of the commonwealth are linked inseparably, and together

{p. 12} constitute the distinctive ideal of Western civilization.

{p. 13} Frankly, we must realize that the first effect of European civilization on the older societies is disruptive. In the course of this inquiry we shall see how the ancient despotisms of the East corrode when they come into contact with Western commerce and

{p. 14} finance, and how civilized conceptions of law dislocate the communal systems natural to primitive man. ...

But are we justified in describing the British Empire as a state?

{p. 15} This empire, including a quarter of the human race, is in fact a state from the international point of view. ... The British monarch is, in fact, neither patriarch nor autocrat, but the hereditary president of a commonwealth. But in this commonwealth the governing power is practically restricted to citizens of European origin. It is not extended, even for local purposes, to any of the Dependencies great or

{p. 16} small, for the sufficient reason that the institutlons of a commonwealth cannot be successfully worked by peoples whose ideas are still those of a theocratic or patriarchial society. The premature extension of representative institutions throughout the Empire would be the shortest road to anarchy. But this present restriction of the franchise to the people of European origin no more deprives the Imperial state of its essential character of a commonwealth than the analogous restriction of the franchise to adults {i.e. non-whites are children}. In order to alter the system of government familiar to the East the ideas and customs out of which that system has grown must be altered first, and it is safe to assume that the masses of India will not have so changed their habits of life as to enable them within the period of the present generation to assume a complete responsibility for the management of their own domestic affairs. ...

The exclusion of an increasing portion of the European citizens of the Empire from a share in its stupendous responsibilities is the importunate question whose settlement must precede all others. One quarter of them are distributed between the Dominions of Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Newfoundland. Within the limits of those territories their several populations control their own internal affairs {i.e. self-government does not equate to independence}. In the general government of the Empire, however, they exercise no voice whatever, and, contrariwise, the Imperial Government has no power in fact of commanding their resources

{p. 17} for the maintenance of the Imperlal Commonwealth {i.e. the Empire is a Commonwealth}. Viewed from without, the British Empire is a single state with a single government, in practice just as competent to commit all its subjects to peace or war as the Governments of Russia, Germany, or the United States. But it cannot, like them, command the resources of all its subjects and territories in the discharge of its responsibilities. As the people of the Dominions have no voice in the government of the Empire, so are they not subject to contribute to its necessities. Viewed from within, the Empire lacks that property of states by which they proportion the expenditure of their resources to the responsibilities which the possession of those resources involves. It is a commonwealth which excludes from a share in its government an increasing proportion of citizens in no way less qualified for the task than those whom it admits to it. It is a state, yet not a state; a commonwealth, yet one which fails to realize an essential condition of the principle which inspires it. Can it continue in this condition, and if not, is it to develop the structure of a state and to fulfil the conditions of a commonwealth, or is it to be broken up into a number of states ? And if so broken up, can the parent state continue single-handed to maintain a stable equilibrium between these multitudinous races and civilizations, and to adjust their relations with the other three-quarters of the human race ? No question more momentous has ever been proposed, for upon its solution depends the stability, not merely of this Empire itself, but of the whole structure of the world's society through which it extends.

{p. 18} The first part of this inquiry traces the growth of the Commonwealth to the great schism which so nearly destroyed it at the close of the eighteenth century {i.e. American secession}.

{p. 19} ... the Asiatic idea that authority must rest on a supernatural basis survives amongs the Homeric Greeks, for their kings are always in some way descended from the gods. So strong is the religious idea indeed that they can think of themselves as united in the siege of Troy, as in later times they were never united, by common loyalty to a paramount king.

At a later period, when legend gives way to history,

{p. 20} these theocratic ideas have already receded into the background, and the Greeks have moved on to political conceptions of their own for which no precedent was to be found in Asia. ... It was in Athens that the Greek spirit reached its typical development ...

{p. 21} Here is a spirit of devotion no less absolute than civic duty that which inspired the obedience rendered by an Asiatic to a monarch whom he thought of as the delegate of God. But in Athens that obedience was rendered by the citizen to the will not of a despot but of his fellow citizens.

{p. 23} We now begin to see what a Greek commonwealth was and where it differs from an Asiatic theocracy. It is a body of men animated by a sense of mutual enthusiasm - of duty to each other - so strong as to

{p. 24} enable them to subordinate their own interests to that of their fellow citizens, and to render an absolute obedience to public opinion expressed, for the purpose of such obedience, in the laws. The rule of law as contrasted with the rule of an individual is the distinguishing mark of the commonwealth {but who makes the law? Who shapes that public opinion, when the media are owned by a few wealthy people?}. In despotisms government rests on the authority of the ruler or of the invisible and uncontrollable power behind him. In a commonwealth rulers derive their authority from the law, and the law from a public opinion which is competent to change it. In the Greek commonwealth public opinion found expression in the resolutions passed by the citizens themselves meeting in the market-place ...

{p. 25} The Greeks were indeed the first to realize the principle of the free commonwealth, but in a form too slight and delicate to survive. It was a great thing to have discovered that the public opinion of a community can be so focused as to become the directing as well as the driving principle of its governlnent. But it never occurred to them that this could be done otherwise than by the citizens themselves meeting in the market-place to legislate, and it was impossible, so they believed, for a state to

{p. 26} include more citizens than might listen to the voice of a single orator {today, computerised referenda offer Athenian-style democracy on a mass scale, but Curtis does not really want to share power}.

{p. 27} They were threatened, however, with an even greater danger from outside Hellas. Great autocracies, as we have said, naturally tend to absorb small states as soon as they touch them. But to the

{p. 28} Oriental theocracy the Greek commonwealth was in its essential idea an offence. One commonwealth may enslave another, but in doing so, the less commonwealth it. But a theocracy enslaves more men by virtue of the principle upon which it is based {did not the British Empire disenfranchise most of its subjects?}.

The East in the shape of Cyrus and his victorious Persians was for the first time actually threatening the independence of the West. ...

{p. 29} Their gallant resistance was futile against the numbers of the Persians. One after another they were reduced. Their autonomy, not altogether lost under the benevolent suzerainty of Croesus, was now finally abolished ...

{Curtis now speaks as if Britain resembles Athens, yet it had at least as much in common with Persia}

The great Asiatic Empire had thus absorbed the European settlements which fringed the coast of Asia Minor: but the lust for conquest and expansion was not exhausted {what of Britain's expansion?}. Cambyses, the predecessor of Darius, had moved into Africa and annexed Egypt; and Darius now crossed the Bosphorus and invaded Europe. He marched north, crossed the Danube, and attacked the Scythian tribes of South Russia: but, owing to the difficulties of supply and the elusive tactics of the Scythian horsemen, the Great King was unable to come to grips with his enemy, and was finally compelled to retreat from European soil without achieving anything. The failure of this Scythian expedition told heavily against Persian prestige, and the Ionian Greeks, who had found the rule of their philo-Persian tyrants and the payment of tribute to Darius intolerable to their inborn feeling for fleedom, took the opportunity, a few years later,

{p. 30} to revolt. ...

The Persians, who were no sailors, relied on the navy of Phoenicia which they had conquered and

{p. 31} added to their Empire.

{p. 35}... in the sheet of water enclosed by the coast of Attica and the island of Salamis, where the women and children of Athens had taken refuge, the nascent civilization of Europe turned to bay.

{p. 37} The Persian wars had revealed the strength and weakness of Greece. 'The struggle had brought into strong relief the contrast between absolute monarchy and constitutional freedom. ...

{p. 49} {On the Pelopponesian War, between Athens and Sparta} Had she only succeeded in unifying the organization and the sentiment of the Delian League there can be little doubt that the League would have maintained its control of the sea and defeated Sparta. As it was, she could extort more 'tribute' from her 'subjects' and build more ships with it, but she could not force those subjects to man those ships and

{p. 50} fight side by side with her own citizens in defence of a common state and a common ideal.

{p. 53} Alexander's idea had been, by conquering the entire known world, to correlate within the bosom of one state the civilizations of Europe and Asia. Seeking for some political idea common to both, by which to unite them, he fell back on the primitive belief of the Homeric Greeks that the authority of rulers is derived from the divinity of their origin. It is this which explains his strange visit to the Oracle of Ammon whose priests were constrained to greet him as the son, not of

{p. 54} Philip, but of God. Henceforward he exacted from his followers an acknowledgment of his divinity. His purpose, so the latest German authority believes, was to secure some title by which he could command the obedience of the East as well as the West, and this, like the Roman Emperors, he could only do by making the West revert to the Oriental idea of theocracy. The racial fusion of East and West was also part of this policy of world-empire. Ten thousand of his Macedonians were wedded to Persian women of the same standing at Susa, and Alexander himself married the daughter of Darius. The scheme next provided for transplantations of Greeks into Asia and Asiatics into Europe; and the first part of this was carried out in the countless Greek settlements which the conqueror dotted over the East. In the third place, there was to be military service on equal terms. Greek military schools were established in each province, and in five years' time an army of 30,000 Asiatics, trained and armed in Macedonian fashion, was ready to take the field. Persians were actually incorporated by the young conqueror in the veteran ranks of his Macedonian army. It is fortunate indeed that he did not live to realize his dreams, for his Empire would have been one in which the Asiatic elements would have so outweighed the European, that Eastern conceptions and habits would probably have extinguished the nascent ideals of the West. This, in truth, was the danger from which Rome was destined to save Europe.

{p. 60} What the Roman Empire accomplished will be better understood if we compare the condition of Europe before and after it. ... In one century Rome schooled the inhabitants of Southern Europe to the conditions of a state far in advance of any that Asia had produced. And before she fell she had made statehood a social habit of the whole continent. The importance of this will be better realized when at a later stage of this inquiry we come to examine one remote corner of Europe where the sword of Rome was never felt. Ireland was never freed from the habits of tribalism by Roman rule. ...

Now that the citizens of Rome had grown too numerous to legislate for themselves resort was had to the theory that the Emperor held their power of attorney. Their legislative and executive authority were concentrated in him. This was the theory, but in reality the Emperor was an autocrat. And even before the despotic character of the Empire was admitted in the West, the Asiatic provinces hastened to invest Augustus with the halo of divinity.

{p. 61} '... The mental habits of these races excluded all possibility of political understanding or intellectual culture, and chiefly consisted in a rude and violent mysticism, stimulated by two vast religions, monotonous as the plateau which their votaries inhabited - two of those mystical and vague cosmopolitan religions which crush the minds of men beneath the weight of infinity and have contributed at every age to form mixed races and prepare them for slavery. The younger of these worships was the cult of Mithras, which the Persian power had introduced and spread over the plateau of Asia Minor. It was an austere worship, formed by a fusion of primitive Mazdeism with the Semitic doctrines of Babylon, in which Mithras was worshipped as Justice and as the Sun, the sublime and almost inaccessible source of life and virtue. It was a worship which professed to lead feeble humanity to this inaccessible source by a host of ritual ceremonies and obscure symbols. The king s were regarded as human incarnations of this principle, and the monarchy as the poor but

{p. 62} venerable image of the divine.'

{p. 64} As the Roman power declined it became increasingly difficult to hold the Eastern frontiers of the state, and in 330 A.D. Constantine moved the seat of Government to Byzantium, which was known henceforth as Constantinople. There he erected a fortress to guard the narrow straits which divide Southern Europe from Asia Minor. The capital of the Empire was thus removed from the centre of the Latin to the centre of the Greek section of Europe.

Constantine, however, effected a change of even greater importance by abolishing paganism and adopting Christianity as the religion of the state. For the Church this official recognition involved the most serious consequences, for presently it became impossible to hold the Western or Latin half of the Empire, which split off, and was governed by separate Emperors from Rome. The division of the Empire thus led to the division of the Church between the Greek and the Latin worlds.

{p. 70} Throughout the centuries of political chaos which followed the downfall of the Western Empire, the Church helped to remind Europe of the unity which Rome had once given her. This cosmic conception of the state received a decided impetus from Christian morality which enjoined on the individual an absolute subordination of his own interests, not to family, friends, or race, but to all mankind. The Kingdom of Heaven was a spiritual commonwealth which included the living as well as the dead, and the recognition of its infinite claim to the obedience of its members was exemplified in the life and death of the Founder Himself. As the subjects of the Roman Empire came to imbibe these doctrines they coloured them by their own politieal conceptions. They thought of the Empire as that province of the Kingdom of Heaven which contained the living portion of mankind, of the Emperor as its divinely appointed administrator on earth, and of the individual as the subject bound to accord to Imperial sovereignty the unquestioning obedience which was due from man to God Himself. This deeply rooted belief in a universal and divinely ordered State survived the division of both Empire and Church,

{p. 71} and even imposed itself upon the Teutonic barbarians who destroyed the Western Empire. Its disappearance in 476 fostered the idea of the Churc h as a spiritual state; but the Papacy quickly felt the want of some secular arm to enforce its mandates and to protect the Church against rebellion from within as well as the assaults of Paganism from without. It required an Emperor as well as a Pope to secure the obedience of kings and rulers as well as their subjects to papal decrees. Laity and clergy alike began to ask why the Empire should not be revived in the person of the most powerful ruler that Europe had produced since the age of Constantine, and the coronation of Charles by the Pope in 800 was the natural result.

The force behind the new system was the Teutonic people which had destroyed the Western Empire and had then saved Europe from the Arab invasion.

{p. 77} Throughout the continent of Europe from the downfall of the Roman Empire there was no period during which order was maintained long enough to create the tradition that the law is above the visible ruler and more entitled than him to the ultimate obedience of the citizen. The upshot has been that, with the partial exception of Switzerland and Holland, the principle of the commonwealth failed to re-establish itself on the continent of Europe with sufficient strength to counteract the theocratic and despotic tradition of government which the Roman Empire left behind it. The ideas of government which prevailed in Germany to the first decades of the nineteenth century were, no less than those of the Latin peoples, inherited from Rome.

{p. 79} Meantime, in the islands on the western coast of Europe, which certain of the Teutonic tribes had partly conquered and occupied, was appearing the state which forms the subject of this inquiry. It was there, and not in Romanized Germany itself, that the Teutonic tradition of freedom was able to take root, and reproduce once more the principle of government which had first blossomed in Greece and almost vanished in the Roman Empire. In England was planted a commonwealth destined to spread until it included races more numerous and diverse than ever obeyed Rome.

{p. 80} ... the idea of liberty, first realized in Greece and Rome, was sleeping, not dead. ... in the Reformation and the Renaissance it recovered its position in the forefront of European ideals, and has been gradually extended, now by one community, now by another, but chiefly by the community founded in the dark ages, by Teutonic invaders of the British Isles.


The real contribution of Americans to the cause of freedom was the effective union of all their states in one greater Commonwealth, and the efforts and sacrifices by which the union of that Commonwealth was preserved.

{p. 683} {Bismarck's Germany} That a people in the forefront of civilization should produce the most powerful autocracy ever seen in the modern world is a singular phenomenon, and centuries of disunion suddenly ended by the master-strokes of the Prussian dynasty furnish the key to it.

Between such a system and those in which public opinion is the guiding as well as the actuating force, a spiritual conflict is inherent {but "public opinion" means "private power", since the media is in the hands of privately owned big business}.

{p. 684} To commonwealths war is a visitation to be faced, like famine or pestilence, only with the purpose of preventing its recurrence and protecting the liberty for which they stand {Yet the British Empire was constantly at war}. By the ruling classes in Prussia it is treated as a wholesome as well as a necessary exercise, and naturally they look upon the opposite opinion as a confession of weakness and a symptom of national decay. To them Britain is a power which has used the dissensions of Europe to annex a quarter of the world, and has now by its decadence lost any title to empire which it ever

{p. 685} possessed. ... The Germans, however, have not heen content to rest their claim to world-supremacy merely on superior force ...

{p. 689} Britain acquired a singular facility for converting cotton, wool, and other products of the distant continents into articles of human consumption. The wealth which she drew from these manufactures enabled her to vanquish Napoleon and to save freedom for a world which he tried to combine for her destruction.

The movement, which for three centuries had been bringing the people of all the continents into closer touch with each other, was suddenly accentuated by the need of British manufactures for raw materials of every kind. Their insular position, which pro-

{p. 690} tected the British Isles from the ravage of war and enabled their inhabitants to develop new industrial methods, gave them a lead in the field of production; and this lead went unchallenged till the union of Germany secured the first long period of peace, not merely to Germany herself, but to Western Europe. It was therefore, with minor exceptions, the people of Britain, not those of Europe, who came in touch with the distant continents. It was they who colonized Canada, which the Loyalists, driven from the United States, together with the French settlers, had occupied as an outpost of the older Commonwealth in the continent which the new one aspired to monopolize. It was they who continued the settlement of South Africa, begun by the Dutch, and who colonized New Zealand and the continent of Australia. It was British traders who came into ever closer contact with the ancient peoples of Asia, Africa, and the Southern Seas. Ere the nineteenth century was reaching its close, the British had extended their dominion over most of the vacant territories open to settlement, and the greater part of the races who inhabit the Tropics. Trade led to dominion, and in laying the foundations of their own freedom the people of the United Kingdom were committed to the government of vast multitudes of men unablbe to govern themselves. In doing so they rose, however imperfectly, to the conception that freedom is the ultimate goal of government, not only for themselves, but for the backward races as well. They grasped the principle that these races are not to be treated as instruments of the Commonwealth, but as ends in themselves, and are to be included in its circle and recognized as co-heirs of the spiritual inheritance which it exists to realize. They are to be incorporated in a state which, before all others, has stood for self-government, precisely for

{p. 691} the reason that they are as yet unequal to that task, but always with the end in view that in time they may learn to rise to it. The British, of course, had no such object in visiting the distant continents. No more is it to promote their future welfare that an industrialist employs thousands of workmen. Yet having employed them, he contracts a moral responsibility for their welfare, which, in so far as he is a man capable of rising above mere appetite for wealth, he will begin to recognize. And so with the British people when contracting commercial relations with the peoples of India and Africa. The task opening before them in the nineteenth century was, not merely to plant in the still vacant regions of the earth kindred communities capable of governing themselves, but slowly to indoctrinate the rudiments of freedom in alien societies who had yet to study its grammar and syntax. For the vast section of the backward races included in its circle the British Commonwealth is the best, and for the time being the only earnest of liberty, as they themselves have realized now that its existence is visibly threatened. The people of Britain have learned to regard them as fellow-citizens incorporated in the same Commonwealth with themselves to the intent that they may qualify for those fuller privileges which, when rightly viewed, are coincident with its wider tasks. Freedom, like the principle of life in the physical world, is inseparable from growth. Commonwealths are the corporeal frame in which it is incarnate, and they cease to flourish when they cease to extend the principle that inspires them in an increasing degree to an ever-widening circle of men. To have gathered to itself so vast a proportion of the races who have yet to learn what freedom means is the surest proof that the Commonwealth is

{p. 692} still true to the principle which inspires it....

One of the worst consequences of the schism which alienated the people of the United States from the parent Commonwealth has been its effect in limiting their conception of liberty and of the duty which free communities owe to their fellow-men. ... Cut off from the British Commonwealth, the Americans were divorced from the obligations of a higher civilization about to be laid upon it. They ignored the fact that the majority of mankind are still incapable of self-government ...

{p. 695} The final and only effective pledge for the liberties of the world was the mastery of the sea in the hands of a state which stood for freedom, and the defection of the American colonies left that burden to rest where it had previously rested - with the British Isles. From the time of Monroe, the supremacy of Britain at sea was tacitly accepted as a shield behind which the people of America could live, without concerning themselves with the affairs of the older world.

{p. 696} As in the seventeenth and eighteenth centurles, so in the nineteenth, the British Commonwealth, as the price of its own existence, was forced to extend its commerce and settlements to the uttermost parts of the world. It was the people of Britain who were brought thereby into touch with the ultimate problem of politics, that which arises from the mutual contact of the principal families of mankind, and of one level of civilization with another. It was they who learnt by experience that those relations cannot be limited to trade. It was they who were forced by responsibility to recognize that a civilized state must intervene to redress the anarchy into which traders, armed with the resources of civlization, plunge the society of primitive races. It was they who recognized first the necessity and then the duty of creating a new order in the wake of, and indeed in advance of, trade. It was they who in time came to recognize that order itself is to be valued only as the necessary foundation for the further extension of liberty. It was the older Commonwealth, and not the new one, which was led by contact with ultimate facts to assume the task of preparing for freedom the vast multitude of human beings who have yet to realize what freedom means.

{p. 697} The general result is that the United States, a free state which contains more than twice the population of the British Isles, has never advanced beyond the conception of the national commonwealth. ... But the presence of the negro in their midst has taught them that a mixture in one country of an advanced with a backward civilization is itself the greatest menace to liberty, and it has become the cardinal principle of their system that this sanctuary is to be closed, so far as may be, to all but the children of Europe.

{Now, 65 years later, Kevin MacDonald is reporting that Jews and East Asians are gaining dominance over Whites (non-Jews) at top American Universities, implying that Whites need protection, not as the superior but as an inferior civilization}

{p. 698} During the period when the Commonwealth was absorbing multitudes of Asiatics and Africans, the natural in-

{p. 699} crease of its ruling race was largely diverted to the territories it had lost. ...

In the long run the schism could only have been avoided had constitutional changes been made whereby the inhabitants of North America would have assumed precisely the same responsibility for the general affairs of the Commonwealth as that which rests on the people of the British Isles {one empire, two headquarters?}.

Experience would have led them to see that more primitive societies are invariably deranged by unregulated intercourse with Europeans, which must be controlled because it cannot be prevented; that the people of Europe cannot touch more primitive societies without deranging them. They would have recognized that the stronger civilization has a responsibility for the weaker which it cannot evade.

{p. 700} Whilst enlarging its bounds in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific so as to include hundreds of millions who must for centuries remain incapable of assuming the burden of government, the Commonwealth would simultaneously have been drawing from Europe millions capable of reinforcing the moral as well as the material resources of government. To-day some forty-five millions of Europeans are responsible for the peace, order, and good government of some three hundred and filty millions of the backward races - close on one-third of the non-European races of the world. But had the Commonwealth preserved its unity {i.e. if the U.S. had not seceded}, by realizing the principle upon which it is based, that stupendous burden would to-day have rested upon upwards of one hundred and fifty million citizens qualified for the tasks of government. A much larger proportion of civilized men would be organized to fulfil the first duty of civilization. And had means been found for incorporating the Americas, the same solution must also have been applied in the colonies south of the line. The government of the Commonwealth would not have rested, as it still does, on a single column with a base no broader than the British Isles. This

{p. 701} world-state which gives, not only to its members, but to all human society, such stability as it now has, would have rested on an arch which, double spanned, and based on foundations in four of the continents, would have been unshakable in its strength. Such projects as it is now taxed to defeat {e.g. Germany's rise} could never have been conceived. Instead of striving to avert destruction, it would have put itself outside the reach of such projects, which cannot be attempted without involving the greater part of the world in war, and dislocating the whole framework of human society. The primary function of a world-commonwealth {i.e. world-government} is to prevent such wars, and that it can do, if all its citizens capable of government are really responsible in peace for maintaining peace; but so long as none but the inhabitants of the British Isles are really responsible for preventing war, the relative strength of the Commonwealth will continue to decline. The chance of suddenly striking at its heart will encourage autocracies to prepare the blow. Such periods of world-war as closed in 1815 and opened once more in the present year are possible only when the British Commonwealth becomes weak enough to invite destruction. And if destroyed, the epoch of cataclysm would never be closed until there had emerged from the ruins a like commonwealth, and one resting on wider foundations.

How to cure this defect by extending responsibility for the general peace of the Commonwealth from the British Isles to all the self-governing Dominions is the problem we are facing to-day, but one never presented to the American colonies. They had never demanded a voice in the issues of peace and war, as Scotland had done, and had never been asked to share in the burdens involved, except in so far as their own local defence was concerned. The quarrel which led to the schism grew out of

{p. 702} the general failure to realize a system through which Americans could manage the 'dominion' affairs of America for themselves.

{p. 704} For, if the world's freedom, rather than national exploits, are the true goal of political endeavour, the schism of the Commonwealth in the eighteenth century was a failure second to none. {end of selections}

Curtis' later book Civitas Dei: The Commonwealth of God: curtis2.html.

The One World Or None report of 1946: one-world-or-none.html.

Back to the One World index: oneworld.html.

Write to me at contact.html.