Part Three: THE MIDDLE YEARS - IX. The End of the Ottoman Empire
The End of the Ottoman Empire
THE WORLD to which I, restored at last to health and eager to get back into harness again, returned in that summer of 1919 had undergone vast and far-reaching changes in the three years of my seclusion: the collapse of the Czarist regime in Russia, and the passage granted by the Germans to Lenin and his fellow conspirators to let them loose in their native land; the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk; the complete defeat of the Central Powers on all fronts in 1918; the abdication of the Kaiser and the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the emergence of the militant Socialist revolutions in sundry European countries; in the Near and Middle East the end of the Ottoman Empire. President Wilson seemed in those months an almost apocalyptic figure of deliverance, with his doctrine of "selfdetermination" for all peoples. Everywhere the war had unleashed huge tides of political feeling which were not to be smoothed or subdued. The peacemakers assembled in Paris to contemplate, with profoundly mingled and complicated emotions, a world scene bristling with difficulties and dangers, an awe-inspiring chaos which the peoples of many nations looked to them to resolve immediately and tidily into an ordered millennium. Relief at the end of the long, bloodstained nightmare of the war mingled with a naïve but vigorous optimism. Peace was to usher in an epoch of unmarred political, social and economic tranquillity. Even so august a figure as my old friend, Lord Curzon, then Leader of the House of Lords, was affected by the prevailing mood, and in his speech in the House of Lords, in November, 1918, announcing the Armistice he intoned with fervor Shelley's lines which begin: "The world's great age begins anew."
India was far from unaffected by all that had happened. In 1917 when the conflict was at its sternest, there was a general feeling in Britain, official and unofficial, that India's contribution to the Empire's war effort, the valor of her soldiers, the staunchness of her leaders and people, earned more than formal recognition. On the strong recommendation of the Viceroy and of the Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, the Government on August 20, 1917, published a statement of its aims in respect to India.
"The policy of His Majesty's Government," said this statement, "is that of increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire."
This was a momentous pronouncement. It marked the explicit commitment of the then British Government and its successors to a radical departure from what, in conflict with the principles of the Act of 1833, had grown to be the basic and accepted purposes of British rule in India. In the earlier schemes of administrative reform, the Cross-Lansdowne proposals of the 1890's and the Morley-Minto of the early 1900's, there had been no hint of any intention to transfer fundamental power and responsibility from British to Indian hands; self-government in India had never been mentioned. Now, there it was in words that all could read. I have been told that in the original draft which went to the Cabinet the words "self-government" were used; Lord Curzon -- of all people -changed them to "responsible government." He thus made it inevitable that when the constitutional reforms to implement the declaration were introduced, they took the pattern which came to be known as "dyarchy"; for the word "responsible" implies in those who exercise it, responsibility to someone -- to whom? To Governor or Viceroy, and thus to Britain and British Parliament, or to the Indian electorate and people? Dyarchy, workable compromise though it was sometimes made, was bound to present this dilemma to ministers, both in the provinces and at the center. It was the expression, in terms of practical and day-to-day administration of that almost schizophrenic duality of outlook -- that split between ideal intention and workaday application -- which henceforth characterized the British attitude toward India. Schizophrenia is not a basis for happy relations; in it, however, is to be found much of the explanation of the estrangement, deepening to embittered hostility which ended only, and then with miraculous swiftness and completeness, with the final and total withdrawal of British rule in India.
In 1919 all this lay in the future, and I for my part was taken up with a wider, bolder vision in which -- formulated first in my book, India in Transition -- I sought to interest everyone who had any responsibility for Indo-British relations, principally, of course, Edwin Montagu, the Secretary of State. Edwin Montagu was a Jew, totally assimilated into the British pattern and way of life, brilliant and lovable, a member of that interlocked Montagu-Samuel-Isaacs Anglo-Jewish group of families which has made so notable a contribution to British life in the past half century.
I was eager in 1919 that under British inspiration and guidance there should be built up a South Asian federation of self-governing states extending from the Malayan Peninsula to the confines of Egypt -- a federation on what may loosely be termed Commonwealth lines, and within the framework of the British Empire (Commonwealth, of course, was a word which had not come into use in 1919). It seemed to me -- it still seems to me now -- that this was then a feasible scheme and a better solution to world troubles than that adopted. Had the British Government accepted it, and had it been executed resolutely, I am certain that there would have developed in southern Asia a strong power -- an association of powers -- in which healthy democratic institutions would have evolved naturally and easily and which would have provided effective support for Britain and (as it turned out) the United States and the Southern Dominions in an hour of grave need and a permanent bulwark against aggression.
In a measure these proposals of mine were a fulfillment and an extension of ideas and hopes which had been implanted in my mind during my years of close association with Gokhale. In the autumn of 1914 when I hastened back to London from Africa to make as effective a contribution as I could to the war effort, I was met by Gokhale, who, though extremely ill at the time with diabetes -- and constitutionally averse to London's mild, foggy climate -- had prolonged his stay there in order to see me. Amid the pressure of a great deal of other work, we saw much of each other and discussed freely and frankly all our hopes and fears for India. We strove to compose a draft memorandum which we intended to address to the Government embodying the very large measure of agreement which we had hammered out in our conversations.
Early in 1915 Gokhale was dead. But before he died he completed his political testament which he addressed to me, with the request that I should make it public in two years' time, when (as he hoped) the war might be over and India capable of facing the supreme task of working out her own destiny.
In due course I published Gokhale's testament as he bade; and on my own behalf I added a memorandum pleading that after the war East Africa might be reserved for Indian colonization and development in recognition of India's war services.
However these were and are dreams of what might have been. History has taken a different road. The final scheme of reform, as it was promulgated in the Government of India Act of 1919, was very different, on a far smaller scale, and limited only to India. And, alas, it produced not the peaceful, gradual evolution, slow step by step, toward responsible government that had been hoped for, but instead a phase of extreme unrest and violent political turbulence. Moderate, constitutional-minded leaders in Indian politics, such as my friends Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and Gokhale, were dead. A new generation sought for new methods of achieving much more farreaching aims -- and in a hurry.
Even before Parliament considered the Government of India Bill, the situation in India had taken several turns for the worse. A committee set up under the chairmanship of Lord Justice Rowlatt to consider the juridical aspects of political agitation issued its report which recommended the establishment of special courts to deal with acts of sedition. The report had a hostile reception. The example of Ireland was not lost on India. Extremism on both sides took charge. The Rowlatt Committee's recommendations were accepted by Parliament; and as soon as the bill embodying them became law Congress declared a hartal, a general strike, in protest. More than once during these harsh and distressing months, I urged restraint, not only on the part of my followers but of the Muslim community in general; less than a fortnight later, however, occurred the dreadful "Amritsar incident" which set back by many years any hope of constructive and abiding amity between Britain and India.
The shock of this episode and the bitter memories it left behind poisoned relations for years. I suppose that if I had been the sort of person to despair, I should have despaired then. But I was so actively engaged in seeking from the British Government a clear and honorable line of conduct on a matter involving the highest political principles that despair was a luxury for which I had neither the will nor the time.
One effect of dyarchy was that it involved the transference of a good deal of authority in internal matters in India from the center to responsible officials in the provinces. The effects of a centralized bureaucracy were as notable in the India Office in London as they were in Simla or New Delhi. I was asked to be a member of a committee in London charged with the task of decentralizing and reorganizing the work of the India Office. It was mainly a matter of clearing some of the channels by which the Secretary of State got his information and defended his department and himself in the eyes of those to whom he was ultimately responsible, the elected members of the British House of Commons. It was hard work, but it gave me a clear picture from the inside of the workings of the great administrative machine by which a modern State is conducted.
It coincided, as I had indicated, with a period of strenuous political activity, in which I directed my efforts mainly to trying to prevent the complete dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and to establishing a peace settlement in the Near and Middle East which would be not only just and equitable but also practical.
I must therefore describe in some detail the background to the swirl of political and diplomatic work in which I was caught up. One of the countless major questions which faced the victorious Powers in the immediate postwar period was. What was to be done about the Ottoman Empire, over vast regions of which the Allies were, by the end of 1918, in military occupation? It was true that the Turks retained control of their own homeland, Anatolia, and of the historic, ancient capital, Constantinople, but from Tripolitania in the west to Kurdistan in the east, from north of Aleppo to Wadi Halfa, in enormous territories whose populations, in a great diversity of races and culture but predominantly Muslim, had once owed allegiance to the Sultan of Turkey, the controlling authority was now an Allied Military Governor.
In the heat of the war many promises of spoils in the hour of victory -- spoils to be torn off the vanquished body of Turkey -- had been made; by the beginning of 1919 few were capable of fulfillment, nearly all were irreconcilable one with another. The MacMahon letters, addressed by the acting High Commissioner in Egypt in 1915 to the Sharif Husan in Mecca, could not possibly be reconciled with the Balfour Declaration issued in 1917; both conflicted sharply with the Sykes-Picot agreement, by which Britain and France shared out huge areas of the Ottoman Empire as "spheres of influence." The most flagrantly impossible undertaking of all was that Constantinople (since Czarist Russia had retained an historic interest in what had once been the Graeco-Roman city of Byzantium) should be given to Russia. This at least could be ignored, since the Bolshevik leaders had made their own peace arrangements with the Germans in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and since the Soviet regime and the Western Allies were in a state of undisguised hostility. But for Turkey as a whole the hopes of a tolerable peace settlement looked slender.
Almost all the British political leaders who were to have any influence over the peace discussions were markedly anti-Turkish. Lloyd George, the Prime Minister, was a friend and admirer of Venizelos, the Greek leader; he saw certain similarities in historical experience and outlook between Greece and his own Wales; he was therefore enthusiastically pro-Greek, and though not actively anti- Turkish, he was quite indifferent to the fate of the Ottoman Empire. Arthur Balfour, the signatory of the letter to Lord Rothschild announcing that it was Britain's intention to establish a National Home in Palestine for the Jews, was openly and actively pro-Zionist, and he was also extremely prejudiced against the Turks historically and racially.
Now Zionism, I may say in passing, was something of which I had had long and by no means unsympathetic experience. My friend of the early and strenuous days in Bombay, Professor Haffkine, was a Zionist -- as were many other brilliant and talented Russian Jews of his generation who escaped into Western Europe from the harsh and cruel conditions imposed upon them by Czarist Russia. Haffkine, like many of the earlier Zionists, hoped that some arrangement could be made with the Turkish Sultan whereby peaceful Jewish settlement could be progressively undertaken in the Holy Land -- a settlement of a limited number of Jews from Europe (mainly from the densely populated areas then under Russian rule) in agricultural and peasant holdings; the capital was to be provided by wealthier members of the Jewish community, and the land would be obtained by purchase from the Sultan's subjects. As Haffkine propounded it, I thought this sort of Zionism useful and practical. It contained no hint, of course, of the establishment of a Jewish National State, and it seemed to me worth putting before the Turkish authorities. There were, after all, precedents for population resettlement of this kind within the Ottoman Empire, notably the Circassians -- of Muslim faith, but of purely European blood -who were established by Abdul Hamid in villages, in what is today the Kingdom of Jordan, with excellent results. Abdul Hamid could well have done with the friendship and alliance of world Jewry; and on the broader ground of principle, there is every natural reason for the Jews and the Arabs, two Semitic peoples with a great deal in common, to be close friends rather than the bitter enemies which unfortunately for both sides the events of the past thirty years or so have made them. In furtherance of what was then a shared interest in Zionism, Haffkine gave me, when I first went to Paris in 1898, letters of introduction to a number of his Jewish friends including the savant and Rabbi Zadek Kahn, * and through him I met the famous Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Baron Edmond was a princely benefactor of the early Zionist experiments; some of the first settlements in Palestine were financed by him and owed their ultimate prosperity to his generous support and interest. When I called on him I was introduced to his two sons, James, then an undergraduate at Cambridge, and Maurice, a boy in the uniform of a naval cadet. Baron Edmond remained my friend until his death; and for well over fifty years now both James Rothschild and Baron Maurice de Rothschild have been good and close friends of mine.
* There are sometimes complications in nomenclature. Long afterward in London I was introduced to a well-known American society woman, Mrs. Corrigan, by a friend of mine simply as "Aga Khan" with no titles and no further explanation. Brightly smiling Mrs. Corrigan said that she was a great friend of my brother, Otto Kahn, of New York's Metropolitan Opera House!
Rabbi Kahn prepared a statement of his and his friends' ideas on Jewish settlement in Palestine. It was an elaborate plan for colonization on a scale and in a manner which would have helped and strengthened Turkey; and one of its most logical claims to consideration was that the Ottoman Empire was not a national state but multinational and multiracial. With the Rabbi's proposal I made my approaches to Abdul Hamid through Munir Pasha, the Turkish Ambassador in Paris, and through Izzet Bey, the Sultan's confidential secretary. However, the scheme, good or bad as it may have been, was turned down by the Sultan, and I heard no more of it. I must say its rejection has always seemed to me one of Abdul Hamid's greatest blunders.
But just as the defeated Turkey of 1917-1918 was a different country from the Ottoman Empire of the nineties, so the Zionism of 1917-1918 and on was, of course, a very different matter. And the Zionists were only one group among many, anxious to extract all they could from the carve-up of Turkey. Arab nationalism was scarcely less strongly in the ascendant, and it possessed many powerful friends and zealous advocates in and near the British Government. Sir Gilbert Clayton, T. E. Lawrence and many other socalled "political officers" who had served in the Middle East had -- I must say, from my own knowledge -- encouraged Arab nationalism in and out of season, sometimes openly and sometimes secretly, long before the fall of Turkey. The British had already established a military administration in Palestine. The French advanced the remarkable claim that they had an historic right to protect the Holy Places in Jerusalem. The Greeks, encouraged by another group of romantic, philhellene Englishmen, were in a mood of dangerous expansionism. And at the very heart of real power in the Peace Conference, Clemenceau had no love for the Turks; and President Wilson, in the one interview which I had with him, frankly admitted that he really knew very little about the whole problem.
Almost the only support on the side of the victors that Turkey could muster was Indian. The greater part of Muslim interest in India in the fate of Turkey was natural and spontaneous, and there was a considerable element of sincere non-Muslim agitation, the object of which, apart from the natural revolt of any organized Asiatic body against the idea of European imperialism, was further to consolidate and strengthen Indian nationalism in its struggle against the British.
The reasons for Muslim concern were profound and historic. Turkey stood almost alone in the world as the sole surviving independent Muslim nation, with all its shortcomings; the Imperial regime in Constantinople was a visible and enduring reminder of the temporal greatness of Islam's achievements. In the Khalifate there was too, for all of the Sunni sect or persuasion, a spiritual link of the utmost significance. As the war drew to its close, anxiety had intensified in India in regard to the safety of the Holy Places of Islam and the future of the Khalifate. Gandhi, who had succeeded my old and dear friend, Gokhale, as leader of Congress' political movement and organization, shrewdly seized what he saw to be a chance of maintaining and heightening anti-British sentiment throughout the whole subcontinent. The storm of agitation that swept India on this issue was formidable. The Indian delegates at the Peace Conference, the Maharajah of Bikaner and Lord Sinha, heartily and sincerely supported by Edwin Montagu, the Secretary of State for India, made an emphatic protest against the various proposals for the partition of Turkey and the practical dissolution of the Khalifate that were being eagerly canvassed around and about the conference.
It had been decided to settle the fate of defeated Germany first. This thorny task was accomplished in considerable haste, and the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. Thereafter protracted discussions continued about the treatment of the other vanquished nations. My friend Syed Amir Ali and I began an energetic campaign to put the real issues, so far as Turkey was concerned, before British and indeed world public opinion. I had private interviews with numerous influential statesmen, together we wrote long letters to The Times; on every possible public and private occasion we made our views known.
We drew vigorous attention to certain specific pledges given by the Prime Minister, and in a letter to The Times quoted these pledges verbatim:
"We are not fighting," Lloyd George had said, "to deprive Turkey of its capital or of the rich and renowned lands of Asia Minor and Thrace. While we do not challenge the maintenance of the Turkish Empire in the homelands of the Turkish race with its capital at Constantinople, the passage between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea being internationalized and neutralized, Arabia, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine are in our judgment entitled to a recognition of their separate national condition."
We tried to sum up the outlook of those for whom we knew we had a right to speak:
What do the Muslims want? What do we plead for? Neither they nor we ask for any new status for Turkey. We consider it, however, our duty to urge, for the fair name of England, nay of the British Empire, that the pledge the Prime Minister in the name of England gave to the world, and in particular to the world of Islam, should be maintained; and that the Turkish Sovereign, as the Khalif of the vast Sunni congregation, should be left in absolute possession of Constantinople, Thrace and Asia Minor stretching from the north of Syria proper along the Aegean coast to the Black Sea -- a region predominantly Turkish in race. It would, in our opinion, be a cruel act of injustice to wrench any portion of this tract from Turkish sovereignty to satisfy the ambitions of any other people.
Instead of bringing peace to Western Asia, such a settlement will sow the seeds of constant wars, the effect of which cannot be expected to remain confined to the country where they happen to be waged. For the defection of the adventurers who dragged their stricken people, who had already undergone great misery, into the world war, Turkey has been sufficiently punished by the secular expropriation of some of her richest provinces. But we submit that the maintenance of the Ottoman Sovereign' spiritual suzerainty in these countries, whilst maintaining his prestige and thus conciliating Muslim feeling, would be the means of making the position of the Muslim rulers or governors of those countries unimpugnable. But so far as Thrace, Constantinople and the homelands of the Turkish race are concerned, Muslim feeling is absolutely opposed to any interference under any shape with the Sultan' sovereignty.
In India itself, as the months wore on, and as the time came near for signing a treaty with Turkey, the agitation grew to such proportions and was of so unanimous a character as gravely to worry the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford and the Secretary of State, Edwin Montagu (whose personal sympathies, as I well knew, were warmly engaged on the Turkish or Asiatic side). Most of all they were disturbed at the thought that the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, on which such high hopes had been pinned, were to be launched in practice into this atmosphere of turbulence and hostility.
In the Viceroy' Legislative Council it was proposed that I should be sent to London as the leader of a deputation to the Prime Minister, representing the views not only of Muslims but of the whole articulate population of India.
The other members of the deputation were the president of the Khilafat movement, Mr. Chatani; one of India' most eminent advocates, Hassan Imam; and Dr. Ansari, a leading member of Congress. Lloyd George saw us, but we realized that our mission was doomed to failure, for meanwhile the Turkish treaty, known to history as the Treaty of Sèvres, was being prepared, with strangely little regard for the realities which, within a few years, were to shape the Near East anew. The unfortunate Sultan was under rigorous supervision, a solitary and helpless prisoner in Constantinople. Turkish, Arab and Greek deputations were hurrying back and forth between the Mediterranean and London. Sometimes their arguments were listened to; often they were not. The Treaty of Sèvres was to be an imposed, not a negotiated, treaty.
Constantinople was at first promised to the Greeks; then this promise was taken back. It was at last decided that Thrace and Adrianople in European Turkey should be Greek, and Smyrna in Asia Minor. Turkey was reduced to a sort of "rump" state in the highlands of Asia Minor, with a strip of coastline along the Black Sea. There was even talk of an independent, sovereign State of Armenia in the far Northeast -- if the Russians could be persuaded to stomach it. Some sort of order was hacked out of all these conflicting claims. In August, 1920, the hapless Turkish representatives appended their signatures to the document which embodied them all.
This concluded in a sense the first phase of my own campaign for a just treatment of defeated Turkey. Before I record the events of the second phase which rapidly followed, it may be proper to consider the effect of the decisions which the peacemaking politicians took in 1919-1920, in stubborn and bland disregard of the advice which we proffered them.
Muslim opposition to the break-up of the Turkish Empire had a basis -- however much misunderstood it may have been -- of true statesmanship and understanding of the absorbing political realities of the Middle East. First we felt that the separation of the Arabs from the Turks (hailed at the time as emancipation from a tyranny, but within a few years all Arab nationalists were singing a very different tune) would not lead to the emergence of a single strong Arab nation extending from Egypt to Persia and from Alexandretta to Aden and the Indian Ocean. We foresaw in large measure what actually happened: the formation of a number of small Arab nations, for many years of little more than colonial status, under British and French overlordship. We predicted that the Arabs would in fact merely be changing masters, and where these masters had been Muslim Turks, they would now be Christians or (as ultimately happened in a large part of Palestine) Jews. Even now after the lapse of thirty years or more, the Arab states that succeeded the Ottoman Empire -- though the ignominious protectorate and mandated status has been abolished -- are nothing but an aggregation of small kingdoms and republics, not one of them capable of standing up alone in the face of any powerful opposition and, despite the Arab League, incapable of maintaining either individually or collectively real resistance to the influence of Soviet Russia or the Western democracies. Neutrality in any conflict between these two is a forlorn dream.
Consider for a moment how different matters might have been had these emerged after the First World War a federal union of Turkey, the Arab states of the Middle East and Egypt, with a single defense force and a united foreign policy. Our instinctive Muslim faith in the idea of the continuance of Turkey as a great power had wisdom in it, for it would have achieved practical results, in the security and the stability of the Middle East, far transcending anything that the makeshift, haphazard policies of the years since the end of the Second World War -- piecemeal withdrawal of political suzerainty by Britain, piecemeal financial, economic and military aid by the United States -- have been able to effect. Consider the disruption and the political malaise which have been the lot of the Middle East in recent years; consider all the unavailing effort that has gone into the attempt to build up a Middle East Defense Organization, in any degree paralleling NATO, and ponder how easily, how honorably all this might have been avoided.
It is, however, no use crying over spilled milk. The victors of the First World War, unlike the victors of the Second World War, were intoxicated with their triumph and the sense of their own victory and believed that they could build a brave new world according to their heart' desire. History was as tragically as categorically to give the lie to that belief.
The Treaty of Sèvres, harsh though it was, was practically stillborn. Even by the following spring of 1921 events had overtaken it, and it was obvious that it must be urgently reconsidered. A new conference was called in London. At the Viceroy' request I put the Muslim point of view to this gathering. Its sittings however proved abortive. For what everyone in West and East alike had ignored was the emergence from the ruin of Turkey of a soldier and statesman of genius, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who in the time of their deepest tribulation had rallied his sorely stricken but indomitable people. Denied access to Constantinople, he had set up a provisional capital at Angora -- now Ankara -- high on the Anatolian plateau; he had rebuilt, re-equipped and retrained the shattered Turkish Army. Having obtained a secret understanding with Russia, he could arm his troops, and he was assured of protection in his rear. He was thus prepared to defend his country' cause, not around some distant conference table, but in his homeland and on the field of battle. Few were at first aware of the magnitude of this new development.
The Greeks who, being nearest of all to the scene, should have known most, were blinded by their own lust for military victory and territorial expansion. Taking exception to the establishment of the Turkish provisional government in Angora, they began an ambitious, grandiose, and as it proved, utterly disastrous series of military operations in Asia Minor.
To add to the complications, the British Government became restive over their demands for the release of certain British prisoners held in Turkey. Over this, at least, I was able by direct intervention and a direct appeal to the new Turkish authorities to secure a certain relief in an increasingly critical situation. The Turks released the prisoners, and this crisis blew over.
By the late summer of 1922, however, the prospect looked blacker than ever. Mustafa Kemal' tattered but valiant armies had stood at bay in their own hill country, had stemmed the tide of Greek invasion, and now were in the full flush of victorious advance. They captured Smyrna, the great Graeco-Levantine port on the coast of Asia Minor, put it to the sack, and before the eyes of the crews of Allied warships lying in the harbor, set whole areas of it on fire. It was the Greek army now which was a tattered, defeated remnant in flight. Mustafa Kemal' forces stood at the gates of Constantinople and demanded the right of free, unimpeded passage to reoccupy Thrace and Adrianople.
The whole situation was both ominous and confused. A mixed Allied military force, under the command of a British General, Sir Charles Harington, held Chanak and the approaches to Constantinople, which the Turks had already renamed Istanbul. A vigilant, cautious but resolute man, Harington awaited orders from London. A single reckless or inconsidered action on his part, even a stray shot developing into a fusillade, might precipitate a general conflict a little less than four years after the cease fire at the end of the First World War. But the character of the military commander on the spot was not the only factor in this grave and delicate crisis. The British Government was in a curiously unrealistic and bellicose mood. A long, trying period of industrial unrest, with a protracted coal strike and a huge roll of unemployed, had been succeeded by the difficult and involved negotiations which ended the worst of the "troubles" in Ireland and which were clinched by the signing of the Irish treaty. But Lloyd George' second Coalition Government, returned to power with a huge majority in the "coupon" election of 1918, had run its course. The Liberals had never really forgiven Lloyd George for his brusque ousting of Asquith in December, 1916, in the central political crisis of the war. The Conservatives supplied the bulk of his Parliamentary support, but they were becoming increasingly restive and suspicious of the Prime Minister' incurable political adventurism. Did he think that in the Chanak crisis, as it was called, he perceived an opportunity to end the dissension and dissolution in the ranks of his supporters, to prevent his own increasing isolation and to rally Parliament and people behind him in a great united effort? Was it a gambler' throw or was it gross miscalculation?
I was in London when the crisis was at its worst, and I exerted every effort to prevent its culminating in what I knew would be a disastrous as well as an unjust war. This time I was not fighting a solitary battle against an overwhelming tide of contrary opinion. Now I had powerful allies and supporters. The columns of The Times, as so often in my public career, were open to me. The first Lord Rothermere, who had just assumed personal control of the group of newspapers built up by his brother, Viscount Northcliffe, was my staunch supporter. And Lord Beaverbrook, the man by whose influence and eager advocacy exercised at the right moment Lloyd George had come to supreme power as Prime Minister in 1916, was now as sincerely convinced that Lloyd George was set on a course that would bring nothing but suffering and hardship. However, the first concern was not to encompass Lloyd George' fall but to prevent -- of all unnecessary wars -- the most unnecessary that could ever have been waged.
Early in September the British Government issued a statement on Chanak which was both pugnacious and injudicious, and ended with an appeal to the Dominions for their help in the event of another war with Turkey. The tone of this pronouncement thoroughly alarmed British public opinion, which was in no mood to contemplate all the pain and sacrifice involved in another war in support of what could only be described as Greek intransigence and stubbornness. Protests were loud from all sides. The faction that was pro-Government and philhellene had only one strong card to play: Turkish forces were then almost in contact with the Allied -predominantly British -- occupying forces in the Straits of Constantinople area. General Harington on his side was quietly determined to avoid any action which might involve his slender forces and commit them to any form of hostilities with the veteran, tough and resolute forces which Mustafa Kemal had already deployed with skill. On the other hand, at the earnest request of my friend, Lord Derby, * I was able to get in touch with the Turkish leaders and point out the grave perils inherent in any attack on the Allied forces; and I assured them that, pending a provisional settlement, their troops' strategic position would not in any way be prejudiced if they abstained from any offensive action. I pressed these considerations on my Turkish friends with all the urgency I could command. I am glad to say that sanity prevailed. An important contributory factor was that France had come to a secret understanding with Kemal and his Government; and French influence exerted by Monsieur Raymond Poincaré was all for a peaceful settlement. The decision for war could only have been a rushed one; once British public opinion had time to ponder the issues, it could crystallize and express itself, and it was firmly for peace. The very real menace of another war in the Middle East was averted.
*We met, I remember, at Newmarket, and Lord Derby asked me to use all the influence which I possessed.
A vivid account of the handling of this crisis has been given by Lord Beaverbrook. * Throughout it Lord Beaverbrook was as active as he was staunch. Seriously worried by the drift in affairs, he often discussed this matter with me. I was happy to see that we were in full agreement and that in all my endeavors to assist the Turks I had his moral support. He too had reached the eminently sound and practical conclusion that "for Britain to fight Turkey in pursuance of the exploded policy of supporting Greek imperialism was a monstrous error which must be avoided at all costs." Beaverbrook sought the support of his friend and fellow Canadian, Bonar Law, then leader of the Conservative party, which supplied the bulk of the Government' voting strength in the House of Commons.
* In Politicians and the Press.
Beaverbrook' words to Bonar Law were blunt. "These men mean war," he said.
Those four words spelled doom for Lloyd George' Coalition Government. A meeting of the Conservative party was held at the Carlton Club, the party' great sociopolitical stronghold; the speech that swayed the meeting and brought about its decision to withdraw support from Lloyd George was made, not by Bonar Law, who was already an extremely sick man, but by a comparatively unknown back bench M.P., Stanley Baldwin, who less than a year later was to succeed Bonar Law as Prime Minister.
Lord Beaverbrook maintained his onslaught on the pro-Greek, anti-Turkish policy of the Coalition Government. On December 16, 1922, the day after the House of Commons had adjourned for the Christmas recess, The Daily Express gave a sensationally detailed account of the happenings of the previous September. It said that within ten days of the fall of Smyrna, when the Greek rout had already begun and it had been recognized by the Greek Government in Athens that their military position in Asia Minor was hopeless, Lloyd George encouraged them to continue fighting. Lloyd George (said The Daily Express) took this step after having inquiries made by his principal private secretary, Sir Edward Grigg, * of someone attached to the Greek Legation, who had said that the Greek army could not possibly hold out longer without active British assistance in munitions and in credit. On September second, The Daily Express went on, when the Athens Government appealed to Lloyd George to arrange an armistice, another of his private secretaries telephoned the Greek Legation advising them that "their government should be very careful to avoid the mistake made by the Germans in 1918 and not conclude an abject armistice in a moment of panic."
*Now Lord Altrincham.
Lloyd George never returned to office. In spite of our difference over Turkey, I am glad to think that he and I, even as late as 1940, when he came and lunched with me at Antibes, remained on terms of firm and sincere friendship until the very end of his life. Lloyd George was a man of infinitely compelling charm. His effective career as a politician was short, from 1905 to 1922. Its brevity may be explicable in terms of his personality, which was like a diamond cut in many facets; every facet had a brilliant light to throw out, but their number and their variety were so great that often contradictions occurred. There was only one phase in his life in which these contradictions and conflicts were resolved, and he appeared -- and was -- wholly consistent; this of course was during his first two years as Prime Minister, from 1916 to 1918 -- a period of supreme effort and greatness. Then, in spite of all the efforts of his critics to belittle him, he was as much "the man who won the war" as his great successor Churchill was in the Second World War. With the exception of that one triumphant phase, the brilliant and powerful manysidedness of Lloyd George' character prevented him from influencing the history of his time to the extent which his talents -- his imagination, his practical capabilities and his intellectual superiority -- gave his admirers (such as myself) every hope to expect. As one of the Big Four who formulated the Treaty of Versailles, he was convinced -- a conviction which I fully shared -- that he would have used the power over Germany, which under its terms were given to the victorious nations, in a very different manner from that employed by his less imaginative and competent successors. Of all the statesmen of that time whom I knew, Lloyd George alone, I feel sure, was capable of evoking and sustaining in the Weimar Republic in Germany of the late 1920' and early 1930' that self-respect and that genuine understanding and use of democratic institutions which could have saved it and the world from Adolf Hitler and the Second World War. But, alas, by then the volcano was exhausted not by its internal weakness but by its brilliance. The views which I have expressed here about Lloyd George and Germany were shared, I know, by Lord D'Abernon with all his profound knowledge and experience of Germany.
For myself an eventful period of close association with the politics and diplomacy of the Middle East in general and Turkey in particular drew to a close. The first abortive Lausanne Conference was followed by a second, more fruitful, during which I held what may be described as a watching brief. Britain' new Conservative Government was represented by Lord Curzon, the Foreign Secretary; the Turks sent a strong and capable delegation. Britain' mood was realistic and sensible. It was decided to accept the facts, to give de jure as well as de facto recognition to the new Turkey, and to let this revived and vigorous Uninational State retain not merely its homeland in Anatolia, and the sea coast of Asia Minor, but also Thrace, Adrianople and Istanbul. Along these lines agreement was reached and the Treaty of Lausanne signed. Subsequently the Montreux Convention regularized arrangements for dealing with the passage of international shipping through the Dardanelles.
It might be possible to construe all this as a diplomatic defeat for Britain, but what in fact were its main results? A long period of growing harmony and understanding between Britain and Turkey and a Brito-Turkish relationship in the Second World War which, despite severe strain put upon it, was of great assistance to Britain and her allies. Think too what might have happened had Turkey been rebuffed once more: Russia would long since have been installed in Istanbul and, if not in Smyrna itself, along the coast to the north with her ships and aircraft ranging far out into the Medi terranean. The statesmen of the West, heady with the sense of their own political and military power, would have brought about endless complications and misery in an important and sensitive region; destiny and history itself, tugging the other way, gave Asia Minor years of tranquil development and reorganization, social, economic and spiritual. A complement to and a striking contrast with the new Turkey' experience was that of the Arab states in this same epoch -a story of division and weakness, of active nationalist elements in the various countries in constant conflict with Britain and France, and of a relatively submissive minority, installed in office, and therefore loyal to their British or French masters. Such in brief was the history of the Near East from the rise of Ataturk to the outbreak of the Second World War. Of all that happened in those sad and troublous years I was a spectator -- occasionally in the columns of The Times a critic -- but thenceforward I ceased to be, as I had so long been, an active participant.
One other political issue of some complexity and importance to which I devoted a good deal of time and interest in those immediate postwar years was the question of Indians in East Africa, especially in the rapidly developing colony of Kenya. As I have narrated in earlier chapters there had long been Indian settlements along the coastline of East Africa; these settlements contained a considerable and growing number of my own Ismaili followers, who contributed an influential and stabilizing element to the community. In Kenya, where in the 1950' race relations became a political issue of the most crucial significance, there were already clear signs, thirty years ago, of the dangers that were looming ahead. In the so-called "White Highlands" of Kenya there was a rapidly developing area of European -- predominantly British -- settlement, on the high rolling plateaus which lie between the coastal belt and the Rift Valley and Africa' great lakes and which constitute a temperate region in equatorial latitudes, fertile, climatically agreeable and eminently suitable to intensive agricultural development. The whole of Kenya was administered by the British Colonial Office as a Crown Colony. The British settlers, whose unofficial leader was Lord Delamere, a tal ented and highly individualistic English peer, had of recent years been demanding an increasing measure of self-government for themselves. They differed from the usual British community in a tropical country in that they were settlers, and they intended to make -- and did make -- Kenya their permanent home, bringing up their children there, and not merely live there for short tours of duty as did (in general) British officials, traders and planters in India, the Far East and West Africa. But the Indians, rapidly growing in numbers, saw in the settlers' agitation for self-government the imposition of racial, "white" supremacy, and their own permanent political and social exclusion and subjugation. They in their turn demanded complete political and electoral equality. The Colonial Office officials wavered; and they were not themselves competent to take the effective decisions which were made in Whitehall and Downing Street. At no time has it been possible for Kenya to settle its own destiny for itself; all of Kenya's problems have been subject to outside interference, influence and -- in the final analysis -- external decision.
The end of the First World War had seen in Kenya, as elsewhere, a release of pent-up and sharply conflicting political ambitions and emotions. The British electorate and its representatives in the House of Commons were -- although theirs was the final decision in Kenya's affairs -- in the great majority massively ignorant of Kenya's problems. From 1920 a series of decisions was made within the Colonial Office in respect to Kenya; each new decision appeared to cancel its predecessor. Matters were not helped by the fact that there were several Governors of Kenya and several Secretaries of State for the Colonies within a very few years. By the end of 1922 and the beginning of 1923 the situation in Kenya was confused and inflammatory. So strong were the sentiments of the British settlers that they had established a militant, secret organization of their own with which -- in the event of the British Government's deciding, as they thought, against them -- they proposed to take over the administration of the country. Indian opinion, both in Kenya and at home, was greatly agitated. It is fair to say, however, that even in the period of greatest tension no single incident of violence, involving a European and an Asiatic, was recorded in Kenya; in spite of the deep political gulf between them, the communities remained on good personal terms.
To me the whole situation -- had I not in my addendum to my friend Gokhale's political statement suggested that East Africa be set aside for Indian colonization? -- was deplorable. I took my customary step of making my views known in a letter to The Times. The immediate danger, as I saw it, was that a few hotheads might commit acts that would affect the mind and imagination of Indians not only there and then but all over India and far into the future. In particular I urged that if the settlers really accepted the view that the British Empire of the future (we still had not evolved the concept of the Commonwealth, but we were moving rapidly toward it) was to be a truly co-operative association between men of all races and creeds and customs, then indeed in East Africa more than anywhere else in the Empire they should use their full influence and power to bring about a better general feeling and wholeheartedly accept the fact that, short-term feelings apart, in the long run their own interests made it necessary that the Indian community in Kenya should be as prosperous and as happy as it was large.
The Government of India was fully alive to the dangers of the whole situation. Lord Reading, the Viceroy, Lord Peel, the Secretary of State, and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru who was one of India's representatives at the Imperial Conference of 1923, urged that there should be a conference -- or if necessary a number of conferences -between representatives of India and all concerned with the administration of colonial territories, such as Kenya, Uganda and Figi, where there was any sizable element of Indian settlement, to establish the political rights and responsibilities of Indians in those regions.
Faced with this cogent and powerful request, faced too with the grim possibility of armed rebellion by British settlers in a Crown Colony, the British Government was by now far from unaware of the urgent need for action that would end the dispute. In this somewhat explosive atmosphere I was asked by the Government of India if I would lead the Indian delegation to a committee under the chairmanship of Lord Zetland, charged with the task of finding a solution to the whole delicate and difficult problem.
By the time we were appointed, Lord Zetland had become a member of Mr. Baldwin's short-lived first Government. I was asked to take the chair, but I felt that since I was a party to the dispute and the chief spokesman of the Indian viewpoint, it would be unfortunate for me to be chairman of the committee. We therefore had as our chairman Mr. J. Hope Simpson, M.P.; the other members were Sir Benjamin Robertson, a member of the Viceroy's Executive Council who had paid an official visit to Kenya in 1920, Diwan Bahadur T. Rangachariar and Mr. K. C. Roy. We began our work in April and finished it in July; and by August of that year, 1924, a Labor Government -- Britain's first -- was in office, and when our report was presented to the House of Commons, the Minister who presented it was Mr. J. H. Thomas, the new Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Jim Thomas and I became fast friends and remained so to the end of his life. I never believed that in the unhappy affair which cut short his political career he acted otherwise than in good faith. His open and genial nature may have landed him in a difficult and distressing situation, from which the only way out -- resignation -- was the one which he took unhesitatingly. Jim Thomas was a greathearted man, of fine and generous feelings, whom I always admired and respected.
Though we had spent many weeks of that summer in committee rooms in the India Office and in long discussions with the Colonial Office, our discussions did not receive the seal or hall-mark of any Act of Parliament embodying our suggestions and recommendations. Yet they had, I think, as a compromise, their own genuine value; true, they were only half measures, but they were all that we had either the power or the authority to recommend.
Of one fact my years in public life have convinced me: the value of a compromise is that it can supply a bridge across a difficult period, and later having employed that bridge, it is often possible to bring into effect the full-scale measures of reform which originally would have been rejected out of hand.
On the questions of electoral equality and of unrestricted settlement in the highlands there was no change; Delamere and his friends held their position. But on immigration we secured the abandonment of an offensive ordinance which the Kenya Government had already adopted and which would virtually have put an end to Indian immigration into East Africa; the Secretary of State, however, retained the right to enact any measure at any time should African interests appear to be threatened by the influx of immigrants from abroad. Mr. Thomas announced that certain districts in the coastal lowlands were to be reserved for agricultural immigrants from India. These were to some extent gains. But it was obvious then and it is obvious now that logicality and permanence are impossible of attainment in the whole difficult and complex racial situation which, because of half measures and compromises, has been allowed to develop in East Africa. In some measure, I think, we may claim that we did create a better atmosphere and a wider understanding of the Indian viewpoint, and the fairly practicable modus vivendi which subsisted in Kenya for many years, and also in Uganda and Tanganyika, was the result of our committee work and the detailed recommendations which we made.
One fact was apparent then and still deserves emphasis thirty years later: East Africa's problems must not be allowed to become a matter of contention between opposing political parties in Britain. I cannot be disinterested in this issue, for my own followers of purely Indian origin number in East Africa nowadays some fifty thousand -- seventeen thousand in Kenya, twenty-seven thousand in Tanganyika and six thousand in Uganda. As recently as July, 1953, I contributed a turnover article to The Times in which I set out my views, in principle unchanged by all that had happened in the years between.
"For as long as we can foresee," I said, "the British people are the trustees of the population of East Africa, irrespective of race and color. That trusteeship can never be adequately exercised unless there is a firm bipartisan understanding and interpretation of that duty between the two main political parties and informed public opinion among all classes in Great Britain. There can be no real union in East Africa among the races if any portion of them believes that the trustees are divided or that they have particular favorite wards. The trusteeship of the African colonies is a great responsibility, a touchstone of success or failure for the British race in one of the greatest challenges placed before it by destiny."
Time alone will show how that responsibility is discharged. As a tailpiece to my account of these happenings in East Africa, however, it may be agreeable to mention that Sir Evelyn Baring, the Governor of Kenya, issued a statement on the occasion of the sixtyeighth anniversary of my inheriting the Imamate of the Ismailis, which was of the greatest warmth, kindness and courtesy.
The year 1924 marked the conclusion of a phase of my public life, of five or six years of strenuous and varied activity. Thereafter until 1929 or thereabouts I entered a period devoted almost exclusively to my own personal and private life.
I think, however, that I should make it clear that in public affairs I have always been in a sense an amateur. My public life, as I have shown, has moved in successive, fairly clearly defined phases. But the duties and the responsibilities which are mine by inheritance have never for an instant abated. My normal work as Imam of the Ismailis consists of a constitutional leadership and supervision of the various councils and institutions of all the numerous and farscattered Ismaili communities, self-administered as they are in each region. In addition, I am in constant communication with thousands of individuals in the community, on all sorts of diverse matters about which they seek guidance, and it is -- as I have indicated -a community spread across the globe from the Great Wall of China to South Africa. This is my job, and it has been a regular part of my daily life for nearly seventy years, from childhood into old age.