Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon

British Liberal statesman (1862-1933)

Sir Edward Grey, 3rd Bt., 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon (25 April 18627 September 1933) was British Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916.

The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.
Grey caricatured by Leslie Ward for Vanity Fair, 1903

QuotesEdit

August 3, 1914 speech to the British House of CommonsEdit

[1]
  • Last week I stated that we were working for peace not only for this country, but to preserve the peace of Europe. Today events move so rapidly that it is exceedingly difficult to state with technical accuracy the actual state of affairs, but it is clear that the peace of Europe cannot be preserved. Russia and Germany, at any rate, have declared war upon each other.
  • First of all, let me say, very shortly, that we have consistently worked with a single mind, with all the earnestness in our power, to preserve peace. The House may be satisfied on that point. We have always done it.
  • In the present crisis it has not been possible to secure the peace of Europe: because there has been little time, and there has been a disposition—at any rate in some quarters on which I will not dwell—to force things rapidly to an issue, at any rate to the great risk of peace, and, as we now know, the result of that is that the policy of peace as far as the great powers generally are concerned is in danger. I do not want to dwell on that, and to comment on it, and to say where the blame seems to us lie, which powers were most in favor of peace, which were most disposed to risk war or endanger peace, because I would like the House to approach this crisis in which we are now from the point of view of British interests, British honor, and British obligations, free from all passion as to why peace has not yet been preserved.
  • For many years we have had a long-standing friendship with France. I remember well the feeling in the House and my own feeling—for I spoke on the subject, I think, when the late Government made their agreement with France—the warm and cordial feeling resulting from the fact that these two nations, who had had perpetual differences in the past, had cleared these differences away; I remember saying, I think, that it seemed to me that some benign influence had been at work to produce the cordial atmosphere that had made that possible. But how far that friendship entails obligation—it has been a friendship between the nations and ratified by the nations—how far that entails an obligation, let every man look into his own heart, and his own feelings, and construe the extent of the obligation for himself.
  • The French fleet is now in the Mediterranean, and the northern and western coasts of France are absolutely undefended. The French fleet is being concentrated in the Mediterranean, the situation is very different from what it used to be, because the friendship which has grown up between the two countries has given them a sense of security that there was nothing to be feared from us. My own feeling is that if a foreign fleet, engaged in a war which France had not sought, and in which she had not been the aggressor, came down the English Channel and bombarded and battered the undefended coasts of France, we could not stand aside and see this going on practically within sight of our eyes, with our arms folded, looking on dispassionately, doing nothing. I believe that would be the feeling of this country.
  • We are in the presence of a European conflagration; can anybody set limits to the consequences that may arise out of it? Let us assume today we stand aside in an attitude of neutrality, saying ‘No, we cannot undertake and engage to help either party in this conflict.’ Let us suppose the French fleet is withdrawn from the Mediterranean; and let us assume that the consequences—which are already tremendous in what has happened in Europe even to countries which are at peace—in fact, equally whether countries are at peace or at war—let us assume that out of that come consequences unforeseen, which make it necessary at a sudden moment that, in defense of vital British interests, we shall go to war; and let us assume which is quite possible—that Italy, who is no neutral—because, as I understand, she considers that this war is an aggressive war, and that the Triple Alliance being a defensive alliance her obligation did not arise—let us assume that consequences which are not yet foreseen and which, perfectly legitimately consulting her own interests, make Italy depart from her attitude of neutrality at a time when we are forced in defense of vital British interest ourselves to fight—what then will be the position of the Mediterranean? It might be that at some crucial moment those consequences would be forced upon us because our trade routes in the Mediterranean might be vital to this country.
  • Diplomatic intervention took place last week on our part. What can diplomatic intervention do now? We have great and vital interests in the independence—and integrity is the least part—of Belgium. If Belgium is compelled to submit to allow her neutrality to be violated, of course the situation is clear.
  • The smaller States in that region of Europe ask but one thing. Their one desire is that they should be left alone and independent. The one thing they fear is, I think, not so much that their integrity but that their independence should be interfered with. If in this war, which is before Europe, the neutrality of those countries is violated, if the troops of one of the combatants violate its neutrality and no action be taken to resent it, at the end of the war, whatever the integrity may be, the independence will be gone.
  • If her independence goes, the independence of Holland will follow.
  • If France is beaten in a struggle of life and death, beaten to her knees, loses her position as a great power, becomes subordinate to the will and power of one greater than herself—consequences which I do not anticipate, because I am sure that France has the power to defend herself with all the energy and ability and patriotism which she has shown so often—still, if that were to happen and if Belgium fell under the same dominating influence, and then Holland, and then Denmark, then would not Mr. William Gladstone’s words come true, that just opposite to us there would be a common interest against the unmeasured aggrandizement of any power?
  • We are going to suffer, I am afraid, terribly in this war, whether we are in it or whether we stand aside. Foreign trade is going to stop, not because trade routes are closed, but because there is no trade at the other end. Continental nations engaged in war all their populations, all their energies, all their wealth, engaged in a desperate struggle they cannot carry on the trade with us that they are carrying on in times of peace, whether we are parties to the war or whether we are not.
  • As far as the forces of the Crown are concerned, we are ready. I believe the Prime Minister and my right honorable friend, the First Lord of the Admiralty, have no doubt what ever that the readiness and the efficiency of those forces were never at a higher mark than they are today, and never was there a time when our confidence was more justified in the power of the Navy to protect our commerce and to protect our shores. The thought is with us always of the suffer and misery entailed, from which no country in Europe will escape by abstention, and from which no neutrality will save us. The amount of harm that must be done by an enemy ship to our trade is infinitesimal, compared with the amount of harm that must be done by the economic condition that is caused on the Continent.
  • The most awful responsibility is resting upon the Government in deciding what to advise the House of Commons to do.
  • We worked for peace up to the last moment, and beyond the last moment. How hard, how persistently, and how earnestly we strove for peace last week the House will see from the papers that will be before it. But that is over, as far as the peace of Europe is concerned. We are now face to face with a situation and all the consequences which it may yet have to unfold.
  • The situation has developed so rapidly that technically, as regards the condition of the war, it is most difficult to describe what has actually happened. I wanted to bring out the underlying issues which would affect our own conduct and our own policy, and to put them clearly. I have now put the vital facts before the House, and if, as seems not improbable, we are forced, and rapidly forced, to take our stand upon these issues, then I believe, when the country realizes what is at stake, what the real issues are, the magnitude of the impending dangers in the west of Europe, which I have endeavored to describe to the House, we shall be supported throughout, not only by the House of Commons, but by the determination, the resolution, the courage, and endurance of the whole country.

Recreation (1919)Edit

Address at Harvard University (8 December 1919)
  • It is sometimes said that this is a pleasure-seeking age. Whether it be a pleasure-seeking age or not, I doubt whether it is a pleasure-finding age. We are supposed to have great advantages in many ways over our predecessors. There is, on the whole, less poverty and more wealth. There are supposed to be more opportunities for enjoyment: there are moving pictures, motor-cars, and many other things which are now considered means of enjoyment and which our ancestors did not possess, but I do not judge from what I read in the newspapers that there is more content. Indeed, we seem to be living in an age of discontent. It seems to be rather on the increase than otherwise and is a subject of general complaint. If so it is worth while considering what it is that makes people happy, what they can do to make themselves happy, and it is from that point of view that I wish to speak on recreation.
  • Books are the greatest and the most satisfactory of recreations. I mean the use of books for pleasure. Without books, without having acquired the power of reading for pleasure, none of us can be independent, but if we can read we have a sure defence against boredom in solitude.
  • Poetry is the greatest literature, and pleasure in poetry is the greatest of literary pleasures. It is also the least easy to attain and there are some people who never do attain it.
  • There is much poetry for which most of us do not care, but with a little trouble when we are young we may find one or two poets whose poetry, if we get to know it well, will mean very much to us and become part of ourselves... The love for such poetry which comes to us when we are young will not disappear as we get older; it will remain in us, becoming an intimate part of our own being, and will be an assured source of strength, consolation, and delight.
  • Some one, I think it was Isaac Disraeli, said that he who did not make himself acquainted with the best thoughts of the greatest writers would one day be mortified to observe that his best thoughts are their indifferent ones, and it is from the great books that have stood the test of time that we shall get, not only the most lasting pleasure, but a standard by which to measure our own thoughts, the thoughts of others, and the excellence of the literature of our own day.
  • Though I know something about British birds I should have been lost and confused among American birds, of which unhappily I know little or nothing. Colonel Roosevelt not only knew more about American birds than I did about British birds, but he knew about British birds also. What he had lacked was an opportunity of hearing their songs, and you cannot get a knowledge of the songs of birds in any other way than by listening to them.
    We began our walk, and when a song was heard I told him the name of the bird. I noticed that as soon as I mentioned the name it was unnecessary to tell him more. He knew what the bird was like. It was not necessary for him to see it. He knew the kind of bird it was, its habits and appearance. He just wanted to complete his knowledge by hearing the song. He had, too, a very trained ear for bird songs, which cannot be acquired without having spent much time in listening to them. How he had found time in that busy life to acquire this knowledge so thoroughly it is almost impossible to imagine, but there the knowledge and training undoubtedly were. He had one of the most perfectly trained ears for bird songs that I have ever known, so that if three or four birds were singing together he would pick out their songs, distinguish each, and ask to be told each separate name; and when farther on we heard any bird for a second time, he would remember the song from the first telling and be able to name the bird himself.
 
Colonel Roosevelt liked the song of the blackbird so much that he was almost indignant that he had not heard more of its reputation before. He said everybody talked about the song of the thrush; it had a great reputation, but the song of the blackbird, though less often mentioned, was much better than that of the thrush.
  • Colonel Roosevelt liked the song of the blackbird so much that he was almost indignant that he had not heard more of its reputation before. He said everybody talked about the song of the thrush; it had a great reputation, but the song of the blackbird, though less often mentioned, was much better than that of the thrush. He wanted to know the reason of this injustice and kept asking the question of himself and me. At last he suggested that the name of the bird must have injured its reputation. I suppose the real reason is that the thrush sings for a longer period of the year than the blackbird and is a more obtrusive singer, and that so few people have sufficient feeling about bird songs to care to discriminate.
  • One more instance I will give of his interest and his knowledge. We were passing under a fir tree when we heard a small song in the tree above us. We stopped and I said that was the song of a golden-crested wren. He listened very attentively while the bird repeated its little song, as its habit is. Then he said, "I think that is exactly the same song as that of a bird that we have in America"; and that was the only English song that he recognized as being the same as any bird song in America. Some time afterwards I met a bird expert in the Natural History Museum in London and told him this incident, and he confirmed what Colonel Roosevelt had said, that the song of this bird would be about the only song that the two countries had in common. I think that a very remarkable instance of minute and accurate knowledge on the part of Colonel Roosevelt. It was the business of the bird expert in London to know about birds. Colonel Roosevelt's knowledge was a mere incident acquired, not as part of the work of his life, but entirely outside it.
  • I am not attempting here a full appreciation of Colonel Roosevelt. He will be known for all time as one of the great men of America. I am only giving you this personal recollection as a little contribution to his memory, as one that I can make from personal knowledge and which is now known only to myself. His conversation about birds was made interesting by quotations from poets. He talked also about politics, and in the whole of his conversation about them there was nothing but the motive of public spirit and patriotism. I saw enough of him to know that to be with him was to be stimulated in the best sense of the word for the work of life. Perhaps it is not yet realised how great he was in the matter of knowledge as well as in action. Everybody knows that he was a great man of action in the fullest sense of the word. The Press has always proclaimed that. It is less often that a tribute is paid to him as a man of knowledge as well as a man of action. Two of your greatest experts in natural history told me the other day that Colonel Roosevelt could, in that department of knowledge, hold his own with experts. His knowledge of literature was also very great, and it was knowledge of the best. It is seldom that you find so great a man of action who was also a man of such wide and accurate knowledge. I happened to be impressed by his knowledge of natural history and literature and to have had first-hand evidence of both, but I gather from others that there were other fields of knowledge in which he was also remarkable.
  • Of all the joys of life which may fairly come under the head of recreation there is nothing more great, more refreshing, more beneficial in the widest sense of the word, than a real love of the beauty of the world... to those who have some feeling that the natural world has beauty in it I would say, Cultivate this feeling and encourage it in every way you can. Consider the seasons, the joy of the spring, the splendour of the summer, the sunset colours of the autumn, the delicate and graceful bareness of winter trees, the beauty of snow, the beauty of light upon water, what the old Greek called the unnumbered smiling of the sea.
  • When we are bored, when we are out of tune, when we have little worries, it clears our feelings and changes our mood if we can get in touch with the beauty of the natural world.

Twenty-five Years (1925)Edit

Twenty-Five Years: 1892-1916 (1925)
  • The moral is obvious: it is that great armaments lead inevitably to war. If there are armaments on one side there must be armaments on other sides. While one nation arms, other nations cannot tempt it to aggression by remaining defenceless...The increase of armaments, that is intended in each nation to produce consciousness of strength, and a sense of security, does not produce these effects. On the contrary, it produces a consciousness of the strength of other nations and a sense of fear. Fear begets suspicion and distrust and evil imaginings of all sorts, till each government feels it would be criminal and a betrayal of its own country not to take every precaution, while every government regards every precaution of every other government as evidence of hostile intent...The enormous growth of armaments in Europe, the sense of insecurity and fear caused by them - it was these that made war inevitable. This, it seems to me, is the truest reading of history, and the lesson that the present should be learning from the past in the interest of future peace, the warning to be handed on to those who come after us.
    • Vol. 1, pp. 91-92.
  • A great European war under modern conditions would be a catastrophe for which previous wars afforded no precedent. In old days nations could collect only portions of their men and resources at a time and dribble them out by degrees. Under modern conditions whole nations could be mobilized at once and their whole life-blood and resources poured out in a torrent. Instead of a few hundreds of thousands of men meeting each other in war, millions would now meet, and modern weapons would multiply manifold the power of destruction. The financial strain and the expenditure of wealth would be incredible. I thought this must be obvious to everyone else, as it seemed obvious to me; and that, if once it became apparent that we were on the edge, all the Great Powers would call a halt and recoil from the abyss.
    • Recalling his thoughts of July 1914 on the prospect of war with Germany.
  • A friend came to see me on one of the evenings of the last week — he thinks it was on Monday, August 3rd. We were standing at a window of my room in the Foreign Office. It was getting dusk, and the lamps were being lit in the space below... My friend recalls that I remarked on this with the words, "The lamps are going out all over Europe: we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."

Quotes about GreyEdit

  • [I had] signed the letter of protest against Britain joining the war [but] then doubted, and was finally convinced the other way by Grey's speech on August 3rd [1914].
    • Gilbert Murray to Bertrand Russell (20 August 1955), quoted in Gilbert Murray, An Unfinished Autobiography, eds. Jean Smith and Arnold Toynbee (1960), p. 110

External linksEdit