HotFreeBooks.com
The Inside Story Of The Peace Conference
by Emile Joseph Dillon
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

_The Inside Story of

The Peace Conference_

_by

Dr. E.J. Dillon_



HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

NEW YORK AND LONDON

THE INSIDE STORY OF THE PEACE CONFERENCE

Copyright 1920, by Harper & Brothers

Printed in the United States of America

Published February, 1920

_To C.W. BARRON

in memory of interesting conversations

on historic occasions

These pages are inscribed._



CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE

FOREWORD ix

I. THE CITY OF THE CONFERENCE 1

II. SIGNS OF THE TIMES 45

III. THE DELEGATES 58

IV. CENSORSHIP AND SECRECY 117

V. AIMS AND METHODS 136

VI. THE LESSER STATES 184

VII. POLAND'S OUTLOOK IN THE FUTURE 264

VIII. ITALY 272

IX. JAPAN 322

X. ATTITUDE TOWARD RUSSIA 344

XI. BOLSHEVISM 376

XII. HOW BOLSHEVISM WAS FOSTERED 399

XIII. SIDELIGHTS ON THE TREATY 407

XIV. THE TREATY WITH GERMANY 455

XV. THE TREATY WITH BULGARIA 464

XVI. THE COVENANT AND MINORITIES 469



FOREWORD

It is almost superfluous to say that this book does not claim to be a history, however summary, of the Peace Conference, seeing that such a work was made sheer impossible now and forever by the chief delegates themselves when they decided to dispense with records of their conversations and debates. It is only a sketch—a sketch of the problems which the war created or rendered pressing—of the conditions under which they cropped up; of the simplicist ways in which they were conceived by the distinguished politicians who volunteered to solve them; of the delegates' natural limitations and electioneering commitments and of the secret influences by which they were swayed; of the peoples' needs and expectations; of the unwonted procedure adopted by the Conference and of the fateful consequences of its decisions to the world.

In dealing with all those matters I aimed at impartiality, which is an unattainable ideal, but I trust that sincerity and detachment have brought me reasonably close to it. Having no pet theories of my own to champion, my principal standard of judgment is derived from the law of causality and the rules of historical criticism.

The fatal tactical mistake chargeable to the Conference lay in its making the charter of the League of Nations and the treaty of peace with the Central Powers interdependent. For the maxims that underlie the former are irreconcilable with those that should determine the latter, and the efforts to combine them must, among other untoward results, create a sharp opposition between the vital interests of the people of the United States and the apparent or transient interests of their associates. The outcome of this unnatural union will be to damage the cause of stable peace which it was devised to further.

But the surest touchstone by which to test the capacity and the achievements of the world-legislators is their attitude toward Russia in the political domain and toward the labor problem in the economic sphere. And in neither case does their action or inaction appear to have been the outcome of statesman-like ideas, or, indeed, of any higher consideration than that of evading the central issue and transmitting the problem to the League of Nations. The results are manifest to all.

The continuity of human progress depends at bottom upon labor, and it is becoming more and more doubtful whether the civilized races of mankind can be reckoned on to supply it for long on conditions akin to those which have in various forms prevailed ever since the institutions of ancient times and which alone render the present social structure viable. If this forecast should prove correct, the only alternative to a break disastrous in the continuity of civilization is the frank recognition of the principle that certain inferior races are destined to serve the cause of mankind in those capacities for which alone they are qualified and to readjust social institutions to this axiom.

In the meanwhile the Conference which ignored this problem of problems has transformed Europe into a seething mass of mutually hostile states powerless to face the economic competition of their overseas rivals and has set the very elements of society in flux.

E.J. DILLON.



THE INSIDE STORY OF THE PEACE CONFERENCE

I

THE CITY OF THE CONFERENCE

The choice of Paris for the historic Peace Conference was an afterthought. The Anglo-Saxon governments first favored a neutral country as the most appropriate meeting-ground for the world's peace-makers. Holland was mentioned only to be eliminated without discussion, so obvious and decisive were the objections. French Switzerland came next in order, was actually fixed upon, and for a time held the field. Lausanne was the city first suggested and nearly chosen. There was a good deal to be said for it on its own merits, and in its suburb, Ouchy, the treaty had been drawn up which terminated the war between Italy and Turkey. But misgivings were expressed as to its capacity to receive and entertain the formidable peace armies without whose co-operation the machinery for stopping all wars could not well be fabricated. At last Geneva was fixed upon, and so certain were influential delegates of the ratification of their choice by all the Allies, that I felt justified in telegraphing to Geneva to have a house hired for six months in that picturesque city.

But the influential delegates had reckoned without the French, who in these matters were far and away the most influential. Was it not in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, they asked, that Teuton militarism had received its most powerful impulse? And did not poetic justice, which was never so needed as in these evil days, ordain that the chartered destroyer who had first seen the light of day in that hall should also be destroyed there? Was this not in accordance with the eternal fitness of things? Whereupon the matter-of-fact Anglo-Saxon mind, unable to withstand the force of this argument and accustomed to give way on secondary matters, assented, and Paris was accordingly fixed upon....

"Paris herself again," tourists remarked, who had not been there since the fateful month when hostilities began—meaning that something of the wealth and luxury of bygone days was venturing to display itself anew as an afterglow of the epoch whose sun was setting behind banks of thunder-clouds. And there was a grain of truth in the remark. The Ville Lumiere was crowded as it never had been before. But it was mostly strangers who were within her gates. In the throng of Anglo-Saxon warriors and cosmopolitan peace-lovers following the trailing skirts of destiny, one might with an effort discover a Parisian now and again. But they were few and far between.

They and their principal European guests made some feeble attempts to vie with the Vienna of 1814-15 in elegance and taste if not in pomp and splendor. But the general effect was marred by the element of the nouveaux-riches and nouveaux-pauvres which was prominent, if not predominant. A few of the great and would-be great ladies outbade one another in the effort to renew the luxury and revive the grace of the past. But the atmosphere was numbing, their exertions half-hearted, and the smile of youth and beauty was cold like the sheen of winter ice. The shadow of death hung over the institutions and survivals of the various civilizations and epochs which were being dissolved in the common melting-pot, and even the man in the street was conscious of its chilling influence. Life in the capital grew agitated, fitful, superficial, unsatisfying. Its gaiety was forced—something between a challenge to the destroyer and a sad farewell to the past and present. Men were instinctively aware that the morrow was fraught with bitter surprises, and they deliberately adopted the maxim, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." None of these people bore on their physiognomies the dignified impress of the olden time, barring a few aristocratic figures from the Faubourg St.-Germain, who looked as though they had only to don the perukes and the distinctive garb of the eighteenth century to sit down to table with Voltaire and the Marquise du Chatelet. Here and there, indeed, a coiffure, a toilet, the bearing, the gait, or the peculiar grace with which a robe was worn reminded one that this or that fair lady came of a family whose life-story in the days of yore was one of the tributaries to the broad stream of European history. But on closer acquaintanceship, especially at conversational tournaments, one discovered that Nature, constant in her methods, distributes more gifts of beauty than of intellect.

Festive banquets, sinful suppers, long-spun-out lunches were as frequent and at times as Lucullan as in the days of the Regency. The outer, coarser attributes of luxury abounded in palatial restaurants, hotels, and private mansions; but the refinement, the grace, the brilliant conversation even of the Paris of the Third Empire were seen to be subtle branches of a lost art. The people of the armistice were weary and apprehensive—weary of the war, weary of politics, weary of the worn-out framework of existence, and filled with a vague, nameless apprehension of the unknown. They feared that in the chaotic slough into which they had fallen they had not yet touched bottom. None the less, with the exception of fervent Catholics and a number of earnest sectarians, there were few genuine seekers after anything essentially better.

Not only did the general atmosphere of Paris undergo radical changes, together with its population, but the thoroughfares, many of them, officially changed their names since the outbreak of the war.

The Paris of the Conference ceased to be the capital of France. It became a vast cosmopolitan caravanserai teeming with unwonted aspects of life and turmoil, filled with curious samples of the races, tribes, and tongues of four continents who came to watch and wait for the mysterious to-morrow. The intensity of life there was sheer oppressive; to the tumultuous striving of the living were added the silent influences of the dead. For it was also a trysting-place for the ghosts of sovereignties and states, militarisms and racial ambitions, which were permitted to wander at large until their brief twilight should be swallowed up in night. The dignified Turk passionately pleaded for Constantinople, and cast an imploring look on the lone Armenian whose relatives he had massacred, and who was then waiting for political resurrection. Persian delegates wandered about like souls in pain, waiting to be admitted through the portals of the Conference Paradise. Beggared Croesus passed famishing Lucullus in the street, and once mighty viziers shivered under threadbare garments in the biting frost as they hurried over the crisp February snow. Waning and waxing Powers, vacant thrones, decaying dominations had, each of them, their accusers, special pleaders, and judges, in this multitudinous world-center on which tragedy, romance, and comedy rained down potent spells. For the Conference city was also the clearing-house of the Fates, where the accounts of a whole epoch, the deeds and misdeeds of an exhausted civilization, were to be balanced and squared.

Here strange yet familiar figures, survivals from the past, started up at every hand's turn and greeted one with smiles or sighs. Men on whom I last set eyes when we were boys at school, playing football together in the field or preparing lessons in the school-room, would stop me in the street on their way to represent nations or peoples whose lives were out of chime, or to inaugurate the existence of new republics. One face I shall never forget. It was that of the self-made temporary dictator of a little country whose importance was dwindling to the dimensions of a footnote in the history of the century. I had been acquainted with him personally in the halcyon day of his transient glory. Like his picturesque land, he won the immortality of a day, was courted and subsidized by competing states in turn, and then suddenly cast aside like a sucked orange. Then he sank into the depths of squalor. He was eloquent, resourceful, imaginative, and brimful of the poetry of untruth. One day through the asphalt streets of Paris he shuffled along in the procession of the doomed, with wan face and sunken eyes, wearing a tragically mean garb. And soon after I learned that he had vanished unwept into eternal oblivion.

An Arabian Nights touch was imparted to the dissolving panorama by strange visitants from Tartary and Kurdistan, Korea and Aderbeijan, Armenia, Persia, and the Hedjaz—men with patriarchal beards and scimitar-shaped noses, and others from desert and oasis, from Samarkand and Bokhara. Turbans and fezzes, sugar-loaf hats and headgear resembling episcopal miters, old military uniforms devised for the embryonic armies of new states on the eve of perpetual peace, snowy-white burnooses, flowing mantles, and graceful garments like the Roman toga, contributed to create an atmosphere of dreamy unreality in the city where the grimmest of realities were being faced and coped with.

Then came the men of wealth, of intellect, of industrial enterprise, and the seed-bearers of the ethical new ordering, members of economic committees from the United States, Britain, Italy, Poland, Russia, India, and Japan, representatives of naphtha industries and far-off coal mines, pilgrims, fanatics, and charlatans from all climes, priests of all religions, preachers of every doctrine, who mingled with princes, field-marshals, statesmen, anarchists, builders-up, and pullers-down. All of them burned with desire to be near to the crucible in which the political and social systems of the world were to be melted and recast. Every day, in my walks, in my apartment, or at restaurants, I met emissaries from lands and peoples whose very names had seldom been heard of before in the West. A delegation from the Pont-Euxine Greeks called on me, and discoursed of their ancient cities of Trebizond, Samsoun, Tripoli, Kerassund, in which I resided many years ago, and informed me that they, too, desired to become welded into an independent Greek republic, and had come to have their claims allowed. The Albanians were represented by my old friend Turkhan Pasha, on the one hand, and by my friend Essad Pasha, on the other—the former desirous of Italy's protection, the latter demanding complete independence. Chinamen, Japanese, Koreans, Hindus, Kirghizes, Lesghiens, Circassians, Mingrelians, Buryats, Malays, and Negroes and Negroids from Africa and America were among the tribes and tongues forgathered in Paris to watch the rebuilding of the political world system and to see where they "came in."

One day I received a visit from an Armenian deputation; its chief was described on his visiting-card as President of the Armenian Republic of the Caucasus. When he was shown into my apartment in the Hotel Vendome, I recognized two of its members as old acquaintances with whom I had occasional intercourse in Erzerum, Kipri Keui, and other places during the Armenian massacres of the year 1895. We had not met since then. They revived old memories, completed for me the life-stories of several of our common friends and acquaintances, and narrated interesting episodes of local history. And having requested my co-operation, the President and his colleagues left me and once more passed out of my life.

Another actor on the world-stage whom I had encountered more than once before was the "heroic" King of Montenegro. He often crossed my path during the Conference, and set me musing on the marvelous ups and downs of human existence. This potentate's life offers a rich field of research to the psychologist. I had watched it myself at various times and with curious results. For I had met him in various European capitals during the past thirty years, and before the time when Tsar Alexander III publicly spoke of him as Russia's only friend. King Nikita owes such success in life as he can look back on with satisfaction to his adaptation of St. Paul's maxim of being all things to all men. Thus in St. Petersburg he was a good Russian, in Vienna a patriotic Austrian, in Rome a sentimental Italian. He was also a warrior, a poet after his own fashion, a money-getter, and a speculator on 'Change. His alleged martial feats and his wily, diplomatic moves ever since the first Balkan war abound in surprises, and would repay close investigation. The ease with which the Austrians captured Mount Lovtchen and his capital made a lasting impression on those of his allies who were acquainted with the story, the consequences of which he could not foresee. What everybody seemed to know was that if the Teutons had defeated the Entente, King Nikita's son Mirko, who had settled down for the purpose in Vienna, would have been set on the throne in place of his father by the Austrians; whereas if the Allies should win, the worldly-wise monarch would have retained his crown as their champion. But these well-laid plans went all agley. Prince Mirko died and King Nikita was deposed. For a time he resided at a hotel, a few houses from me, and I passed him now and again as he was on his way to plead his lost cause before the distinguished wreckers of thrones and regimes.

It seemed as though, in order to provide Paris with a cosmopolitan population, the world was drained of its rulers, of its prosperous and luckless financiers, of its high and low adventurers, of its tribe of fortune-seekers, and its pushing men and women of every description. And the result was an odd blend of classes and individuals worthy, it may be, of the new democratic era, but unprecedented. It was welcomed as of good augury, for instance, that in the stately Hotel Majestic, where the spokesmen of the British Empire had their residence, monocled diplomatists mingled with spry typewriters, smart amanuenses, and even with bright-eyed chambermaids at the evening dances.[1] The British Premier himself occasionally witnessed the cheering spectacle with manifest pleasure. Self-made statesmen, scions of fallen dynasties, ex-premiers, and ministers, who formerly swayed the fortunes of the world, whom one might have imagined capaces imperii nisi imperassent, were now the unnoticed inmates of unpretending hotels. Ambassadors whose most trivial utterances had once been listened to with concentrated attention, sued days and weeks for an audience of the greater plenipotentiaries, and some of them sued in vain. Russian diplomatists were refused permission to travel in France or were compelled to undergo more than average discomfort and delay there. More than once I sat down to lunch or dinner with brilliant commensals, one of whom was understood to have made away with a well-known personage in order to rid the state of a bad administrator, and another had, at a secret Vehmgericht in Turkey, condemned a friend of mine, now a friend of his, to be assassinated.

In Paris, this temporary capital of the world, one felt the repercussion of every event, every incident of moment wheresoever it might have occurred. To reside there while the Conference was sitting was to occupy a comfortable box in the vastest theater the mind of men has ever conceived. From this rare coign of vantage one could witness soul-gripping dramas of human history, the happenings of years being compressed within the limits of days. The revolution in Portugal, the massacre of Armenians, Bulgaria's atrocities, the slaughter of the inhabitants of Saratoff and Odessa, the revolt of the Koreans—all produced their effect in Paris, where official and unofficial exponents of the aims and ambitions, religions and interests that unite or divide mankind were continually coming or going, working aboveground or burrowing beneath the surface.

It was within a few miles of the place where I sat at table with the brilliant company alluded to above that a few individuals of two different nationalities, one of them bearing, it was said, a well-known name, hatched the plot that sent Portugal's strong man, President Sidonio Paes, to his last account and plunged that ill-starred land into chaotic confusion. The plan was discovered by the Portuguese military attache, who warned the President himself and the War Minister. But Sidonio Paes, quixotic and foolhardy, refused to take or brook precautions. A few weeks later the assassin, firing three shots, had no difficulty in taking aim, but none of them took effect. The reason was interesting: so determined were the conspirators to leave nothing to chance, they had steeped the cartridges in a poisonous preparation, whereby they injured the mechanism of the revolver, which, in consequence, hung fire. But the adversaries of the reform movement which the President had inaugurated again tried and planned another attempt, and Sidonio Paes, who would not be taught prudence, was duly shot, and his admirable work undone[2] by a band of semi-Bolshevists.

Less than six months later it was rumored that a number of specially prepared bombs from a certain European town had been sent to Moscow for the speedy removal of Lenin. The casual way in which these and kindred matters were talked of gave one the measure of the change that had come over the world since the outbreak of the war. There was nobody left in Europe whose death, violent or peaceful, would have made much of an impression on the dulled sensibilities of the reading public. All values had changed, and that of human life had fallen low.

To follow these swiftly passing episodes, occasionally glancing behind the scenes, during the pauses of the acts, and watch the unfolding of the world-drama, was thrillingly interesting. To note the dubious source, the chance occasion of a grandiose project of world policy, and to see it started on its shuffling course, was a revelation in politics and psychology, and reminded one of the saying mistakenly attributed to the Swedish Chancellor Oxenstjern, "Quam parva sapientia regitur mundus."[3]

The wire-pullers were not always the plenipotentiaries. Among those were also outsiders of various conditions, sometimes of singular ambitions, who were generally free from conventional prejudices and conscientious scruples. As traveling to Paris was greatly restricted by the governments of the world, many of these unofficial delegates had come in capacities widely differing from those in which they intended to act. I confess I was myself taken in by more than one of these secret emissaries, whom I was innocently instrumental in bringing into close touch with the human levers they had come to press. I actually went to the trouble of obtaining for one of them valuable data on a subject which did not interest him in the least, but which he pretended he had traveled several thousand miles to study. A zealous prelate, whose business was believed to have something to do with the future of a certain branch of the Christian Church in the East, in reality held a brief for a wholly different set of interests in the West. Some of these envoys hoped to influence decisions of the Conference, and they considered they had succeeded when they got their points of view brought to the favorable notice of certain of its delegates. What surprised me was the ease with which several of these interlopers moved about, although few of them spoke any language but their own.

Collectivities and religious and political associations, including that of the Bolshevists, were represented in Paris during the Conference. I met one of the Bolshevists, a bright youth, who was a veritable apostle. He occupied a post which, despite its apparent insignificance, put him occasionally in possession of useful information withheld from the public, which he was wont to communicate to his political friends. His knowledge of languages and his remarkable intelligence had probably attracted the notice of his superiors, who can have had no suspicion of his leanings, much less of his proselytizing activity. However this may have been, he knew a good deal of what was going on at the Conference, and he occasionally had insight into documents of a certain interest. He was a seemingly honest and enthusiastic Bolshevik, who spread the doctrine with apostolic zeal guided by the wisdom of the serpent. He was ever ready to comment on events, but before opening his mind fully to a stranger on the subject next to his heart, he usually felt his way, and only when he had grounds for believing that the fortress was not impregnable did he open his batteries. Even among the initiated, few would suspect the role played by this young proselytizer within one of the strongholds of the Conference, so naturally and unobtrusively was the work done. I may add that luckily he had no direct intercourse with the delegates.

Of all the collectivities whose interests were furthered at the Conference, the Jews had perhaps the most resourceful and certainly the most influential exponents. There were Jews from Palestine, from Poland, Russia, the Ukraine, Rumania, Greece, Britain, Holland, and Belgium; but the largest and most brilliant contingent was sent by the United States. Their principal mission, with which every fair-minded man sympathized heartily, was to secure for their kindred in eastern Europe rights equal to those of the populations in whose midst they reside.[4] And to the credit of the Poles, Rumanians, and Russians, who were to be constrained to remove all the existing disabilities, they enfranchised the Hebrew elements spontaneously. But the Western Jews, who championed their Eastern brothers, proceeded to demand a further concession which many of their own co-religionists hastened to disclaim as dangerous—a kind of autonomy which Rumanian, Polish, and Russian statesmen, as well as many of their Jewish fellow-subjects, regarded as tantamount to the creation of a state within the state. Whether this estimate is true or erroneous, the concessions asked for were given, but the supplementary treaties insuring the protection of minorities are believed to have little chance of being executed, and may, it is feared, provoke manifestations of elemental passions in the countries in which they are to be applied.

Twice every day, before and after lunch, one met the "autocrats," the world's statesmen whose names were in every mouth—the wise men who would have been much wiser than they were if only they had credited their friends and opponents with a reasonable measure of political wisdom. These individuals, in bowler hats, sweeping past in sumptuous motors, as rarely seen on foot as Roman cardinals, were the destroyers of thrones, the carvers of continents, the arbiters of empires, the fashioners of the new heaven and the new earth—or were they only the flies on the wheel of circumstance, to whom the world was unaccountably becoming a riddle?

This commingling of civilizations and types brought together in Paris by a set of unprecedented conditions was full of interest and instruction to the observer privileged to meet them at close quarters. The average observer, however, had little chance of conversing with them, for, as these foreigners had no common meeting-place, they kept mostly among their own folk. Only now and again did three or four members of different races, when they chanced to speak some common language, get an opportunity of enjoying their leisure together. A friend of mine, a highly gifted Frenchman of the fine old type, a descendant of Talleyrand, who was born a hundred and fifty years too late, opened his hospitable house once a week to the elite of the world, and partially met the pressing demand.

To the gaping tourist the Ville Lumiere resembled nothing so much as a huge world fair, with enormous caravanserais, gigantic booths, gaudy merry-go-rounds, squalid taverns, and huge inns. Every place of entertainment was crowded, and congregations patiently awaited their turn in the street, undeterred by rain or wind or snow, offering absurdly high prices for scant accommodation and disheartened at having their offers refused. Extortion was rampant and profiteering went unpunished. Foreigners, mainly American and British, could be seen wandering, portmanteau in hand, from post to pillar, anxiously seeking where to lay their heads, and made desperate by failure, fatigue, and nightfall. The cost of living which harassed the bulk of the people was fast becoming the stumbling-block of governments and the most powerful lever of revolutionaries. The chief of the peace armies resided in sumptuous hotels, furnished luxuriously in dubious taste, flooded after sundown with dazzling light, and filled by day with the buzz of idle chatter, the shuffling of feet, the banging of doors, and the ringing of bells. Music and dancing enlivened the inmates when their day's toil was over and time had to be killed. Thus, within, one could find anxious deliberation and warm debate; without, noisy revel and vulgar brawl. "Fate's a fiddler; life's a dance."

To few of those visitors did Paris seem what it really was—a nest of golden dreams, a mist of memories, a seed-plot of hopes, a storehouse of time's menaces.

THE PARIS CONFERENCE AND THE CONGRESS OF VIENNA

There were no solemn pageants, no impressive ceremonies, such as those that rejoiced the hearts of the Viennese in 1814-15 until the triumphal march of the Allied troops.

The Vienna of Congress days was transformed into a paradise of delights by a brilliant court which pushed hospitality to the point of lavishness. In the burg alone were two emperors, two empresses, four kings, one queen, two crown-princes, two archduchesses, and three princes. Every day the Emperor's table cost fifty thousand gulden—every Congress day cost him ten times that sum. Galaxies of Europe's eminent personages flocked to the Austrian capital, taking with them their ministers, secretaries, favorites, and "confidential agents." So eager were these world-reformers to enjoy themselves that the court did not go into mourning for Queen Marie Caroline of Naples, the last of Marie Theresa's daughters. Her death was not even announced officially lest it should trouble the festivities of the jovial peace-makers!

The Paris of the Conference, on the other hand, was democratic, with a strong infusion of plutocracy. It attempted no such brilliant display as that which flattered the senses or fired the imagination of the Viennese. In 1919 mankind was simpler in its tastes and perhaps less esthetic. It is certain that the froth of contemporary frivolity had lost its sparkling whiteness and was grown turbid. In Vienna, balls, banquets, theatricals, military reviews, followed one another in dizzy succession and enabled politicians and adventurers to carry on their intrigues and machinations unnoticed by all except the secret police. And, as the Congress marked the close of one bloody campaign and ushered in another, one might aptly term it the interval between two tragedies. For a time it seemed as though this part of the likeness might become applicable to the Conference of Paris.

Moving from pleasure to politics, one found strong contrasts as well as surprising resemblances between the two peace-making assemblies, and, it was assumed, to the advantage of the Paris Conference. Thus, at the Austrian Congress, the members, while seemingly united, were pulling hard against one another, each individual or group tugging in a different direction. The Powers had been compelled by necessity to unite against a common enemy and, having worsted him on the battlefield, fell to squabbling among themselves in the Council Chamber as soon as they set about dividing the booty. In this respect the Paris Conference—the world was assured in the beginning—towered aloft above its historic predecessor. Men who knew the facts declared repeatedly that the delegates to the Quai d'Orsay were just as unanimous, disinterested, and single-minded during the armistice as they were through the war. Probably they were.

Another interesting point of comparison was supplied by the dramatis personae? of both illustrious companies. They were nearly all representatives of old states, but there was one exception.

THE CONGRESS CHIEF

Mistrusted, Feared, Humored, and Obeyed

A relatively new Power took part in the deliberations of the Vienna Congress, and, perhaps, because of its loftier intentions, introduced a jarring note into the concert of nations. Russia was then a newcomer into the European councils; indeed she was hardly yet recognized as European. Her gifted Tsar, Alexander I, was an idealist who wanted, not so much peace with the vanquished enemy as a complete reform of the ordering of the whole world, so that wars should thenceforward be abolished and the welfare of mankind be set developing like a sort of pacific perpetuum mobile. This blessed change, however, was to be compassed, not by the peoples or their representatives, but by the governments, led by himself and deliberating in secret. At the Paris Conference it was even so.

This curious type of public worker—a mixture of the mystical and the practical—was the terror of the Vienna delegates. He put spokes in everybody's wheel, behaved as the autocrat of the Congress and felt as self-complacent as a saint. Countess von Thurheim wrote of him: "He mistrusted his environment and let himself be led by others. But he was thoroughly good and high-minded and sought after the weal, not merely of his own country, but of the whole world. Son coeur eut embrasse le bonheur du monde." He realized in himself the dreams of the philosophers about love for mankind, but their Utopias of human happiness were based upon the perfection both of subjects and of princes, and, as Alexander could fulfil only one-half of these conditions, his work remained unfinished and the poor Emperor died, a victim of his high-minded illusions.[5]

The other personages, Metternich in particular, were greatly put out by Alexander's presence. They labeled him a marplot who could not and would not enter into the spirit of their game, but they dared not offend him. Without his brave troops they could not have been victorious and they did not know how soon they might need him again, for he represented a numerous and powerful people whose economic and military resources promised it in time the hegemony of the world. So, while they heartily disliked the chief of this new great country, they also feared and, therefore, humored him. They all felt that the enemy, although defeated and humbled, was not, perhaps, permanently disabled, and might, at any moment, rise, phoenix-like and soar aloft again. The great visionary was therefore feted and lauded and raised to a dizzy pedestal by men who, in their hearts, set him down as a crank. His words were reverently repeated and his smiles recorded and remembered. Hardly any one had the bad taste to remark that even this millennial philosopher in the statesman's armchair left unsightly flaws in his system for the welfare of man. Thus, while favoring equality generally, he obstinately refused to concede it to one race, in fact, he would not hear of common fairness being meted out to that race. It was the Polish people which was treated thus at the Vienna Congress, and, owing to him, Poland's just claims were ignored, her indefeasible rights were violated, and the work of the peace-makers was botched....

Happily, optimists said, the Paris Conference was organized on a wholly different basis. Its members considered themselves mere servants of the public—stewards, who had to render an account of their stewardship and who therefore went in salutary fear of the electorate at home. This check was not felt by the plenipotentiaries in Vienna. Again, everything the Paris delegates did was for the benefit of the masses, although most of it was done by stealth and unappreciated by them.

The remarkable document which will forever be associated with the name of President Wilson was the clou of the Conference. The League of Nations scheme seemed destined to change fundamentally the relations of peoples toward one another, and the change was expected to begin immediately after the Covenant had been voted, signed, and ratified. But it was not relished by any government except that of the United States, and it was in order to enable the delegates to devise such a wording of the Covenant as would not bind them to an obnoxious principle or commit their electorates to any irksome sacrifice, that the peace treaty with Germany and the liquidation of the war were postponed. This delay caused profound dissatisfaction in continental Europe, but it had the incidental advantage of bringing home to the victorious nations the marvelous recuperative powers of the German race. It also gave time for the drafting of a compact so admirably tempered to the human weaknesses of the rival signatory nations, whose passions were curbed only by sheer exhaustion, that all their spokesmen saw their way to sign it. There was something almost genial in the simplicity of the means by which the eminent promoter of the Covenant intended to reform the peoples of the world. He gave them credit for virtues which would have rendered the League unnecessary and displayed indulgence for passions which made its speedy realization hopeless, thus affording a superfluous illustration of the truth that the one deadly evil to be shunned by those who would remain philanthropists is a practical knowledge of men, and of the truism that the statesman's bane is an inordinate fondness for abstract ideas.

One of the decided triumphs of the Paris Peace Conference over the Vienna Congress lay in the amazing speed with which it got through the difficult task of solving offhandedly some of the most formidable problems that ever exercised the wit of man. One of the Paris journals contained the following remarkable announcement: "The actual time consumed in constituting the League of Nations, which it is hoped will be the means of keeping peace in the world, was thirty hours. This doesn't seem possible, but it is true."[6]

How provokingly slowly the dawdlers of Vienna moved in comparison may be read in the chronicles of that time. The peoples hoped and believed that the Congress would perform its tasks in a short period, but it was only after nine months' gestation and sore travail that it finally brought forth its offspring—a mountain of Acts which have been moldering in dust ever since.

The Wilsonian Covenant, which bound together thirty-two states—a league intended to be incomparably more powerful than was the Holy Alliance—will take rank as the most rapid improvisation of its kind in diplomatic history.

A comparison between the features common to the two international legislatures struck many observers as even more reassuring than the contrast between their differences. Both were placed in like circumstances, faced with bewildering and fateful problems to which an exhausting war, just ended, had imparted sharp actuality. One of the delegates to the Vienna Congress wrote:

"Everything had to be recast and made new, the destinies of Germany, Italy, and Poland settled, a solid groundwork laid for the future, and a commercial system to be outlined."[7] Might not those very words have been penned at any moment during the Paris Conference with equal relevance to its undertakings?

Or these: "However easily and gracefully the fine old French wit might turn the topics of the day, people felt vaguely beneath it all that these latter times were very far removed from the departed era and, in many respects, differed from it to an incomprehensible degree."[8] And the veteran Prince de Ligne remarked to the Comte de la Garde: "From every side come cries of Peace, Justice, Equilibrium, Indemnity.... Who will evolve order from this chaos and set a dam to the stream of claims?" How often have the same cries and queries been uttered in Paris?

When the first confidential talks began at the Vienna Congress, the same difficulties arose as were encountered over a century later in Paris about the number of states that were entitled to have representatives there. At the outset, the four Cabinet Ministers of Austria, Russia, England, and Prussia kept things to themselves, excluding vanquished France and the lesser Powers. Some time afterward, however, Talleyrand, the spokesman of the worsted nation, accompanied by the Portuguese Minister, Labrador, protested vehemently against the form and results of the deliberations. At one sitting passion rose to white heat and Talleyrand spoke of quitting the Congress altogether, whereupon a compromise was struck and eight nations received the right to be represented. In this way the Committee of Eight was formed.[9] In Paris discussion became to the full as lively, and on the first Saturday, when the representatives of Belgium, Greece, Poland, and the other small states delivered impassioned speeches against the attitude of the Big Five they were maladroitly answered by M. Clemenceau, who relied, as the source from which emanated the superior right of the Great Powers, upon the twelve million soldiers they had placed in the field. It was unfortunate that force should thus confer privileges at a Peace Conference which was convoked to end the reign of force and privilege. In Vienna it was different, but so were the times.

Many of the entries and comments of the chroniclers of 1815 read like extracts from newspapers of the first three months of 1919. "About Poland, they are fighting fiercely and, down to the present, with no decisive result," writes Count Carl von Nostitz, a Russian military observer.... "Concerning Germany and her future federative constitution, nothing has yet been done, absolutely nothing."[10] Here is a gloss written by Countess Elise von Bernstorff, wife of the Danish Minister: "Most comical was the mixture of the very different individuals who all fancied they had work to do at the Congress ... One noticed noblemen and scholars who had never transacted any business before, but now looked extremely consequential and took on an imposing bearing, and professors who mentally set down their university chairs in the center of a listening Congress, but soon turned peevish and wandered hither and thither, complaining that they could not, for the life of them, make out what was going on." Again: "It would have been to the interest of all Europe—rightly understood—to restore Poland. This matter may be regarded as the most important of all. None other could touch so nearly the policy of all the Powers represented,"[11] wrote the Bavarian Premier, Graf von Montgelas, just as the Entente press was writing in the year 1919.

The plenipotentiaries of the Paris Conference had for a short period what is termed a good press, and a rigorous censorship which never erred on the side of laxity, whereas those of the Vienna Congress were criticized without truth. For example, the population of Vienna, we are told by Bavaria's chief delegate, was disappointed when it discerned in those whom it was wont to worship as demigods, only mortals. "The condition of state affairs," writes Von Gentz, one of the clearest heads at the Congress, "is weird, but it is not, as formerly, in consequence of the crushing weight that is hung around our necks, but by reason of the mediocrity and clumsiness of nearly all the workers."[12] One consequence of this state of things was the constant upspringing of new and unforeseen problems, until, as time went on, the bewildered delegates were literally overwhelmed. "So many interests cross each other here," comments Count Carl von Nostitz, "which the peoples want to have mooted at the long-wished-for League of Nations, that they fall into the oddest shapes.... Look wheresoever you will, you are faced with incongruity and confusion.... Daily the claims increase as though more and more evil spirits were issuing forth from hell at the invocation of a sorcerer who has forgotten the spell by which to lay them."[13] It was of the Vienna Congress that those words were written.

In certain trivial details, too, the likeness between the two great peace assemblies is remarkable. For example, Lord Castlereagh, who represented England at Vienna, had to return to London to meet Parliament, thus inconveniencing the august assembly, as Mr. Wilson and Mr. George were obliged to quit Paris, with a like effect. Before Castlereagh left the scene of his labors, uncharitable judgments were passed on him for allowing home interests to predominate over his international activities.

The destinies of Poland and of Germany, which were then about to become a confederation, occupied the forefront of interest at the Congress as they did at the Conference. A similarity is noticeable also in the state of Europe generally, then and now. "The uncertain condition of all Europe," writes a close observer in 1815, "is appalling for the peoples: every country has mobilized ... and the luckless inhabitants are crushed by taxation. On every side people complain that this state of peace is worse than war ... individuals who despised Napoleon say that under him the suffering was not greater ... every country is sapping its own prosperity, so that financial conditions, in lieu of improving since Napoleon's collapse, are deteriorating every where."[14]

In 1815, as in 1919, the world pacifiers had their court painters, and Isabey, the French portraitist, was as much run after as was Sir William Orpen in 1919. In some respects, however, there was a difference. "Isabey," said the Prince de Ligne, "is the Congress become painter. Come! His talk is as clever as his brush." But Sir William Orpen was so absorbed by his work that he never uttered a word during a sitting. The contemporaries of the Paris Conference were luckier than their forebears of the Vienna Congress—for they could behold the lifelike features of their benefactors in a cinema. "It is understood," wrote a Paris journal, "that the necessity of preserving a permanent record of the personalities and proceedings at the Peace Conference has not been lost sight of. Very shortly a series of cinematographic films of the principal delegates and of the commissions is to be made on behalf of the British government, so that, side by side with the Treaty of Paris, posterity will be able to study the physiognomy of the men who made it."[15] In no case is it likely to forget them.

So the great heart of Paris, even to a greater degree than that of Vienna over a hundred years ago, beat and throbbed to cosmic measures while its brain worked busily at national, provincial, and economic questions.

Side by side with the good cheer prevalent that kept the eminent lawgivers of the Vienna Congress in buoyant spirits went the cost of living, prohibitive outside the charmed circle in consequence of the high and rising prices.

"Every article," writes the Comte de la Garde, one of the chroniclers of the Vienna Congress, "but more especially fuel, soared to incredible heights. The Austrian government found it necessary, in consequence, to allow all its officials supplements to their salaries and indemnities."[16] In Paris things were worse. Greed and disorganization combined to make of the French capital a vast fleecing-machine. The sums of money expended by foreigners in France during all that time and a much longer period is said to have exceeded the revenue from foreign trade. There was hardly any coal, and even the wood fuel gave out now and again. Butter was unknown. Wine was bad and terribly dear. A public conveyance could not be obtained unless one paid "double, treble, and quintuple fares and a gratuity." The demand was great and the supply sometimes abundant, but the authorities contrived to keep the two apart systematically.

THE COST OF LIVING

In no European country did the cost of living attain the height it reached in France in the year 1919. Not only luxuries and comforts, but some of life's necessaries, were beyond the reach of home-coming soldiers, and this was currently ascribed to the greed of merchants, the disorganization of transports, the strikes of workmen, and the supineness of the authorities, whose main care was to keep the nation tranquil by suppressing one kind of news, spreading another, and giving way to demands which could no longer be denied. There was another and more effectual cause: the war had deprived the world of twelve million workmen and a thousand milliard francs' worth of goods. But of this people took no account. The demobilized soldiers who for years had been well fed and relieved of solicitude for the morrow returned home, flushed with victory, proud of the commanding position which they had won in the state, and eager to reap the rewards of their sacrifices. But they were bitterly disillusioned. They expected a country fit for heroes to live in, and what awaited them was a condition of things to which only a defeated people could be asked to resign itself. The food to which the poilu had, for nearly five years, been accustomed at the front was become, since the armistice, the exclusive monopoly of the capitalist or the nouveau-riche in the rear. To obtain a ration of sugar he or his wife had to stand in a long queue for hours, perhaps go away empty-handed and return on the following morning. When his sugar-card was eventually handed to him he had again to stand in line outside the grocer's door and, when his turn came to enter it, was frequently told that the supply was exhausted and would not be replenished for a week or longer. Yet his newspaper informed him that there was plenty of colonial sugar, ready for shipment, but forbidden by the authorities to be imported into France. I met many poor people from the provinces and some resident in Paris who for four years had not once eaten a morsel of sugar, although the well-to-do were always amply supplied. In many places even bread was lacking, while biscuits, shortbread, and fancy cakes, available at exorbitant prices, were exhibited in the shop windows. Tokens of unbridled luxury and glaring evidences of wanton waste were flaunted daily and hourly in the faces of the humbled men who had saved the nation and wanted the nation to realize the fact. Lucullan banquets, opulent lunches, all-night dances, high revels of an exotic character testified to the peculiar psychic temper as well as to the material prosperity of the passive elements of the community and stung the poilus to the quick. "But what justice," these asked, "can the living hope for, when the glorious dead are so soon forgotten?" For one ghastly detail remains to complete a picture to which Boccaccio could hardly have done justice. "While all this wild dissipation was going on among the moneyed class in the capital the corpses of many gallant soldiers lay unburied and uncovered on the shell-plowed fields of battle near Rheims, on the road to Neuville-sur-Margival and other places—sights pointed out to visitors to tickle their interest in the grim spectacle of war. In vain individuals expostulated and the press protested. As recently as May persons known to me—my English secretary was one—looked with the fascination of horror on the bodies of men who, when they breathed, were heroes. They lay there where they had fallen and agonized, and now, in the heat of the May sun, were moldering in dust away—a couple of hours' motor drive from Paris...."[17]

The soldiers mused and brooded. Since the war began they had undergone a great psychic transformation. Stationed at the very center of a sustained fiery crisis, they lost their feeling of acquiescence in the established order and in the place of their own class therein. In the sight of death they had been stirred to their depths and volcanic fires were found burning there. Resignation had thereupon made way for a rebellious mood and rebellion found sustenance everywhere. The poilu demobilized retained his military spirit, nay, he carried about with him the very atmosphere of the trenches. He had rid himself of the sentiment of fear and the faculty of reverence went with it. His outlook on the world had changed completely and his inner sense reversed the social order which he beheld, as the eye reverses the object it apprehends. Respect for persons and institutions survived in relatively few instances the sacredness of life and the fear of death. He was impressed, too, with the all-importance of his class, which he had learned during the war to look upon as the Atlas on whose shoulders rest the Republic and its empire overseas. He had saved the state in war and he remained in peace-time its principal mainstay. With his value as measured by these priceless services he compared the low estimate put upon him by those who continued to identify themselves with the state—the over-fed, lazy, self-seeking money-getters who reserved to themselves the fruits of his toil.

One can well imagine—I have actually heard—the poilus putting their case somewhat as follows: "So long as we filled the gap between the death-dealing Teutons and our privileged compatriots we were well fed, warmly clad, made much of. During the war we were raised to the rank of pillars of the state, saviors of the nation, arbiters of the world's destinies. So long as we faced the enemy's guns nothing was too good for us. We had meat, white bread, eggs, wine, sugar in plenty. But, now that we have accomplished our task, we have fallen from our high estate and are expected to become pariahs anew. We are to work on for the old gang and the class from which it comes, until they plunge us into another war. For what? What is the reward for what we have achieved, what the incentive for what we are expected to accomplish? We cannot afford as much food as before the war, nor of the same quality. We are in want even of necessaries. Is it for this that we have fought? A thousand times no. If we saved our nation we can also save our class. We have the will and the power. Why should we not exert them?" The purpose of the section of the community to which these demobilized soldiers mainly belonged grew visibly definite as consciousness of their collective force grew and became keener. Occasionally it manifested itself openly in symptomatic spurts.

One dismal night, at a brilliant ball in a private mansion, a select company of both sexes, representatives of the world of rank and fashion, were enjoying themselves to their hearts' content, while their chauffeurs watched and waited outside in the cold, dark streets, chewing the cud of bitter reflections. Between the hours of three and four in the morning the latter held an open-air meeting, and adopted a resolution which they carried out forthwith. A delegation was sent upstairs to give notice to the light-hearted guests that they must be down in their respective motors within ten minutes on pain of not finding any conveyances to take them home. The mutineers were nearly all private chauffeurs in the employ of the personages to whom they sent this indelicate ultimatum. The resourceful host, however, warded off the danger and placated the rebellious drivers by inviting them to an improvised little banquet of pates de foie gras, dry champagne, and other delicacies. The general temper of the proletariat remained unchanged. Tales of rebellion still more disquieting were current in Paris, which, whether true or false, were aids to a correct diagnosis of the situation.

A dancing mania broke out during the armistice, which was not confined to the French capital. In Berlin, Rome, London, it aroused the indignation of those whose sympathy with the spiritual life of their respective nations was still a living force. It would seem, however, to be the natural reaction produced by a tremendous national calamity, under which the mainspring of the collective mind temporarily gives way and the psychical equilibrium is upset. Disillusion, despondency, and contempt for the passions that lately stirred them drive the people to seek relief in the distractions of pleasures, among which dancing is perhaps one of the mildest. It was so in Paris at the close of the long period of stress which ended with the rise of Napoleon. Dancing then went on uninterruptedly despite national calamities and private hardships. "Luxury," said Victor Hugo, "is a necessity of great states and great civilizations, but there are moments when it must not be exhibited to the masses." There was never a conjuncture when the danger of such an exhibition was greater or more imminent than during the armistice on the Continent—for it was the period of incubation preceding the outbreak of the most malignant social disease to which civilized communities are subject.

The festivities and amusements in the higher circles of Paris recall the glowing descriptions of the fret and fever of existence in the Austrian capital during the historic Vienna Congress a hundred years ago. Dancing became epidemic and shameless. In some salons the forms it took were repellent. One of my friends, the Marquis X., invited to a dance at the house of a plutocrat, was so shocked by what he saw there that he left almost at once in disgust. Madame Machin, the favorite teacher of the choreographic art, gave lessons in the new modes of dancing, and her fee was three hundred francs a lesson. In a few weeks she netted, it is said, over one hundred thousand francs.

The Prince de Ligne said of the Vienna Congress: "Le Congres danse mais il ne marche pas." The French press uttered similar criticisms of the Paris Conference, when its delegates were leisurely picking up information about the countries whose affairs they were forgathered to settle. The following paragraph from a Paris journal—one of many such—describes a characteristic scene:

The domestic staff at the Hotel Majestic, the headquarters of the British Delegation at the Peace Conference, held a very successful dance on Monday evening, attended by many members of the British Mission and Staff. The ballroom was a medley of plenipotentiaries and chambermaids, generals and orderlies, Foreign Office attaches and waitresses. All the latest forms of dancing were to be seen, including the jazz and the hesitation waltz, and, according to the opinion of experts, the dancing reached an unusually high standard of excellence. Major Lloyd George, one of the Prime Minister's sons, was among the dancers. Mr. G.H. Roberts, the Food Controller, made a very happy little speech to the hotel staff.[18]

The following extract is also worth quoting:

A packed house applauded 'Hullo, Paris!' from the rise of the curtain to the finale at the new Palace Theater (in the rue Mogador), Paris, last night.... President Wilson, Mr. A.J. Balfour, and Lord Derby all remained until the fall of the curtain at 12.15 ... and ... were given cordial cheers from the dispersing audience as they passed through the line of Municipal Guards, who presented arms as the distinguished visitors made their way to their motor-cars.[19]

Juxtaposed with the grief, discontent, and physical hardships prevailing among large sections of the population which had provided most of the holocausts for the Moloch of War, the ostentatious gaiety of the prosperous few might well seem a challenge. And so it was construed by the sullen lack-alls who prowled about the streets of Paris and told one another that their turn would come soon.

When the masses stare at the wealthy with the eyes one so often noticed during the eventful days of the armistice one may safely conclude, in the words of Victor Hugo, that "it is not thoughts that are harbored by those brains; it is events."

By the laboring classes the round of festivities, the theatrical representations, the various negro and other foreign dances, and the less-refined pleasures of the world's blithest capital were watched with ill-concealed resentment. One often witnessed long lines of motor-cars driving up to a theater, fashionable restaurant, or concert-hall, through the opening portals of which could be caught a glimpse of the dazzling illumination within, while, a few yards farther off, queues of anemic men and women were waiting to be admitted to the shop where milk or eggs or fuel could be had at the relatively low prices fixed by the state. The scraps of conversation that reached one's ears were far from reassuring.

I have met on the same afternoon the international world-regenerators, smiling, self-complacent, or preoccupied, flitting by in their motors to the Quai d'Orsay, and also quiet, determined-looking men, trudging along in the snow and slush, wending their way toward their labor conventicles, where they, too, were drafting laws for a new and strange era, and I voluntarily fell to gaging the distance that sundered the two movements, and asked myself which of the inchoate legislations would ultimately be accepted by the world. The question since then has been partially answered. As time passed, the high cost of living was universally ascribed, as we saw, to the insatiable greed of the middlemen and the sluggishness of the authorities, whose incapacity to organize and unwillingness to take responsibility increased and augured ill of the future of the country unless men of different type should in the meanwhile take the reins. Practically nothing was done to ameliorate the carrying power of the railways, to utilize the waterways, to employ the countless lorries and motor-vans that were lying unused, to purchase, convey, and distribute the provisions which were at the disposal of the government. Various ministerial departments would dispute as to which should take over consignments of meat or vegetables, and while reports, notes, and replies were being leisurely written and despatched, weeks or months rolled by, during which the foodstuffs became unfit for human consumption. In the middle of May, to take but one typical instance, 2,401 eases of lard and 1,418 cases of salt meat were left rotting in the docks at Marseilles. In the storage magazines at Murumas, 6,000 tons of salt meat were spoiled because it was nobody's business to remove and distribute them. Eighteen refrigerator-cars loaded with chilled meat arrived in Paris from Havre in the month of June. When they were examined at the cold-storage station it was discovered that, the doors having been negligently left open, the contents of the cases had to be destroyed.[20] From Belgium 108,000 kilos of potatoes were received and allowed to lie so long at one of the stations that they went bad and had to be thrown away. When these and kindred facts were published, the authorities, who had long been silent, became apologetic, but remained throughout inactive. In other countries the conditions, if less accentuated, were similar.

One of the dodges to which unscrupulous dealers resorted with impunity and profit was particularly ingenious. At the central markets, whenever any food is condemned, the public-health authorities seize it and pay the owner full value at the current market rates. The marketmen often turned this equitable arrangement to account by keeping back large quantities of excellent vegetables, for which the population was yearning, and when they rotted and had to be carted away, received their money value from the Public Health Department, thus attaining their object, which was to lessen the supply and raise the prices on what they kept for sale.[21] The consequence was that Paris suffered from a continual dearth of vegetables and fruits. Statistics published by the United States government showed the maximum increase in the cost of living in four countries as follows: France, 235 per cent.; Britain, 135 per cent.; Canada, 115 per cent.; and the United States, 107 per cent.[22] But since these data were published prices continued to rise until, at the beginning of July, they had attained the same level as those of Russia on the eve of the revolution there. In Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, the prices of various kinds of fish, shell-fish, jams, apples, had gone up 500 per cent., cabbage over 900 per cent., and celeriac 2,000 per cent. Anthracite coal, which in the year 1914 cost 56 francs a ton, could not be purchased in 1919 for less than 360 francs.

The restaurants and hotels waged a veritable war of plunder on their guests, most of whom, besides the scandalous prices, which bore no reasonable relation to the cost of production, had to pay the government luxury tax of 10 per cent, over and above. A well-known press correspondent, who entertained seven friends to a simple dinner in a modest restaurant, was charged 500 francs, 90 francs being set down for one chicken, and 28 for three cocktails. The maitre d'hotel, in response to the pressman's expostulations, assured him that these charges left the proprietor hardly any profit. As it chanced, however, the journalist had just been professionally investigating the cost of living, and had the data at his finger-ends. As he displayed his intimate knowledge to his host, and obviously knew where to look for redress, he had the satisfaction of obtaining a rebate of 150 francs.[23]

Nothing could well be more illuminating than the following curious picture contributed by a journal whose representative made a special inquiry into the whole question of the cost of living.[24] "I was dining the other day at a restaurant of the Bois de Boulogne. There was a long queue of people waiting at the door, some sixty persons all told, mostly ladies, who pressed one another closely. From time to time a voice cried: 'Two places,' whereupon a door was held opened, two patients entered, and then it was loudly slammed, smiting some of those who stood next to it. At last my turn came, and I went in. The guests were sitting so close to one another that they could not move their elbows. Only the hands and fingers were free. There sat women half naked, and men whose voices and dress betrayed newly acquired wealth. Not one of them questioned the bills which were presented. And what bills! The hors d'oeuvre, 20 francs. Fish, 90 francs. A chicken, 150 francs. Three cigars, 45 francs. The repast came to 250 francs a person at the very lowest." Another journalist commented upon this story as follows: "Since the end of last June," he said, "445,000 quintals of vegetables, the superfluous output of the Palatinate, were offered to France at nominal prices. And the cost of vegetables here at home is painfully notorious. Well, the deal was accepted by the competent Commission in Paris. Everything was ready for despatching the consignment. The necessary trains were secured. All that was wanting was the approval of the French authorities, who were notified. Their answer has not yet been given and already the vegetables are rotting in the magazines."

The authorities pleaded the insufficiency of rolling stock, but the press revealed the hollowness of the excuse and the responsibility of those who put it forward, and showed that thousands of wagons, lorries, and motor-vans were idle, deteriorating in the open air. For instance, between Cognac and Jarnac the state railways had left about one thousand wagons unused, which were fast becoming unusable.[25] And this was but one of many similar instances.

It would be hard to find a parallel in history for the rapacity combined with unscrupulousness and ingenuity displayed during that fateful period by dishonest individuals, and left unpunished by the state. Doubtless France was not the only country in which greed was insatiable and its manifestations disastrous. From other parts of the Continent there also came bitter complaints of the ruthlessness of profiteers, and in Italy their heartless vampirism contributed materially to the revolutionary outbreaks throughout that country in July. Even Britain was not exempt from the scourge. But the presence of whole armies of well-paid, easy-going foreign troops and officials on French soil stimulated greed by feeding it, and also their complaints occasionally bared it to the world. The impression it left on certain units of the American forces was deplorable. When United States soldiers who had long been stationed in a French town were transferred to Germany, where charges were low, the revulsion of feeling among the straightforward, honest Yankees was complete and embarrassing. And by way of keeping it within the bounds of political orthodoxy, they were informed that the Germans had conspired to hoodwink them by selling at undercost prices, in order to turn them against the French. It was an insidious form of German propaganda!

On the other hand, the experience of British and American warriors in France sometimes happened to be so unfortunate that many of them gave credence to the absurd and mischievous legend that their governments were made to pay rent for the trenches in which their troops fought and died, and even for the graves in which the slain were buried.

An acquaintance of mine, an American delegate, wanted an abode to himself during the Conference, and, having found one suitable for which fifteen to twenty-five thousand francs a year were deemed a fair rent, he inquired the price, and the proprietor, knowing that he had to do with a really wealthy American, answered, "A quarter of a million francs." Subsequently the landlord sent to ask whether the distinguished visitor would take the place; but the answer he received ran, "No, I have too much self-respect."

Hotel prices in Paris, beginning from December, 1918, were prohibitive to all but the wealthy. Yet they were raised several times during the Conference. Again, despite the high level they had reached by the beginning of July, they were actually quintupled in some hotels and doubled in many for about a week at the time of the peace celebrations. Rents for flats and houses soared proportionately.

One explanation of the fantastic rise in rents is characteristic. During the war and the armistice, the government—and not only the French government—proclaimed a moratorium, and no rents at all were paid, in consequence of which many house-owners were impoverished and others actually beggared. And it was with a view to recoup themselves for these losses that they fleeced their tenants, French and foreign, as soon as the opportunity presented itself. An amusing incident arising out of the moratorium came to light in the course of a lawsuit. An ingenious tenant, smitten with the passion of greed, not content with occupying his flat without paying rent, sublet it at a high figure to a man who paid him well and in advance, but by mischance set fire to the place and died. Thereupon the tenant demanded and received a considerable sum from the insurance company in which the defunct occupant had had to insure the flat and its contents. He then entered an action at law against the proprietor of the house for the value of the damage caused by the fire, and he won his case. The unfortunate owner was condemned to pay the sum claimed, and also the costs of the action.[26] But he could not recover his rent.

Disorganization throughout France, and particularly in Paris, verged on the border of chaos. Every one felt its effects, but none so severely as the men who had won the war. The work of demobilization, which began soon after the armistice, but was early interrupted, proceeded at snail-pace. The homecoming soldiers sent hundreds of letters to the newspapers, complaining of the wearisome delays on the journey and the sharp privations which they were needlessly forced to endure. Thus, whereas they took but twenty-eight hours to travel from Hanover to Cologne—the lines being German, and therefore relatively well organized—they were no less than a fortnight on the way between Cologne and Marseilles.[27] During the German section of the journey they were kept warm, supplied with hot soup and coffee twice daily; but during the second half, which lasted fourteen days, they received no beverage, hot or cold. "The men were cared for much less than horses." That these poilus turned against the government and the class responsible for this gross neglect was hardly surprising. One of them wrote: "They [the authorities] are frightened of Bolshevism. But we who have not got home, we all await its coming. I don't, of course, mean the real Bolshevism, but even that kind which they paint in such repellent hues."[28] The conditions of telegraphic and postal communications were on a par with everything else. There was no guarantee that a message paid for would even be sent by the telegraph-operators, or, if withheld, that the sender would be apprised of its suppression. The war arrangements were retained during the armistice. And they were superlatively bad. A committee appointed by the Chamber of Deputies to inquire into the matter officially, reported that,[29] at the Paris Telegraph Bureau alone, 40,000 despatches were held back every day—40,000 a day, or 58,400,000 in four years! And from the capital alone. The majority of them were never delivered, and the others were distributed after great delay. The despatches which were retained were, in the main, thrown into a basket, and, when the accumulation had become too great, were destroyed. The Control Section never made any inquiry, and neither the senders nor those to whom the despatches were addressed were ever informed.[30] Even important messages of neutral ambassadors in Rome and London fell under the ban. The recklessness of these censors, who ceased even to read what they destroyed, was such that they held up and made away with state orders transmitted by the great munitions factories, and one of these was constrained to close down because it was unable to obtain certain materials in time.

The French Ambassador in Switzerland reported that, owing to these holocausts, important messages from that country, containing orders for the French national loan, never reached their destination, in consequence of which the French nation lost from ten to twenty million francs. And even the letters and telegrams that were actually passed were so carelessly handled that many of them were lost on the way or delayed until they became meaningless to the addressee. So, for instance, an official letter despatched by the Minister of Commerce to the Minister of Finance in Paris was sent to Calcutta, where the French Consul-General came across it, and had it directed back to Paris. The correspondent of the Echo de Paris, who was sent to Switzerland by his journal, was forbidden by law to carry more than one thousand francs over the frontier, nor was the management of the journal permitted to forward to him more than two hundred francs at a time. And when a telegram was given up in Paris, crediting him with two hundred francs, it was stopped by the censor. Eleven days were let go by without informing the persons concerned. When the administrator of the journal questioned the chief censor, he declined responsibility, having had nothing to do with the matter, but he indicated the Central Telegraph Control as the competent department. There, too, however, they were innocent, having never heard of the suppression. It took another day to elicit the fact that the economic section of the War Ministry was alone answerable for the decision. The indefatigable manager of the Echo de Paris applied to the department in question, but only to learn that it, too, was without any knowledge of what had happened, but it promised to find out. Soon afterward it informed the zealous manager that the department which had given the order could only be the Exchange Commission of the Ministry of Finances. And during all the time the correspondent was in Zurich without money to pay for telegrams or to settle his hotel and restaurant bills.[31]

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself, in a report on the whole subject, characterized the section of Telegraphic Control as "an organ of confusion and disorder which has engendered extraordinary abuses, and risked compromising the government seriously."[32] It did not merely risk, it actually went far to compromise the government and the entire governing class as well.

It looked as though the rulers of France were still unconsciously guided by the maxim of Richelieu, who wrote in his testament, "If the peoples were too comfortable there would be no keeping them to the rules of duty." The more urgent the need of resourcefulness and guidance, the greater were the listlessness and confusion. "There is neither unity of conduct," wrote a press organ of the masses, "nor co-ordination of the Departments of War, Public Works, Revictualing, Transports. All these services commingle, overlap, clash, and paralyze one another. There is no method. Thus, whereas France has coffee enough to last her a twelvemonth, she has not sufficient fuel for a week. Scruples, too, are wanting, as are punishments; everywhere there is a speculator who offers his purse, and an official, a station-master, or a subaltern to stretch out his hand.... Shortsightedness, disorder, waste, the frittering away of public moneys and irresponsibility: that is the balance...."[33]

That the spectacle of the country sinking in this administrative quagmire was not conducive to the maintenance of confidence in its ruling classes can well be imagined. On all sides voices were uplifted, not merely against the Cabinet, whose members were assumed to be actuated by patriotic motives and guided by their own lights, but against the whole class from which they sprang, and not in France only, but throughout Europe. Nothing, it was argued, could be worse than what these leaders had brought upon the country, and a change from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat could not well be inaugurated at a more favorable conjuncture.

In truth the bourgeoisie were often as impatient of the restraints and abuses as the homecoming poilu. The middle class during the armistice was subjected to some of the most galling restraints that only the war could justify. They were practically bereft of communications. To use the telegraph, the post, the cable, or the telephone was for the most part an exhibition of childish faith, which generally ended in the loss of time and money.

This state of affairs called for an immediate and drastic remedy, for, so long as it persisted, it irritated those whom it condemned to avoidable hardship, and their name was legion. It was also part of an almost imperceptible revolutionary process similar to that which was going on in several other countries for transferring wealth and competency from one class to another and for goading into rebellion those who had nothing to lose by "violent change in the politico-social ordering." The government, whose powers were concentrated in the hands of M. Clemenceau, had little time to attend to these grievances. For its main business was the re-establishment of peace. What it did not fully realize was the gravity of the risks involved. For it was on the cards that the utmost it could achieve at the Conference toward the restoration of peace might be outweighed and nullified by the consequences of what it was leaving undone and unattempted at home. At no time during the armistice was any constructive policy elaborated in any of the Allied countries. Rhetorical exhortations to keep down expenditure marked the high-water level of ministerial endeavor there.

The strikes called by the revolutionary organizations whose aim was the subversion of the regime under which those monstrosities flourished at last produced an effect on the parliament. One day in July the French Chamber left the Cabinet in a minority by proposing the following resolution: "The Chamber, noting that the cost of living in Belgium has diminished by a half and in England by a fourth since the armistice, while it has continually increased in France since that date, judges the government's economic policy by the results obtained and passes to the order of the day."[34]

Shortly afterward the same Chamber recanted and gave the Cabinet a majority. In Great Britain, too, the House of Commons put pressure on the government, which at last was forced to act.

On the other hand, extravagance was systematically encouraged everywhere by the shortsighted measures which the authorities adopted and maintained as well as by the wanton waste promoted or tolerated by the incapacity of their representatives. In France the moratorium and immunity from taxation gave a fillip to recklessness. People who had hoarded their earnings before the war, now that they were dispensed from paying rent and relieved of fair taxes, paid out money ungrudgingly for luxuries and then struck for higher salaries and wages.

Even the Deputies of the Chamber, which did nothing to mitigate the evil complained of, manifested a desire to have their own salaries—six hundred pounds a year—augmented proportionately to the increased cost of living; but in view of the headstrong current of popular opinion against parliamentarism the government deemed it impolitic to raise the point at that conjuncture.

Most of the working-men's demands in France as in Britain were granted, but the relief they promised was illusory, for prices still went up, leaving the recipients of the relief no better off. And as the wages payable for labor are limited, whereas prices may ascend to any height, the embittered laborer fancied he could better his lot by an appeal to the force which his organization wielded. The only complete solution of the problem, he was assured, was to be found in the supersession of the governing classes and the complete reconstruction of the social fabric on wholly new foundations.[35] And some of the leaders rashly declared that they were unable to discern the elements of any other.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Cf. The Daily Mail (Paris edition), March 12,1919.

[2] On December 18, 1918.

[3] "With what little wisdom the world is governed."

[4] "Mr. Bernard Richards, Secretary of the delegation from the American Jewish Congress to the Peace Conference, expressed much satisfaction with the work done in Paris for the protection of Jewish rights and the furtherance of the interests of other minorities involved in the peace settlement." (The New York Herald, July 20, 1919.) How successful was the influence of the Jewish community at the Peace Conference may be inferred from the following: "Mr. Henry H. Rosenfelt, Director of the American Jewish Relief Committee, announces that all New York agencies engaged in Jewish relief work will join in a united drive in New York in December to raise $7,500,000 (L1,500,000) to provide clothing, food, and medicines for the six million Jews throughout Eastern Europe as well as to make possible a comprehensive programme for their complete rehabilitation.—American Radio News Service." Cf. The Daily Mail, August 19, 1919.

[5] Countess Lulu von Thurheim, My Life, 1788-1852. German edition, Munich, 1913-14.

[6] The New York Herald (Paris edition), February 23, 1919.

[7] Grafen von Montgelas, Denwuerdigkeiten des bayrischen Staatsministers Maximilian. See also Dr. Karl Soll, Der Wiener Kongress.

[8] Varnhagen von Ense.

[9] Friedrich von Gentz.

[10] Dr. Karl Soll, Count Carl von Nostitz.

[11] Cf. Dr. Karl Soll, Der Wiener Kongress.

[12] Dr. Karl Soll, Friedrich von Gentz.

[13] Dr. Karl Soll, Count Carl von Nostitz, p. 109.

[14] Jean Gabriel Eynard—the representative of Geneva.

[15] The Daily Mail (Paris edition), March 22, 1919.

[16] Count de la Garde.

[17] Cf. Le Matin, May 31, 1919. A noteworthy example of the negligence of the authorities was narrated by this journal on the same day. To a wooden cross with an inscription recording that the grave was tenanted by "an unknown Frenchman" was hung a disk containing his name and regiment! And here and there the skulls of heroes protruded from the grass, but the German tombs were piously looked after by Boche prisoners.

[18] The Daily Mail (Continental edition), March 12, 1919.

[19] Ibid., April 23, 1919.

[20] Cf. The New York Herald (Paris edition), June 8, 1919.

[21] Cf. The New York Herald, June 2, 1919.

[22] Cf. The New York Herald (Paris edition), April 20, 1919.

[23] Le Figaro, June 8, 1919.

[24] L'Humanite, July 10, 1919.

[25] La Democratie Nouvelle, June 14, 1919.

[26] Le Figaro, March 6, 1919.

[27] L'Humanite, May 23, 1919.

[28] 3 Ibid.

[29] Le Gaulois, March 23, 1919. The New York Herald (Paris edition), March 22, 1919. L'Echo de Paris, June 12, 1919.

[30] The New York Herald, March 22, 1919.

[31] L'Echo de Paris, June 12, 1919.

[32] The New York Herald, March 22, 1919.

[33] L'Humanite, May 23, 1919.

[34] on July 18, 1919. Cf. Matin, Echo de Paris, Figaro, July 10, 1919.

[35] Cf. L'Humanite (French Syndicalist organ), July 11, 1919.



II

SIGNS OF THEIR TIMES

Society during the transitional stage through which it has for some years been passing underwent an unprecedented change the extent and intensity of which are as yet but imperfectly realized. Its more striking characteristics were determined by the gradual decomposition of empires and kingdoms, the twilight of their gods, the drying up of their sources of spiritual energy, and the psychic derangement of communities and individuals by a long and fearful war. Political principles, respect for authority and tradition, esteem for high moral worth, to say nothing of altruism and public spirit, either vanished or shrank to shadowy simulacra. In contemporary history currents and cross-currents, eddies and whirlpools, became so numerous and bewildering that it is not easy to determine the direction of the main stream. Unsocial tendencies coexisted with collectivity of effort, both being used as weapons against the larger community and each being set down as a manifestation of democracy. Against every kind of authority the world, or some of its influential sections, was up in revolt, and the emergence of the passions and aims of classes and individuals had freer play than ever before.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse