"...Curtis defined the distinction between a commonwealth and a despotism in the following terms: "The rule of law as contrasted with the rule of an individual is the distinguishing mark of a commonwealth. In despotism government rests on the authority of the ruler or of the invisible and uncontrollable power behind him. In a commonwealth rulers derive their authority from the law and the law from a public opinion which is competent to change it." Accordingly, "the institutions of a commonwealth cannot be successfully worked by peoples whose ideas are still those of a theocratic or patriarchal society. The premature extension of representative institutions throughout the Empire would be the shortest road to anarchy." The people must first be trained to understand and practice the chief principles of commonwealth, namely the supremacy of law and the subjection of the motives of self-interest and material gain to the sense of duty to the interests of the community as a whole. Curtis felt that such an educational process was not only morally necessary on the part of Britain but was a practical necessity, since the British could not expect to keep 430 million persons in subjection forever but must rather hope to educate them up to a level where they could appreciate and cherish British ideals. In one book he says: "The idea that the principle of the commonwealth implies universal suffrage betrays an ignorance of its real nature. That principle simply means that government rests on the duty of the citizens to each other, and is to be vested in those who are capable of setting public interest before their own."  In another work he says: "As sure as day follows the night, the time will come when they [the Dominions] will have to assume the burden of the whole of their affairs. For men who are fit for it, self-government is a question not of privilege but rather of obligation. It is duty, not interest, which impels men to freedom, and duty, not interest, is the factor which turns the scale in human affairs." India is included in this evolutionary process, for Curtis wrote: " A despotic government might long have closed India to Western ideas. But a commonwealth is a living thing. It cannot suffer any part of itself to remain inert. To live it must move, and move in every limb. . . . Under British rule Western ideas will continue to penetrate and disturb Oriental society, and whether the new spirit ends in anarchy or leads to the establishment of a higher order depends upon how far the millions of India can be raised to a fuller and more rational conception of the ultimate foundations upon which the duty of obedience to government rests."
These ideas were not Curtis's own, although he was, perhaps, the most prolific, most eloquent, and most intense in his feelings. They were apparently shared by the whole inner circle of the Group. Dove, writing to Brand from India in 1919, is favorable to reform and says: "Lionel is right. You can't dam a world current. There is, I am convinced, 'purpose' under such things. All that we can do is to try to turn the flood into the best channel." In the same letter he said: "Unity will, in the end, have to be got in some other way. . . . Love-call it, if you like, by a longer name-is the only thing that can make our post-war world go round, and it has, I believe, something to say here too. The future of the Empire seems to me to depend on how far we are able to recognize this. Our trouble is that we start some way behind scratch. Indians must always find it hard to understand us." And the future Lord Lothian, ordering an article on India for The Round Table from a representative in India, wrote: "We want an article in The Round Table and I suggest to you that the main conclusion which the reader should draw from it should be that the responsibility rests upon him of seeing that the Indian demands are sympathetically handled without delay after the war. "
What this Group feared was that the British Empire would fail to profit from the lessons they had discerned in the Athenian empire or in the American Revolution. Zimmern had pointed out to them the sharp contrast between the high idealism of Pericles's funeral oration and the crass tyranny of the Athenian empire. They feared that the British Empire might fall into the same difficulty and destroy British idealism and British liberties by the tyranny necessary to hold on to a reluctant Empire. And any effort to hold an empire by tyranny they regarded as doomed to failure. Britain would be destroyed, as Athens was destroyed, by powers more tyrannical than herself. And, still drawing parallels with ancient Greece, the Group feared that all culture and civilization would go down to destruction because of our inability to construct some kind of political unit larger than the national state, just as Greek culture and civilization in the fourth century B.C. went down to destruction because of the Greeks' inability to construct some kind of political unit larger than the city-state. This was the fear that had animated Rhodes, and it was the same fear that was driving the Milner Group to transform the British Empire into a Commonwealth of Nations and then place that system within a League of Nations. In 1917, Curtis wrote in his Letter to the People of India: "The world is in throes which precede creation or death. Our whole race has outgrown the merely national state, and as surely as day follows night or night the day, will pass either to a Commonwealth of Nations or else an empire of slaves. And the issue of these agonies rests with us."
At the same time the example of the American Revolution showed the Group the dangers of trying to rule the Empire from London: to tax without representation could only lead to disruption. Yet it was no longer possible that 45 million in the United Kingdom could tax them selves for the defense of 435 million in the British Empire. What, then, was the solution? The Milner Group's efforts to answer this question led eventually, as we shall see in Chapter 8, to the present Commonwealth of Nations, but before we leave The Round Table, a few words should be said about Lord Milner's personal connection with the Round Table Group and the Group's other connections in the field of journalism and publicity.
Milner was the creator of the Round Table Group (since this is but another name for the Kindergarten) and remained in close personal contact with it for the rest of his life. In the sketch of Milner in the Dictionary of National Biography, written by Basil Williams of the Kindergarten, we read: "He was always ready to discuss national questions on a non-party basis, joining with former members of his South African 'Kindergarten' in their 'moot,' from which originated the political review, The Round Table, and in a more heterogeneous society, the 'Coefficients,' where he discussed social and imperial problems with such curiously assorted members as L. S. Amery, H. G. Wells, (Lord) Haldane, Sir Edward Grey, (Sir) Michael Sadler, Bernard Shaw, J. L. Garvin, William Pember Reeves, and W. A. S. Hewins." In the obituary of Hichens, as already indicated, we find in reference to the Round Table the sentence: "Often at its head sat the old masters of the Kindergarten, Lord Milner and his successor, Lord Selborne, close friends and allies of Hichens to the end." And in the obituary of Lord Milner in The Round Table for June 1925, we find the following significant passage: