England today stands at a parting of the ways. After the war she was the most influential nation in Europe, but now France has displaced her, endangering her economic existence. Two roads back to her former supremacy lie open to her; either she may attempt to form an anti-French entente, thus restoring the Balance of power, or she may withdraw as far as possible from the European tangle and entrust herself to her colonies.
To form an effective anti-French entente, would require statesmanship of a calibre nowhere evident in present English politics. The collapse of passive resistance in the Ruhr brought down with it England's hopes for the he-habilitation of Germany and partially vindicated French policy in the eyes of Europe. Italy has dropped her former pro-British sympathies and now seriously threatens England's position in the Mediterranean. Only a master of intrigue could mould these elements into an entente-and Pitt is dead and Lloyd George touring Canada unofficially.
The colonies, on the other hand, are ready to support the mother country as they did during the war. But quite naturally they expect some return. They have asked the Imperial Conference in London, that in return for opening their markets to British trade and their land to British immigration, England's markets may be protected for their raw materials. This means the end of Free Trade, it means, in fact, economic isolation like that of the United States. And, as an indication of the British mind in the matter such protection has already been granted in some minor articles of trade.
Heretofore England has been the world's greatest empire; now she bids fair to become its greatest confederation. One step was evident when the quasi-Independence of the colonies was formerly recognized in the League of Nations. Another is seen in the serious attempt to discover the wants of the colonies through increasingly important Imperial Conferences and tours of inspection by princes and ministers. The latest, that of erecting a protective wall about the commerce of the empire, may with the others, realize the dreams of Kipling, the prophet of Imperialism, for a great sister-hood of English-speaking peoples-a practical League of Nations.