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British Policy and the Balance of Power1

  • Esme Howard

Among other curious legends about the Balance of Power which were assiduously circulated by German propagandist writers during the war and even before, and have since been repeated in that part of the Socialist press which takes its inspiration from Moscow, I have noticed a tendency which has spread even to reasonable Liberal papers—with a strong pacifist colour—to ascribe the origin and the birth of this doctrine to the machiavellian policy of British statesmen. Many times have I read denunciations of England on the ground that she invented this doctrine, to which are set down the innumerable wars from which Europe has suffered since the sixteenth century.

Now the fact of course is that it is not an English doctrine at all, although it became for quite obvious reasons, which were inevitable, a corner-stone of English policy, unconsciously during the sixteenth, subconsciously during the seventeenth, and consciously during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, because for England it represented the only plan of preserving her own independence, political and economic. It matters little when the doctrine was actually first formulated—I had doubts about that and, therefore, I confess without shame, having no pretensions to learning, I betook myself to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and there found that it was first given definite shape as a doctrine by Grotius and afterwards became a current part of the equipment of every European statesman.

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1 Address before the American Political Science Association, December 29, 1924.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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