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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

The Eve Of Battle

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It will now be necessary to go back about six weeks from the day that the Ithuriel started on her northward voyage, and to lay before the reader a brief outline of the events which had transpired in Europe subsequently to the date of Tremayne's letter to Arnold.

On the evening of that day he went down to the House of Lords, to make his speech in favour of the Italian Loan. He had previously spoken some half dozen times since he had taken his seat, and, young as he was, had always commanded a respectful hearing by his sound common sense and his intimate knowledge of foreign policy, but none of his brother peers had been prepared for the magnificent speech that he had made on this momentous night.

He had never given his allegiance to any of the political parties of the day, but he was one of the foremost advocates of what was then known as the Imperial policy, and which had grown up out of what is known in the present day as Imperial Federation. To this he subordinated everything else, and held as his highest, and indeed almost his only political ideal, the consolidation of Britain and her colonies into an empire commercially and politically intact and apart from the rest of the world, self-governing in all its parts as regards local affairs, but governed as a whole by a representative Imperial Parliament, sitting in London, and composed of delegates from all portions of the empire.

This ideal--which, it is scarcely necessary to say, was still considered as "beyond the range of practical politics"--formed the keynote of such a speech as had never before been heard in the British House of Lords. He commenced by giving a rapid but minute survey of foreign policy, which astounded the most experienced of his hearers. Not only was it absolutely accurate as far as they could follow it, but it displayed an intimate knowledge of involutions of policy at which British diplomacy had only guessed.

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More than this, members of the Government and the Privy Council saw, to their amazement, that the speaker knew the inmost secrets of their own policy even better than they did themselves. How he had become possessed of them was a mystery, and all that they could do was to sit and listen in silent wonder.

He drew a graphic word-picture of the nations of the earth standing full-armed on the threshold of such a war as the world had never seen before,--a veritable Armageddon, which would shake the fabric of society to its foundations, even if it did not dissolve it finally in the blood of countless battlefields.

He estimated with marvellous accuracy the exact amount of force which each combatant would be able to put on to the field, and summed up the appalling mass of potential destruction that was ready to burst upon the world at a moment's notice. He showed the position of Italy, and proved to demonstration that if the loan were not immediately granted, it would be necessary either for Britain to seize her fleet as she did that of Denmark a century before--an act which the Italians would themselves resist at all hazards--or else to finance her through the war, as she had financed Germany during the Napoleonic struggle.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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