Ditchley Foundation Lecture I
27 April 1962
Opening Address by Sir John Wheeler—Bennett, KCVO, CMG, Chairman of the Council of the Ditchley Foundation.
Mr. Minister, Mr. Provost, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen;
This is a very moving and a very memorable day.
It is not given to many of us to witness the realization of a dream but that in effect is what is taking place here this evening. It is the dream of Ditchley come true.
Some four or five years ago, Mr. David Wills conceived the wonderful idea of making this house — certainly one of the most beautiful in England — into an educational centre for the study of Anglo—American relations by the conference method. It was a dream, the realization of which might well have daunted lesser men, but Mr. Wills is not only an idealist, he is a man of action, of inspiration, of persuasion, of courage, and of immense generosity. By the exercise of all these attributes he secured the co—operation and support of a number of friends and the Ditchley project began to get under way. It was during these first days of the Project that Mr. Wills received invaluable assistance from Mr. Robin Darwin who infused into its nascent thinking much of his own vivid imagination and glowing enthusiasm.
The first chairman of the Council of the Ditchley Foundation was Lord Monckton, who was succeeded by Sir Roger Makins. It was Sir Roger Makins who brought the Project through its early amorphous period, giving it shape and form, using his wisdom and. his experience to delineate its policy, setting upon it the stamp of reality.
I need not describe to you the grave difficulties which beset any man who has the temerity to follow such inspired leadership. But, since I have the honour to be Sir Roger’s immediate successor, it is my great pleasure to tell you what a delight it is to welcome you all here on behalf of the Council. For, by your coming to attend this, the first of our Ditchley Foundation Lectures — and some of you have travelled six thousand miles to be here to-night — you have given us the spur and the encouragement of your approbation. We are deeply grateful to you.
From the first, the Ditchley Project has received the warm and wholehearted support of the United States Embassy in this country. Mr Jock Witney was one of the first Governors and also a member of the Council, The present Ambassador, Mr. David Bruce has succeeded him in these capacities and has been unflagging in his help and. interest. We thank him most sincerely, and we deeply regret that business of state has prevented his being with us to-night. We do, however, warmly welcome the United States Minister, Mr. Lewis Jones, who has come in his stead.
In any Project of this nature, much depends upon the character and personality of the first Provost, I can assure you that a great deal of thought and care went into our choice and I have no hesitation in saying that in Mr. Harry Hodson we have a Provost entirely in consonance with the Ditchley Project, with its aims, and — if I may use the term — with its ethos. His record needs no embellishment from me. It speaks for itself it is known to you all. We are indeed fortunate in having secured a man of his stature and his distinction to fill this important office.
There is always the danger at functions such as this, of the Chairman making the Provost’s lecture for him! I hasten to assure both h and you that I have neither the wish, the intention, nor — let me quickly add — the capacity, to do this. Nor shall I dilate upon the Ditchley Programme, for this information is already in your hands. But this I feel I must say. The importance of what will be done at Ditchley over the coming months and years lies in the fact that never was there a moment in history when a close and indestructible understanding between Britain and America was more vitally necessary, more desperately needed than it is today. No less a thing than the peace of the world may depend upon it and even, perhaps the survival of mankind. Whatever, therefore, can be done to further that understanding, to promote co-operation between our two countries, is of the greatest consequence. It is our confident belief that in fulfilling the policy of the Ditchley Project we can make a valuable and significant contribution in this direction.
To-night, at the moment of our Inaugural Lecture, we have reached a point where we can take to ourselves the last message of the dying President Roosevelt to the American people: “Let us mo forward with strong and active faith”.
I have great pleasure in introducing to you the Provost of Ditchley who will speak on “The Anatomy of Anglo— American Relations”.
The Anatomy of Anglo-American Relations
H.V. Hodson, Provost of Ditchley, formerly Editor, The Sunday Times.
H.V. Hodson, Provost of Ditchley, formerly Editor, The Sunday Times.
David Wills' initialled copy of the first Annual Lecture report.
We are here in the service of a great ideal which is also an urgent practical objective, the furtherance of friendship, under standing and alliance between the United States and Britain, and, with her, the other nations of the Commonwealth. Like the air we breathe or the pulses of our hearts, these relations we are apt to ignore until something goes wrong, the air is fouled or a cardiac spasm seizes us, when at once we realise how our life depends on them.
It is part of the doctrine on which the Ditchley enterprise is founded that we must not take good Anglo-American relations for granted. They need constant effort, care and refreshment. To help in that task, by means particularly of study and conference, is the duty laid upon us by our munificent founder, Mr. David Wills, and those who have worked with him in bringing his far-sighted project to fruition — among whom I include our loyal and hard-working staff.
Where better could this be attempted than in this noble house? Ditchley — this house or its predecessor — was for three and a half centuries the home of the Lees and their descendants the Lee-Dillons, a family with a distinguished American branch to which General Robert E. Lee belonged. In the possession of Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Tree, who between them were three quarters American, its hospitality was opened wide to American and British guests. Within these walls the policy of Lease-Lend was hammered out by Winston Churchill and Harry Hopkins. This historic inheritance is our present capital; the dividends of British-American goodwill that we seek to earn with it will themselves accumulate to form fresh capital for our descendants.
My subject tonight is The Anatomy of Anglo-American Relations. The task of the anatomist is to describe the bones and inner tissues of his subject, to show what it is and how its elements are related. He must not be squeamish, nor must he have preconceived ideas drawn from the surface of his subject or from an idealist view of its nature. He must be scientific, not sentimental.
It is in this spirit that I propose to consider the anatomy of that living creature, Anglo-American relations. No laboratory specimen, this, no cadaver for dissection. It is in live history that the political anatomist must find his main evidence, here fortunately not the mere detritus of the past, the historical nail-parings and hair-combings from which scholars sometimes labour to reconstruct an antique society, but vivid, voluminous and animated history, much of it within the memory of living men.
What an unlikely phenomenon that lusty creature, Anglo-American friendship, is! As unlikely, it might seem, as affection in nature between two different animals of the jungle—like Akela the wolf and Bagheera the panther, who leagued against the lame tiger Shere Khan for Mowgli’s sake. Perhaps we British and Americans always need a Mowgli to love, an ideal to worship, as well as a Shere Khan to fight, a tyrant to oppose.
The basic geo-political interests of the United States and Britain are, on the surface, far more contrasted than alike. The one country is more than half a continent, stretched from the Arctic region to the sub-tropics, with relatively weak neighbours on either of its long land frontiers, and great oceans barring it from other continents to East and West. The other is a mere island, on the edge of Europe, with at least two neighbours potentially stronger than itself within easy range of what we now call conventional weapons—almost as if they had become ceremonial implements like cavalry lances or a naval officer’s sword.
The one nation, with an enormous area and huge resources to exploit, spent most of its energies for a century and a half developing its own interior, where its expanding frontier has lain, while the other was compensating for its smallness, its loneliness and its lack of many natural resources by spreading an empire across the globe, an empire of two main parts, of native peoples brought under white man’s rule, and of new nations founded in the near-empty spaces of the temperate zones.
Yet these contrasted pre-occupations of Britain and America in the nineteenth century were themselves a large part of the reason why they remained at peace and on the whole friendly (apart from the war of 1812, which was admittedly a blunder on both sides), though Britain fought France and Germany and Russia, as well as countless colonial wars, and the United States fought Spain and Mexico, and subdued every obstacle save one to its Manifest Destiny “to overspread”, in the words of John Louis O’Sullivan, the coiner of the phrase, “the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions”. That exception was Canada, a dominion of the British Crown—and in the war of 1812 there were Americans who hoped “not only to add the Floridas to the South but the Canadas to the North of this empire”(1). Each nation was too busy with its own expansion, interior or exterior, to seek conflict with the other. Each found foes in third parties who stood in the way of its nineteenth-century explosion across the map.
The clearest mark of this complementary imperialism and common interest in keeping others out is to be seen in the Monroe Doctrine. It was an American President, James Monroe, who in 1823 warned European powers that the United States would oppose any who sought thereafter to plant or extend an empire in the Americas, a policy that went back to Jefferson and Clay; but it was a British Foreign Secretary, George Canning, who had given the starting impulse to Monroe’s démarche in his correspondence with Rush, the American Ambassador in London.
Strangely enough, perhaps the finest portrait of James Monroe, by Vanderlyn, hangs in an English country house less than ten miles from Ditchley; come there not be a collector’s purchase nor by any random bequest but by direct family inheritance. Such treasured emblems of blood connection seem to me specially valuable in the fabric of Anglo-American relations, and I hope they will not be gradually diminished by the appetite of museums and galleries or the passion for moving things to what some tidy-minded person decides is their proper historical resting-place.
For the United States the Monroe Doctrine meant, in effect, “Latin America is our sphere of influence: Keep out”. For Britain it meant “We who hold India, Singapore and the Cape will brook no rival sea power based on a new American empire”.
So Britain and the United States were complementary, not conflicting, in this dynamic and therefore dangerous period of history. Let us remember, however, in passing, us who have been brought up to regard war between our two nations as “unthinkable”, how thinkable it was right up to the twentieth century. Let us not forget the Maine boundary, and “Fifty- four-forty or fight”, or the narrow margin by which we escaped an open conflict during the American Civil War. More than interest saved the peace at such moments. Statesmanship played its part, based on a growth of common ideals and a sense of community, itself deep-rooted in common culture and personal connections.
When the period of great expansion ended, when the West was conquered and the British Empire was replete, then the old mutuality of interest was upset. Still fired with the Puritan and Protestant tradition, American opinion, once the Red Indians were subjugated, became anti-colonial, successively pro-Boer, pro-Indian, pro-African, and to that extent anti-British; and corresponding suspicion and distrust grew up on the British side. This conflict is manifestly still with us today, erupting over the Congo, over Central Africa and elsewhere.
In a recent American symposium on “The United States and the United Nations”(2) I find in more than one contribution a clear recognition of the present conflict over colonialism and the damage it can do to Western unity, combined with hope that the rapid self-liquidation of European empires, led by Britain, will soon liquidate that conflict also.
“The end of the colonial era in Africa,” writes Mr. Lincoln Bloomfield, “will not end the problems for Western diplomacy . . . But the sooner that day comes, the sooner the West, the United States and the United Nations will be relieved of what has been a truly crippling incubus.”
On the whole friendly as such commentators are, they over look one highly intransigent problem that colonialism has bequeathed us, the problem of the settled European population, who have no other home, amid a backward African majority—the problem of the Rhodesias, and, in a specially virulent form, of South Africa. Mr. Adlai Stevenson’s understanding reference to it in his Lake Forest speech on April 13 seemed to me well ahead of most American voices. One might have expected, of a country with the load of racial mischief in the Southern States, more sympathy with this problem, which I predict will haunt Anglo-American relations for a long while to come. President Kennedy’s proclamation of a fortnight ago, designating April 15 as Africa Freedom Day, with its significant reference to “our revolutionary heritage”, used language like “the struggle for freedom is not yet finished”, which could hardly have fallen from the lips of, say, Mr. Macmillan, notwithstanding “the winds of change”. However, we must always beware of mistaking the blurb on the dust-jacket for the book itself.
Furthermore, although American opinion has come to appreciate the Commonwealth as a community of free and equal nations, it does not take the same approving view of what it regards as vestiges of a former imperial regime, like Commonwealth preference. To most Americans, this appears an unseemly anachronism, and I believe we shall find less official sympathy than we would like with this aspect of our problems in joining the Common Market.
Paradoxically, just when the British Empire was reaching its climacteric, the United States was founding an overseas empire of its own. The Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Panama Canal zone, have been followed since 1945 by the West Pacific archipelago and the virtual protectorate of Formosa. Here again are risks of Anglo-American conflict, not nowadays on account of British imperialism, but as a by product of its decline. British people who have seen a great oriental empire vanish almost overnight in the name of Asian freedom from Western paramountcy are apt to lose patience with American policy towards Taiwan, and one of their half- hidden grievances against the United States Government in the Suez affair was a sense of American double standard over the two great inter-ocean canals, Suez and Panama. There has also been a conspicuous lack of British popular sympathy with American policy towards Cuba, whose place on the strategic map we do not look at through American eyes.
At the end of the last century the United States began to be not merely an imperial power, in all but name, but also a great naval power. Here, too, were potentialities of a dangerous trans-Atlantic rivalry, from which the two countries may well have been saved by their preoccupation with third parties. After the First World War, America emerged equal with Britain as the world’s greatest naval power. The Washington and Geneva conferences on naval disarmament stabilised the top ratios at 5:5:3, the 3 being of course Japan. Britain’s basic policy was to admit no superior in naval armament: latent in this, we must presume, was the idea that the United States might one day be on the other side in an international power crisis. Nor must we forget that in the ‘twenties Japan was our ally, whereas to the United States she was obviously a potential enemy.
Naval power changed America’s strategic outlook. In books which had lasting impact on American military and political thought, Captain (later Admiral) Mahan preached the doctrine that sea-power required not merely ships and sailors and their armament but ports and bases across the oceans. If not possessed or allied, these must be denied to potential enemies in areas vital to United States naval defence.(3) The essence of sea power was mastery of the seas: it could not be exercised by a country confined to its own home shores. Mahan was a convinced believer in Anglo-American naval alliance; but he held, with great wisdom, that it should mature in the natural course of events, and not be forced ahead until national opinion was ripe for it.
My copies of Mahan’s works once belonged to Philip Kerr, later Marquess of Lothian and British Ambassador in Washington at the outbreak of the Second World War. From personal friendship, and from the evidence of his writings, I know they made a deep impression on him. It happened that I edited a popular edition of his American speeches, and over and over again I found in them the imprint of the great American naval historian and strategist.
The doctrine that Lord Lothian incessantly preached, in 1939 and 1940, was that the security of the United States was an illusion without mastery of the seas; that she could not get that mastery by isolationism; that, unless she held command of the surrounding oceans, they were not a defensive bulwark but a highway for a naval foe; that she must have allies overseas who could supply the world-wide bases she lacked, and deprive her enemies of the same; and that their fate was consequently hers.
Pearl Harbour was the final pyrotechnic demonstration of the truth of the Mahan-Lothian strategic thesis. Japan had made the Pacific Ocean an open highway to the heart of American naval power. With the explosions in that Hawaiian base, and with the catastrophic sinkings of American ships by German submarines in the Caribbean area, there went under ground, at least for a generation, the American isolationism that had begun with the Founding Fathers.
American isolationism is deep-rooted and natural, and we have not done with it yet. I do not agree with Mr. George Ball, United States Under-Secretary of State, who said only this month in a speech to the German Society for Foreign Affairs: “American isolationism is a dead issue. It has disappeared for ever.” Rather it is like the indigenous flora of a half- tamed land, the crop that comes up where cultivation slackens. Isolationism has expressed the determination of the American people to turn their backs on the wars and quarrels of the Europe they had left. Distrust of “entangling alliances” is a dogma as old as George Washington. Isolationism is en trenched in the Constitution of the United States, particularly in the powers of the Senate in foreign affairs and above all in the provisions for ratifying foreign treaties.
President Wilson’s failure to secure the necessary majority for ratification of the Treaty of Versailles kept the United States out of the League of Nations. People of my generation who grew up with the League tended to think of American isolationism between the wars as an atavistic aberration which all sensible Americans (that is to say, pro-British Americans) opposed. We talked of isolationists as one might talk of diehard jingos here—a dedicated, but small, bigoted and obscurantist minority. This was a serious mistake. Isolationism was the natural posture of the United States, from which it had been shifted by circumstances beyond its control. Even President Wilson’s internationalism had been, in a measure, isolationism turned inside out. As Walter Lippmann said recently:
“The Wilsonian tradition in American politics is really isolationism—Wilson wanted to stay out of wars in Europe, but when we discovered we’d become a world power and were involved, then Wilson reversed it, and instead of saying we’ll stay at home and be moral he said we’ll go abroad and make them all moral. And then we’ll feel just as much at home as if we hadn’t gone abroad.”(4)
To parody a famous phrase of Cyril Connolly—within every American internationalist is an isolationist struggling to get out.
One expression of this ambivalence is a habit of treating big international problems as if they were wars or football matches, contests of limited duration which you win or lose, after which you go home and mind your own business until the next engagement, which may be with a different opponent in a different stadium. Certainly in the early years of the Cold War, from 1947 onwards, there was a strong American tendency to treat it as being like the other two great World Wars into which the United States had been drawn, a defined struggle into which every effort and resource must be thrown until it was won, in a year or two at most, and the boys could be home for Christmas. A recent commentator gave the following explanation of the appeal currently exercised in the United States by certain extreme Right movements:
“Birchism. . . is useful. . . to frustrated ordinary Americans who cannot see why the Berlin problem or any other manifestation of ‘Communism’ cannot be solved the way America has always solved its problems, such as the piping of natural gas from Texas to the Eastern States.”(5)
This act-now-and-have-done-with-it attitude is apt to be at loggerheads with British diplomatic pragmatism and Old World disillusionment. For our part we tend to think of the Cold War as the colour that world politics will keep at least for our lifetime. If at any moment we can say that things are a little better than they were, the tension a little less, the strategic balance a little more favourable, that is the most we can reasonably expect. The differences in emphasis between British and American policy over Berlin or Summit-scaling or South East Asia—differences which are often exaggerated by the irritable or sensation-seeking on either side, and which of course are made the most of by Communist propaganda—have often been due to that contrast between the outlooks of a seamy old hand at the diplomatic game and of a vigorous fresh force with a tradition the opposite of ours. The United States comes to world affairs less like a bridegroom with life time vows than a shipboard lover whose romance may end abruptly when the vessel docks—more ardent perhaps, but less reliable.
Nevertheless, if isolationism is still latent in America, post-1941 internationalism is very much deeper-founded than the manifestation of the early twenties. Its strength and stability derive from three main sources.
First there is the political lesson of involvement in two World Wars, and then in the Korean War, which played a far larger part in American popular consciousness than in ours—a lesson experienced under the leadership of a remarkable sequence of post-war Presidents and opposing Presidential candidates, all of them outstanding internationalists: Truman, Dewey, Stevenson, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon. These men are the expression of a new mind in America. Through public education, the Press, radio and television the whole American public had become far more aware of the wider world and America’s responsibilities in it.
Secondly, reaction against Communism has been the all-pervading motive of United States policies for a decade and a half Communism operates on a world-wide front; so, too, must American defence against it. It is not mere benevolent idealism that takes American arms into Laos or the Lebanon, nor a calculated strategic plan, but a determination to confront the advance of Communist expansionism wherever it can be done. Britain, lacking the means to act this all round the globe, consequently lacks the will. We are apt to favour compromise, and to accept the half-loaf of neutralism in distant countries as being a great deal better than the no bread of their becoming active Communist satellites. Our history is littered with discarded spheres of influence: the neutralisation or buffer status of fringe countries like Persia, Afghanistan or Siam, even Belgium, is also part of our tradition.
Fortunately for Anglo-American concord, the American attitude of “he who is not for us is against us”, which we associate rightly or wrongly with John Foster Dulles, has been greatly modified of late, under pressure of circumstances. A world with a big neutralist sector has been accepted by Washington as inevitable, and, being inevitable, probably no bad thing after all. But world-wide vigilance on the frontiers of Communism remains an essential motif of latter-day American internationalism.
Thirdly, the strategic lessons of World War II were also well learnt. If the United States itself was to be secure, its foes must be fought at a distance, its offensive arms must be as near as possible to their key targets, its potential enemies must not be allowed to advance their own strategic frontiers, friendly countries must be armed and assisted, doubtful ones saved from the embrace of the other side. The more devastating scientific weapons became, the more vital was this forward defensive strategy. Its great expression was the North Atlantic Treaty, which planted the strategic frontier of the United States decisively on the frontiers of Western Europe and the east Mediterranean. The ANZUS pact and SEATO were weaker but natural extensions. The Japanese treaty embodies the same doctrine. All this has pivoted, both historically and inherently, on Anglo-American alliance, and has helped to cement Anglo-American co-operation.
Nevertheless we must beware of two possible flaws in this fabric of American world-wide involvement, particularly from the British point of view. The thermo-nuclear deterrent, capable of delivery by inter-continental missiles and even space vehicles, is obliging every major power to review its basic strategic thinking. It is arguable that a “Fortress America” policy which was manifestly false and unrealistic in the ‘fifties may become practicable in the later ‘sixties when every point in Russia or China can be reached with nuclear missiles from launching-points on American soil, or from American vessels on or under the high seas. It is also arguable that a stable nuclear stalemate, preventing world war by a balance of deterrent force which neither side dare use, will hold an umbrella for power politics to revert to an earlier pattern of local wars and threats of war; and that the United States ought to stand aside from that conventional strife, unless her vital interests are directly involved, on the same grounds and with the same rigour as in the days before she became a supreme world power. I am not saying that these arguments are sound: I am saying that they will be raised, and could be the theoretical basis of a new kind of isolationism. We in Britain have already expressed a streak of doubt as to ultimate American commitments in Europe by adopting the policy of the independent deterrent: it implies that there could conceivably come a time when a hostile nuclear power might feel it could run the risk of attacking us or our European allies or vital interests without at once incurring American nuclear retaliation, which in turn might result in the nuclear devastation of the United States.
We must also recognise that the special position of Britain in American diplomatic and strategic policies is not guaranteed for ever. In our time it has derived from many causes, not least of them our partnership in the middle years of the Second World War when Europe was overrun, our remaining allies except Russia were all small powers, and the war was conducted by a triumvirate, in the West by a duumvirate. Times have changed since then. France and Western Germany are now restored to power status on a level with Britain’s. Europe is uniting into a third great international element. The whole world is open to American diplomacy, as well as to ours. Smaller powers, and countries with no pretensions to power, are demanding to be heard in their own right as equals in status.
Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community will of course have a profound impact on Anglo-American relations. This is too large and speculative a subject to be discussed in this lecture, but it is clear that if Britain does cast in her lot with the Common Market her special role of bridge or broker between Europe and the United States will be affected in a major way. It will not disappear, but it will be exercised more and more from within the European complex rather than from a position of detachment. Mr. Edward Heath, the Lord Privy Seal, said at a meeting of the Ministerial Council of Western European Union on 10th April last, “As the European community develops, the balance within the Atlantic Alliance is going to change. In the course of time there will be two great groupings in the West: North America and Europe”.
There is also a personal factor to consider. The generation of political leaders who shared in the wartime alliance will before long pass from the scene. I will not venture to forecast the political succession in this country, but by 1972, ten years hence, a Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary then in his fifties could not have held any political office earlier than the immediate post-war period.
The American leaders of the wartime alliance, Roosevelt and Truman, were followed by Eisenhower, its great military executant. Eisenhower has been followed by Kennedy, a man of a new generation and of open mind, without any predilection, so far as we know, apart from his devoted admiration for Sir Winston Churchill, for Britain as a unique co-equal partner of the United States—though I daresay he will get along a good deal better this weekend with Mr. Macmillan than he would with Dr. Adenauer or General de Gaulle.
The election of John Kennedy as President was indeed a portent in many ways. He was of course the first Roman Catholic to be elected to the White House. This in itself is proof of a breaking-away from old paths and old prejudices, of a weakening of the Puritan Protestant tradition of American leadership. But the new President’s Papism was also a signal of something else. It happens that Catholicism is a common factor among most of the poor underdog communities of Europe from which the United States has drawn its mass immigration in the last 70 or 80 years; Irish, Italians, Czechs, Poles, Ukrainians. If an Irish Catholic can become President in the ‘sixties, why not a Neapolitan Catholic in the ‘seventies?
The melting-pot into which immigrants to the United States were poured, to make good Americans, has been sceptically likened rather to a salad bowl. Ancestral memories and ways of thought die hard. It would be stupid to expect a man of, say, Polish or Italian parentage to think in the same way about European affairs, in particular about Britain, as a man whose forebears come from England or even from Ireland. Figures of the sources of United States immigration are not easy to analyse or interpret because of the changes in the political map of Europe: thus Polish immigrants before 1920 are recorded as Austrians, Russians or Germans. But the broad picture is plain enough. In fifty years from 1841 to 1890, of 13 million immigrants into the United States from Europe, over 2.5 million came from Great Britain, 3.5 million from Ireland, and over 4.5 million from Germany, a total of more than 10 million or well over three-quarters of the total. In the next 40 years, 1891 to 1930, when the total number of European immigrants was 16.5 million, the proportion coming from those three northern sources fell to under one-quarter. On the other hand, the numbers from Italy, Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire rose to over 10.5 millions, or 65% of the whole.
The immigrants of the 189os are mostly dead, as indeed are many of the adult immigrants of the twenties. But their sons, and the grandsons of the adult immigrants of the 1890s, are now the middle generation of Americans, the generation that includes most of those who hold places of power in business, the professions and politics. There is of course a big lag caused, even in that land of opportunity, by the low economic starting- point of the immigrants, as well as differences of language and culture. But it is only a lag, and in the course of time the distribution of power of various sorts, from high national office to school-teaching, will come to agree more and more with the pattern of racial and national sources of the population: whereas, for a century and a half, leadership in the United States had remained very much in the hands of strains that composed her original white population—in 1790, 60 per cent English and Welsh, 8 per cent Scots, 6 per cent Ulster Irish, and 12 per cent Germans and Dutch.
This brings me to what is, after all, the heart of the matter. People make policies, and policies cannot be long pursued without the people’s support. Anglo-American relations are relations not only between Governments but fundamentally between peoples. And our respective peoples are as different in many ways as the countries they inhabit. The common language can delude us. So, too, can our private acquaintance. Whether or not we travel across the Atlantic, we tend to meet people of our own sort. We have read the same books, shared the same kind of experiences in business or politics or academic life, often been to the same Universities. It is not surprising that we find them like-minded. But are they typical of their own countrymen, or we of ours?
I must beware of treading clumsily here. The American dramatic critic John Mason Brown delivered the rebuke of all time to tactlessness in this delicate matter. Speaking after a luncheon in his honour in London some years ago he said, so I heard tell: “Mr. Chairman, you have observed that while you don’t care for Americans in the mass, individual Americans are delightful people. With the British, I find the reverse is true.”
To recognise that our peoples differ is the beginning of wisdom. We have different ways of life, of eating and drinking, of managing our homes and our children. We have different social mores, as has been plainly seen when efforts are made to integrate American service men and their families stationed here into British social life. Americans are notoriously great joiners: British people don’t join, they belong; and if you don’t belong it is very difficult for you to join them in any but a formal way, whether it be in a St. James’s Street Club or among the band of regulars at the “local”. If you are accepted as belonging, everything is fine, but we British, though tolerant and easy-going, are not on the whole a very hospitable or open-hearted people. On the other hand, as M. Marcel Achard, the French playwright, said the other day, “an American friend is a gift of Providence”.(6)
What the British and Americans see of each other’s lives through the popular media of the cinema, television and big- circulation magazines does not always help towards mutual understanding. These media, working for their own ends of mass attention and commercial success, are for the most part too superficial and selective to be true portrayers of ordinary people and their thoughts and activities. Here particularly, our common language often hides as much as it reveals.
Yet the English language is the greatest of our three great common inheritances; for it is through our language that the other two are expressed and their concepts perpetuated. They are the Parliamentary tradition of government and the English common law. These are vital elements in the anatomy of Anglo-American relations. It is not concerned only with the skeleton of high politics and defence. The brain, the nervous system, the blood stream, indeed the alimentary canal, are equally important parts of the anatomy. You may amputate a limb or substitute a plastic bone, and the body will still live, but you cannot amputate a cortex or replace the blood with some synthetic fluid. So it is with Parliament and the rule of law in the Anglo-American anatomy. If we hold to these two great concepts, twin guardians of individual freedom against Statism, our two countries will never be far apart in their basic view of human affairs.
Both peoples are also, though in different ways, idealists. “There is in most Americans,” said Justice Louis Brandeis, “some spark of idealism, which can be fanned into a flame. It takes sometimes a divining rod to find what it is; but when found, and that means often, when disclosed to the owners the results are often extraordinary.” We have indeed seen in our time some extraordinary results of American idealism both in the world at large and in Anglo-American relations particularly. We in Britain, too, have our ideals, although we are more reserved about them and more cautious of allowing them to get the better of our practical sense, and although they are not always the same ideals as the Americans have cherished. An ideal of imperial responsibility has been one. Our common ideals are founded in Christianity and a deep sense of individual dignity and importance. Despite prevailing atheism and religious indifference, the Christian gospel is deeply embedded in our code and our culture. I do not believe that Americans as a people are more materialistic than ourselves, as we are some times given to suppose: they simply have more to be materialistic about. Like the Christian faith itself, however, the lamp of shared idealism needs tending lest the flame burn dim.
Our common language, too, needs to be cherished. I am not afraid of its debasement by new words and usages; these are part of its lively growth; nor of our developing two different languages, American English and English English—there will certainly be Indian English and African English, and this too is part of linguistic vitality. As James Thurber has said: “It surely does not take much intelligence to figure out that ‘faucet’ is the same as ‘tap’, especially if water comes out of it when it is turned on.” I am more afraid of the joint corruption of English by misuse, especially in this age of political as well as technical jargon, by substituting long words for clear thinking, catch phrases for plain English, and smooth formulae for frank differences. This is the sure way to confusion and mistrust.
Our common language does, after all, remove or minimise one great obstacle to understanding between peoples. With its aid, great efforts have been and are being made to strengthen mutual knowledge and sympathy between the British and American peoples at grass-roots level. Schemes for the interchange of teachers, school boys and girls, journalists and others are of seminal importance. A great debt is owed to the Foundations providing transatlantic scholarships and Fellow ships for post-graduates: Rhodes, Commonwealth, Fulbright, Rockefeller and many others. Cheap trans-Atlantic travel is on the way. The great professional institutions, like the General Council of the Bar, the Law Society and the British Medical Association, invite their American colleagues here to conferences, and send their representatives in reverse. One could multiply examples until it might seem that little more remained to be done. But this is an illusion. Every fresh effort is worth while, and who knows but that it may prove the decisive make- weight that tilts the balance at a critical moment.
This is the thought behind the great venture that we are inaugurating tonight. Ditchley will bring together in this splendid house, which we want our guests to regard not as an hotel but as a home, Americans and British people, and on occasion others who may be concerned with our common purposes, to discuss sometimes great issues of State, sometimes the professional, academic or technical interests that they share. To fulfil our task we need the help of many people and many other institutions, and I am sure we shall receive it.
Mr. Chairman, as your first Provost I have had the honour of launching Ditchley on its work and of delivering this Inaugural Lecture. May I conclude it by thanking you and our founder for so great an opportunity, and by inviting all our distinguished audience to join in wishing long life and success to the Ditchley Foundation.
Closing Remarks by The Hon. G. Lewis Jones, Minister, The United States Embassy.
Mr. Chairman, My Ladies and Friends of Ditchley:
We have just heard Mr. Hodson speak eloquently regarding Ditchley and the role which we all hope it will play in the fostering of Anglo—American relations.
It is a privilege for me to say a few words from an American viewpoint.
I do this on behalf of Ambassador Bruce, who has a profound interest in Ditchley. He expected to be here on this happy occasion but has been asked to return to Washington where Prime Minister Macmillan and President Kennedy will be having talks which start tomorrow.
The American Embassy in London has supported from its earliest stages the project to start this remarkable institution. Both Ambassador Whitney and Ambassador Bruce are on the Council of Management. They have followed with interest and enthusiasm the developments culminating in this happy occasion.
I note with great pleasure that a number of my countrymen have been so moved by the Ditchley idea that they have come across the Atlantic specially to participate in today’s ceremony. Some have come from as far away as California.
I have only two thoughts to offer you.
The first thought is that if Ditchley turns out to be only one more Anglo—American, hands—across—the—sea institution where the convinced share with the convinced their satisfaction that the British and Americans are not — Thank Gods — as other men are, Ditchley will not be what it could, and should, be. If Ditchley becomes only a mutual admiration society and a chantry in which to sing the glories of the Anglo—American alliance, very little of practical value will be accomplished.
There are ties between the United States and the United Kingdom so firm and so abiding that they need not be counted and recounted like prayer beads.
There are also, naturally and inevitably, things — some large, some small — which from time to time arise to tie or weaken the ties between us.
It is to these anti—bodies in the Anglo—American alliance that Ditchley plans to give careful and thoughtful examination. First the anti—bodies must be identified, then their source must be discovered, and lastly an attempt must be made to develop remedies.
There is nothing static, it seems to me, about Anglo—American relations or about many of the problems which we share on both sides of the Atlantic. The United States is developing dynamically not only from the point of view of population, but also socially, agriculturally and industrially. The United Kingdom is similarly the focus of dynamic and dramatic developments as Prime Minister Macmillan explained so ably last night to the Newspaper Publishers’ Association in New York.
So quickly are things moving that it is almost like a radio serial:
“Will Britain be corrupted by the internal combustion engine? Will eating frozen foods change the character of the British people? Will British and American educational facilities meet their needs in coming decades? Will our national characters be destroyed by the pop-up toaster? Listen to our next instalment.”
Personally, I look forward to the coming instalments with the greatest confidence. We have both made enormous headway in recent years: I see no reason why we should not continue to make headway. Certainly, both in this country and in my own country, there are more people than ever before in our history enjoying such happiness as material things can bring.
My other thought is that in dedicating one of the most beautiful houses in England to this new use, we are not, in fact, engaged on a wholly novel enterprise. The use the Foundation will now make of these premises is not far removed in its purpose from that at the religious Houses of Retreat which became systematized in the 16th Century. Here at Ditchley there is to be, as I understand it, a center for secular retreats. Influential men and women will come here to exchange ideas with special reference to the eradication of anti-bodies in the pulsing, ever-moving Anglo—American bloodstream.
To make its fullest contribution, the secular retreat of today should refresh the active minds and the driving spirits of persons whose normal place is in the van of attack. If this retreat is to be successful, it should operate for the benefit of forward-moving men and women of vision who will come here to be refreshed and strengthened in their purpose. This retreat should back up and support those who fight in the front lines: There are other places for those who lead, or who have lead, advances to the rear.
Permit me to congratulate you Sir John, and you, Sir Roger, as well as all those who have worked with you, for your important roles in bringing into being this very vital institution. Our profound thanks are due to Mr. Wills who is in the true and ancient sense of the word our benefactor. Our debt to Mr. Wills is great.
(1) Grundy to Jackson, quoted in “James Monroe” by W. P. Cresson.
(2) Edited by Francis O. Wilcox and H. Field Haviland, Jr., Johns Hopkins Press
(3) E.g. “It should be an inviolable resolution of our national policy that no foreign state should, henceforth, acquire a coaling station within three thousand miles of San Francisco”. (August, 1890).
(4) In an interview with Henry Brandon, Sunday Times, 18th Feb., 1962.
(5) Bryan Crozier, “Down Among the Rightists”. Encounter, March 1962.
(6) In an interview with Realités, April, 1962.