Sir,—Having just returned from a few weeks’ tour in the wine-growing districts of Provence, I can endorse all that your correspondent in your issue of to-day says as to the disappointment and sense of lack of sympathy with France in her trouble that has been caused by the unfortunate clause in our new Budget which affects her vital interests. Is it too late to allay the feeling of injustice which our Allies with some reason believe themselves to the victims of? If ever there was a moment when nothing we could possibly help should be allowed to jeopardise the Entente Cordiale—upon which so much of the peace of Europe depends—surely this is the time. With coal at famine prices and still going up (I heard of £13 a ton being paid at Lyon), with the value of the franc steadily going down, the one hope of a large agricultural community in the South of France lay in an industry that needed little or no coal for its manufacture. All that we could do as an Allay to stimulate this industry should have been done. A wise and understanding nation, rather than add to the impost on its importation, should have reduced it at this juncture, but, on the contrary, our legislators have, in a moment of unimaginative thoughtlessness, taken an opposite view, and have caused distress and indignation throughout France. Now, I am sure that they have no more belief in a policy of pin-ricks than I have, but I am equally sure that they lack imagination. They cannot put themselves in a French peasant’s place; they cannot see how vital the wine industry is to the small propriétaire, thousands of whom I have lately seen at their task from dawn to dark; they cannot understand that the one hope of a people crushed by the burden of the late war lay, in some parts of France, in the returns of the vintage, and to jeopardise one sou’s worth of this return to the wine-dresser was sure to be resented, and certain to be considered unfriendly and unjustifiable. For this catastrophic harm to international good will I blame our British lack of imagination. I saw a good example of this lack of imagination only yesterday in the Cathedral at Amiens. There, in one of the side chapels, are enshrined the American, the Canadian, and the Australian flags. The British war authorities had apparently not thought it worth while to present the Cathedral with a Union Jack. Fifty years hence, our children’s children, wandering through Amiens Cathedral, will wonder why it was Britain kept out of the Great War. We lack imagination!
(Times, 26 April 1920, p. 10.