THE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
A PERSONAL NARRATIVE
BY ROBERT LANSING
I. REASONS FOR WRITING A PERSONAL NARRATIVE
II. MR. WILSON'S PRESENCE AT THE PEACE CONFERENCE
III. GENERAL PLAN FOR A LEAGUE OF NATIONS
IV. SUBSTITUTE ARTICLES PROPOSED
V. THE AFFIRMATIVE GUARANTY AND BALANCE OF POWER
VI. THE PRESIDENT'S PLAN AND THE CECIL PLAN
VIII. THE CONFERENCE OF JANUARY 10, 1919
IX. A RESOLUTION INSTEAD OF THE COVENANT
X. THE GUARANTY IN THE REVISED COVENANT
XI. INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION
XII. REPORT OF COMMISSION ON LEAGUE OF NATIONS
XIII. THE SYSTEM OF MANDATES
XIV. DIFFERENCES AS TO THE LEAGUE RECAPITULATED
XV. THE PROPOSED TREATY WITH FRANCE
XVI. LACK OF AN AMERICAN PROGRAMME
XVII. SECRET DIPLOMACY
XVIII. THE SHANTUNG SETTLEMENT
XIX. THE BULLITT AFFAIR
I. THE PRESIDENT'S ORIGINAL DRAFT OF THE COVENANT OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS, LAID BEFORE THE AMERICAN COMMISSION ON JANUARY 10, 1919
II. LEAGUE OF NATIONS PLAN OF LORD ROBERT CECIL
III. THE COVENANT OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS IN THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES
IV. THE FOURTEEN POINTS
V. PRINCIPLES DECLARED BY PRESIDENT WILSON IN HIS ADDRESS OF FEBRUARY 11, 1918
VI. THE ARTICLES OF THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES RELATING TO SHANTUNG
THE AMERICAN PEACE DELEGATION AT PARIS Photograph by Signal Corps, U.S.A.
FACSIMILE OF MR. LANSING'S COMMISSION AS A COMMISSIONER PLENIPOTENTIARY TO NEGOTIATE PEACE
THE RUE ROYALE ON THE ARRIVAL OF PRESIDENT WILSON ON DECEMBER 14, 1918 Photograph by Signal Corps, U.S.A.
THE AMERICAN PEACE DELEGATION AND STAFF Photograph by Signal Corps, U.S.A.
A MEETING AT THE QUAI D'ORSAY AFTER PRESIDENT WILSON'S DEPARTURE FROM PARIS
FACSIMILE OF MR. LANSING'S "FULL POWERS" TO NEGOTIATE A TREATY OF ASSISTANCE TO FRANCE
THE DAILY CONFERENCE OF THE AMERICAN PEACE COMMISSION Photograph by Isabey, Paris
The Declaration of the Fourteen Points January 18, 1918
Declaration of Four Additional Bases of Peace February 11, 1918
Departure of Colonel House for Paris to represent the President on Supreme War Council October 17, 1918
Signature of Armistice, 5 A.M.; effective, 11 A.M. November 11, 1918
Departure of President and American Commission for France December 4, 1918
Arrival of President and American Commission in Paris December 14, 1918
Meeting of Supreme War Council January 12, 1919
First Plenary Session of Peace Conference January 25, 1919
Plenary Session at which Report on the League of Nations was Submitted February 14, 1919
Departure of President from Paris for United States February 14, 1919
President lands at Boston February 24, 1919
Departure of President from New York for France March 5, 1919
President arrives in Paris March 14, 1919
Organization of Council of Four About March 24, 1919
President's public statement in regard to Fiume April 23, 1919
Adoption of Commission's Report on League of Nations by the Conference April 28, 1919
The Shantung Settlement April 30, 1919
Delivery of the Peace Treaty to the German Plenipotentiaries May 7, 1919
Signing of Treaty of Versailles June 28, 1919
Signing of Treaty of Assistance with France June 28, 1919
Departure of President for the United States June 28, 1919
Departure of Mr. Lansing from Paris for United States July 12, 1919
Hearing of Mr. Lansing before Senate Committee on Foreign Relations August 6, 1919
Conference of Senate Committee on Foreign Relations with the President at the White House August 19, 1919
Hearing of Mr. Bullitt before Senate Committee on Foreign Relations September 12, 1919
Return of President to Washington from tour of West September 28, 1919
Resignation of Mr. Lansing as Secretary of State February 13, 1920
REASONS FOR WRITING A PERSONAL NARRATIVE
"While we were still in Paris, I felt, and have felt increasingly ever since, that you accepted my guidance and direction on questions with regard to which I had to instruct you only with increasing reluctance....
"... I must say that it would relieve me of embarrassment, Mr. Secretary, the embarrassment of feeling your reluctance and divergence of judgment, if you would give your present office up and afford me an opportunity to select some one whose mind would more willingly go along with mine."
These words are taken from the letter which President Wilson wrote to me on February 11, 1920. On the following day I tendered my resignation as Secretary of State by a letter, in which I said:
"Ever since January, 1919, I have been conscious of the fact that you no longer were disposed to welcome my advice in matters pertaining to the negotiations in Paris, to our foreign service, or to international affairs in general. Holding these views I would, if I had consulted my personal inclination alone, have resigned as Secretary of State and as a Commissioner to Negotiate Peace. I felt, however, that such a step might have been misinterpreted both at home and abroad, and that it was my duty to cause you no embarrassment in carrying forward the great task in which you were then engaged."
The President was right in his impression that, "while we were still in Paris," I had accepted his guidance and direction with reluctance. It was as correct as my statement that, as early as January, 1919, I was conscious that he was no longer disposed to welcome my advice in matters pertaining to the peace negotiations at Paris.
There have been obvious reasons of propriety for my silence until now as to the divergence of judgment, the differences of opinion and the consequent breach in the relations between President Wilson and myself. They have been the subject of speculation and inference which have left uncertain the true record. The time has come when a frank account of our differences can be given publicity without a charge being made of disloyalty to the Administration in power.
The President, in his letter of February 11, 1920, from which the quotation is made, indicated my unwillingness to follow him in the course which he adopted at Paris, but he does not specifically point out the particular subjects as to which we were not in accord. It is unsatisfactory, if not criticizable, to leave the American people in doubt as to a disagreement between two of their official representatives upon a matter of so grave importance to the country as the negotiation of the Treaty of Versailles. They are entitled to know the truth in order that they may pass judgment upon the merits of the differences which existed. I am not willing that the present uncertainty as to the facts should continue. Possibly some may think that I have remained silent too long. If I have, it has been only from a sense of obligation to an Administration of which I was so long a member. It has not been through lack of desire to lay the record before the public.
The statements which will be made in the succeeding pages will not be entirely approved by some of my readers. In the circumstances it is far too much to expect to escape criticism. The review of facts and the comments upon them may be characterized in certain quarters as disloyal to a superior and as violative of the seal of silence which is considered generally to apply to the intercourse and communications between the President and his official advisers. Under normal conditions such a characterization would not be unjustified. But the present case is different from the usual one in which a disagreement arises between a President and a high official of his Administration.
Mr. Wilson made our differences at Paris one of the chief grounds for stating that he would be pleased to take advantage of my expressed willingness to resign. The manifest imputation was that I had advised him wrongly and that, after he had decided to adopt a course contrary to my advice, I had continued to oppose his views and had with reluctance obeyed his instructions. Certainly no American official is in honor bound to remain silent under such an imputation which approaches a charge of faithlessness and of a secret, if not open, avoidance of duty. He has, in my judgment, the right to present the case to the American people in order that they may decide whether the imputation was justified by the facts, and whether his conduct was or was not in the circumstances in accord with the best traditions of the public service of the United States.
A review of this sort becomes necessarily a personal narrative, which, because of its intimate nature, is embarrassing to the writer, since he must record his own acts, words, desires, and purposes, his own views as to a course of action, and his own doubts, fears, and speculations as to the future. If there were another method of treatment which would retain the authoritative character of a personal statement, it would be a satisfaction to adopt it. But I know of none. The true story can only be told from the intimate and personal point of view. As I intend to tell the true story I offer no further apology for its personal character.
Before beginning a recital of the relations existing between President Wilson and myself during the Paris Conference, I wish to state, and to emphasize the statement, that I was never for a moment unmindful that the Constitution of the United States confides to the President the absolute right of conducting the foreign relations of the Republic, and that it is the duty of a Commissioner to follow the President's instructions in the negotiation of a treaty. Many Americans, some of whom are national legislators and solicitous about the Constitution, seem to have ignored or to have forgotten this delegation of exclusive authority, with the result that they have condemned the President in intemperate language for exercising this executive right. As to the wisdom of the way in which Mr. Wilson exercised it in directing the negotiations at Paris individual opinions may differ, but as to the legality of his conduct there ought to be but one mind. From first to last he acted entirely within his constitutional powers as President of the United States.
The duties of a diplomatic representative commissioned by the President and given full powers to negotiate a treaty are, in addition to the formal carrying out of his instructions, twofold, namely, to advise the President during the negotiation of his views as to the wise course to be adopted, and to prevent the President, in so far as possible, from taking any step in the proceedings which may impair the rights of his country or may be injurious to its interests. These duties, in my opinion, are equally imperative whether the President directs the negotiations through written instructions issuing from the White House or conducts them in person. For an American plenipotentiary to remain silent, and by his silence to give the impression that he approves a course of action which he in fact believes to be wrong in principle or contrary to good policy, constitutes a failure to perform his full duty to the President and to the country. It is his duty to speak and to speak frankly and plainly.
With this conception of the obligations of a Commissioner to Negotiate Peace, obligations which were the more compelling in my case because of my official position as Secretary of State, I felt it incumbent upon me to offer advice to the President whenever it seemed necessary to me to consider the adoption of a line of action in regard to the negotiations, and particularly so when the indications were that the President purposed to reach a decision which seemed to me unwise or impolitic. Though from the first I felt that my suggestions were received with coldness and my criticisms with disfavor, because they did not conform to the President's wishes and intentions, I persevered in my efforts to induce him to abandon in some cases or to modify in others a course which would in my judgment be a violation of principle or a mistake in policy. It seemed to me that duty demanded this, and that, whatever the consequences might be, I ought not to give tacit assent to that which I believed wrong or even injudicious.
The principal subjects, concerning which President Wilson and I were in marked disagreement, were the following: His presence in Paris during the peace negotiations and especially his presence there as a delegate to the Peace Conference; the fundamental principles of the constitution and functions of a League of Nations as proposed or advocated by him; the form of the organic act, known as the "Covenant," its elaborate character and its inclusion in the treaty restoring a state of peace; the treaty of defensive alliance with France; the necessity for a definite programme which the American Commissioners could follow in carrying on the negotiations; the employment of private interviews and confidential agreements in reaching settlements, a practice which gave color to the charge of "secret diplomacy"; and, lastly, the admission of the Japanese claims to possession of German treaty rights at Kiao-Chau and in the Province of Shantung.
Of these seven subjects of difference the most important were those relating to the League of Nations and the Covenant, though our opposite views as to Shantung were more generally known and more frequently the subject of public comment. While chief consideration will be given to the differences regarding the League and the Covenant, the record would be incomplete if the other subjects were omitted. In fact nearly all of these matters of difference are more or less interwoven and have a collateral, if not a direct, bearing upon one another. They all contributed in affecting the attitude of President Wilson toward the advice that I felt it my duty to volunteer, an attitude which was increasingly impatient of unsolicited criticism and suggestion and which resulted at last in the correspondence of February, 1920, that ended with the acceptance of my resignation as Secretary of State.
The review of these subjects will be, so far as it is possible, treated in chronological order, because, as the matters of difference increased in number, they gave emphasis to the divergence of judgment which existed between the President and myself. The effect was cumulative, and tended not only to widen the breach, but to make less and less possible a restoration of our former relations. It was my personal desire to support the President's views concerning the negotiations at Paris, but, when in order to do so it became necessary to deny a settled conviction and to suppress a conception of the true principle or the wise policy to be followed, I could not do it and feel that to give support under such conditions accorded with true loyalty to the President of the United States.
It was in this spirit that my advice was given and my suggestions were made, though in doing so I believed it justifiable to conform as far as it was possible to the expressed views of Mr. Wilson, or to what seemed to be his views, concerning less important matters and to concentrate on those which seemed vital. I went in fact as far as I could in adopting his views in the hope that my advice would be less unpalatable and would, as a consequence, receive more sympathetic consideration. Believing that I understood the President's temperament, success in an attempt to change his views seemed to lie in moderation and in partial approval of his purpose rather than in bluntly arguing that it was wholly wrong and should be abandoned. This method of approach, which seemed the expedient one at the time, weakened, in some instances at least, the criticisms and objections which I made. It is very possible that even in this diluted form my views were credited with wrong motives by the President so that he suspected my purpose. It is to be hoped that this was the true explanation of Mr. Wilson's attitude of mind, for the alternative forces a conclusion as to the cause for his resentful reception of honest differences of opinion, which no one, who admires his many sterling qualities and great attainments, will willingly accept.
Whatever the cause of the President's attitude toward the opinions which I expressed on the subjects concerning which our views were at variance—and I prefer to assume that the cause was a misapprehension of my reasons for giving them—the result was that he was disposed to give them little weight. The impression made was that he was irritated by opposition to his views, however moderately urged, and that he did not like to have his judgment questioned even in a friendly way. It is, of course, possible that this is not a true estimate of the President's feelings. It may do him an injustice. But his manner of meeting criticism and his disposition to ignore opposition can hardly be interpreted in any other way.
There is the alternative possibility that Mr. Wilson was convinced that, after he had given a subject mature consideration and reached a decision, his judgment was right or at least better than that of any adviser. A conviction of this nature, if it existed, would naturally have caused him to feel impatient with any one who attempted to controvert his decisions and would tend to make him believe that improper motives induced the opposition or criticism. This alternative, which is based of necessity on a presumption as to the temperament of Mr. Wilson that an unprejudiced and cautious student of personality would hesitate to adopt, I mention only because there were many who believed it to be the correct explanation of his attitude. In view of my intimate relations with the President prior to the Paris Conference I feel that in justice to him I should say that he did not, except on rare occasions, resent criticism of a proposed course of action, and, while he seemed in a measure changed after departing from the United States in December, 1918, I do not think that the change was sufficient to justify the presumption of self-assurance which it would be necessary to adopt if the alternative possibility is considered to furnish the better explanation.
It is, however, natural, considering what occurred at Paris, to search out the reason or reasons for the President's evident unwillingness to listen to advice when he did not solicit it, and for his failure to take all the American Commissioners into his confidence. But to attempt to dissect the mentality and to analyze the intellectual processes of Woodrow Wilson is not my purpose. It would only invite discussion and controversy as to the truth of the premises and the accuracy of the deductions reached. The facts will be presented and to an extent the impressions made upon me at the time will be reviewed, but impressions of that character which are not the result of comparison with subsequent events and of mature deliberation are not always justified. They may later prove to be partially or wholly wrong. They have the value, nevertheless, of explaining in many cases why I did or did not do certain things, and of disclosing the state of mind that in a measure determined my conduct which without this recital of contemporaneous impressions might mystify one familiar with what afterwards took place. The notes, letters, and memoranda which are quoted in the succeeding pages, as well as the opinions and beliefs held at the time (of which, in accordance with a practice of years, I kept a record supplementing my daily journal of events), should be weighed and measured by the situation which existed when they were written and not alone in the light of the complete review of the proceedings. In forming an opinion as to my differences with the President it should be the reader's endeavor to place himself in my position at the time and not judge them solely by the results of the negotiations at Paris. It comes to this: Was I justified then? Am I justified now? If those questions are answered impartially and without prejudice, there is nothing further that I would ask of the reader.
MR. WILSON'S PRESENCE AT THE PEACE CONFERENCE
Early in October, 1918, it required no prophetic vision to perceive that the World War would come to an end in the near future. Austria-Hungary, acting with the full approval of the German Government, had made overtures for peace, and Bulgaria, recognizing the futility of further struggle, had signed an armistice which amounted to an unconditional surrender. These events were soon followed by the collapse of Turkish resistance and by the German proposals which resulted in the armistice which went into effect on November 11, 1918.
In view of the importance of the conditions of the armistice with Germany and their relation to the terms of peace to be later negotiated, the President considered it essential to have an American member added to the Supreme War Council, which then consisted of M. Clemenceau, Mr. Lloyd George, and Signor Orlando, the premiers of the three Allied Powers. He selected Colonel Edward M. House for this important post and named him a Special Commissioner to represent him personally. Colonel House with a corps of secretaries and assistants sailed from New York on October 17, en route for Paris where the Supreme War Council was in session.
Three days before his departure the Colonel was in Washington and we had two long conferences with the President regarding the correspondence with Germany and with the Allies relating to a cessation of hostilities, during which we discussed the position which the United States should take as to the terms of the armistice and the bases of peace which should be incorporated in the document.
It was after one of these conferences that Colonel House informed me that the President had decided to name him (the Colonel) and me as two of the American plenipotentiaries to the Peace Conference, and that the President was considering attending the Conference and in person directing the negotiations. This latter intention of Mr. Wilson surprised and disturbed me, and I expressed the hope that the President's mind was not made up, as I believed that if he gave more consideration to the project he would abandon it, since it was manifest that his influence over the negotiations would be much greater if he remained in Washington and issued instructions to his representatives in the Conference. Colonel House did not say that he agreed with my judgment in this matter, though he did not openly disagree with it. However, I drew the conclusion, though without actual knowledge, that he approved of the President's purpose, and, possibly, had encouraged him to become an actual participant in the preliminary conferences.
The President's idea of attending the Peace Conference was not a new one. Though I cannot recollect the source of my information, I know that in December, 1916, when it will be remembered Mr. Wilson was endeavoring to induce the belligerents to state their objects in the war and to enter into a conference looking toward peace, he had an idea that he might, as a friend of both parties, preside over such a conference and exert his personal influence to bring the belligerents into agreement. A service of this sort undoubtedly appealed to the President's humanitarian instinct and to his earnest desire to end the devastating war, while the novelty of the position in which he would be placed would not have been displeasing to one who in his public career seemed to find satisfaction in departing from the established paths marked out by custom and usage.
When, however, the attempt at mediation failed and when six weeks later, on February 1, 1917, the German Government renewed indiscriminate submarine warfare resulting in the severance of diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany, President Wilson continued to cherish the hope that he might yet assume the role of mediator. He even went so far as to prepare a draft of the bases of peace, which he purposed to submit to the belligerents if they could be induced to meet in conference. I cannot conceive how he could have expected to bring this about in view of the elation of the Allies at the dismissal of Count von Bernstorff and the seeming certainty that the United States would declare war against Germany if the latter persisted in her ruthless sinking of American merchant vessels. But I know, in spite of the logic of the situation, that he expected or at least hoped to succeed in his mediatory programme and made ready to play his part in the negotiation of a peace.
From the time that Congress declared that a state of war existed between the United States and the Imperial German Government up to the autumn of 1918, when the Central Alliance made overtures to end the war, the President made no attempt so far as I am aware to enter upon peace negotiations with the enemy nations. In fact he showed a disposition to reject all peace proposals. He appears to have reached the conclusion that the defeat of Germany and her allies was essential before permanent peace could be restored. At all events, he took no steps to bring the belligerents together until a military decision had been practically reached. He did, however, on January 8,1918, lay down his famous "Fourteen Points," which he supplemented with certain declarations in "subsequent addresses," thus proclaiming his ideas as to the proper bases of peace when the time should come to negotiate.
Meanwhile, in anticipation of the final triumph of the armies of the Allied and Associated Powers, the President, in the spring of 1917, directed the organization, under the Department of State, of a body of experts to collect data and prepare monographs, charts, and maps, covering all historical, territorial, economic, and legal subjects which would probably arise in the negotiation of a treaty of peace. This Commission of Inquiry, as it was called, had its offices in New York and was under Colonel House so far as the selection of its members was concerned. The nominal head of the Commission was Dr. Mezes, President of the College of the City of New York and a brother-in-law of Colonel House, though the actual and efficient executive head was Dr. Isaiah Bowman, Director of the American Geographical Society. The plans of organization, the outline of work, and the proposed expenditures for the maintenance of the Commission were submitted to me as Secretary of State. I examined them and, after several conferences with Dr. Mezes, approved them and recommended to the President that he allot the funds necessary to carry out the programme.
In addition to the subjects which were dealt with by this excellent corps of students and experts, whose work was of the highest order, the creation of some sort of an international association to prevent wars in the future received special attention from the President as it did from Americans of prominence not connected with the Government. It caused considerable discussion in the press and many schemes were proposed and pamphlets written on the subject. To organize such an association became a generally recognized object to be attained in the negotiation of the peace which would end the World War; and there can be no doubt that the President believed more and more in the vital necessity of forming an effective organization of the nations to preserve peace in the future and make another great war impossible.
The idea of being present and taking an active part in formulating the terms of peace had, in my opinion, never been abandoned by President Wilson, although it had remained dormant while the result of the conflict was uncertain. When, however, in early October, 1918, there could no longer be any doubt that the end of the war was approaching, the President appears to have revived the idea and to have decided, if possible, to carry out the purpose which he had so long cherished. He seemed to have failed to appreciate, or, if he did appreciate, to have ignored the fact that the conditions were wholly different in October, 1918, from what they were in December, 1916.
In December, 1916, the United States was a neutral nation, and the President, in a spirit of mutual friendliness, which was real and not assumed, was seeking to bring the warring powers together in conference looking toward the negotiation of "a peace without victory." In the event that he was able to persuade them to meet, his presence at the conference as a pacificator and probably as the presiding officer would not improbably have been in the interests of peace, because, as the executive head of the greatest of the neutral nations of the world and as the impartial friend of both parties, his personal influence would presumably have been very great in preventing a rupture in the negotiations and in inducing the parties to act in a spirit of conciliation and compromise.
In October, 1918, however, the United States was a belligerent. Its national interests were involved; its armies were in conflict with the Germans on the soil of France; its naval vessels were patrolling the Atlantic; and the American people, bitterly hostile, were demanding vengeance on the Governments and peoples of the Central Powers, particularly those of Germany. President Wilson, it is true, had endeavored with a measure of success to maintain the position of an unbiased arbiter in the discussions leading up to the armistice of November 11, and Germany undoubtedly looked to him as the one hope of checking the spirit of revenge which animated the Allied Powers in view of all that they had suffered at the hands of the Germans. It is probable too that the Allies recognized that Mr. Wilson was entitled to be satisfied as to the terms of peace since American man power and American resources had turned the scale against Germany and made victory a certainty. The President, in fact, dominated the situation. If he remained in Washington and carried on the negotiations through his Commissioners, he would in all probability retain his superior place and be able to dictate such terms of peace as he considered just. But, if he did as he purposed doing and attended the Peace Conference, he would lose the unique position which he held and would have to submit to the combined will of his foreign colleagues becoming a prey to intrigue and to the impulses arising from their hatred for the vanquished nations.
A practical view of the situation so clearly pointed to the unwisdom of the President's personal participation in the peace negotiations that a very probable explanation for his determination to be present at the Conference is the assumption that the idea had become so firmly embedded in his mind that nothing could dislodge it or divert him from his purpose. How far the spectacular feature of a President crossing the ocean to control in person the making of peace appealed to him I do not know. It may have been the deciding factor. It may have had no effect at all. How far the belief that a just peace could only be secured by the exercise of his personal influence over the delegates I cannot say. How far he doubted the ability of the men whom he proposed to name as plenipotentiaries is wholly speculative. Whatever plausible reason may be given, the true reason will probably never be known.
Not appreciating, at the time that Colonel House informed me of the President's plan to be present at the Conference, that the matter had gone as far as it had, and feeling very strongly that it would be a grave mistake for the President to take part in person in the negotiations, I felt it to be my duty, as his official adviser in foreign affairs and as one desirous to have him adopt a wise course, to state plainly to him my views. It was with hesitation that I did this because the consequence of the non-attendance of the President would be to make me the head of the American Peace Commission at Paris. There was the danger that my motive in opposing the President's attending the Conference would be misconstrued and that I might be suspected of acting from self-interest rather than from a sense of loyalty to my chief. When, however, the armistice went into effect and the time arrived for completing the personnel of the American Commission, I determined that I ought not to remain silent.
The day after the cessation of hostilities, that is, on November 12, I made the following note:
"I had a conference this noon with the President at the White House in relation to the Peace Conference. I told him frankly that I thought the plan for him to attend was unwise and would be a mistake. I said that I felt embarrassed in speaking to him about it because it would leave me at the head of the delegation, and I hoped that he understood that I spoke only out of a sense of duty. I pointed out that he held at present a dominant position in the world, which I was afraid he would lose if he went into conference with the foreign statesmen; that he could practically dictate the terms of peace if he held aloof; that he would be criticized severely in this country for leaving at a time when Congress particularly needed his guidance; and that he would be greatly embarrassed in directing domestic affairs from overseas."
I also recorded as significant that the President listened to my remarks without comment and turned the conversation into other channels.
For a week after this interview I heard nothing from the President on the subject, though the fact that no steps were taken to prepare written instructions for the American Commissioners convinced me that he intended to follow his original intention. My fears were confirmed. On the evening of Monday, November 18, the President came to my residence and told me that he had finally decided to go to the Peace Conference and that he had given out to the press an announcement to that effect. In view of the publicity given to his decision it would have been futile to have attempted to dissuade him from his purpose. He knew my opinion and that it was contrary to his.
After the President departed I made a note of the interview, in which among other things I wrote:
"I am convinced that he is making one of the greatest mistakes of his career and will imperil his reputation. I may be in error and hope that I am, but I prophesy trouble in Paris and worse than trouble here. I believe the President's place is here in America."
Whether the decision of Mr. Wilson was wise and whether my prophecy was unfulfilled, I leave to the judgment of others. His visit to Europe and its consequences are facts of history. It should be understood that the incident is not referred to here to justify my views or to prove that the President was wrong in what he did. The reference is made solely because it shows that at the very outset there was a decided divergence of judgment between us in regard to the peace negotiations.
While this difference of opinion apparently in no way affected our cordial relations, I cannot but feel, in reviewing this period of our intercourse, that my open opposition to his attending the Conference was considered by the President to be an unwarranted meddling with his personal affairs and was none of my business. It was, I believe, the beginning of his loss of confidence in my judgment and advice, which became increasingly marked during the Paris negotiations. At the time, however, I did not realize that my honest opinion affected the President in the way which I now believe that it did. It had always been my practice as Secretary of State to speak to him with candor and to disagree with him whenever I thought he was reaching a wrong decision in regard to any matter pertaining to foreign affairs. There was a general belief that Mr. Wilson was not open-minded and that he was quick to resent any opposition however well founded. I had not found him so during the years we had been associated. Except in a few instances he listened with consideration to arguments and apparently endeavored to value them correctly. If, however, the matter related even remotely to his personal conduct he seemed unwilling to debate the question. My conclusion is that he considered his going to the Peace Conference was his affair solely and that he viewed my objections as a direct criticism of him personally for thinking of going. He may, too, have felt that my opposition arose from a selfish desire to become the head of the American Commission. From that time forward any suggestion or advice volunteered by me was seemingly viewed with suspicion. It was, however, long after this incident that I began to feel that the President was imputing to me improper motives and crediting me with disloyalty to him personally, an attitude which was as unwarranted as it was unjust.
The President having determined to go to Paris, it seemed almost useless to urge him not to become a delegate in view of the fact that he had named but four Commissioners, although it had been arranged that the Great Powers should each have five delegates in the Conference. This clearly indicated that the President was at least considering sitting as the fifth member of the American group. At the same time it seemed that, if he did not take his place in the Conference as a delegate, he might retain in a measure his superior place of influence even though he was in Paris. Four days after the Commission landed at Brest I had a long conference with Colonel House on matters pertaining to the approaching negotiations, during which he informed me that there was a determined effort being made by the European statesmen to induce the President to sit at the peace table and that he was afraid that the President was disposed to accede to their wishes. This information indicated that, while the President had come to Paris prepared to act as a delegate, he had, after discussing the subject with the Colonel and possibly with others, become doubtful as to the wisdom of doing so, but that through the pressure of his foreign colleagues he was turning again to the favorable view of personal participation which he had held before he left the United States.
In my conversation with Colonel House I told him my reasons for opposing the President's taking an active part in the Conference and explained to him the embarrassment that I felt in advising the President to adopt a course which would make me the head of the American Commission. I am sure that the Colonel fully agreed with me that it was impolitic for Mr. Wilson to become a delegate, but whether he actively opposed the plan I do not know, although I believe that he did. It was some days before the President announced that he would become the head of the American Commission. I believe that he did this with grave doubts in his own mind as to the wisdom of his decision, and I do not think that any new arguments were advanced during those days which materially affected his judgment.
This delay in reaching a final determination as to a course of action was characteristic of Mr. Wilson. There is in his mentality a strange mixture of positiveness and indecision which is almost paradoxical. It is a peculiarity which it is hard to analyze and which has often been an embarrassment in the conduct of public affairs. Suddenness rather than promptness has always marked his decisions. Procrastination in announcing a policy or a programme makes cooeperation difficult and not infrequently defeats the desired purpose. To put off a decision to the last moment is a trait of Mr. Wilson's character which has caused much anxiety to those who, dealing with matters of vital importance, realized that delay was perilous if not disastrous.
Of the consequences of the President's acting as one of his own representatives to negotiate peace it is not my purpose to speak. The events of the six months succeeding his decision to exercise in person his constitutional right to conduct the foreign relations of the United States are in a general way matters of common knowledge and furnish sufficient data for the formulation of individual opinions without the aid of argument or discussion. The important fact in connection with the general topic being considered is the difference of opinion between the President and myself as to the wisdom of his assuming the role of a delegate. While I did not discuss the matter with him except at the first when I opposed his attending the Peace Conference, I have little doubt that Colonel House, if he urged the President to decline to sit as a delegate, which I think may be presumed, or if he discussed it at all, mentioned to him my opinion that such a step would be unwise. In any event Mr. Wilson knew my views and that they were at variance with the decision which he reached.
GENERAL PLAN FOR A LEAGUE OF NATIONS
It appears, from a general review of the situation prior and subsequent to the assembling of the delegates to the Peace Conference, that President Wilson's decision to go to Paris and to engage in person in the negotiations was strongly influenced by his belief that it was the only sure way of providing in the treaty of peace for the organization of a League of Nations. While his presence in Paris was probably affected to an extent by other considerations, as I have pointed out, it is to be presumed that he was anxious to participate directly in the drafting of the plan of organization of the League and to exert his personal influence on the delegates in favor of its acceptance by publicly addressing the Conference. This he could hardly have done without becoming a delegate. It would seem, therefore, that the purpose of creating a League of Nations and obtaining the incorporation of a plan of organization in the treaty to be negotiated had much to do with the President's presence at the peace table.
From the time that the United States entered the war in April, 1917, Mr. Wilson held firmly to the idea that the salvation of the world from imperialism would not be lasting unless provision was made in the peace treaty for an international agency strong enough to prevent a future attack upon the rights and liberties of the nations which were at so great a cost holding in check the German armies and preventing them from carrying out their evil designs of conquest. The object sought by the United States in the war would not, in the views of many, be achieved unless the world was organized to resist future aggression. The essential thing, as the President saw it, in order to "make the world safe for democracy" was to give permanency to the peace which would be negotiated at the conclusion of the war. A union of the nations for the purpose of preventing wars of aggression and conquest seemed to him the most practical, if not the only, way of accomplishing this supreme object, and he urged it with earnestness and eloquence in his public addresses relating to the bases of peace.
There was much to be said in favor of the President's point of view. Unquestionably the American people as a whole supported him in the belief that there ought to be some international agreement, association, or concord which would lessen the possibility of future wars. An international organization to remove in a measure the immediate causes of war, to provide means for the peaceable settlement of disputes between nations, and to draw the governments into closer friendship appealed to the general desire of the peoples of America and Europe. The four years and more of horror and agony through which mankind had passed must be made impossible of repetition, and there seemed no other way than to form an international union devoted to the maintenance of peace by composing, as far as possible, controversies which might ripen into war.
For many years prior to 1914 an organization devoted to the prevention of international wars had been discussed by those who gave thought to warfare of the nations and who realized in a measure the precarious state of international peace. The Hague Conventions of 1899 and of 1907 had been negotiated with that object, and it was only because of the improper aspirations and hidden designs of certain powers, which were represented at those great historic conferences, that the measures adopted were not more expressive of the common desire of mankind and more effective in securing the object sought. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Ginn, now the World, Peace Foundation, and the American Peace Society, and later the Society for the Judicial Settlement of International Disputes, the League to Enforce Peace, and many other organizations in America and in Europe were actively engaged in considering ways and means to prevent war, to strengthen the bonds of international good-will, and to insure the more general application of the principles of justice to disputes between nations.
The outbreak of the war and the dreadful waste and suffering which followed impelled the societies and associations then organized to redoubled effort and induced the formation of new organizations. People everywhere began to realize that their objects were real and not merely sentimental or academic, that they were seeking practical means to remove the conditions which had made the Great War possible. Public opinion became more and more pronounced as the subject was more widely discussed in the journals and periodicals of the day and at public meetings, the divergence of views being chiefly in regard to the means to be employed by the proposed organization and not as to the creation of the organization, the necessity for which appeared to be generally conceded.
With popular sentiment overwhelmingly in favor of some sort of world union which would to an extent insure the nations against another tragedy like the one which in November, 1918, had left the belligerents wasted and exhausted and the whole world a prey to social and industrial unrest, there was beyond question a demand that out of the great international assembly at Paris there should come some common agency devoted to the prevention of war. To ignore this all-prevalent sentiment would have been to misrepresent the peoples of the civilized world and would have aroused almost universal condemnation and protest. The President was, therefore, entirely right in giving prominence to the idea of an international union against war and in insisting that the Peace Conference should make provision for the establishment of an organization of the world with the prevention of future wars as its central thought and purpose.
The great bulk of the American people, at the time that the President left the United States to attend the Peace Conference, undoubtedly believed that some sort of organization of this nature was necessary, and I am convinced that the same popular belief prevailed in all other civilized countries. It is possible that this assertion may seem too emphatic to some who have opposed the plan for a League of Nations, which appears in the first articles of the Treaty of Versailles, but, if these opponents of the plan will go back to the time of which I am writing, and avoid the impressions made upon them by subsequent events, they will find, I believe, that even their own views have materially changed since December, 1918. It is true that concrete plans had then been suggested, but so far as the public knew the President had not adopted any of them or formulated one of his own. He had not then disclosed the provisions of his "Covenant."
The mass of the people were only concerned with the general idea. There was no well-defined opposition to that idea. At least it was not vocal. Even the defeat of the Democratic Party in the Congressional elections of November, 1918, could not be interpreted to be a repudiation of the formation of a world organization. That election, by which both Houses of Congress became Republican, was a popular rebuke to Mr. Wilson for the partisanship shown in his letter of October addressed to the American people, in which he practically asserted that it was unpatriotic to support the Republican candidates. The indignation and resentment aroused by that injudicious and unwarranted attack upon the loyalty of his political opponents lost to the Democratic Party the Senate and largely reduced its membership in the House of Representatives if it did not in fact deprive the party of control of that body. The result, however, did not mean that the President's ideas as to the terms of peace were repudiated, but that his practical assertion, that refusal to accept his policies was unpatriotic, was repudiated by the American people.
It is very apparent to one, who without prejudice reviews the state of public sentiment in December, 1918, that the trouble, which later developed as to a League of Nations, did not lie in the necessity of convincing the peoples of the world, their governments, and their delegates to the Paris Conference that it was desirable to organize the world to prevent future wars, but in deciding upon the form and functions of the organization to be created. As to these details, which of course affected the character, the powers, and the duties of the organization, there had been for years a wide divergence of opinion. Some advocated the use of international force to prevent a nation from warring against another. Some favored coercion by means of general ostracism and non-intercourse. Some believed that the application of legal justice through the medium of international tribunals and commissions was the only practical method of settling disputes which might become causes of war. And some emphasized the importance of a mutual agreement to postpone actual hostilities until there could be an investigation as to the merits of a controversy. There were thus two general classes of powers proposed which were in the one case political and in the other juridical. The cleavage of opinion was along these lines, although it possibly was not recognized by the general public. It was not only shown in the proposed powers, but also in the proposed form of the organization, the one centering on a politico-diplomatic body, and the other on an international judiciary. Naturally the details of any plan proposed would become the subject of discussion and the advisability of adopting the provisions would arouse controversy and dispute. Thus unanimity in approving a world organization did not mean that opinions might not differ radically in working out the fundamental principles of its form and functions, to say nothing of the detailed plan based on these principles.
In May, 1916, President Wilson accepted an invitation to address the first annual meeting of the League to Enforce Peace, which was to be held in Washington. After preparing his address he went over it and erased all reference to the use of physical force in preventing wars. I mention this as indicative of the state of uncertainty in which he was in the spring of 1916 as to the functions and powers of the international organization to maintain peace which he then advocated. By January, 1917, he had become convinced that the use of force was the practical method of checking aggressions. This conversion was probably due to the fact that he had in his own mind worked out, as one of the essential bases of peace, to which he was then giving much thought, a mutual guaranty of territorial integrity and political independence, which had been the chief article of a proposed Pan-American Treaty prepared early in 1915 and to which he referred in his address before the League to Enforce Peace. He appears to have reached the conclusion that a guaranty of this sort would be of little value unless supported by the threatened, and, if necessary, the actual, employment of force. The President was entirely logical in this attitude. A guaranty against physical aggression would be practically worthless if it did not rest on an agreement to protect with physical force. An undertaking to protect carried with it the idea of using effectual measures to insure protection. They were inseparable; and the President, having adopted an affirmative guaranty against aggression as a cardinal provision—perhaps I should say the cardinal provision—of the anticipated peace treaty, could not avoid becoming the advocate of the use of force in making good the guaranty.
During the year 1918 the general idea of the formation of an international organization to prevent war was increasingly discussed in the press of the United States and Europe and engaged the thought of the Governments of the Powers at war with the German Empire. On January 8 of that year President Wilson in an address to Congress proclaimed his "Fourteen Points," the adoption of which he considered necessary to a just and stable peace. The last of these "Points" explicitly states the basis of the proposed international organization and the fundamental reason for its formation. It is as follows:
"XIV. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike."
This declaration may be considered in view of subsequent developments to be a sufficiently clear announcement of the President's theory as to the plan of organization which ought to be adopted, but at the time the exact character of the "mutual guarantees" was not disclosed and aroused little comment. I do not believe that Congress, much less the public at large, understood the purpose that the President had in mind. Undoubtedly, too, a sense of loyalty to the Chief Executive, while the war was in progress, and the desire to avoid giving comfort of any sort to the enemy, prevented a critical discussion of the announced bases of peace, some of which were at the time academic, premature, and liable to modification if conditions changed.
In March Lord Phillimore and his colleagues made their preliminary report to the British Government on "a League of Nations" and this was followed in July by their final report, copies of which reached the President soon after they were made. The time had arrived for putting into concrete form the general ideas that the President held, and Colonel House, whom some believed to be the real author of Mr. Wilson's conception of a world union, prepared, I am informed, the draft of a scheme of organization. This draft was either sent or handed to the President and discussed with him. To what extent it was amended or revised by Mr. Wilson I do not know, but in a modified form it became the typewritten draft of the Covenant which he took with him to Paris, where it underwent several changes. In it was the guaranty of 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918, which, from the form in which it appeared, logically required the use of force to give it effect.
Previous to the departure of the American Commission for Paris, on December 4, 1918, the President did not consult me as to his plan for a League of Nations. He did not show me a copy of the plan or even mention that one had been put into writing. I think that there were two reasons for his not doing so, although I was the official adviser whom he should naturally consult on such matters.
The first reason, I believe, was due to the following facts. In our conversations prior to 1918 I had uniformly opposed the idea of the employment of international force to compel a nation to respect the rights of other nations and had repeatedly urged judicial settlement as the practical way of composing international controversies, though I did not favor the use of force to compel such settlement.
To show my opposition to an international agreement providing for the use of force and to show that President Wilson knew of this opposition and the reasons for it, I quote a letter which I wrote to him in May, 1916, that is, two years and a half before the end of the war:
"May 25, 1916
"My DEAR MR. PRESIDENT:
"I had hoped to see you to-morrow at Cabinet meeting, but to-day the Doctor refused to allow me to leave the house this week. I intended when I saw you to say something about the purposes of the League to Enforce Peace, which is to meet here, and at the banquet of which I understand you are to speak on Saturday night. I would have preferred to talk the matter over with you, but as that is impossible I have taken the liberty to write you this letter, although in doing so I am violating the directions of the Doctor.
"While I have not had time or opportunity to study carefully the objects of the proposed League to Enforce Peace, I understand the fundamental ideas are these, which are to be embodied in a general treaty of the nations: First, an agreement to submit all differences which fail of diplomatic adjustment to arbitration or a board of conciliation; and, second, in case a government fails to comply with this provision, an agreement that the other parties will unite in compelling it to do so by an exercise of force.
"With the first agreement I am in accord to an extent, but I cannot see how it is practicable to apply it in case of a continuing invasion of fundamental national or individual rights unless some authoritative international body has the power to impose and enforce an order in the nature of an injunction, which will prevent the aggressor from further action until arbitration has settled the rights of the parties. How this can be done in a practical way I have not attempted to work out, but the problem is not easy, especially the part which relates to the enforcement of the order.
"It is, however, the second agreement in regard to the imposition of international arbitration by force, which seems to me the most difficult, especially when viewed from the standpoint of its effects on our national sovereignty and national interests. It is needless to go into the manifest questions arising when the modus operandi of the agreement is considered. Such questions as: Who may demand international intervention? What body will decide whether the demand should be complied with? How will the international forces be constituted? Who will take charge of the military and naval operations? Who will pay the expenses of the war (for war it will be)?
"Perplexing as these questions appear to me, I am more concerned with the direct effect on this country. I do not believe that it is wise to limit our independence of action, a sovereign right, to the will of other powers beyond this hemisphere. In any representative international body clothed with authority to require of the nations to employ their armies and navies to coerce one of their number, we would be in the minority. I do not believe that we should put ourselves in the position of being compelled to send our armed forces to Europe or Asia or, in the alternative, of repudiating our treaty obligation. Neither our sovereignty nor our interests would accord with such a proposition, and I am convinced that popular opinion as well as the Senate would reject a treaty framed along such lines.
"It is possible that the difficulty might be obviated by the establishment of geographical zones, and leaving to the groups of nations thus formed the enforcement of the peaceful settlement of disputes. But if that is done why should all the world participate? We have adopted a much modified form of this idea in the proposed Pan-American Treaty by the 'guaranty' article. But I would not like to see its stipulations extended to the European powers so that they, with our full agreement, would have the right to cross the ocean and stop quarrels between two American Republics. Such authority would be a serious menace to the Monroe Doctrine and a greater menace to the Pan-American Doctrine.
"It appears to me that, if the first idea of the League can be worked out in a practical way and an international body constituted to determine when steps should be taken to enforce compliance, the use of force might be avoided by outlawing the offending nation. No nation to-day can live unto itself. The industrial and commercial activities of the world are too closely interwoven for a nation isolated from the other nations to thrive and prosper. A tremendous economic pressure could be imposed on the outlawed nation by all other nations denying it intercourse of every nature, even communication, in a word make that nation a pariah, and so to remain until it was willing to perform its obligations.
"I am not at all sure that this means is entirely feasible. I see many difficulties which would have to be met under certain conditions. But I do think that it is more practical in operation and less objectionable from the standpoint of national rights and interests than the one proposed by the League. It does not appear to me that the use of physical force is in any way practical or advisable.
"I presume that you are far more familiar than I am with the details of the plans of the League and that it may be presumptuous on my part to write you as I have. I nevertheless felt it my duty to frankly give you my views on the subject and I have done so.
"The White House"
The President, thus early advised of my unqualified opposition to any plan which was similar in principle to the one advocated by the League to Enforce Peace, naturally concluded that I would look with disfavor on an international guaranty which by implication, if not by declaration, compelled the use of force to give it effect. Doubtless he felt that I would not be disposed to aid in perfecting a plan which had as its central idea a guaranty of that nature. Disliking opposition to a plan or policy which he had originated or made his own by adoption, he preferred to consult those who without debate accepted his judgment and were in sympathy with his ideas. Undoubtedly the President by refraining from asking my advice spared himself from listening to arguments against the guaranty and the use of force which struck at the very root of his plan, for I should, if I had been asked, have stated my views with entire frankness.
The other reason for not consulting me, as I now realize, but did not at the time, was that I belonged to the legal profession. It is a fact, which Mr. Wilson has taken no trouble to conceal, that he does not value the advice of lawyers except on strictly legal questions, and that he considers their objections and criticisms on other subjects to be too often based on mere technicalities and their judgments to be warped by an undue regard for precedent. This prejudice against the legal profession in general was exhibited on more than one occasion during our sojourn at Paris. Looking back over my years of intercourse with the President I can now see that he chafed under the restraints imposed by usage and even by enacted laws if they interfered with his acting in a way which seemed to him right or justified by conditions. I do not say that he was lawless. He was not that, but he conformed grudgingly and with manifest displeasure to legal limitations. It was a thankless task to question a proposed course of action on the ground of illegality, because he appeared to be irritated by such an obstacle to his will and to transfer his irritation against the law to the one who raised it as an objection. I think that he was especially resentful toward any one who volunteered criticism based on a legal provision, precept, or precedent, apparently assuming that the critic opposed his purpose on the merits and in order to defeat it interposed needless legal objections. It is unnecessary to comment on the prejudice which such an attitude of mind made evident.
After the President's exceptionally strong address at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on September 27, 1918, I realized the great importance which he gave to the creation of a League of Nations and in view of this I devoted time and study to the subject, giving particular attention to the British and French suggestions, both of which emphasized judicial settlement. Knowing that the President had been in consultation with Colonel House on the various phases of the peace to be negotiated as well as on the terms of the armistice, I asked the latter what he knew about the former's scheme for a League of Nations.
The Colonel discreetly avoided disclosing the details of the plan, but from our conversation I gained an idea of the general principles of the proposed organization and the way in which the President intended to apply them.
After the Colonel and his party had sailed for France and in expectation of being consulted on the subject by President Wilson, I put my thoughts on the League of Nations into writing. In a note, which is dated October 27, 1918, appears the following:
"From the little I know of the President's plan I am sure that it is impracticable. There is in it too much altruistic cooperation. No account is taken of national selfishness and the mutual suspicions which control international relations. It may be noble thinking, but it is not true thinking.
"What I fear is that a lot of dreamers and theorists will be selected to work out an organization instead of men whose experience and common sense will tell them not to attempt anything which will not work. The scheme ought to be simple and practical. If the federation, or whatever it may be called, is given too much power or if its machinery is complex, my belief is that it will be unable to function or else will be defied. I can see lots of trouble ahead unless impractical enthusiasts and fanatics are suppressed. This is a time when sober thought, caution, and common sense should control."
On November 22, 1918, after I had been formally designated as a Peace Commissioner, I made another note for the purpose of crystallizing my own thought on the subject of a League of Nations. Although President Wilson had not then consulted me in any way regarding his plan of organization, I felt sure that he would, and I wished to be prepared to give him my opinion concerning the fundamentals of the plan which might be proposed on behalf of the United States. I saw, or thought that I saw, a disposition to adopt physical might as the basis of the organization, because the guaranty, which the President had announced in Point XIV and evidently purposed to advocate, seemed to require the use of force in the event that it became necessary to make it good.
From the note of November 22 I quote the following:
"The legal principle [of the equality of nations], whatever its basis in fact, must be preserved, otherwise force rather than law, the power to act rather than the right to act, becomes the fundamental principle of organization, just as it has been in all previous Congresses and Concerts of the European Powers.
"It appears to me that a positive guaranty of territorial integrity and political independence by the nations would have to rest upon an open recognition of dominant coercive power in the articles of agreement, the power being commercial and economic as well as physical. The wisdom of entering into such a guaranty is questionable and should be carefully considered before being adopted.
"In order to avoid the recognition of force as a basis and the question of dominant force with the unavoidable classification of nations into 'big' and 'little,' 'strong' and 'weak,' the desired result of a guaranty might be attained by entering into a mutual undertaking not to impair the territorial integrity or to violate the political sovereignty of any state. The breach of this undertaking would be a breach of the treaty and would sever the relations of the offending nation with all other signatories."
I have given these two extracts from my notes in order to show the views that I held, at the time the American Commission was about to depart from the United States, in regard to the character of the guaranty which the President intended to make the central feature of the League of Nations. In the carrying out of his scheme and in creating an organization to give effect to the guaranty I believed that I saw as an unavoidable consequence an exaltation of force and an overlordship of the strong nations. Under such conditions it would be impossible to preserve within the organization the equality of nations, a precept of international law which was the universally recognized basis of intercourse between nations in time of peace. This I considered most unwise and a return to the old order, from which every one hoped that the victory over the Central Empires had freed the world.
The views expressed in the notes quoted formed the basis for my subsequent course of action as an American Commissioner at Paris in relation to the League of Nations. Convinced from previous experience that to oppose every form of guaranty by the nations assembled at Paris would be futile in view of the President's apparent determination to compel the adoption of that principle, I endeavored to find a form of guaranty that would be less objectionable than the one which the President had in mind. The commitment of the United States to any guaranty seemed to me at least questionable, though to prevent it seemed impossible in the circumstances. It did not seem politic to try to persuade the President to abandon the idea altogether. I was certain that that could not be done. If he could be induced to modify his plan so as to avoid a direct undertaking to protect other nations from aggression, the result would be all that could be expected. I was guided, therefore, chiefly by expediency rather than by principle in presenting my views to the President and in openly approving the idea of a guaranty.
The only opportunity that I had to learn more of the President's plan for a League before arriving in Paris was an hour's interview with him on the U.S.S. George Washington some days after we sailed from New York. He showed me nothing in writing, but explained in a general way his views as to the form, purpose, and powers of a League. From this conversation I gathered that my fears as to the proposed organization were justified and that it was to be based on the principle of diplomatic adjustment rather than that of judicial settlement and that political expediency tinctured with morality was to be the standard of determination of an international controversy rather than strict legal justice.
In view of the President's apparent fixity of purpose it seemed unwise to criticize the plan until I could deliver to him a substitute in writing for the mutual guaranty which he evidently considered to be the chief feature of the plan. I did not attempt to debate the subject with him believing it better to submit my ideas in concrete form, as I had learned from experience that Mr. Wilson preferred to have matters for his decision presented in writing rather than by word of mouth.
SUBSTITUTE ARTICLES PROPOSED
The President, Mr. Henry White, and I arrived in Paris on Saturday, December 14, 1918, where Colonel House and General Bliss awaited us. The days following our arrival were given over to public functions in honor of the President and to official exchanges of calls and interviews with the delegates of other countries who were gathering for the Peace Conference. On the 23d, when the pressure of formal and social engagements had in a measure lessened, I decided to present to the President my views as to the mutual guaranty which he intended to propose, fearing that, if there were further delay, he would become absolutely committed to the affirmative form. I, therefore, on that day sent him the following letter, which was marked "Secret and Urgent":
"Hotel de Crillon December 23, 1918
"MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT:
"The plan of guaranty proposed for the League of Nations, which has been the subject of discussion, will find considerable objection from other Governments because, even when the principle is agreed to, there will be a wide divergence of views as to the terms of the obligation. This difference of opinion will be seized upon by those, who are openly or secretly opposed to the League, to create controversy and discord.
"In addition to this there will be opposition in Congress to assuming obligations to take affirmative action along either military or economic lines. On constitutional grounds, on its effect on the Monroe Doctrine, on jealousy as to Congressional powers, etc., there will be severe criticism which will materially weaken our position with other nations, and may, in view of senatorial hostility, defeat a treaty as to the League of Nations or at least render it impotent.
"With these thoughts in mind and with an opposition known to exist among certain European statesmen and already manifest in Washington, I take the liberty of laying before you a tentative draft of articles of guaranty which I do not believe can be successfully opposed either at home or abroad."
I would interrupt the reader at this point to suggest that it might be well to peruse the enclosures, which will be found in the succeeding pages, in order to have a better understanding of the comments which follow. To continue:
"I do not see how any nation can refuse to subscribe to them. I do not see how any question of constitutionality can be raised, as they are based essentially on powers which are confided to the Executive. They in no way raise a question as to the Monroe Doctrine. At the same time I believe that the result would be as efficacious as if there was an undertaking to take positive action against an offending nation, which is the present cause of controversy.
"I am so earnestly in favor of the guaranty, which is the heart of the League of Nations, that I have endeavored to find a way to accomplish this and to remove the objections raised which seem to me to-day to jeopardize the whole plan.
"I shall be glad, if you desire it, to confer with you in regard to the enclosed paper or to receive your opinion as to the suggestions made. In any event it is my hope that you will give the paper consideration.
"28 Rue de Monceau"
It should be borne in mind in reading this letter that I had reached the conclusion that modification rather than abandonment of the guaranty was all that I could hope to accomplish, and that, as a matter of expediency, it seemed wise to indicate a sympathetic attitude toward the idea. For that reason I expressed myself as favorable to the guaranty and termed it "the heart of the League of Nations," a phrase which the President by his subsequent use of it considered to be a proper characterization.
The memoranda contained in the paper enclosed in the letter were as follows:
The Constitutional Power to provide Coercion in a Treaty
"December 20, 1918
"In the institution of a League of Nations we must bear in mind the limitations imposed by the Constitution of the United States upon the Executive and Legislative Branches of the Government in defining their respective powers.
"The Constitution confers upon Congress the right to declare war. This right, I do not believe, can be delegated and it certainly cannot be taken away by treaty. The question arises, therefore, as to how far a provision in an agreement as to a League of Nations, which imposes on the United States the obligation to employ its military or naval forces in enforcing the terms of the agreement, would be constitutional.
"It would seem that the utilization of forces, whether independently or in conjunction with other nations, would in fact by being an act of war create a state of war, which constitutionally can only be done by a declaration of Congress. To contract by treaty to create a state of war upon certain contingencies arising would be equally tainted with unconstitutionality and would be null and inoperative.
"I do not think, therefore, that, even if it were advisable, any treaty can provide for the independent or joint use of the military or naval forces of the United States to compel compliance with a treaty or to make good a guaranty made in a treaty.
"The other method of international coercion is non-intercourse, especially commercial non-intercourse. Would a treaty provision to employ this method be constitutional?
"As to this my mind is less clear. The Constitution in delegating powers to Congress includes the regulation of commerce. Does non-intercourse fall within the idea of regulation? Could an embargo be imposed without an act of Congress? My impression is that it could not be done without legislation and that a treaty provision agreeing in a certain event to impose an embargo against another nation would be void.
"Even if Congress was willing to delegate to the Executive for a certain purpose its powers as to making war and regulating commerce, I do not think that it could constitutionally do so. It is only in the event of war that powers conferred by the Constitution on Congress can be delegated and then only for war purposes. As a state of war would not exist at the time action was required, I do not believe that it could be done, and any provision contracting to take measures of this nature would be contrary to the Constitution and as a consequence void.
"But, assuming that Congress possessed the power of delegation, I am convinced that it would not only refuse to do so, but would resent such a suggestion because of the fact that both Houses have been and are extremely jealous of their rights and authority.
"Viewed from the standpoints of legality and expediency it would seem necessary to find some other method than coercion in enforcing an international guaranty, or else to find some substitute for a guaranty which would be valueless without affirmative action to support it.
"I believe that such a substitute can be found."
The foregoing memorandum was intended as an introduction to the negative guaranty or "self-denying covenant" which I desired to lay before the President as a substitute for the one upon which he intended to build the League of Nations. The memorandum was suggestive merely, but in view of the necessity for a speedy decision there was no time to prepare an exhaustive legal opinion. Furthermore, I felt that the President, whose hours were at that time crowded with numerous personal conferences and public functions, would find little opportunity to peruse a long and closely reasoned argument on the subject.
The most important portion of the document was that entitled "Suggested Draft of Articles for Discussion. December 20, 1918." It reads as follows:
"The parties to this convention, for the purpose of maintaining international peace and preventing future wars between one another, hereby constitute themselves into a League of Nations and solemnly undertake jointly and severally to fulfill the obligations imposed upon them in the following articles:
"Each power signatory or adherent hereto severally covenants and guarantees that it will not violate the territorial integrity or impair the political independence of any other power signatory or adherent to this convention except when authorized so to do by a decree of the arbitral tribunal hereinafter referred to or by a three-fourths vote of the International Council of the League of Nations created by this convention.
"In the event that any power signatory or adherent hereto shall fail to observe the covenant and guaranty set forth in the preceding article, such breach of covenant and guaranty shall ipso facto operate as an abrogation of this convention in so far as it applies to the offending power and furthermore as an abrogation of all treaties, conventions, and agreements heretofore or hereafter entered into between the offending power and all other powers signatory and adherent to this convention.
"A breach of the covenant and guaranty declared in Article A shall constitute an act unfriendly to all other powers signatory and adherent hereto, and they shall forthwith sever all diplomatic, consular, and official relations with the offending power, and shall, through the International Council, hereinafter provided for, exchange views as to the measures necessary to restore the power, whose sovereignty has been invaded, to the rights and liberties which it possessed prior to such invasion and to prevent further violation thereof.
"Any interference with a vessel on the high seas or with aircraft proceeding over the high seas, which interference is not affirmatively sanctioned by the law of nations shall be, for the purposes of this convention, considered an impairment of political independence."
In considering the foregoing series of articles constituting a guaranty against one's own acts, instead of a guaranty against the acts of another, it must be remembered that, at the time of their preparation, I had not seen a draft of the President's proposed guaranty, though from conversations with Colonel House and from my study of Point XIV of "The Fourteen Points," I knew that it was affirmative rather than negative in form and would require positive action to be effective in the event that the menace of superior force was insufficient to prevent aggressive acts.
As far as I am able to judge from subsequently acquired knowledge, President Wilson at the time he received my letter of December 23 had a typewritten draft of the document which after certain amendments he later laid before the American Commissioners and which he had printed with a few verbal changes under the title of "The Covenant." In order to understand the two forms of guaranty which he had for consideration after he received my letter, I quote the article relating to it, which appears in the first printed draft of the Covenant.
"The Contracting Powers unite in guaranteeing to each other political independence and territorial integrity; but it is understood between them that such territorial readjustments, if any, as may in the future become necessary by reasons of changes in present racial conditions and aspirations or present social and political relationships, pursuant to the principle of self-determination, and also such territorial readjustments as may in the judgment of three fourths of the Delegates be demanded by the welfare and manifest interest of the people concerned, may be effected if agreeable to those peoples; and that territorial changes may involve material compensation. The Contracting Powers accept without reservation the principle that the peace of the world is superior in importance to every question of political jurisdiction or boundary."
It seems needless to comment upon the involved language and the uncertainty of meaning of this article wherein it provided for "territorial readjustments" of which there appeared to be two classes, one dependent on "self-determination," the other on the judgment of the Body of Delegates of the League. In view of the possible reasons which might be advanced for changes in territory and allegiance, justification for an appeal to the guarantors was by no means certain. If this article had been before me when the letter of December 23 was written, I might have gone much further in opposition to the President's plan for stabilizing peace in the world on the ground that a guaranty so conditioned would cause rather than prevent international discord.
Though without knowledge of the exact terms of the President's proposed guaranty, I did not feel for the reason stated that I could delay longer in submitting my views to the President. There was not time to work out a complete and well-digested plan for a League, but I had prepared in the rough several articles for discussion which related to the organization, and which might be incorporated in the organic agreement which I then assumed would be a separate document from the treaty restoring peace. While unwilling to lay these articles before the President until they were more carefully drafted, I enclosed in my letter the following as indicative of the character of the organization which it seemed to me would form a simple and practical agency common to all nations:
"Suggestions as to an International Council For Discussion
"December 21, 1918
"An International Council of the League of Nations is hereby constituted, which shall be the channel for communication between the members of the League, and the agent for common action.
"The International Council shall consist of the diplomatic representative of each party signatory or adherent to this convention at ——.
"Meetings of the International Council shall be held at ——, or in the event that the subject to be considered involves the interests of —— or its nationals, then at such other place outside the territory of a power whose interests are involved as the Supervisory Committee of the Council shall designate.
"The officer charged with the conduct of the foreign affairs of the power where a meeting is held shall be the presiding officer thereof.
"At the first meeting of the International Council a Supervisory Committee shall be chosen by a majority vote of the members present, which shall consist of five members and shall remain in office for two years or until their successors are elected.
"The Supervisory Committee shall name a Secretariat which shall have charge of the archives of the Council and receive all communications addressed to the Council or Committee and send all communications issued by the Council or Committee.
"The Supervisory Committee may draft such rules of procedure as it deems necessary for conducting business coming before the Council or before the Committee.
"The Supervisory Committee may call a meeting of the Council at its discretion and must call a meeting at the request of any member of the Council provided the request contains a written statement of the subject to be discussed.
"The archives of the Council shall be open at any time to any member of the Council, who may make and retain copies thereof.
"All expenses of the Supervisory Committee and Secretariat shall be borne equally by all powers signatory or adherent to this convention."
As indicated by the caption, this document was intended merely "for discussion" of the principal features of the organization. It should be noted that the basic principle is the equality of nations. No special privileges are granted to the major powers in the conduct of the organization. The rights and obligations of one member of the League are no more and no less than those of every other member. It is based on international democracy and denies international aristocracy.
Equality in the exercise of sovereign rights in times of peace, an equality which is imposed by the very nature of sovereignty, seemed to me fundamental to a world organization affecting in any way a nation's independence of action or its exercise of supreme authority over its external or domestic affairs. In my judgment any departure from that principle would be a serious error fraught with danger to the general peace of the world and to the recognized law of nations, since it could mean nothing less than the primacy of the Great Powers and the acknowledgment that because they possessed the physical might they had a right to control the affairs of the world in times of peace as well as in times of war. For the United States to admit that such primacy ought to be formed would be bad enough, but to suggest it indirectly by proposing an international organization based on that idea would be far worse.
On January 22, 1917, the President in an address to the Senate had made the following declaration:
"The equality of nations upon which peace must be founded if it is to last must be an equality of rights; the guarantees exchanged must neither recognize nor imply a difference between big nations or small, between those that are powerful and those that are weak. Right must be based upon the common strength, not the individual strength, of the nations upon whose concert peace will depend. Equality of territory or of resources there of course cannot be; nor any other sort of equality not gained in the ordinary peaceful and legitimate development of the peoples themselves. But no one asks or expects anything more than an equality of rights."
In view of this sound declaration of principle it seemed hardly possible that the President, after careful consideration of the consequences of his plan of a guaranty requiring force to make it practical, would not perceive the fundamental error of creating a primacy of the Great Powers.
It was in order to prevent, if possible, the United States from becoming sponsor for an undemocratic principle that I determined to lay my partial plan of organization before the President at the earliest moment that I believed it would receive consideration.
To my letter of December 23 with its enclosed memoranda I never received a reply or even an acknowledgment. It is true that the day following its delivery the President went to Chaumont to spend Christmas at the headquarters of General Pershing and that almost immediately thereafter he visited London and two or three days after his return to Paris he set out for Rome. It is possible that Mr. Wilson in the midst of these crowded days had no time to digest or even to read my letter and its enclosed memoranda. It is possible that he was unable or unwilling to form an opinion as to their merits without time for meditation. I do not wish to be unjustly critical or to blame the President for a neglect which was the result of circumstance rather than of intention.
At the time I assumed that his failure to mention my letter in any way was because his visits to royalty exacted from him so much of his time that there was no opportunity to give the matter consideration. While some doubt was thrown on this assumption by the fact that the President held an hour's conference with the American Commissioners on January 1, just before departing for Italy, during which he discussed the favorable attitude of Mr. Lloyd George toward his (the President's) ideas as to a League of Nations, but never made any reference to my proposed substitute for the guaranty, I was still disposed to believe that there was a reasonable explanation for his silence and that upon his return from Rome he would discuss it.
Having this expectation I continued the preparation of tentative provisions to be included in the charter of a League of Nations in the event one was negotiated, and which would in any event constitute a guide for the preparation of declarations to be included in the Treaty of Peace in case the negotiation as to a League was postponed until after peace had been restored. As has been said, it was my hope that there would be a separate convention organizing the League, but I was not as sanguine of this as many who believed this course would be followed.
It later developed that the President never had any other purpose than to include the detailed plan of organization in the peace treaty, whether the treaty was preliminary or definitive. When he departed for Italy he had not declared this purpose to the Commissioners, but from some source, which I failed to note at the time and cannot now recollect, I gained the impression that he intended to pursue this policy, for on December 29 I wrote in my book of notes:
"It is evident that the President is determined to incorporate in the peace treaty an elaborate scheme for the League of Nations which will excite all sorts of opposition at home and abroad and invite much discussion.
"The articles relating to the League ought to be few and brief. They will not be. They will be many and long. If we wait till they are accepted, it will be four or five months before peace is signed, and I fear to say how much longer it will take to have it ratified.
"It is perhaps foolish to prophesy, but I will take the chance. Two months from now we will still be haggling over the League of Nations and an exasperated world will be cursing us for not having made peace. I hope that I am a false prophet, but I fear my prophecy will come true. We are riding a hobby, and riding to a fall."
By the time the President returned from his triumphal journey to Rome I had completed the articles upon which I had been working; at least they were in form for discussion. At a conference at the Hotel Crillon between President Wilson and the American Commissioners on January 7, I handed to him the draft articles saying that they were supplemental to my letter of December 23. He took them without comment and without making any reference to my unanswered letter.
The first two articles of the "International Agreement," as I termed the document, were identical in language with the memoranda dealing with a mutual covenant and with an international council which I had enclosed in my letter of December 23. It is needless, therefore, to repeat them here.
Article III of the so-called "Agreement" was entitled "Peaceful Settlements of International Disputes," and read as follows:
"In the event that there is a controversy between two or more members of the League of Nations which fails of settlement through diplomatic channels, one of the following means of settlement shall be employed:
"1. The parties to the controversy shall constitute a joint commission to investigate and report jointly or severally to their Governments the facts and make recommendations as to settlement. After such report a further effort shall be made to reach a diplomatic settlement of the controversy.
"2. The parties shall by agreement arrange for the submission of the controversy to arbitration mutually agreed upon, or to the Arbitral Tribunal hereinafter referred to.
"3. Any party may, unless the second means of settlement is mutually adopted, submit the controversy to the Supervisory Committee of the International Council; and the Committee shall forthwith (a) name and direct a special commission to investigate and report upon the subject; (b) name and direct a commission to mediate between the parties to the controversy; or (c) direct the parties to submit the controversy to the Arbitral Tribunal for judicial settlement, it being understood that the direction to arbitrate may be made at any time in the event that investigation and mediation fail to result in a settlement of the controversy.