Advice from one of the British Empire’s greatest Foreign Ministers

Summary:  As our mad, expensive but profitless empire weighs us down, we can learn from the policies of the greatest western empire since Rome.  One of its leaders explains the key aspects of their grand strategy.

Clear vision


From a speech by Lord Palmerston, one of Britain’s great Foreign Ministers, and later Prime Minister, on 1 March 1848.


I hold with respect to alliances that England is a Power sufficiently strong, sufficiently powerful to steer her own course, and not to tie herself as an unnecessary appendage to the policy of any other Government.

I hold that the real policy of England — apart from questions which involve her own particular interests, political or commercial — is to be the champion of justice and right, pursuing that course with moderation and prudence, not becoming the Quixote of the world, but giving the weight of her moral sanction and support wherever she thinks that justice is, and wherever she thinks that wrong has been done.

In pursuing that course, and in pursuing the more limited direction of our own particular interests, my conviction is that as long as England keeps herself in the right, as long as she wishes to permit no injustice, as long as she wishes to countenance no wrong, as long as she labours at legislative interests of her own, and as long as she sympathizes with right and justice, she never will find herself altogether alone. She is sure to find some other state, of sufficient power, influence, and weight, to support and aid her in the course she may think fit to pursue.

It is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.

When we find other countries marching in the same course, and pursuing the same objects as ourselves, we consider them as our friends, and we think for the moment that we are on the most cordial footing; when we find other countries that take a different view, and thwart us in the object we pursue, it is our duty to make allowance for the different manner in which they may follow out the same objects.

It is our duty not to pass too harsh a judgement upon others, because they do not exactly see things in the same light as we see; and it is our duty not lightly to engage this country in the frightful responsibilities of war, because from time to time we may find this or that Power disinclined to concur with us in matters where their opinion and ours may fairly differ.

Other notes from the past

6 thoughts on “Advice from one of the British Empire’s greatest Foreign Ministers”

  1. Anthony Bromhead

    Yes and the King of the Belgians said he would bring peace and justice to the Congo!

    Tacitus got it right. The following is from Wikipedia:

    Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

    To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.
    — Translation at Project Gutenberg

    They plunder, they slaughter, and they steal: this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace.
    — translation Loeb Classical Library edition

    To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire: they make a desolation and they call it peace.
    — translation by William Peterson

    More colloquially: They rob, kill and plunder all under the decieving name of Roman Rule. They make a desert and call it peace.

    At the end of chapter 30: This is a speech by British chieftain Calgacus addressing assembled warriors about Rome’s insatiable appetite for conquest and plunder. The chieftain’s sentiment can be contrasted to “peace given to the world” which was frequently inscribed on Roman medals. The last part solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant (they make a desert, and call it peace) is often quoted alone. Lord Byron for instance uses the phrase (in English) as follows,

    Mark where his carnage and his conquests cease!
    He makes a solitude, and calls it — peace.
    — Lord Byron, Bride of Abydos (1813), Canto 2, stanza 20.

    1. I do not believe Lance is corcert about thea0 wait and see for six months story.a0 I provide quotes, some quite long, which appear to provide sufficient documentation.Also suggesting this is a farce bad news means we cannot yet leave, good news means we can stay.a0 This is another way of playing the neocolonial game.a0 Our intent appears in concrete form in our bases, many tens of billion dollars, obviously intended for long-term occupation.a0 It is the elephant in the room.a0 The counterarguement to this is to ignore the subject, which the US media does very well.a0

  2. Very interesting to google Calgacus ( who may or may not have existed ) and his attempt to maintain the tribal way of life in the bleak uplands of Afghanistan .
    Sorry , Scotland .


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