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The campaign which, after the suppression of the rebellion, Generals Botha and Smuts undertook in German South-West Africa was no easy one. It is true that the enemy forces were not great, but the advance to the capital, Windhoek, had to be made over a country almost devoid of water except for springs which had been doctored by the Germans, and in which the railways had been made impracticable. The long lines of communication made the expedition a hazardous one, but the campaign was planned with meticulous care by General Smuts and his tiny staff in Capetown, and it was crowned with complete
Early in 1916 the Government at home had the wisdom to ask General Smuts to take over the command in German East Africa when General Sir H. Smith-Dorrien was compelled to resign through sickness. This appointment of General Smuts to an imperial command, and his acceptance of the rank of lieutenant-general in the British Army marked a new step in an unprecedented career. The expedition to German South-West Africa had been primarily a South African affair. The expedition to German East Africa was not specifically related to South African affairs. It belonged to the larger stage of the war, and in accepting it the ex-Boer commandant became a British general sans phrase. He proved his belief
that the British Empire is one and indivisible, and that in serving that Empire anywhere he was serving his own country.
The campaign was a brilliant one. In seven months he was able to effect a task of which hardly a beginning had been made in the previous eighteen months. He had a force of 17,000 men under his command against a force of 7,000 Germans and 25,000 natives under the skillful command of General Lettow von Vorbeck. The Germans were well equipped, and were thoroughly acclimatised. General Smuts has himself written the story of that campaign in his despatches and in a preface which he contributed to General Crowe's book on the operations. He has spoken of the difficulties encountered, the wide, unbridged rivers, the forests untracked except by the elephants' spoor and the footprints of the native hunters, the malaria mosquito, the tsetse fly which destroys animal transport, the heavy rains which turned the rich cotton-growing lands into impassable swamps, the fierce heat of tropical Africa, and the constant presence of fever. His plan was a penetration of the colony, which is twice the size of Germany, by minor columns attacking from all parts of the compass, while he himself set out to attack the main German army in the neighbourhood of the Kilimanjaro range. The Germans there were strongly entrenched, and might per
of the war they did as much as the speeches of any living statesman to. sustain the endurance and the purpose of the nation by keeping before their eyes the great objects at stake, now, alas, lost to sight in the fog of the peace. They deepened our purpose and cleansed it. He had already behind him a record of great military and administrative services rendered to the Empire. But his mission then, and his mission at subsequent Peace Conferences, was to clarify our sense of the European situation.
For this he had the enormous advantage that President Wilson also possessed of an extra-European point of view. His mind was not warped by the secular antagonisms of the European peoples. What these men sought in the Covenant of the League of Nations was not a reshuffling of the cards on the European card-table, but a world peace "embracing all the nations and all the democracies of the world." Before he became President of the United States, Lincoln said that America could not remain "half slave and half free," and General Smuts knows, and has the eloquence and clearness of speech to make the world know, that Europe cannot remain half slave and half free, that the French conception of a Germany working under slave conditions for two generations for the payment of reparations would, even if it were practicable, mean the destruction of freedom through
out Europe and the degradation of all its civilised ideals.
The first of his definite diplomatic tasks for the British Government was undertaken early in 1918. At that time Count Czernin, the Austrian Prime Minister, instructed Count Albert Mensdorff to go to Switzerland and there, in a neutral country, try to find out on what terms the Allies were prepared to meet not only the Austrians, but also the Germans with a view to discussing the terms of peace. General Smuts was commissioned to go to Switzerland to meet Mensdorff. That attempt at peace failed, for reasons which need not be discussed here. General Smuts in the end told the Austrian emissary that the time was not yet ripe for meeting the Germans. This "peace offensive," to use the war-time jargon, was followed by the great German military offensive on the West, which brought the Allied armies within measurable distance of disaster.
When at last hostilities ceased the path was clear for the peace-makers. General Smuts devoted himself to the close study of the means by which some scheme of world government might bind together the warring nations, and he sought to work out the details of a League of Nations which would effectively embody the ideals of President Wilson. He worked unremittingly on the scheme in private, and in public
he was its most eloquent advocate in this country. His draft scheme of the Covenant appeared in the beginning of January 1919, and was substantially that eventually adopted at the Peace Conference. In that pamphlet he wrote: "The very foundations have been shaken and loosened, and things are again fluid. The tents have been struck, and the great caravan of humanity is once more on the march. Vast social and industrial changes are coming, perhaps upheavals which may, in their magnitude and effects, be comparable to war itself. A steadying, controlling, regulating influence will be required to give stability to progress, and to remove that wasteful friction which has dissipated so much social force in the past, and in this war more than ever before."
As a member of the peace delegation in Paris he exercised a constant pressure for a reasonable settlement. Had he been in authority in Paris instead of in a subordinate capacity, there cannot be any doubt in an informed mind that the history of the past five years would have been profoundly different; that instead of leaving President Wilson to be manacled and destroyed by more supple minds he would have cooperated with him in imposing a just peace, and that the tragedy of Europe which we are witnessing to-day would have been greatly modified if not entirely averted. As it is he shares with Mr. Wilson and Lord