FRANCESCO S. NITTI
In this book are embodied the ideas which, as a parliamentarian, as head of the Italian Government, and as a writer, I have upheld with firm conviction during the last few years.
I believe that Europe is threatened with decadence more owing to the Peace Treaties than as a result of the War. She is in a state of daily increasing decline, and the causes of dissatisfaction are growing apace.
Europe is still waiting for that peace which has not yet been definitely concluded, and it is necessary that the public should be made aware that the courses now being followed by the policy of the great victorious States are perilous to the achievement of serious, lasting and useful results. I believe that it is to the interest of France herself if I speak the language of truth, as a sincere friend of France and a confirmed enemy of German Imperialism. Not only did that Imperialism plunge Germany into a sea of misery and suffering, covering her with the opprobrium of having provoked the terrible War, or at least of having been mainly responsible for it, but it has ruined for many years the productive effort of the most cultured and industrious country in Europe.
Some time ago the ex-President of the French Republic, R. Poincare, after the San Remo Conference, a propos of certain differences of opinion which had arisen between Lloyd George and myself on the one hand and Millerand on the other, wrote as follows:
"Italy and England know what they owe to France, just as France knows what she owes to them. They do not wish to part company with us, nor do we with them. They recognize that they need us, as we have need of them. Lloyd George and Nitti are statesmen too shrewd and experienced not to understand that their greatest strength will always lie in this fundamental axiom. On leaving San Remo for Rome or London let them ask the opinion of the 'man in the street.' His reply will be: 'Avant tout, restez unis avec la France.'"
I believe that Lloyd George and I share the same cordial sentiments toward France. We have gone through so much suffering and anxiety together that it would be impossible to tear asunder links firmly welded by common danger and pain. France will always remember with a sympathetic glow that Italy was the first country which proclaimed her neutrality, on August 2, 1914; without that proclamation the destinies of the War might have taken a very different turn.
But the work of reconstruction in Europe is in the interest of France herself. She has hated too deeply to render a sudden cessation of her hate-storm possible, and the treaties have been begotten in rancour and applied with violence. Even as the life of men, the life of peoples has days of joy and days of grief: sunshine follows the storm. The whole history of European peoples is one of alternate victories and defeats. It is the business of civilization to create such conditions as will render victory less brutal and defeat more bearable.
The recent treaties which regulate, or are supposed to regulate, the relations among peoples are, as a matter of fact, nothing but a terrible regress, the denial of all those principles which had been regarded as an unalienable conquest of public right. President Wilson, by his League of Nations, has been the most responsible factor in setting up barriers between nations.
Christopher Columbus sailed from Europe hoping to land in India, whereas he discovered America. President Wilson sailed from America thinking that he was going to bring peace to Europe, but only succeeded in bringing confusion and war.
However, we should judge him with the greatest indulgence, for his intentions were undoubtedly sincere and honest.
France has more to gain than any other country in Europe by reverting to those sound principles of democracy which formed her erstwhile glory. We do not forget what we owe her, nor the noble spirit which pervades some of her historic deeds. But noblesse oblige, and all the more binding is her duty to respect tradition.
When France shall have witnessed the gradual unfolding of approaching events, she will be convinced that he who has spoken to her the language of truth and has sought out a formula permitting the peoples of Europe to rediscover their path in life, towards life, is not only a friend, but a friend who has opportunely brought back to France's mind and heart the deeds of her great ancestors at the time when fresh deeds of greatness and glory await accomplishment. The task which we must undertake with our inmost feeling, with all the ardour of our faith, is to find once more the road to peace, to utter the word of brotherly love toward oppressed peoples, and to reconstruct Europe, which is gradually sinking to the condition of Quattrocento Italy, without its effulgence of art and beauty: thirty States mutually diffident of each other, in a sea of programmes and Balkan ideas.
Towards the achievement of this work of civilization the great democracies must march shoulder to shoulder. At the present moment I hear nothing but hostile voices; but the time is not far distant when my friends of France will be marching with us along the same road. They already admit in private many things which they will presently be obliged to recognize openly. Many truths are the fruit of persuasion; others, again, are the result of former delusions.
I place my greatest trust in the action of American democracy.
By refusing to sanction the Treaty of Versailles and all the other peace treaties, the American Senate has given proof of the soundest political wisdom: the United States of America has negotiated its own separate treaties, and resumes its pre-war relations with victors and vanquished alike.
It follows that all that has been done hitherto in the way of treaties is rendered worthless, as the most important participant has withdrawn. This is a further motive for reflecting that it is impossible to continue living much longer in a Europe divided by two contending fields and by a medley of rancour and hatred which tends to widen the chasm.
It is of the greatest interest to America that Europe should once more be the wealthy, prosperous, civilized Europe which, before 1914, ruled over the destinies of the world. Only by so great an effort can the finest conquests of civilization come back to their own.
We should only remember our dead in so far as their memory may prevent future generations from being saddened by other war victims. The voices of those whom we have lost should reach us as voices praying for the return of that civilization which shall render massacres impossible, or shall at least diminish the violence and ferocity of war.
Just as the growing dissolution of Europe is a common danger, so is the renewal of the bonds of solidarity a common need.
Let us all work toward this end, even if at first we may be misunderstood and may find obstacles in our way. Truth is on the march and will assert herself: we shall strike the main road after much of dreary wandering in the dark lanes of prejudice and violence.
Many of the leading men of Europe and America, who in the intoxication of victory proclaimed ideas of violence and revenge, would now be very glad to reverse their attitude, of which they see the unhappy results. The truth is that what they privately recognize they will not yet openly admit. But no matter.
The confessions which many of them have made to me, both verbally and in writing, induce me to believe that my ideas are also their ideas, and that they only seek to express them in the form and on the occasions less antagonistic to the currents of opinion which they themselves set up in the days when the chief object to be achieved seemed to be the vivisection of the enemy.
Recent events, however, have entirely changed the situation.
As I said before, the American Senate has not sanctioned the Treaty of Versailles, nor is it likely to give it its approval. The United States of America concludes separate treaties on its own account.
Agreements of a military character had been arrived at in Paris: the United States of America and Great Britain guaranteed France against any future unjust attack by Germany. The American Senate did not sanction the agreement; in fact, it did not even discuss it. The House of Commons had approved it subordinate to the consent of the United States. Italy has kept aloof from all alliances. As a result of this situation, the four Entente Powers, "allied and associated" (as formerly was the official term), have ceased to be either "allied" or "associated" after the end of the War.
On the other hand, Europe, after emerging from the War, is darkened and overcast by intrigues, secret agreements and dissimulated plots: fresh menaces of war and fresh explosions of dissatisfaction.
Nothing can help the cause of peace more than giving a full knowledge of the real situation to the various peoples. Errors thrive in darkness while truth walks abroad in the full light of day. It has been my intention to lay before the public those great controversies which cannot merely form the object of diplomatic notes or of posthumous books presented to Parliament in a more or less incomplete condition after events have become irreparable.
The sense of a common danger, threatening all alike, will prove the most persuasive factor in swerving us from the perilous route which we are now following.
As a result of the War the bonds of economic solidarity have been torn asunder: the losers in the War must not only make good their own losses, but, according to the treaties, are expected to pay for all the damage which the War has caused. Meanwhile all the countries of Europe have only one prevailing fear: German competition. In order to pay the indemnities imposed upon her (and she can only do it by exporting goods), Germany is obliged to produce at the lowest possible cost, which necessitates the maximum of technical progress. But exports at low cost must in the long run prove detrimental, if not destructive, to the commerce of neutral countries, and even to that of the victors. Thus in all tariffs which have already been published or which are in course of preparation there is one prevailing object in view: that of reducing German competition, which practically amounts to rendering it impossible for her to pay the War indemnity.
If winners and losers were to abandon war-time ideas for a while, and, rather, were to persuade themselves that the oppression of the vanquished cannot be lasting, and that there is no other logical way out of the difficulty but that of small indemnities payable in a few years, debiting to the losers in tolerable proportion all debts contracted towards Great Britain and the United States, the European situation would immediately improve.
Why is Europe still in such a state of economic disorder? Because the confusion of moral ideas persists. In many countries nerves are still as tense as a bowstring, and the language of hatred still prevails. For some countries, as for some social groups, war has not yet ceased to be. One hears now in the countries of the victors the same arguments used as were current coin in Germany before the War and during the first phases of the War; only now and then, more as a question of habit than because they are truly felt, we hear the words justice, peace, and democracy.
Why is the present state of discomfort and dissatisfaction on the increase? Because almost everywhere in Continental Europe, in the countries which have emerged from the War, the rate of production is below the rate of consumption, and many social groups, instead of producing more, plan to possess themselves with violence of the wealth produced by others. At home, the social classes, unable to resist, are threatened; abroad, the vanquished, equally unable to resist, are menaced, but in the very menace it is easy to discern the anxiety of the winners. Confusion, discomfort and dissatisfaction thus grow apace.
The problem of Europe is above all a moral problem. A great step toward its solution will have been accomplished when winners and losers persuade themselves that only by a common effort can they be saved, and that the best enemy indemnity consists in peace and joint labour. Now that the enemy has lost all he possessed and threatens to make us lose the fruits of victory, one thing is above all others necessary: the resumption, not only of the language, but of the ideas of peace;
During one of the last international conferences at which I was present, and over which I presided, at San Remo, after a long exchange of views with the British and French Premiers, Lloyd George and Millerand, the American journalists asked me to give them my ideas on peace: "What is the most necessary thing for the maintenance of peace?" they inquired.
"One thing only," I replied, "is necessary. Europe must smile once more." Smiles have vanished from every lip; nothing has remained but hatred, menaces and nervous excitement.
When Europe shall smile again she will "rediscover" her political peace ideas and will drink once more at the spring of life. Class struggles at home, in their acutest form, are like the competition of nationalism abroad: explosions of cupidity, masked by the pretext of the country's greatness.
The deeply rooted economic crisis, which threatens and prepares new wars, the deeply rooted social crisis, which threatens and prepares fresh conflicts abroad, are nothing but the expression of a status animae or soul condition. Statesmen are the most directly responsible for the continuation of a language of violence; they should be the first to speak the language of peace.
ACQUAFREDDA IN BASILICATA.
September 30, 1921.
P.S.—"Peaceless Europe" is an entirely new book, which I have written in my hermitage of Acquafredda, facing the blue Adriatic; it contains, however, some remarks and notices which have already appeared in articles written by me for the great American agency, the United Press, and which have been reproduced by the American papers.
I have repeatedly stated that I have not published any document which was not meant for publication; I have availed myself of my knowledge of the most important international Acts and of all diplomatic documents merely as a guide, but it is on facts that I have solidly based my considerations.
J. Keynes and Robert Lansing have already published some very important things, but no secret documents; recently, however, Tardieu and Poincare, in the interest of the French nationalist thesis which they sustain, have published also documents of a very reserved nature. Tardieu's book is a documentary proof of the French Government's extremist attitude during the conference, amply showing that the present form of peace has been desired almost exclusively by France, and that the others have been unwilling parties to it. Besides his articles in the Revue des Deux Mondes, Poincare has recently published in the Temps (September 12, 1921) a whole secret correspondence between Poincare, President of the Republic, Clemenceau, President of the Council of Ministers, the American Delegation, and, above all, Lloyd George.
1. EUROPE WITHOUT PEACE
2. THE PEACE TREATIES AND THE CONTINUATION OF THE WAR
3. THE PEACE TREATIES: THEIR ORIGIN AND AIMS
4. THE CONQUERORS AND THE CONQUERED
5. THE INDEMNITY FROM THE DEFEATED ENEMY AND THE ANXIETIES OF THE VICTORS
6. EUROPE'S POST-WAR RECONSTRUCTION AND PEACE POLICY
The author includes in the book numerous secret official documents that emanated from the Peace Conference and which came into his hands in his position, at that time, as Italian Prime Minister. Among these is a long and hitherto unpublished secret letter sent by Lloyd George to Nitti, Wilson, Clemenceau, and the other members of the Peace Conference.
EUROPE WITHOUT PEACE
Is there anyone who still remembers Europe in the first months of 1914 or calls to mind the period which preceded the first year of the War? It all seems terribly remote, something like a prehistoric era, not only because the conditions of life have changed, but because our viewpoint on life has swerved to a different angle.
Something like thirty million dead have dug a chasm between two ages. War killed many millions, disease accounted for many more, but the hardiest reaper has been famine. The dead have built up a great cold barrier between the Europe of yesterday and the Europe of to-day.
We have lived through two historic epochs, not through two different periods. Europe was happy and prosperous, while now, after the terrible World War, she is threatened with a decline and a reversion to brutality which suggest the fall of the Roman Empire. We ourselves do not quite understand what is happening around us. More than two-thirds of Europe is in a state of ferment, and everywhere there prevails a vague sense of uneasiness, ill-calculated to encourage important collective works. We live, as the saying is, "from hand to mouth."
Before 1914 Europe had enjoyed a prolonged period of peace, attaining a degree of wealth and civilization unrivalled in the past.
In Central Europe Germany had sprung up. After the Napoleonic invasions, in the course of a century, Germany, which a hundred years ago seemed of all European countries the least disposed to militarism, had developed into a great military monarchy. From being the most particularist country Germany had in reality become the most unified state. But what constituted her strength was not so much her army and navy as the prestige of her intellectual development. She had achieved it laboriously, almost painfully, on a soil which was not fertile and within a limited territory, but, thanks to the tenacity of her effort, she succeeded in winning a prominent place in the world-race for supremacy. Her universities, her institutes for technical instruction, her schools, were a model to the whole world. In the course of a few years she had built up a merchant fleet which seriously threatened those of other countries. Having arrived too late to create a real colonial empire of her own, such as those of France and England, she nevertheless succeeded in exploiting her colonies most intelligently.
In the field of industry she appeared to beat all competitors from a technical point of view; and even in those industries which were not hers by habit and tradition she developed so powerful an organization as to appear almost uncanny. Germany held first place not only in the production of iron, but in that of dyes and chemicals. Men went there from all parts of the world not only to trade but to acquire knowledge. An ominous threat weighed on the Empire, namely the constitution of the State itself, essentially militaristic and bureaucratic. Not even in Russia, perhaps, were the reins of power held in the hands of so few men as in Germany and Austria-Hungary.
A few years before the World War started one of the leading European statesmen told me that there was everything to be feared for the future of Europe where some three hundred millions, the inhabitants of Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary, about two-thirds of the whole continent, were governed in an almost irresponsible manner by a man without will or intelligence, the Tsar of Russia; a madman without a spark of genius, the German Kaiser, and an obstinate old man hedged in by his ambition, the Emperor of Austria-Hungary. Not more than thirty persons, he added, act as a controlling force on these three irresponsible sovereigns, who might assume, on their own initiative, the most terrible responsibilities.
The magnificent spiritual gifts of the Germans gave them an Emanuel Kant, the greatest thinker of modern times, Beethoven, their greatest exponent of music, and Goethe, their greatest poet. But the imperial Germany which came after the victory of 1870 had limited the spirit of independence even in the manifestations of literature and art. There still existed in Germany the most widely known men of science, the best universities, the most up-to-date schools; but the clumsy mechanism tended to crush rather than to encourage all personal initiative. Great manifestations of art or thought are not possible without the most ample spiritual liberty. Germany was the most highly organized country from a scientific point of view, but at the same time the country in which there was the least liberty for individual initiative. It went on like a huge machine: that explains why it almost stopped after being damaged by the war, and the whole life of the nation was paralysed while there were very few individual impulses of reaction. Imperial Germany has always been lacking in political ability, perhaps not only through a temperamental failing, but chiefly owing to her militaristic education.
Before the War Germany beat her neighbours in all the branches of human labour: in science, industry, banking, commerce, etc. But in one thing she did not succeed, and succeeded still less after the War, namely, in politics. When the German people was blessed with a political genius, such as Frederick the Great or Bismarck, it achieved the height of greatness and glory. But when the same people, after obtaining the maximum of power, found on its path William II with his mediocre collaborators, it ruined, by war, a colossal work, not only to the great detriment of the country, but also to that of the victors themselves, of whom it cannot be said with any amount of certainty, so far as those of the Continent are concerned, whether they are the winners or the losers, so great is the ruin threatening them, and so vast the material and moral losses sustained.
I have always felt the deepest aversion for William II. So few as ten years ago he was still treated with the greatest sympathy both in Europe and America. Even democracies regarded with ill-dissimulated admiration the work of the Kaiser, who brought everywhere his voice, his enthusiasm, his activity, to the service of Germany. As a matter of fact, his speeches were poor in phraseology, a mere conglomerate of violence, prejudice and ignorance. As no one believed in the possibility of a war, no one troubled about it. But after the War nothing has been more harmful to Germany than the memory of those ugly speeches, unrelieved by any noble idea, and full of a clumsy vulgarity draped in a would-be solemn and majestic garb. Some of his threatening utterances, such as the address to the troops sailing for China in order to quell the Boxer rebellion, the constant association in all his speeches of the great idea of God, with the ravings of a megalomaniac, the frenzied oratory in which he indulged at the beginning of the War, have harmed Germany more than anything else. It is possible to lose nobly; but to have lost a great war after having won so many battles would not have harmed the German people if it had not been represented abroad by the presumptuous vulgarity of the Kaiser and of all the members of his entourage, who were more or less guilty of the same attitude.
Before the War Germany had everywhere attained first place in all forms of activity, excepting, perhaps, in certain spiritual and artistic manifestations. She admired herself too much and too openly, but succeeded in affirming her magnificent expansion in a greatness and prosperity without rival.
By common accord Germany held first place. Probably this consciousness of power, together with the somewhat brutal forms of the struggle for industrial supremacy, as in the case of the iron industry, threw a mysterious and threatening shadow over the granitic edifice of the Empire.
When I was Minister of Commerce in 1913 I received a deputation of German business men who wished to confer with me on the Italian customs regime. They spoke openly of the necessity of possessing themselves of the iron mines of French Lorraine; they looked upon war as an industrial fact. Germany had enough coal but not enough iron, and the Press of the iron industry trumpeted forth loud notes of war. After the conclusion of peace, when France, through a series of wholly unexpected events, saw Germany prostrate at her feet and without an army, the same phenomenon took place. The iron industry tends to affirm itself in France; she has the iron and now she wants coal. Should she succeed in getting it, German production would be doomed. To deprive Germany of Upper Silesia would mean killing production after having disorganized it at the very roots of its development.
Seven years ago, or thereabouts, Germany was flourishing in an unprecedented manner and presented the most favourable conditions for developing. Her powerful demographic structure was almost unique. Placed in the centre of Europe after having withstood the push of so many peoples, she had attained an unrivalled economic position.
Close to Germany the Austro-Hungarian Empire united together eleven different peoples, not without difficulty, and this union tended to the common elevation of all. The vast monarchy, the result of a slow aggregation of violence and of administrative wisdom, represented, perhaps, the most interesting historic attempt on the part of different peoples to achieve a common rule and discipline on the same territory. Having successfully weathered the most terrible financial crises, and having healed in half a century the wounds of two great wars which she had lost, Austria-Hungary lived in the effort of holding together Germans, Magyars, Slavs and Italians without their flying at each others' throats. Time will show how the effort of Austria-Hungary has not been lost for civilization.
Russia represented the largest empire which has ever been in existence, and in spite of its defective political regime was daily progressing. Perhaps for the first time in history an immense empire of twenty-one millions and a half of square kilometres, eighty-four times the size of Italy, almost three times as large as the United States of America, was ruled by a single man. From the Baltic to the Yellow Sea, from Finland to the Caucasus, one law and one rule governed the most different peoples scattered over an immense territory. The methods by which, after Peter the Great, the old Duchy of Muscovy had been transformed into an empire, still lived in the administration; they survive to-day in the Bolshevist organization, which represents less a revolution than a hieratic and brutal form of violence placed at the service of a political organization.
The war between Russia and Japan had revealed all the perils of a political organization exclusively based on central authority represented by a few irresponsible men under the apparent rule of a sovereign not gifted with the slightest trace of will power.
Those who exalt nationalist sentiments and pin their faith on imperialistic systems fail to realize that while the greatest push towards the War came from countries living under a less liberal regime, those very countries gave proof of the least power of resistance. Modern war means the full exploitation of all the human and economic resources of each belligerent country. The greater a nation's wealth the greater is the possibility to hold out, and the perfection of arms and weapons is in direct ratio with the degree of technical progress attained. Moreover, the combatants and the possibility of using them are in relation with the number of persons who possess sufficient skill and instruction to direct the war. Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, the United States of America, were able without any appreciable effort to improvise an enormous number of officers for the War, transforming professional men, engineers and technicians into officers. Russia, who did not have a real industrial bourgeoisie nor a sufficient development of the middle classes, was only able to furnish an enormous number of combatants, but an insufficient organization from a technical and military point of view, and a very limited number of officers. While on a peace footing her army was the most numerous in the world, over one million three hundred thousand men; when her officers began to fail Russia was unable to replace them so rapidly as the proportion of nine or ten times more than normal required by the War.
Russia has always had a latent force of development; there is within her a vis inertiae equivalent to a mysterious energy of expansion. Her birth-rate is higher than that of any other European country; she does not progress, she increases. Her weight acts as a menace to neighbouring countries, and as, by a mysterious historic law the primitive migrations of peoples and the ancient invasions mostly originated from the territories now occupied by Russia, the latter has succeeded in amalgamating widely different peoples and in creating unity where no affinity appeared possible.
At any rate, although suffering from an excessively centralized government and a form of constitution which did not allow the development of popular energies nor a sufficient education of the people, Russia was perhaps, half a century before the War, the European country which, considering the difficulties in her path, had accomplished most progress.
European Russia, with her yearly excess of from one million and a half to two million births over deaths, with the development of her industries and the formation of important commercial centres, progressed very rapidly and was about to become the pivot of European politics.
When it will be possible to examine carefully the diplomatic documents of the War, and time will allow us to judge them calmly, it will be seen that Russia's attitude was the real and underlying cause of the world-conflict. She alone promoted and kept alive the agitations in Serbia and of the Slavs in Austria; she alone in Germany's eyes represented the peril of the future. Germany has never believed in a French danger. She knew very well that France, single handed, could never have withstood Germany, numerically so much her superior. Russia was the only danger that Germany saw, and the continual increase of the Russian army was her gravest preoccupation. Before the War, when Italy was Germany's ally, the leading German statesmen with whom I had occasion to discuss the situation did nothing but allude to the Russian peril. It was known (and subsequent facts have amply proved it) that the Tsar was absolutely devoid of will power, that he was led and carried away by conflicting currents, and that his advisers were for the most part favourable to the War. After the Japanese defeat the militarist party felt keenly the need for just such a great military revival and a brilliant revanche in Europe.
Possessing an enormous wealth of raw materials and an immense territory, Russia represented Europe's great resource, her support for the future.
If the three great empires had attained enviable prosperity and development in 1914, when the War burst, the three great western democracies, Great Britain, France and Italy, had likewise progressed immensely.
Great Britain, proud of her "splendid isolation," and ruler of the seas, traded in every country of the world. Having the vastest empire, she was also financially the greatest creditor country: creditor of America and Asia, of the new African states and of Australia. Perhaps all this wealth had somewhat diminished the spirit of enterprise before the War, and popular culture also suffered from this unprecedented prosperity. There was not the spasmodic effort noticeable in Germany, but a continuous and secure expansion, an undisputed supremacy. Although somewhat preoccupied at Germany's progress and regarding it as a peril for the future, Great Britain attached more importance to the problems of her Empire, namely to her internal constitution: like ancient Rome, she was a truly imperial country in the security of her supremacy, in her calm, in her forbearance.
France continued patiently to accumulate wealth. She did not increase her population, but ably added to her territory and her savings. Threatened with the phenomenon known to political economists under the name of "oliganthropy," or lack of men, she had founded a colonial empire which may be regarded as the largest on earth. It is true that the British colonies, even before the War, covered an area of thirty million square kilometres, while France's colonial empire was slightly over twelve millions. But it must be remembered that the British colonies are not colonies in the real sense of the word, but consist chiefly in Dominions which enjoy an almost complete autonomy. Canada alone represents about one-third of the territories of the British Dominions; Australia and New Zealand more than one-fourth, and Australasia, the South African Union and Canada put together represent more than two-thirds of the Empire, while India accounts for about fifty per cent. of the missing third. After England, France was the most important creditor country. Her astonishing capacity for saving increased in proportion with her wealth. Without having Germany's force of development and Great Britain's power of expansion, France enjoyed a wonderful prosperity and her wealth was scattered all over the world.
Italy had arisen under the greatest difficulties, but in less than fifty years of unity she progressed steadily. Having a territory too small and mountainous for a population already overflowing and constantly on the increase, Italy had been unable to exploit the limited resources of her subsoil and had been forced to build up her industries in conditions far less favourable than those of other countries. Italy is perhaps the only nation which has succeeded in forming her industries without having any coal of her own and very little iron. But the acquisition of wealth, extremely difficult at first, had gradually been rendered more easy by the improvement in technical instruction and methods, for the most part borrowed from Germany. On the eve of the War, after a period of thirty-three years, the Triple Alliance had rendered the greatest services to Italy, fully confirming Crispi's political intuition. France, with whom we had had serious differences of opinion, especially after the Tunis affair, did not dare to threaten Italy because the latter belonged to the Triple Alliance, and for the same reason all ideas of a conflict with Austria-Hungary had been set aside because of her forming part of the "Triplice."
During the Triple Alliance Italy built up all her industries, she consolidated her national unity and prepared her economic transformation, which was fraught with considerable difficulties. Suddenly her sons spread all over the world, stimulated by the fecundity of their race and by the narrowness of their fields.
The greater States were surrounded by minor nations which had achieved considerable wealth and great prosperity.
Europe throughout her history had never been so rich, so far advanced on the road to progress, above all so united and living in her unity; as regards production and exchanges she was really a living unity. The vital lymph was not limited to this or that country, but flowed with an even current through the veins and arteries of the various nations through the great organizations of capital and labour, promoting a continuous and increasing solidarity among all the parties concerned.
In fact, the idea of solidarity had greatly progressed: economic, moral and spiritual solidarity.
Moreover, the idea of peace, although threatened by military oligarchies and by industrial corners, was firmly based on the sentiments of the great majority. The strain of barbaric blood which still ferments in many populations of Central Europe constituted—it is true—a standing menace; but no one dreamt that the threat was about to be followed, lightning like, by facts, and that we were on the eve of a catastrophe.
Europe had forgotten what hunger meant. Never had Europe had at her disposal such abundant economic resources or a greater increase in wealth.
Wealth is not our final object in life. But a minimum of means is an indispensable condition of life and happiness. Excessive wealth may lead both to moral elevation and to depression and ruin.
Europe had not only increased her wealth but developed the solidarity of her interests. Europe is a small continent, about as large as Canada or the United States of America. But her economic ties and interests had been steadily on the increase.
Now the development of her wealth meant for Europe the development of her moral ideas and of her social life and aspirations. We admire a country not so much for its wealth as for the works of civilization which that wealth enables it to accomplish.
Although peace be the aspiration of all peoples, even as physical health is the aspiration of all living beings, there are wars which cannot be avoided, as there are diseases which help us to overcome an organic crisis to which we might otherwise succumb. War and peace cannot be regarded as absolutely bad or absolutely good and desirable; war is often waged in order to secure peace. In certain cases war is not only a necessary condition of life but may be an indispensable condition towards progress.
We must consider and analyse the sentiments and psychological causes which bring about a war. A war waged to redeem its independence by a nation downtrodden by another nation is perfectly legitimate, even from the point of view of abstract morality. A war which has for its object the conquest of political or religious liberty cannot be condemned even by the most confirmed pacificist.
Taken as a whole, the wars fought in the nineteenth century, wars of nationality, of independence, of unity, even colonial wars, were of a character far less odious than that of the great conflict which has devastated Europe and upset the economic conditions of the world. It has not only been the greatest war in history, but in its consequences it threatens to prove the worst war which has ravaged Europe in modern times.
After nearly every nineteenth-century war there has been a marked revival of human activity. But this unprecedented clash of peoples has reduced the energy of all; it has darkened the minds of men, and spread the spirit of violence.
Europe will be able to make up for her losses in lives and wealth. Time heals even the most painful wounds. But one thing she has lost which, if she does not succeed in recovering it, must necessarily lead to her decline and fall: the spirit of solidarity.
After the victory of the Entente the microbes of hate have developed and flourished in special cultures, consisting of national egotism, imperialism, and a mania for conquest and expansion.
The peace treaties imposed on the vanquished are nothing but arms of oppression. What more could Germany herself have done had she won the War? Perhaps her terms would have been more lenient, certainly not harder, as she would have understood that conditions such as we have imposed on the losers are simply inapplicable.
Three years have elapsed since the end of the War, two since the conclusion of peace, nevertheless Europe has still more men under arms than in pre-war times. The sentiment of nationality, twisted and transformed into nationalism, aims at the subjugation and depression of other peoples. No civilized co-existence is possible where each nation proposes to harm instead of helping its neighbour.
The spread of hatred among peoples has everywhere rendered more difficult the internal relations between social classes and the economic life of each country. Fearing a repetition of armed conflicts, and owing to that spirit of unrest and intolerance engendered everywhere by the War, workers are becoming every day more exacting. They, too, claim their share of the spoils; they, too, clamour for enemy indemnities. The same manifestations of hate, the same violence of language, spread from people to people and from class to class.
This tremendous War, which the peoples of Europe have fought and suffered, has not only bled the losers almost to death, but it has deeply perturbed the very life and existence of the victors. It has not produced a single manifestation of art or a single moral affirmation. For the last seven years the universities of Europe appear to be stricken with paralysis: not one outstanding personality has been revealed.
In almost every country the War has brought a sense of internal dissolution: everywhere this disquieting phenomenon is more or less noticeable. With the exception, perhaps, of Great Britain, whose privileged insular situation, enormous mercantile navy and flourishing trade in coal have enabled her to resume her pre-war economic existence almost entirely, no country has emerged scatheless from the War. The rates of exchange soar daily to fantastic heights, and insuperable barriers to the commerce of European nations are being created. People work less than they did in pre-war times, but everywhere a tendency is noticeable to consume more. Austria, Germany, Italy, France are not different phenomena, but different manifestations and phases of the same phenomenon.
Before the War Europe, in spite of her great sub-divisions, represented a living economic whole. To-day there are not only victors and vanquished, but currents of hate, ferments of violence, a hungering after conquests, an unscrupulous cornering of raw materials carried out brutally and almost ostentatiously in the name of the rights of victory: a situation which renders production, let alone its development and increase, utterly impossible.
The treaty system as applied after the War has divided Europe into two distinct parts: the losers, held under the military and economic control of the victors, are expected to produce not only enough for their own needs, but to provide a super-production in order to indemnify the winners for all the losses and damages sustained on account of the War. The victors, bound together in what is supposed to be a permanent alliance for the protection of their common interests, are supposed to exercise a military action of oppression and control over the losers until the full payment of the indemnity. Another part of Europe is in a state of revolutionary ferment, and the Entente Powers have, by their attitude, rather tended to aggravate than to improve the situation.
Europe can only recover her peace of mind by remembering that the War is over and done with. Unfortunately, the treaty system not only prevents us from remembering that the War is finished, but determines a state of permanent war.
Clemenceau bluntly declared to the French Chamber that treaties were a means of continuing the War. He was perfectly right, for war is being waged more bitterly than ever and peace is as remote as it ever was.
The problem with which modern statesmen are confronted is very simple: can Europe continue in her decline without involving the ruin of civilization? And is it possible to stop this process of decay without finding some form of civil symbiosis which will ensure for all men a more human mode of living? In the affirmative case what course should we take, and is it presumable that there should be an immediate change for the better in the situation, given the national and economic interests now openly and bitterly in conflict?
We have before us a problem, or rather a series of problems, which call for impartiality and calm if a satisfactory solution is to be arrived at. Perhaps if some fundamental truths were brought home to the people, or, to be more exact, to the peoples now at loggerheads with each other, a notion of the peril equally impending upon all concerned and the conviction that an indefinite prolongation of the present state of things is impossible, would prove decisive factors in restoring a spirit of peace and in reviving that spirit of solidarity which now appears spent or slumbering.
But in the first place it is necessary to review the situation, such as it is at the present moment:
Firstly, Europe, which was the creditor of all other continents, has now become their debtor.
Secondly, her working capacity has greatly decreased, chiefly owing to the negative change in her demographic structure. In pre-war times the ancient continent supplied new continents and new territories with a hardy race of pioneers, and held the record as regards population, both adult and infantile, the prevalence of women over men being especially noted by statisticians. All this has changed considerably for the worse!
Thirdly, on the losing nations, including Germany, which is generally understood to be the most cultured nation in the world, the victors have forced a peace which practically amounts to a continuation of the War. The vanquished have had to give up their colonies, their shipping, their credits abroad, and their transferable resources, besides agreeing to the military and economic control of the Allies; moreover, despite their desperate conditions, they are expected to pay an indemnity, the amount of which, although hitherto only vaguely mentioned, surpasses by its very absurdity all possibility of an even remote settlement.
Fourthly, considerable groups of ex-enemy peoples, chiefly Germans and Magyars, have been assigned to populations of an inferior civilization.
Fifthly, as a result of this state of things, while Germany, Austria and Bulgaria have practically no army at all and have submitted without the slightest resistance to the most stringent forms of military control, the victorious States have increased their armies and fleets to proportions, which they did not possess before the War.
Sixthly, Europe, cut up into thirty States, daily sees her buying capacity decreasing and the rate of exchange rising menacingly against her.
Seventhly, the peace treaties are the most barefaced denial of all the principles which the Entente Powers declared and proclaimed during the War; not only so, but they are a fundamental negation of President Wilson's famous fourteen points which were supposed to constitute a solemn pledge and covenant, not only with the enemy, but with the democracies of the whole world.
Eighthly, the moral unrest deriving from these conditions has divided among themselves the various Entente Powers: United States of America, Great Britain, Italy and France, not only in their aims and policy, but in their sentiments. The United States is anxious to get rid, as far as possible, of European complications and responsibilities; France follows methods with which Great Britain and Italy are not wholly in sympathy, and it cannot be said that the three Great Powers of Western Europe are in perfect harmony. There is still a great deal of talk about common ends and ideals, and the necessity of applying the treaties in perfect accord and harmony, but everybody is convinced that to enforce the treaties, without attenuating or modifying their terms, would mean the ruin of Europe and the collapse of the victors after that of the vanquished.
Ninthly, a keen contest of nationalisms, land-grabbing and cornering of raw materials renders friendly relations between the thirty States of Europe extremely difficult. The most characteristic examples of nationalist violence have arisen out of the War, as in the case of Poland and other newborn States, which pursue vain dreams of empire while on the verge of dissolution through sheer lack of vital strength and energy, and becoming every day more deeply engulfed in misery and ruin.
Finally, Continental Europe is on the eve of a series of fresh and more violent wars among peoples, threatening to submerge civilization unless some means be found to replace the present treaties, which are based on the principle that it is necessary to continue the War, by a system of friendly agreements whereby winners and losers are placed on a footing of liberty and equality, and which, while laying on the vanquished a weight they are able to bear, will liberate Europe from the present spectacle of a continent divided into two camps, where one is armed to the teeth and threatening, while the other, unarmed and inoffensive, is forced to labour in slavish conditions under the menace of a servitude even more severe.
THE PEACE TREATIES AND THE CONTINUATION OF THE WAR
The various peace treaties regulating the present territorial situation bear the names of the localities near Paris in which they were signed: Versailles, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Trianon and Sevres. The first deals with Germany, the second with Austria, the third with Hungary, and the fourth with Turkey. The Treaty of Neuilly, comparatively far less important, concerns Bulgaria alone. But the one fundamental and decisive treaty is the Treaty of Versailles, inasmuch as it not only establishes as a recognized fact the partition of Europe, but lays down the rules according to which all future treaties are to be concluded.
History has not on record a more colossal diplomatic feat than this treaty, by which Europe has been neatly divided into two sections: victors and vanquished; the former being authorized to exercise on the latter complete control until the fulfilment of terms which, even at an optimistic point valuation, would require at least thirty years to materialize.
Although it is a matter of recent history, we may as well call to mind that the Entente Powers have always maintained that the War was wanted and was imposed by Germany; that she alone, with her Allies, repeatedly violated the rights of peoples; that the World War could well be regarded as the last war, inasmuch as the triumph of the Entente meant the triumph of democracy and a more human regime of life, a society of nations rich in effects conducive to a lasting peace. It was imperative to restore the principles of international justice. In France, in England, in Italy, and later, even more solemnly, in the United States, the same principles have been proclaimed by Heads of States, by Parliaments and Governments.
There are two documents laying down and fixing the principles which the Entente Powers, on the eve of that event of decisive importance, the entry of the United States into the War, bound themselves to sustain and to carry on to triumph. The first is a statement by Briand to the United States Ambassador, in the name of all the other Allies, dated December 30, 1916. Briand speaks in the name of all "les gouvernements allies unis pour la defense et la liberte des peuples."
Briand's second declaration, dated January 10, 1917, is even more fundamentally important. It is a collective note of reply to President Wilson, delivered in the name of all the Allies to the United States Ambassador. The principles therein established are very clearly enunciated. According to that document the Entente has no idea of conquest and proposes mainly to achieve the following objects:
1st. Restoration of Belgium, Serbia and Montenegro, with the indemnities due to them.
2nd. Evacuation of invaded territories in France, Russia and Rumania and payment of just reparations.
3rd. Reorganization of Europe with a permanent regime based on the respect of nationalities and on the right of all countries, both great and small, to complete security and freedom of economic development, besides territorial conventions and international regulations capable of guaranteeing land and sea frontiers from unjustified attacks.
4th. Restitution of the provinces and territories taken in the past from the Allies by force and against the wish of the inhabitants.
5th. Liberation of Italians, Slavs, Rumanians and Czeko-Slovaks from foreign rule.
6th. Liberation of the peoples subjected to the tyranny of the Turks and expulsion from Europe of the Ottoman Empire, as being decidedly extraneous to western civilization.
7th. The intentions of his Majesty the Emperor of Russia in regard to Poland are clearly indicated in the proclamation addressed to his armies.
8th. The Allies have never harboured the design of exterminating German peoples nor of bringing about their political disappearance.
At that time the autocratic form of government still prevailed in Russia, and the Allies still considered themselves bound to Russia's aspirations; moreover there existed, in regard to Italy, the obligations established by the Pact of London. That is why in the statements of the Entente Powers of Europe the restoration of Montenegro is regarded as an obligation; mention is made of the necessity of driving the Turks out of Europe in order to enable Russia to seize Constantinople; and as to Poland, there are only vague allusions, namely, the reference made to the Tsar's intentions as outlined in his proclamation.
The Entente has won the War, but Russia has collapsed under the strain. Had victory been achieved without the fall of Russia, the latter would have installed herself as the predominating Power in the Mediterranean. On the other hand, to unite Dalmatia to Italy, while separating her from Italy, according to the pact of London, by assigning the territory of Fiume to Croatia, would have meant setting all the forces of Slav irredentism against Italy.
These considerations are of no practical value inasmuch as events have taken another course. Nobody can say what would have happened if the Carthagenians had conquered the Romans or if victory had remained with Mithridates. Hypotheses are of but slight interest when truth follows another direction. Nevertheless we cannot but repeat that it was a great fortune for Europe that victory was not decided by Russia, and that the decisive factor proved the United States.
It is beyond all possible doubt that without the intervention of the United States of America the War could not have been won by the Entente. Although the admission may prove humiliating to the European point of view, it is a fact which cannot be attenuated or disguised. The United States threw into the balance the weight of its enormous economic and technical resources, besides its enormous resources in men. Although its dead only amount to fifty thousand, the United States built up such a formidable human reserve as to deprive Germany of all hopes of victory. The announcement of America's entry in the War immediately crushed all Germany's power of resistance. Germany felt that the struggle was no longer limited to Europe, and that every effort was vain.
The United States, besides giving to the War enormous quantities of arms and money, had practically inexhaustible reserves of men to place in the field against an enemy already exhausted and famine-stricken.
War and battles are two very different things. Battles constitute an essentially military fact, while war is an essentially political fact. That explains why great leaders in war have always been first and foremost great political leaders, namely, men accustomed to manage other men and able to utilize them for their purposes. Alexander, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, the three greatest military leaders produced by Aryan civilization, were essentially political men. War is not only a clash of arms, it is above all the most convenient exploitation of men, of economic resources and of political situations. A battle is a fact of a purely military nature. The Romans almost constantly placed at the head of their armies personages of consular rank, who regarded and conducted the war as a political enterprise. The rules of tactics and strategy are perfectly useless if those who conduct the war fail to utilize to the utmost all the means at their disposal.
It cannot be denied that in the War Germany and Austria-Hungary scored the greatest number of victories. For a long period they succeeded in invading large tracts of enemy territory and in recovering those parts of their own territory which had been invaded, besides always maintaining the offensive. They won great battles at the cost of enormous sacrifices in men and lives, and for a long time victory appeared to shine on their arms. But they failed to understand that from the day in which the violation of Belgium's neutrality determined Great Britain's entry in the field the War, from a general point of view, could be regarded as lost. As I have said, Germany is especially lacking in political sense: after Bismarck, her statesmen have never risen to the height of the situation. Even von Buelow, who appeared to be one of the cleverest, never had a single manifestation of real intelligence.
The "banal" statements made about Belgium and the United States of America by the men who directed Germany's war policy were precisely the sort of thing most calculated to harm the people from whom they came. What is decidedly lacking in Germany, while it abounds in France, is a political class. Now a political class, consisting of men of ability and culture, cannot but be the result of a democratic education in all modern States, especially in those which have achieved a high standard of civilization and development. It seems almost incredible that Germany, despite all her culture, should have tolerated the political dictatorship of the Kaiser and of his accomplices.
At the Conferences of Paris and London, in 1919 and 1920, I did all that was in my power to prevent the trial of the Kaiser, and I am convinced that my firm attitude in the matter succeeded in avoiding it. Sound common sense saved us from floundering in one of the most formidable blunders of the Treaty of Versailles. To hold one man responsible for the whole War and to bring him to trial, his enemies acting as judge and jury, would have been such a monstrous travesty of justice as to provoke a moral revolt throughout the world. On the other hand it was also a moral monstrosity, which would have deprived the Treaty of Versailles of every shred of dignity. If the one responsible for the War is the Kaiser, why does the Entente demand of the German people such enormous indemnities, unprecedented in history?
One of the men who has exercised the greatest influence on European events during the last ten years, one of the most intelligent of living statesmen, once told me that it was his opinion that the Kaiser did not want the War, but neither did he wish to prevent it.
Germany, although under protest, has been forced to accept the statement of the Versailles Treaty to the effect that she is responsible for the War and that she provoked it. The same charge has been levelled at her in all the Entente States throughout the War.
When our countries were engaged in the struggle, and we were at grips with a dangerous enemy, it was our duty to keep up the morale of our people and to paint our adversaries in the darkest colours, laying on their shoulders all the blame and responsibility of the War. But after the great world conflict, now that Imperial Germany has fallen, it would be absurd to maintain that the responsibility of the War is solely and wholly attributable to Germany and that earlier than 1914 in Europe there had not developed a state of things fatally destined to culminate in a war. If Germany has the greatest responsibility, that responsibility is shared more or less by all the countries of the Entente. But while the Entente countries, in spite of their mistakes, had the political sense always to invoke principles of right and justice, the statesmen of Germany gave utterance to nothing but brutal and vulgar statements, culminating in the deplorable mental and moral expressions contained in the speeches, messages and telegrams of William II. He was a perfect type of the miles gloriosus, not a harmless but an irritating and dangerous boaster, who succeeded in piling up more loathing and hatred against his country than the most active and intelligently managed enemy propaganda could possibly have done.
If the issue of the War could be regarded as seriously jeopardized by England's intervention, it was practically lost for the Central Empires when the United States stepped in.
America's decision definitely crippled Germany's resistance—and not only for military, but for moral reasons. In all his messages President Wilson had repeatedly declared that he wanted a peace based on justice and equity, of which he outlined the fundamental conditions; moreover, he stated that he had no quarrel with the Germans themselves, but with the men who were at their head, and that he did not wish to impose on the vanquished peace terms such as might savour of oppression.
President Wilson's ideas on the subject have been embodied in a bulky volume. Turning over the pages of this book now we have the impression that it is a collection of literary essays by a man who had his eye on posterity and assumed a pose most likely to attract the admiration of generations as yet unborn. But when these same words were uttered in the intervals of mighty battles, they fell on expectant and anxious ears: they were regarded as a ray of light in the fearsome darkness of uncertainty, and everybody listened to them, not only because the President was the authorized exponent of a great nation, of a powerful people, but because he represented an inexhaustible source of vitality in the midst of the ravages of violence and death. President Wilson's messages have done as much as famine and cruel losses in the field to break the stubborn resistance of the German people. If it was possible to obtain a just peace, why go to the bitter end when defeat was manifestly inevitable? Obstinacy is the backbone of war, and nothing undermines a nation's power of resistance so much as doubt and faint-heartedness on the part of the governing classes.
[Footnote 1: "President Wilson's State Speeches and Addresses," New York, 1918.]
President Wilson, who said on January 2, 1917, that a peace without victory was to be preferred ("It must be a peace without victory"), and that "Right is more precious than peace," had also repeatedly affirmed that "We have no quarrel with the German people."
He only desired, as the exponent of a great democracy, a peace which should be the expression of right and justice, evolving from the War a League of Nations, the first milestone in a new era of civilization, a league destined to bind together ex-belligerents and neutrals in one.
In Germany, where the inhabitants had to bear the most cruel privations, President Wilson's words, pronounced as a solemn pledge before the whole world, had a most powerful effect on all classes and greatly contributed towards the final breakdown of collective resistance. Democratic minds saw a promise for the future, while reactionaries welcomed any way out of their disastrous adventure.
After America's entry in the War, President Wilson, on January 8, 1918, formulated the fourteen points of his programme regarding the finalities of the War and the peace to be realized.
It is here necessary to reproduce the original text of President Wilson's message containing the fourteen points which constitute a formal pledge undertaken by the democracy of America, not only towards enemy peoples but towards all peoples of the world.
These important statements from President Wilson's message have, strangely enough, been reproduced either incompletely or in an utterly mistaken form even in official documents and in books published by statesmen who took a leading part in the Paris Conference.
It is therefore advisable to reproduce the original text in full:
1st. Honest peace treaties, following loyal and honest negotiations, after which secret international agreements will be abolished and diplomacy will always proceed frankly and openly.
2nd. Full liberty of navigation on the high seas outside territorial waters, both in peace and war, except when the seas be closed wholly or in part by an international decision sanctioned by international treaties.
3rd. Removal, as far as possible, of all economic barriers and establishment of terms of equality in commerce among all nations adhering to peace and associated to maintain it.
4th. Appropriate guarantees to be given and received for the reduction of national armaments to a minimum compatible with internal safety.
5th. A clear, open and absolutely impartial settlement of all colonial rights, based on a rigorous observance of the principle that, in the determination of all questions of sovereignty, the interests of the populations shall bear equal weight with those of the Government whose claims are to be determined.
6th. The evacuation of all Russian territories and a settlement of all Russian questions such as to ensure the best and most untrammelled co-operation of other nations of the world in order to afford Russia a clear and precise opportunity for the independent settlement of her autonomous political development and of her national policy, promising her a cordial welcome in the League of Nations under institutions of her own choice, and besides a cordial welcome, help and assistance in all that she may need and require. The treatment meted out to Russia by the sister nations in the months to come must be a decisive proof of their goodwill, of their understanding of her needs as apart from their own interests, and of their intelligent and disinterested sympathy.
7th. Belgium, as the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and reconstructed without the slightest attempt at curtailing the sovereign rights which she enjoys in common with other free nations. Nothing will be more conducive to the re-establishment of confidence and respect among nations for those laws which they themselves have made for the regulation and observance of their reciprocal relations. Without this salutary measure the whole structure and validity of international law would be permanently undermined.
8th. All French territories will be liberated, the invaded regions reconstructed, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871, in the question of Alsace-Lorraine, and which has jeopardized the peace of the world for nearly half a century, must be made good, so as to ensure a lasting peace in the general interest.
9th. The Italian frontier must be rectified on the basis of the clearly recognized lines of nationality.
10th. The people of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and maintained, should come to an agreement as to the best way of attaining their autonomous development.
11th. Rumania, Serbia and Montenegro are to be evacuated and occupied territories restored: a free and secure access to the sea for Serbia; mutual relations between the Balkan States to be determined on a friendly basis by a Council, following the lines of friendship and nationality traced by tradition and history; the political and economic integrity of the various Balkan States to be guaranteed.
12th. A certain degree of sovereignty must be assigned to that part of the Ottoman Empire which is Turkish; but the other nationalities now under the Turkish regime should have the assurance of an independent existence and of an absolute and undisturbed opportunity to develop their autonomy; moreover the Dardanelles should be permanently open to the shipping and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.
13th. An independent Polish State should be founded, comprising all territories inhabited by peoples of undoubtedly Polish nationality, with a free and secure access to the sea and its political and economic independence and territorial integrity guaranteed by international agreements.
14th. A League of Nations must be formed with special pacts and for the sole scope of ensuring the reciprocal guarantees of political independence and of territorial integrity, in equal measure both for large and small States.
The Peace Treaty as outlined by Wilson would really have brought about a just peace; but we shall see how the actual result proved quite the reverse of what constituted a solemn pledge of the American people and of the Entente Powers.
On February 11, 1918, President Wilson confirmed before Congress that all territorial readjustments were to be made in the interest and for the advantage of the populations concerned, not merely as a bargain between rival States, and that there were not to be indemnities, annexations or punitive exactions of any kind.
On September 27, 1918, just on the eve of the armistice, when German resistance was already shaken almost to breaking point, President Wilson gave it the coup de grace by his message on the post-bellum economic settlement. No special or separate interest of any single nation or group of nations was to be taken as the basis of any settlement which did not concern the common interest of all; there were not to be any leagues or alliances, or special pacts or ententes within the great family of the society of nations; economic deals and corners of an egotistical nature were to be forbidden, as also all forms of boycotting, with the exception of those applied in punishment to the countries transgressing the rules of good fellowship; all international treaties and agreements of every kind were to be published in their entirety to the whole world.
It was a magnificent programme of world policy. Not only would it have meant peace after war, but a peace calculated to heal the deep wounds of Europe and to renovate the economic status of nations.
On the basis of these principles, which constituted a solemn pledge, Germany, worn out by famine and even more by increasing internal unrest, demanded peace.
According to President Wilson's clear statements, made not only in the name of the United States but in that of the whole Entente, peace should therefore have been based on justice, the relations between winners and losers in a society of nations being exclusively inspired by mutual trust.
There were no longer to be huge standing armies, neither on the part of the ex-Central Empires or on that of the victorious States; adequate guarantees were to be given and received for the reduction of armies to the minimum necessary for internal defence; removal of all economic barriers; absolute freedom of the seas; reorganization of the colonies based on the development of the peoples directly concerned; abolition of secret diplomacy, etc.
As to the duties of the vanquished, besides evacuating the occupied territories, they were to reconstruct Belgium, to restore to France the territories taken in 1871; to restore all the territories belonging to Rumania, Serbia and Montenegro, giving Serbia a free and secure access to the sea; to constitute a free Poland with territories undoubtedly Polish to which there might be granted a free and secure access to the sea. Poland, founded on secure ethnical bases, far from being a military State, was to be an element of peace, and her political and economic independence and territorial integrity were to have been guaranteed by an international agreement.
After the rectification of the Italian frontier according to the principles of nationality, the peoples of Austria-Hungary were to agree on the free opportunity of their autonomous development. In other terms, each people could freely choose autonomy or throw in its lot with some other State. After giving a certain sovereignty to the Turkish populations of the Ottoman Empire the other nationalities were to be allowed to develop autonomously, and the free navigation of the Dardanelles was to be internationally guaranteed.
These principles announced by President Wilson, and already proclaimed in part by the Entente Powers when they stoutly affirmed that they were fighting for right, for democracy and for peace, did not constitute a concession but a duty towards the enemy. In each of the losing countries, in Germany as in Austria-Hungary, the democratic groups contrary to the War, and those even more numerous which had accepted the War as in a momentary intoxication, when they exerted themselves for the triumph of peace, had counted on the statements, or rather on the solemn promises which American democracy had made not only in the name of the United States but in that of all the Entente Powers.
Let us now try to sum up the terms imposed on Germany and the other losing countries by the treaty of June 28, 1919. The treaty, it is true, was concluded between the allied and associated countries and Germany, but it also concerns the very existence of other countries such as Austria-Hungary, Russia, etc.:
I.—TERRITORIAL AND POLITICAL CLAUSES
Until the payment of an indemnity the amount of which is as yet not definitely stated, Germany loses the fundamental characters of a sovereign state. Not only part of her territory remains under the occupation of the ex-enemy troops for a period of fifteen years but a whole series of controls is established, military, administrative, on transports, etc. The Commission for Reparations is empowered to effect all the changes it thinks fit in the laws and regulations of the German State, besides applying sanctions of a military and economic nature in the event of violations of the clauses placed under its control (Art. 240, 241).
The allied and associated governments declare and Germany recognizes that Germany and her allies are solely responsible, being the direct cause thereof, for all the losses and damages suffered by the allied and associated governments and their subjects as a result of the War, which was thrust upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies (Art. 231). Consequently the resources of Germany (and by the other treaties those of her allies as well) are destined, even if insufficient, to ensure full reparation for all losses and damages (Art. 232).
The allied and associated Powers place in a state of public accusation William II of Hohenzollern, ex-German Emperor, charging him with the gravest offences against international morality and the sacred authority of treaties. A special tribunal composed of representatives of the five great Entente Powers shall try him and will have the right of determining his punishment (Art. 227). The German Government likewise recognizes the right of the allied and associated Powers to try in their courts of justice the persons (and more especially the officers) accused of having committed acts contrary to the rules and customs of war.
Restitution of Alsace and Lorraine to France without any obligation on the latter's part, not even the corresponding quota of public debt (Art. 51 et seq.).
The treaties of April 19, 1839, are abolished, so that Belgium, being no longer neutral, may become allied to France (Art. 31); attribution to Belgium of the territories of Eupen, Malmedy and Moresnet.
Abolition of all the treaties which established political and economic bonds between Germany and Luxemburg (Art. 40).
Annulment of all the treaties concluded by Germany during the War.
German-Austria, reduced to a little State of hardly more than 6,000,000 inhabitants, about one-third of whom live in the capital (Art. 80), cannot become united to Germany without the consent of the Society of Nations, and is not allowed to participate in the affairs of another nation, namely of Germany, before being admitted to the League of Nations (Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Art. 88). As the consent of the League of Nations must be unanimous, a contrary vote on the part of France would be sufficient to prevent German-Austria from becoming united to Germany.
Attribution of North Schleswig to Denmark (Art. 109).
Creation of the Czeko-Slovak State (Art. 87), which comprises the autonomous territory of the Ruthenians south of the Carpathians, Germany abandoning in favour of the new State all her rights and claims on that part of Silesia mentioned in Art. 83.
Creation of the State of Poland (Art. 87), to whom Posnania and part of Western Prussia are made over. Upper Silesia is to decide by a plebiscite (Art. 88) whether it desires to be united to Germany or to Poland. The latter, even without Upper Silesia, becomes a State of 31,000,000 inhabitants, with about fifty per cent. of the population non-Polish, including very numerous groups of Germans.
Creation of the Free State of Danzig within the limits of Art. 100, under the protection of the League of Nations. The city is a Free City, but enclosed within the Polish Customs House frontiers, and Poland has full control of the river and of the railway system. Poland, moreover, has charge of the foreign affairs of the Free City of Danzig and undertakes to protect its subjects abroad.
Surrender to the victors, or, to be more precise, almost exclusively to Great Britain and France, of all the German colonies (Art. 119 and 127). The formula (Art. 119) is that Germany renounces in favour of the leading allied and associated Powers all her territories beyond the seas. Great Britain has secured an important share, but so has France, receiving that part of Congo ceded in 1911, four-fifths of the Cameroons and of Togoland.
Abandonment of all rights and claims in China, Siam, Liberia, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Bulgaria and Shantung (Art. 128 and 158).
Creation of a League of Nations to the exclusion, practically, of Germany and of the other losing countries, with the result that the League is nothing but a juridical completion of the Commission of Reparations. In all of the various treaties, the pact of the League of Nations, the Covenant, left standing among the collapse of President Wilson's other ideas and proposals, is given precedence over all other clauses.
II.—MILITARY CLAUSES AND GUARANTEES
Germany is obliged, and with her, by the subsequent treaties, all the other losing countries, to surrender her arms and to reduce her troops to the minimum necessary for internal defence (Art. 159 and 213). The German army has no General Staff; its soldiers are mercenaries who enlist for a period of ten years; it cannot be composed of more than seven infantry and three cavalry divisions, not exceeding 100,000 men including officers: no staff, no military aviation, no heavy artillery. The number of gendarmes and of local police can only be increased proportionately with the increase of the population. The maximum of artillery allowed is limited to the requirements of internal defence. Germany is strictly forbidden to import arms, ammunition and war material of any kind or description. Conscription is abolished, and officers must remain with the colours at least till they have attained the age of forty-five. No institute of science or culture is allowed to take an interest in military questions. All fortifications included in a line traced fifty kilometres to the east of the Rhine are to be destroyed, and on no account may German troops cross the said line.
Destruction of Heligoland and of the fortresses of the Kiel Canal.
Destruction under the supervision of the allied commissions of control of all tanks, flying apparatus, heavy and field artillery, namely 35,000 guns, 160,000 machine guns, 2,700,000 rifles, besides the tools and machinery necessary for their manufacture. Destruction of all arsenals. Destruction of the German fleet, which must be limited to the proportions mentioned in Art. 181.
Creation of inter-allied military commissions of control to supervise and enforce the carrying out of the military and naval clauses, at the expense of Germany and with the right to install themselves in the seat of the central government.
Occupation as a guarantee, for a period of fifteen years after the application of the treaty, of the bridgeheads and of the territories now occupied west of the Rhine (Art. 428 and 432). If, however, the Commission of Reparations finds that Germany refuses wholly or in part to fulfil her treaty obligations, the zones specified in Article 421 will be immediately occupied by the troops of the allied and associated Powers.
III.—FINANCIAL AND ECONOMIC CLAUSES
The principle being recognized that Germany alone is responsible for the War which she willed and which she imposed on the rest of the world, Germany is bound to give complete and full reparation within the limits specified by Art. 232. The amount of the damages for which reparation is due will be fixed by the Commission of Reparations, consisting of the representatives of the winning countries.
The coal fields of the Saar are to be handed over, in entire and absolute ownership, free of all liens and obligations, to France, in compensation for the destruction of the coal mines in the north of France. Before the War, in 1913, the output of the Saar basin amounted to 17,000,000 tons. The Saar is incorporated in the French douane system and after fifteen years will be submitted to a plebiscite.
Germany may not charge heavier duties on imports from allied countries than on those from any other country. This treatment of the most favoured nation to be extended to all allied and associated States does not imply the obligation of reciprocity (Art. 264). A similar limitation is placed on exports, on which no special duty may be levied.
Exports from Alsace and Lorraine into Germany to be exempt from duty, without right of reciprocity (Art. 268).
Germany delivers to the Allies all the steamers of her mercantile fleet of over I,600 tons, half of those between 1,000 and I,600 tons, and one-fourth of her fishing vessels. Moreover, she binds herself to build at the request of the Allies every year, and for a period of five years, 200,000 tons of shipping, as directed by the Allies, and the value of the new constructions will be credited to her by the Commission of Reparations (Part viii, 3).
Besides giving up all her colonies, Germany surrenders all her rights and claims on her possessions beyond the seas (Art. 119), and all the contracts and conventions in favour of German subjects for the construction and exploiting of public works, which will be considered as part payment of the reparations due. The private property of Germans in the colonies, as also the right of Germans to live and work there, come under the free jurisdiction of the victorious States occupying the colonies, and which reserve unto themselves the right to confiscate and liquidate all property and claims belonging to Germans (Art. 121 and 297).
The private property of German citizens residing in Alsace-Lorraine is subject to the same treatment as that of residents in the ex-German colonies. The French Government may confiscate without granting any compensation the private property of Germans and of German concerns in Alsace-Lorraine, and the sums thus derived will be credited towards the partial settlement of eventual French claims (Art. 53 and 74). The property of the State and of local bodies is likewise surrendered without any compensation whatever. The allies and associates reserve the right to seize and liquidate all property, claims and interests belonging, at the date of the ratification of the treaty, to German citizens or to firms controlled by them, situated in their territories, colonies, possessions and protectorates, including the territories surrendered in accordance with the clauses of the treaty (Art. 217).
Germany loses everything with the exception of her territory: colonies, possessions, rights, commercial investments, etc.
After giving the Saar coal fields in perpetual ownership to France in reparation of the temporary damages suffered by the French coal mines, the treaty goes on to establish the best ways and means to deprive Germany, in the largest measure possible, of her coal and her iron. The Saar coal fields have been handed over to France absolutely, while the war damages of the French mines have been repaired or can be repaired in a few years. Upper Silesia being subject to the plebiscite with the occupation of the allied troops, Germany must have lost several of her most important coal fields had the plebiscite gone against her.
Germany is forced to deliver in part reparation to France 7,000,000 tons of coal a year for ten years, besides a quantity of coal equal to the yearly ante-bellum output of the coal mines of the North of France and of the Pas-de-Calais, which were entirely destroyed during the War; the said quantity not to exceed 20,000,000 tons in the first five years and 8,000,000 tons during the five succeeding years (Part viii, 5). Moreover, Germany must give 8,000,000 tons to Belgium for a period of ten years, and to Italy a quantity of coal which, commencing at 4,500,000 tons for the year 1919-1920, reaches the figure of 8,500,000 tons in the five years after 1923-1924. To Luxemburg Germany must provide coal in the same average quantity as in pre-war times. Altogether Germany is compelled to hand over to the winners as part reparation about 25,000,000 tons of coal a year.
For three years Polish exports to Germany, and for five years exports from Luxemburg into Germany, will be free of all duty, without right of reciprocity (Art. 268).
The Allies have the right to adopt, on the territories left of the Rhine and occupied by their troops, a special customs regime both as regards imports and exports (Art. 270).