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Lord Lothian: The Paths of Federalism

Writings and speeches


Claudio G. Anta

Lord Lothian (Philip Kerr, 1882-1940) was one of the leading exponents of British federalism between the Two World Wars. His federalism was linked to the tradition of Kantian and Hamiltonian thought while simultaneously going beyond this tradition. In the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles, which saw the Old Continent divided into nation-states as holders of absolute sovereignty, he identified the value of peace in the model of the federal State. This was not, as in the case of the Americans, the pragmatic scheme of constitutionalists imposed upon by their historical circumstances, but the general principle of a State organisation geared towards lasting peace in international relations, first in Europe and then worldwide. At the first signs of crisis within the British Empire, Lothian also consistently advocates the political unity of the English-speaking peoples as the nucleus of a world federation able to institutionalise inter-state conflicts and overcome them through legal means.
The anthology contained in this essay includes twenty writings and speeches by Lothian and is divided into two sections. The first traces his original political-ideological path: from his long collaboration with the magazine «The Round Table», which has its roots in his initial South African experience within the «Kindergarten», to his speeches held at Chatham House in London in November 1928 and at the Institut für Auswärtige Politik of Hamburg in October 1929; it also covers the years he spent as Private Secretary to the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. The second section focuses on his best-known writings, dating back to the second half of the 1930s – namely Pacifism is not Enough, National Sovereignty and Peace and The Demonic Influence of National Sovereignty – ending with some addresses he delivered as British Ambassador to Washington. In addition there are some significant letters that are part of the extensive correspondence Lothian had with statesmen and federalist intellectuals (Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Lionel Curtis and Anthony Eden), which enrich the entire collection.
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Chapter 2. Lord Lothian: A Far-sighted Cosmopolitan



Lord Lothian: A Far-sighted Cosmopolitan

1.  From the Kindergarten to Editor of ‘The Round Table’

“Federation is what will ultimately come. It is really only a matter of time”; wrote Philip Henry Kerr (1882-1940) from South Africa in a letter to his mother dated June 19071. This extract can be considered a kind of leitmotif of his political and intellectual commitment, from his arrival in Pretoria in 1905 until the end of the 1930s when he was in Washington as British Ambassador. More precisely, federalism represents the real driving force of his political thought; a personal compass that accompanied him between the two world wars, and led him to that peremptory and drastic “Pacifism is not enough” lecture of 1935. Kerr came from a noble family: his father Lord Ralph Drury Kerr, a professional soldier who had been in India as commander of the Tenth Battalion of Hussars, was the third son of the seventh Marquess of Lothian; his mother, Lady Anne Kerr, was the daughter of the fourteenth Duke of Norfolk. Both of his parents were devout Catholics. In 1900, the young Kerr enrolled at the New College, Oxford, where he graduated with honours in Modern History in the summer of 1904: these Oxonian years were crucial for his human and intellectual formation.

At the end of 1904, he accepted an invitation from Arthur Lawley, who had served his father in India and was by then Lieutenant-Governor of the...

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