A League of Nations?

by
02 March 2018

March 1st, 1918.

THE proposal of a League of Nations finds increasing advocacy. It has the support of the President of the United States, of our own Prime Minister and his predecessor; it has found favour with the Pope; it has been most recently approved by the Convocation of Canterbury, but not by the House of Laymen, which seemed to see too many difficulties in the way. Some of the leading representatives of English religious bodies, among whom we notice the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Winchester, Oxford, Southwark, and Peterborough, Fr Plater, S.J., Mr Arthur Henderson, and Mr George Lansbury, have put their names to a document, in which they state their belief in its ideal merits. They believe, they say, that a new system of international law, which shall supersede the old “balance of power” doctrine, and shall act through an international League of Nations, ought to be “put in the very forefront of the peace terms as their presupposition and guarantee”, and not merely to be contemplated “as the more or less remote outcome of a future settlement”. The question whether it is or is not practicable to make a beginning of the League before the Peace Conference they do not decide, though their opinion inclines to the positive side. In any case, however, they are sure of the pressing need of giving such a League the “backing of an organized body of strong conviction”. As regards the possible working of the League they offer next to no suggestions beyond saying that, for the safeguarding of international right and permanent peace, the League shall have “power in the last resort to constrain by economic pressure or armed force any nation refusing to submit to arbitration or international adjudication, in the first instance, any dispute with another tending to war”. Thus we come round again to armaments and force.

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