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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. Building an Enduring Peace



Building an Enduring Peace

2.1  Pacifism is not Enough, nor Patriotism Either

Burge Memorial Lecture, Lincoln’s InnLondon, May 28th, 1935

There has never been a time when there has been so widespread and determined an attack on the institution of war. There have been periods of relative peace in human history, when great empires made war impossible or unprofitable over vast stretches of the earth’s surface. There have been centuries, like the last, when war was relatively rare, as compared with its frequency during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But never before, I think, has public opinion over a large part of the earth come to recognise both that war is incompatible with a civilised life and that it is an institution which ought to be and can be abolished. On the other hand, most thinking people today realise that the great movement against war which grew up among the democracies during and after the World War of 1914-18 has failed so far to realise its promise, and that at this moment, at any rate, we are steadily drifting back towards a worse war than the last. That drift is shown by the withdrawal of Germany and Japan and the continued abstention of the United States from the League of Nations, the failure of the Disarmament Conference, the recommencement of the race in armaments, the rise in international fear and diplomatic tension, and the absence of any counter-movement, save the...

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