MoboReader > Literature > The Inside Story of the Peace Conference


The Inside Story of the Peace Conference By Emile Joseph Dillon Characters: 91341

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The policy of the Anglo-Saxon plenipotentiaries was never put into words. For that reason it has to be judged by their acts, despite the circumstance that these were determined by motives which varied greatly at different times, and so far as one can conjecture were not often practical corollaries of fundamental principles. From these acts one may draw a few conclusions which will enable us to reconstruct such policy as there was. One is that none of the sacrifices imposed upon the members of the League of Nations was obligatory on the Anglo-Saxon peoples. These were beyond the reach of all the new canons which might clash with their interests or run counter to their aspirations. They were the givers and administrators of the saving law rather than its observers. Consequently they were free to hold all that was theirs, however doubtful their title; nay, they were besought to accept a good deal more under the mandatory system, which was molded on their own methods of governance. It was especially taken for granted that the architects would be called to contribute naught to the new structure but their ideas, and that they need renounce none of their possessions, however shady its origin, however galling to the population its retention. It was in deference to this implicit doctrine that President Wilson withdrew without protest or discussion his demand for the freedom of the seas, on which he had been wont to lay such stress.

Another way of putting the matter is this. The principal aim of the Conference was to create conditions favorable to the progress of civilization on new lines. And the seed-bearers of true, as distinguished from spurious, civilization and culture being the Anglo-Saxons, it is the realization of their broad conceptions, the furtherance of their beneficent strivings, that are most conducive to that ulterior aim. The men of this race in the widest sense of the term are, therefore, so to say, independent ends in themselves, whereas the other peoples are to be utilized as means. Hence the difference of treatment meted out to the two categories. In the latter were implicitly included Italy and Russia. Unquestionably the influence of Anglo-Saxondom is eminently beneficial. It tends to bring the rights and the dignity as well as the duties of humanity into broad day. The farther it extends by natural growth, therefore, the better for the human race. The Anglo-Saxon mode of administering colonies, for instance, is exemplary, and for this reason was deemed worthy to receive the hall-mark of the Conference as one of the institutions of the future League. But even benefits may be transformed into evils if imposed by force.

That, in brief, would seem to be the clue-one can hardly speak of any systematic conception-to the unordered improvisations and incongruous decisions of the Conference.

I am not now concerned to discuss whether this unformulated maxim, which had strong roots that may not always have reached the realm of consciousness, calls for approval as an instrument of ethico-political progress or connotes an impoverishment of the aims originally propounded by Mr. Wilson. Excellent reasons may be assigned why the two English-speaking statesmen proceeded without deliberation on these lines and no other. The matter might have been raised to a higher plane, but for that the delegates were not prepared. All that one need retain at present is the orientation of the Supreme Council, inasmuch as it imparts a sort of relative unity to seemingly heterogeneous acts. Thus, although the conditions of the Peace Treaty in many respects ran directly counter to the provisions of the Covenant, none the less the ultimate tendency of both was to converge in a distant point, which, when clearly discerned, will turn out to be the moral guidance of the world by Anglo-Saxondom as represented at any rate in the incipient stage by both its branches. Thus the discussions among the members of the Conference were in last analysis not contests about mere abstractions. Beneath the high-sounding principles and far-resonant reforms which were propounded but not realized lurked concrete racial strivings which a patriotic temper and robust faith might easily identify with the highest interests of humanity.

When the future historian defines, as he probably will, the main result of the Conference's labors as a tendency to place the spiritual and political direction of the world in the hands of the Anglo-Saxon race, it is essential to a correct view of things that he should not regard this trend as the outcome of a deliberate concerted policy. It was anything but this. Nobody who conversed with the statesmen before and during the Conference could detect any sure tokens of such ultimate aims, nor, indeed, of a thorough understanding of the lesser problems to be settled. Circumstance led, and the statesmen followed. The historian may term the process drift, and the humanitarian regret that such momentous issues should ever have been submitted to a body of uninformed politicians out of touch with the people for whose behoof they claimed to be legislating. To liquidate the war should have been the first, as it was the most urgent, task. But it was complicated, adjourned, and finally botched by interweaving it with a mutilated scheme for the complete readjustment of the politico-social forces of the planet. The result was a tangled skein of problems, most of them still unsolved, and some insoluble by governments alone. Out of the confusion of clashing forces towered aloft the two dominant Powers who command the economic resources of the world, and whose democratic institutions and internal ordering are unquestionably more conducive to the large humanitarian end than those of any other, and gradually their overlordship of the world began to assert itself. But this tendency was not the outcome of deliberate endeavor. Each representative of those vast states was solicitous in the first place about the future of his own country, and then about the regeneration of the human race. One would like to be able to add that all were wholly inaccessible to the promptings of party interests and personal ambitions.

Planlessness naturally characterized the exertions of the Anglo-Saxon delegates from start to finish. It is a racial trait. Their hosts, who were experts in the traditions of diplomacy, had before the opening of the Conference prepared a plan for their behoof, which at the lowest estimate would have connoted a vast improvement on their own desultory way of proceeding. The French proposed to distribute all the preparatory work among eighteen commissions, leaving to the chief plenipotentiaries the requisite time to arrange preliminaries and become acquainted with the essential elements of the problems. But Messrs. Wilson and Lloyd George are said to have preferred their informal conversations, involving the loss of three and a half months, during which no results were reached in Paris, while turmoil, bloodshed, and hunger fed the smoldering fires of discontent throughout the World.

The British Premier, like his French colleague, was solicitous chiefly about making peace with the enemy and redeeming as far as possible his election pledges to his supporters. To that end everything else would appear to have been subordinated. To the ambitious project of a world reform he and M. Clemenceau gave what was currently construed as a nominal assent, but for a long time they had no inkling of Mr. Wilson's intention to interweave the peace conditions with the Covenant. So far, indeed, were they both from entertaining the notion that the two Premiers expressly denied-and allowed their denial to be circulated in the press-that the two documents were or could be made mutually interdependent. M. Pichon assured a group of journalists that no such intention was harbored.[91] Mr. Lloyd George is understood to have gone farther and to have asked what degree of relevancy a Covenant for the members of the League could be supposed to possess to a treaty concluded with a nation which for the time being was denied admission to that sodality. And as we saw, he was incurious enough not to read the narrative of what had been done by his own American colleagues even after the Havas Agency announced it.

To President Wilson, on the other hand, the League was the magnum opus of his life. It was to be the crown of his political career, to mark the attainment of an end toward which all that was best in the human race had for centuries been consciously or unconsciously wending without moving perceptibly nearer. Instinctively he must have felt that the Laodicean support given to him by his colleagues would not carry him much farther and that their fervor would speedily evaporate once the Conference broke up and their own special aims were definitely achieved or missed. With the shrewdness of an experienced politician he grasped the fact that if he was ever to present his Covenant to the world clothed with the authority of the mightiest states, now was his opportunity. After the Conference it would be too late. And the only contrivance by which he could surely reckon on success was to insert the Covenant in the Peace Treaty and set before his colleagues an irresistible incentive for elaborating both at the same time.

He had an additional motive for these tactics in the attitude of a section of his own countrymen. Before starting for Paris he had, as we saw, made an appeal to the electorate to return to the legislature only candidates of his own party to the exclusion of Republicans, and the result fell out contrary to his expectations. Thereupon the oppositional elements increased in numbers and displayed a marked combative disposition. Even moderate Republicans complained in terms akin to those employed by ex-President Taft of Mr. Wilson's "partizan exclusion of Republicans in dealing with the highly important matter of settling the results of the war. He solicited a commission in which the Republicans had no representation and in which there were no prominent Americans of any real experience and leadership of public opinion."[92]

The leaders of this opposition sharply watched the policy of the President at the Conference and made no secret of their resolve to utilize any serious slip as a handle for revising or rejecting the outcome of his labors. Seeing his cherished cause thus trembling in the scale, Mr. Wilson hit upon the expedient of linking the Covenant with the Peace Treaty and making of the two an inseparable whole. He announced this determination in a forcible speech[93] to his own countrymen, in which he said, "When the Treaty comes back, gentlemen on this side will find the Covenant not only in it, but so many threads of the Treaty tied to the Covenant that you cannot dissect the Covenant from the Treaty without destroying the whole vital structure." This scheme was denounced by Mr. Wilson's opponents as a trick, but the historian will remember it as a maneuver, which, however blameless or meritorious its motive, was fraught with lamentable consequences for all the peoples for whose interests the President was sincerely solicitous. To take but one example. The misgivings generated by the Covenant delayed the ratification of the Peace Treaty by the United States Senate, in consequence of which the Turkish problem had to be postponed until the Washington government was authorized to accept or compelled to refuse a mandate for the Sultan's dominions, and in the meanwhile mass massacres of Greeks and Armenians were organized anew.

A large section of the press and the majority of the delegates strongly condemned the interpolation of the Covenant. What they demanded was first the conclusion of a solid peace and then the establishment of suitable international safeguards. For to be safeguarded, peace must first exist. "A suit of armor without the warrior inside is but a useless ornament," wrote one of the American journals.[94]

But the course advocated by Mr. Wilson was open to another direct and telling objection. Peace between the belligerent adversaries was, in the circumstances, conceivable only on the old lines of strategic frontiers and military guaranties. The Supreme Council implied as much in its official reply to the criticisms offered by the Austrians to the conditions imposed on them, making the admission that Italy's new northern frontiers were determined by considerations of strategy. The plan for the governance of the world by a league of pacific peoples, on the other hand, postulated the abolition of war preparations, including strategic frontiers. Consequently the more satisfactory the Treaty the more unfavorable would be the outlook for the moral reconstitution of the family of nations, and vice versa. And to interlace the two would be to necessitate a compromise which would necessarily mar both.

In effect the split among the delegates respecting their aims and interests led to a tacit understanding among the leaders on the basis of give-and-take, the French and British acquiescing in Mr. Wilson's measures for working out his Covenant-the draft of which was contributed by the British-and the President, giving way to them on matters said to affect their countries' vital interests. How smoothly this method worked when great issues were not at stake may be inferred from the perfunctory way in which it was decided that the Kaiser's trial should take place in London. A few days before the Treaty was signed there was a pause in the proceedings of the Supreme Council during which the secretary was searching for a mislaid document. Mr. Lloyd George, looking up casually and without addressing any one in particular, remarked, "I suppose none of you has any objection to the Kaiser being tried in London?" M. Clemenceau shrugged his shoulders, Mr. Wilson raised his hand, and the matter was assumed to be settled. Nothing more was said or written on the subject. But when the news was announced, after the President's departure from France, it took the other American delegates by surprise and they disclaimed all knowledge of any such decision. On inquiry, however, they learned that the venue had in truth been fixed in this offhand way.[95]

Mr. Wilson found it a hard task at first to obtain acceptance for his ill-defined tenets by France, who declined to accept the protection of his League of Nations in lieu of strategic frontiers and military guaranties. Insurmountable obstacles barred his way. The French government and people, while moved by decent respect for their American benefactors[96] to assent to the establishment of a league, flatly refused to trust themselves to its protection against Teuton aggression. But they were quite prepared to second Mr. Wilson's endeavors to oblige some of the other states to content themselves with the guaranties it offered, only, however, on condition that their own country was first safeguarded in the traditional way. Territorial equilibrium and military protection were the imperative provisos on which they insisted. And as France was specially favored by Mr. Wilson on sentimental grounds which outweighed his doctrine, and as she was also considered indispensable to the Anglo-Saxon peoples as their continental executive, she had no difficulty in securing their support. On this point, too, therefore, the President found himself constrained to give way. And only did he abandon his humanitarian intentions and his strongest arguments to be lightly brushed aside, he actually recoiled so far into the camp of his opponents that he gave his approval to an indefensible clause in the Treaty which would have handed over to France the German population of the Saar as the equivalent of a certain sum in gold. Coming from the world-reformer who, a short time before, had hurled the thunderbolts of his oratory against those who would barter human beings as chattels, this amazing compromise connoted a strange falling off. Incidentally it was destructive of all faith in the spirit that had actuated his world-crusade. It also went far to convince unbiased observers that the only framework of ideas with decisive reference to which Mr. Wilson considered every project and every objection as it arose, was that which centered round his own goal-the establishment, if not of a league of nations cemented by brotherhood and fellowship, at least of the nearest approach to that which he could secure, even though it fell far short of the original design. These were the first-fruits of the interweaving of the Covenant with the Treaty.

In view of this readiness to split differences and sacrifice principles to expediency it became impossible even to the least observant of Mr. Wilson's adherents in the Old World to cling any longer to the belief that his cosmic policy was inspired by firm intellectual attachment to the sublime ideas of which he had made himself the eloquent exponent and had been expected to make himself the uncompromising champion. In every such surrender to the Great Powers, as in every stern enforcement of his principles on the lesser states, the same practical spirit of the professional politician visibly asserted itself. One can hardly acquit him of having lacked the moral courage to disregard the veto of interested statesmen and governments and to appeal directly to the peoples when the consequence of this attitude would have been the sacrifice of the makeshift of a Covenant which he was ultimately content to accept as a substitute for the complete reinstatement of nations in their rights and dignity.

The general tendency of the labors of the Conference then was shaped by those two practical maxims, the immunity of the Anglo-Saxon peoples and of their French ally from the restrictions to be imposed by the new politico-social ordering in so far as these ran counter to their national interests, and the determination of the American President to get and accept such a league of nations as was feasible under extremely inauspicious conditions and to content himself with that.

To this estimate exception may be taken on the ground that it underrates an effort which, however insufficient, was well meant and did at any rate point the way to a just resettlement of secular problems which the war had made pressing and that it fails to take account of the formidable obstacles encountered. The answer is, that like efforts had proceeded more than once before from rulers of men whose will, seeing that they were credited with possessing the requisite power, was assumed to be adequate to the accomplishment of their aim, and that they had led to nothing. The two Tsars, Alexander I at the Congress of Vienna, and Nicholas II at the first Conference of The Hague, are instructive instances. They also, like Mr. Wilson, it is assumed, would fain have inaugurated a golden age of international right and moral fellowship if verbal exhortations and arguments could have done it. The only kind of fresh attempt, which after the failure of those two experiments could fairly lay claim to universal sympathy, was one which should withdraw the proposed politico-social rearrangement from the domain alike of rhetoric and of empiricism and substitute a thorough systematic reform covering all the aspects of international intercourse, including all the civilized peoples on the globe, harmonizing the vital interests of these and setting up adequate machinery to deal with the needs of this enlarged and unified state system. And it would be fruitless to seek for this in Mr. Wilson's handiwork. Indeed, it is hardly too much to affirm that empiricism and opportunism were among the principal characteristics of his policy in Paris, and that the outcome was what it must be.

Disputes and delays being inevitable, the Conference began its work at leisure and was forced to terminate it in hot haste. Having spent months chaffering, making compromises, and unmaking them again while the peoples of the world were kept in painful suspense, all of them condemned to incur ruinous expenditure and some to wage sanguinary wars, the springs of industrial and commercial activity being kept sealed, the delegates, menaced by outbreaks, revolts, and mutinies, began, after months had been wasted, to speed up and get through their work without adequate deliberation. They imagined that they could make up for the errors of hesitancy and ignorance by moments of lightning-like improvisation. Improvisation and haphazard conclusions were among their chronic failings. Even in the early days of the Conference they had promulgated decisions, the import and bearings of which they missed, and when possible they canceled them again. Sometimes, however, the error committed was irreparable. The fate reserved for Austria was a case in point. By some curious process of reasoning it was found to be not incompatible with the Wilsonian doctrine that German-Austria should be forbidden to throw in her lot with the German Republic, this prohibition being in the interest of France, who could not brook a powerful united Teuton state. The wishes of the Austrian-Germans and the principle of self-determination accordingly went for nothing. The representations of Italy, who pleaded for that principle, were likewise brushed aside.

But what the delegates appear to have overlooked was the decisive circumstance that they had already "on strategic grounds" assigned the Brenner line to Italy and together with it two hundred and twenty thousand Tyrolese of German race living in a compact mass-although a much smaller alien element was deemed a bar to annexation in the case of Poland. And what was more to the point, this allotment deprived Tyrol of an independent economic existence, cutting it off from the southern valley and making it tributary to Bavaria. Mr. Wilson, the public was credibly informed, "took this grave decision without having gone deeply into the matter, and he repents it bitterly. None the less, he can no longer go back."[97]

Just as Tyrol's loss of Botzen and Meran made it dependent on Bavaria, so the severance of Vienna from southern Moravia-- the source of its cereal supplies, situated at a distance of only thirty-six miles-transformed the Austrian capital into a head without a body. But on the eminent anatomists who were to perform a variety of unprecedented operations on other states, this spectacle had no deterrent effect.

Whenever a topic came up for discussion which could not be solved offhand, it was referred to a commission, and in many cases the commission was assisted by a mission which proceeded to the country concerned and within a few weeks returned with data which were assumed to supply materials enough for a decision, even though most of its members were unacquainted with the language of the people whose condition they had been studying. How quick of apprehension these envoys were supposed to be may be inferred from the task with which the American mission under General Harbord was charged, and the space of time accorded him for achieving it. The members of this mission started from Brest in the last decade of August for the Caucasus, making a stay at Constantinople on the way, and were due back in Paris early in October. During the few intervening weeks "the mission," General Harbord said, "will go into every phase of the situation, political, racial, economic, financial, and commercial. I shall also investigate highways, harbors, agricultural and mining conditions, the question of raising an Armenian army, policing problems, and the raw materials of Armenia."[98] Only specialists who have some practical acquaintanceship with the Caucasus, its conditions, peoples, languages, and problems, can appreciate the herculean effort needed to tackle intelligently any one of the many subjects all of which this improvised commission under a military general undertook to master in four weeks. Never was a chaotic world set right and reformed at such a bewildering pace.

Bad blood was caused by the distribution of places on the various commissions. The delegates of the lesser nations, deeming themselves badly treated, protested vehemently, and for a time passion ran high. Squabbles of this nature, intensified by fierce discussions within the Council, tidings of which reached the ears of the public outside, disheartened those who were anxious for the speedy restoration of normal conditions in a world that was fast decomposing. But the optimism of the three principal plenipotentiaries was beyond the reach of the most depressing stumbles and reverses. Their buoyant temper may be gaged from Mr. Balfour's words, reported in the press: "It is true that there is a good deal of discussion going on, but there is no real discord about ideas or facts. We are agreed on the principal questions and there only remains to find the words that embody the agreements."[99] These tidings were welcomed at the time, because whatever defects were ascribed to the distinguished statesmen of the Conference by faultfinders, a lack of words was assuredly not among them. This cheery outlook on the future reminded me of the better grounded composure of Pope Pius IX during the stormy proceedings at the Vatican Council. A layman, having expressed his disquietude at the unruly behavior of the prelates, the Pontiff replied that it had ever been thus at ecclesiastical councils. "At the outset," he went on to explain, "the members behave as men, wrangle and quarrel, and nothing that they say or do is worth much. That is the first act. The second is ushered in by the devil, who intensifies the disorder and muddles things bewilderingly. But happily there is always a third act in which the Holy Ghost descends and arranges everything for the best."

The first two phases of the Conference's proceedings bore a strong resemblance to the Pope's description, but as, unlike ecclesiastical councils, it had no claim to infallibility, and therefore no third act, the consequences to the world were deplorable. The Supreme Council never knew how to deal with an emergency and every week unexpected incidents in the world outside were calling for prompt action. Frequently it contradicted itself within the span of a few days, and sometimes at one and the same time its principal representatives found themselves in complete opposition to one another. To give but one example: In April M. Clemenceau was asked whether he approved the project of relieving famine-stricken Russia. His answer was affirmative, and he signed the document authorizing it. His colleagues, Messrs. Wilson, Lloyd George, and Orlando, followed suit, and the matter seemed to be settled definitely. But at the same time Mr. Hoover, who had been the ardent advocate of the plan, officially received a letter from the French Minister of Foreign Affairs signifying the refusal of the French government to acquiesce in it.[100] On another occasion[101] the Supreme Council thought fit to despatch a mission to Asia Minor in order to ascertain the views of the populations of Syria and Mesopotamia on the régime best suited to them. France, whose secular relations with Syria, where she maintains admirable educational establishments, are said to have endeared her to the population, objected to this expedient as superfluous and mischievous. Superfluous because the Francophil sentiments of the people are supposed to be beyond all doubt, and mischievous because plebiscites or substitutes for plebiscites could have only a bolshevizing effect on Orientals. Seemingly yielding to these considerations, the Supreme Council abandoned the scheme and the members of the mission made other plans.[102] After several weeks' further reflection, however, the original idea was carried out, and the mission visited the East.

The reader may be glad of a momentary glimpse of the interior of the historic assembly afforded by those who were privileged to play a part in it before it was transformed into a secret conclave of five, four, or three. Within the doors of the chambers whence fateful decrees were issued to the four corners of the earth the delegates were seated, mostly according to their native languages, within earshot of the special pleaders. M. Clemenceau, at the head of the table, has before him a delegate charged with conducting the case, say, of Greece, Poland, Serbia, or Czechslovakia. The delegate, standing in front of the stern but mobile Premier, and encircled by other more or less attentive plenipotentiaries, looks like a nervous schoolboy appearing before exacting examiners, struggling with difficult questions and eager to answer them satisfactorily. Suppose the first language spoken is French. As many of the plenipotentiaries do not understand it, they cannot be blamed for relaxing attention while it is being employed, and keeping up a desultory conversation among themselves in idiomatic English, which forms a running bass accompaniment to the voice, often finely modulated, of the orator. Owing to this embarrassing language difficulty, as soon as a delegate pauses to take his breath, his arguments and appeals are done by M. Mantoux into English, and then it is the turn of the French plenipotentiaries to indulge in a quiet chat until some question is put in English, which has forthwith to be rendered into French, after which the French reply is translated into English, and so on unendingly, each group resuming its interrupted conversations alternately.

One delegate who passed several hours undergoing this ordeal said that he felt wholly out of sympathy with the atmosphere at the Conference Hall, adding: "While arguing or appealing to my country's arbiters I felt I was addressing only a minority of the distinguished judges, while the thoughts of the others were far away. And when the interpreter was rendering, quickly, mechanically, and summarily, my ideas without any of the explosive passion that shot them from my heart, I felt discouraged. But suddenly it dawned on me that no judgment would be uttered on the strength of anything that I had said or left unsaid. I remembered that everything would be referred to a commission, and from that to a sub-commission, then back again to the distinguished plenipotentiaries,"

Another delegate remarked: "Many years have elapsed since I passed my last examination, but it came back to me in all its vividness when I walked up to Premier Clemenceau and looked into his restless, flashing eyes. I said to myself: When last I was examined I was painfully conscious that my professors knew a lot more about the subject than I did, but now I am painfully aware that they know hardly anything at all and I am fervently desirous of teaching them. The task is arduous. It might, however, save time and labor if the delegates would receive our typewritten dissertations, read them quietly in their respective hotels, and endeavor to form a judgment on the data they supply. Failing that, I should like at least to provide them with a criterion of truth, for after me will come an opponent who will flatly contradict me, and how can they sift truth from error when the winnow is wanting? It is hard to feel that one is in the presence of great satraps of destiny, but I made an act of faith in the possibilities of genial quantities lurking behind those everyday faces and of a sort of magic power of calling into being new relations of peace and fellowship between individual classes and peoples. It was an act of faith."

If the members of the Supreme Council lacked the graces with which to draw their humbler colleagues and were incapable of according hospitality to any of the more or less revolutionary ideas floating in the air, they were also utterly powerless to enforce their behests in eastern Europe against serious opposition. Thus, although they kept considerable Inter-Allied forces in Germany, they failed to impose their decrees there, notwithstanding the circumstance that Germany was disorganized, nearly disarmed, and distracted by internal feuds. The Conference gave way when Germany refused to let the Polish troops disembark at Dantzig, although it had proclaimed its resolve to insist on their using that port. It allowed Odessa to be evacuated and its inhabitants to be decimated by the bloodthirsty Bolsheviki. It ordered the Ukrainians and the Poles to cease hostilities,[103] but hostilities went on for months afterward. An American general was despatched to the warring peoples to put an end to the fighting, but he returned despondent, leaving things as he had found them. General Smuts was sent to Budapest to strike up an agreement with Kuhn and the Magyar Bolshevists, but he, too, came back after a fruitless conversation. The Supreme Council's writ ran in none of those places.

About March 19th the Inter-Allied commission gave Erzberger twenty-four hours in which to ratify the convention between Germany and Poland and to carry out the conditions of the armistice. But Erzberger declined to ratify it and the Allies were unable or unwilling to impose their will on him. From this state of things the Rumanian delegates drew the obvious corollary. Exasperated by the treatment they received, they quitted the Conference, pursued their own policy, occupied Budapest, presented their own peace conditions to Hungary, and relegated, with courteous phrases and a polite bow to the Council, the directions elaborated for their guidance to the region of pious counsels.

In these ways the well-meant and well-advertised endeavors to substitute a moral relationship of nations for the state of latent warfare known as the balance of power were steadily wasted. On the one side the subtle skill of Old World diplomacy was toiling hard and successfully to revive under specious names its lost and failing causes, while on the other hand the New World policy, na?vely ignoring historical forces and secular prejudices, was boldly reaching out toward rough and ready modes of arranging things and taking no account of concrete circumstances. Generous idealists were thus pitted against old diplomatic stagers and both secretly strove to conclude hastily driven bargains outside the Council chamber with their opponents. As early as the first days of January I was present at some informal meetings where such transactions were being talked over, and I afterward gave it as my impression that "if things go forward as they are moving to-day the outcome will fall far short of reasonable expectations. The first striking difference between the transatlantic idealists and the Old World politicians lies in their different ways of appreciating expeditiousness, on the one hand, and the bases of the European state-system, on the other hand. A statesman when dealing with urgent, especially revolutionary, emergencies should never take his eyes from the clock. The politicians in Paris hardly ever take account of time or opportunity. The overseas reformers contend that the territorial and political balance of forces has utterly broken down and must be definitely scrapped in favor of a league of nations, and the diplomatists hold that the principle of equilibrium, far from having spent its force, still affords the only groundwork of international stability and requires to be further intensified."[104]

Living in the very center of the busy world of destiny-weavers, who were generously, if unavailingly, devoting time and labor to the fabrication of machinery for the good government of the entire human race out of scanty and not wholly suitable materials, a historian in presence of the manifold conflicting forces at work would have found it difficult to survey them all and set the daily incidents and particular questions in correct perspective. The earnestness and good-will of the plenipotentiaries were highly praiseworthy and they themselves, as we saw, were most hopeful. Nearly all the delegates were characterized by the spirit of compromise, so valuable in vulgar politics, but so perilous in embodying ideals. Anxious to reach unanimous decisions even when unanimity was lacking, the principal statesmen boldly had recourse to ingenious formulas and provisional agreements, which each party might construe in its own way, and paid scant attention to what was going on outside. I wrote at the time:[105]

"But parallel with the Conference and the daily lectures which its members are receiving on geography, ethnography, and history there are other councils at work, some publicly, others privately, which represent the vast masses who are in a greater hurry than the political world to have their urgent wants supplied. For they are the millions of Europe's inhabitants who care little about strategic frontiers and much about life's necessaries which they find it increasingly difficult to obtain. Only a visitor from a remote planet could fully realize the significance of the bewildering phenomena that meet one's gaze here every day without exciting wonder.... The sprightly people who form the rind of the politico-social world ... are wont to launch winged words and coin witty epigrams when characterizing what they irreverently term the efforts of the Peace Conference to square the circle; they contrast the noble intentions of the delegates with the grim realities of the workaday world, which appear to mock their praiseworthy exertions. They say that there never were so many wars as during the deliberations of these famous men of peace. Hard fighting is going on in Siberia; victories and defeats have just been reported from the Caucasus; battles between Bolshevists and peace-lovers are raging in Esthonia; blood is flowing in streams in the Ukraine; Poles and Czechs have only now signed an agreement to sheath swords until the Conference announces its verdict; the Poles and the Germans, the Poles and the Ukrainians, the Poles and the Bolshevists, are still decimating each other's forces on territorial fragments of what was once Russia, Germany, or Austria."

Sinister rumors were spread from time to time in Paris, London, and elsewhere, which, wherever they were credited, tended to shake public confidence not only in the dealings of the Supreme Council with the smaller countries, but also in the nature of the occult influences that were believed to be occasionally causing its decisions to swerve from the orthodox direction. And these reports were believed by many even in Conference circles. Time and again I was visited by delegates complaining that this or that decision was or would be taken in response to the promptings not of land-grabbing governments, but of wealthy capitalists or enterprising captains of industry. "Why do you suppose that there is so much talk now of an independent little state centering around Klagenfurt?" one of them asked me. "I will tell you: for the sake of some avaricious capitalists. Already arrangements are being pushed forward for the establishment of a bank of which most of the shares are to belong to X." Another said: "Dantzig is needed for politico-commercial reasons. Therefore it will not be made part of Poland.[106] Already conversations have begun with a view to giving the ownership of the wharves and various lucrative concessions to English-speaking pioneers of industry. If the city were Polish no such liens could be held on it because the state would provide everything needful and exploit its resources." The part played in the Banat Republic by motives of a money-making character is described elsewhere.

A friend and adviser of President Wilson publicly affirmed that the Fiume problem was twice on the point of being settled satisfactorily for all parties, when the representatives of commercial interests cleverly interposed their influence and prevented the scheme from going through in the Conference. I met some individuals who had been sent on a secret mission to have certain subjects taken into consideration by the Supreme Council, and a man was introduced to me whose aim was to obtain through the Conference a modification of financial legislation respecting the repayment of debts in a certain republic of South America. This optimist, however, returned as he had come and had nothing to show for his plans. The following significant passage appeared in a leading article in the principal American journal published in Paris[107] on the subject of the Prinkipo project and the postponement of its execution:

"From other sources it was learned that the doubts and delays in the matter are not due so much to the declination [sic] of several of the Russian groups to participate in a conference with the Bolshevists, but to the pulling against one another of the several interests represented by the Allies. Among the Americans a certain very influential group backed by powerful financial interests which hold enormously rich oil, mining, railway, and timber concessions, obtained under the old régime, and which purposes obtaining further concessions, is strongly in favor of recognizing the Bolshevists as a de facto government. In consideration of the visa of these old concessions by Lenin and Trotzky and the grant of new rights for the exploitation of rich mineral territory, they would be willing to finance the Bolshevists to the tune of forty or fifty million dollars. And the Bolshevists are surely in need of money. President Wilson and his supporters, it is declared, are decidedly averse from this pretty scheme."

That President Wilson would naturally set his face against any such deliberate compromise between Mammon and lofty ideals it was superfluous to affirm. He stood for a vast and beneficent reform and by exhorting the world to embody it in institutions awakened in some people-in the masses were already stirring-thoughts and feelings that might long have remained dormant. But beyond this he did not go. His tendencies, or, say, rather velleities-for they proved to be hardly more-were excellent, but he contrived no mechanism by which to convert them into institutions, and when pressed by gainsayers abandoned them.

An economist of mark in France whose democratic principles are well known[108] communicated to the French public the gist of certain curious documents in his possession. They let in an unpleasant light on some of the whippers-up of lucre at the expense of principle, who flocked around the dwelling-places of the great continent-carvers and lawgivers in Paris. His article bears this repellent heading: "Is it true that English and American financiers negotiated during the war in order to secure lucrative concessions from the Bolsheviki? Is it true that these concessions were granted to them on February 4, 1919? Is it true that the Allied governments played into their hands?"[109]

The facts alleged as warrants for these questions are briefly as follows: On February 4, 1919, the Soviet of the People's Commissaries in Moscow voted the bestowal of a concession for a railway linking Ob-Kotlass-Saroka and Kotlass-Svanka, in a resolution which states "(1) that the project is feasible; (2) that the transfer of the concession to representatives of foreign capital may be effected if production will be augmented thereby; (3) that the execution of this scheme is indispensable; and (4) that in order to accelerate this solution of the question the persons desirous of obtaining the concession shall be obliged to produce proofs of their contact with Allied and neutral enterprises, and of their capacity to financing the work and supply the materials requisite for the construction of the said line." On the other hand, it appears from an official document bearing the date of June 26, 1918, that a demand for the concession of this line was lodged by two individuals-the painter A.A. Borissoff (who many years ago received from me a letter of introduction to President Roosevelt asking him to patronize this gentleman's exhibition of paintings in the United States), and Herr Edvard Hannevig. Desirous of ascertaining whether these petitioners possessed the qualifications demanded, the Bolshevist authorities made inquiries and received from the Royal Norwegian Consulate at Moscow a certificate[110] setting forth that "citizen Hannevig was a co-associate of the large banks Hannevig situated in London and in America." Consequently negotiations might go forward. The document adds: "In October Borissoff and Hannevig renewed their request, whereupon the journals Pravda, Izevestia, and Ekonomitsheskaya Shizn discussed the subject with animation. At a sitting held on October 12th the project was approved with certain modifications, and on February 1, 1919, the Supreme Soviet of National Economy approved it anew."

The magnitude of the concession may be inferred from the circumstance that one of its clauses conceded "the exploitation of eight millions of forest land which even to-day, despite existing conditions, can bring in a revenue of three hundred million rubles a year."

What it comes to, therefore, assuming that these official documents are as they seem, based on facts, is that from June 26th, that is to say during the war, the Bolshevist government was petitioned to accord an important railway concession and also the exploitation of a forest capable of yielding three hundred million rubles a year to a Russian citizen who alleged that he was acting on behalf of English and American capitalists, and that Edvard Hannevig, having proved that he was really the mandatory of these great allied financiers, the concession was first approved by two successive commissions[111

] and then definitely conferred by the Soviet of the People's Commissaries.[112]

The eminent author of the article proceeds to ask whether this can indeed be true; whether English and American capitalists petitioned the Bolsheviki for vast concessions during the war; whether they obtained them while the Conference was at its work and soldiers of their respective countries were fighting in Russia against the Bolsheviki who were bestowing them. "Is it true," he makes bold to ask further, "that that is the explanation of the incredible friendliness displayed by the Allied governments toward the Bolshevist bandits with whom they were willing to strike up a compromise, whom they were minded to recognize by organizing a conference on the Princes' Island?... Many times already rank-smelling whiffs of air have blown upon us; they suggested the belief that behind the Peace Conference there lurked not merely what people feared, but something still worse or an immense political Panama. If this is not true, gentlemen, deny it. Otherwise one day you will surely have an explosion."[113]

Whether these grave innuendoes, together with the statement made by Mr. George Herron,[114] the incident of the Banat Republic and the ultimatum respecting the oil-fields unofficially presented to the Rumanians suffice to establish a prima facie case may safely be left to the judgment of the public. The conscientious and impartial historian, however firm his faith in the probity of the men representing the powers, both of unlimited and limited interests, cannot pass them over in silence.

One of the shrewdest delegates in Paris, a man who allowed himself to be breathed upon freely by the old spirit of nationalism, but was capable withal of appreciating the passionate enthusiasm of others for a more altruistic dispensation, addressed me one evening as follows: "Say what you will, the Secret Council is a Council of Two, and the Covenant a charter conferred upon the English-speaking peoples for the government of the world. The design-if it be a design-may be excellent, but it is not relished by the other peoples. It is a less odious hegemony than that of imperialist Germany would have been, but it is a hegemony and odious. Surely in a quest of this kind after the most effectual means of overcoming the difficulties and obviating the dangers of international intercourse, more even than in the choice of a political régime, the principle of self-determination should be allowed free play. Was that not to have been one of the choicest fruits of victory? But no; force is being set in motion, professedly for the good of all, but only as their good is understood by the 'all-powerful Two.' And to all the others it is force and nothing more. Is it to be wondered at that there are so many discontented people or that some of them are already casting about for an alternative to the Anglo-Saxon hegemony misnamed the Society of Nations?"

It cannot be gainsaid that the two predominant partners behaved throughout as benevolent despots, to whom despotism came more easily than benevolence. As we saw, they kept their colleagues of the lesser states as much in the dark as the general public and claimed from them also implicit obedience to all their behests. They went farther and demanded unreasoning acquiescence in decisions to be taken in the future, and a promise of prompt acceptance of their injunctions-a pretension such as was never before put forward outside the Catholic Church, which, at any rate, claims infallibility. Asked why he had not put up a better fight for one of the states of eastern Europe, a sharp-tongued delegate irreverently made answer, "What more could you expect than I did, seeing that I was opposed by one colleague who looks upon himself as Napoleon and by another who believes himself to be the Messiah."

Among the many epigrammatic sayings current in Paris about the Conference, the most original was ascribed to the Emir Faissal, the son of the King of the Hedjaz. Asked what he thought of the world's areopagus, he is said to have answered: "It reminds me somewhat of one of the sights of my own country. My country, as you know, is the desert. Caravans pass through it that may be likened to the armies of delegates and experts at the Conference-caravans of great camels solemnly trudging along one after the other, each bearing its own load. They all move not whither they will, but whither they are led. For they have no choice. But between the two there is this difference: that whereas the big caravan in the desert has but one leader-a little ass-the Conference in Paris is led by two delegates who are the great Ones of the earth." In effect, the leaders were two, and no one can say which of them had the upper hand. Now it seemed to be the British Premier, now the American President. The former scored the first victory, on the freedom of the seas, before the Conference opened. The latter won the next, when Mr. Wilson firmly insisted on inserting the Covenant in the Treaty and finally overrode the objections of Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau, who scouted the idea for a while as calculated to impair the value of both charters. There was also a moment when the two were reported to have had a serious disagreement and Mr. Lloyd George, having suddenly quitted Paris for rustic seclusion, was likened to Achilles sulking in his tent. But one of the two always gave way at the last moment, just as both had given way to M. Clemenceau at the outset. When the difference between Japan and China cropped up, for example, the other delegates made Mr. Wilson their spokesman. Despite M. Clemenceau's resolve that the public should not "be apprized that the head of one government had ever put forward a proposal which was opposed by the head of another government," it became known that they occasionally disagreed among themselves, were more than once on the point of separating, and that at best their unanimity was often of the verbal order, failing to take root in identity of views. To those who would fain predicate political tact or statesmanship of the men who thus undertook to set human progress on a new and ethical basis, the story of these bickerings, hasty improvisations, and amazing compromises is distressing. The incertitude and suspense that resulted were disconcerting. Nobody ever knew what was coming. A subcommission might deliver a reasoned judgment on the question submitted to it, and this might be unanimously confirmed by the commission, but the Four or Three or Two or even One could not merely quash the report, but also reverse the practical consequences that followed. This was done over and over again.

And there were other performances still more amazing. When, for example, the Polish problem became so pressing that it could not be safely postponed any longer, the first delegates were at their wits' ends. Unable to agree on any of the solutions mooted, they conceived the idea of obtaining further data and a lead from a special commission. The commission was accordingly appointed. Among its members were Sir Esmé Howard, who has since become Ambassador in Rome, the American General Kernan, and M. Noulens, the ex-Ambassador of France in Petrograd. These envoys and their colleagues set out for Poland to study the problem on the spot. They exerted themselves to the utmost to gather data for a serious judgment, and returned to Paris after a sojourn of some two months, legitimately proud of the copious and well-sifted results of their research. And then they waited. Days passed and weeks, but nobody took the slightest interest in the envoys. They were ignored. At last the chief of the commission, M. Noulens, taking the initiative, wrote direct to M. Clemenceau, informing him that the task intrusted to him and his colleagues had been achieved, and requesting to be permitted to make their report to the Conference. The reply was an order dissolving the commission unheard.

Once when the relations between Messrs. Wilson and Lloyd George were somewhat spiced by antagonism of purpose and incompatibility of methods, a political friend of the latter urged him to make a firm stand. But the British Premier, feeling, perhaps, that there were too many unascertained elements in the matter, or identifying the President with the United States, drew back. More than once, too, when a certain delegate was stating his case with incisive emphasis Mr. Wilson, who was listening with attention and in silence, would suddenly ask, "Is this an ultimatum?" The American President himself never shrank from presenting an ultimatum when sure of his ground and morally certain of victory. On one such occasion a proposal had been made to Mr. Lloyd George, who approved it whole-heartedly. But it failed to receive the placet of the American statesman. Thereupon the British Premier was strongly urged to stand firm. But he recoiled, his plea being that he had received an ultimatum from his American colleague, who spoke of quitting France and withdrawing the American troops unless the point were conceded. And Mr. Wilson had his way. One might have thought that this success would hearten the President to other and greater achievements. But the leader who incarnated in his own person the highest strivings of the age, and who seemed destined to acquire pontifical ascendancy in a regenerated world, lacked the energy to hold his own when matters of greater moment and high principle were at stake.

These battles waged within the walls of the palace on the Quai d'Orsay were discussed out-of-doors by an interested and watchful public, and the conviction was profound and widespread that the President, having set his hand to the plow so solemnly and publicly, and having promised a harvest of far-reaching reforms, would not look back, however intractable the ground and however meager the crop. But confronted with serious obstacles, he flinched from his task, and therein, to my thinking, lay his weakness. If he had come prepared to assert his personal responsibility, to unfold his scheme, to have it amply and publicly discussed, to reject pusillanimous compromise in the sphere of execution, and to appeal to the peoples of the world to help him to carry it out, the last phase of his policy would have been worthy of the first, and might conceivably have inaugurated the triumph of the ideas which the indolent and the men of little faith rejected as incapable of realization. To this hardy course, which would have challenged the approbation of all that is best in the world, there was an alternative: Mr. Wilson might have confessed that his judgment was at fault, mankind not being for the moment in a fitting mood to practise the new tenets, that a speedy peace with the enemy was the first and most pressing duty, and that a world-parliament should be convened for a later date to prepare the peoples of the universe for the new ordering. But he chose neither alternative. At first it was taken for granted that in the twilight of the Conference hall he had fought valiantly for the principles which he had propounded as the groundwork of the new politico-social fabric, and that it was only when he found himself confronted with the insuperable antagonism of his colleagues of France and Britain that he reluctantly receded from his position and resolved to show himself all the more unbending to the envoys of the lesser countries. But this assumption was refuted by State-Secretary Lansing, who admitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the President's Fourteen Points, which he had vowed to carry out, were not even discussed at the Conference. The outcome of this attitude-one cannot term it a policy-was to leave the best of the ideas which he stood for in solution, to embitter every ally except France and Britain, and to scatter explosives all over the world.

To this dwarfing parliamentary view of world-policy Mr. Lloyd George likewise fell a victim. But his fault was not so glaring. For it should in fairness be remembered that it was not he who first preached the advent of the millennium. He had only given it a tardy and cold assent, qualified by an occasional sally of keen pleasantry. Down to the last moment, as we saw, he not only was unaware that the Covenant would be inserted in the Peace Treaty, but he was strongly of the opinion, as indeed were M. Pichon and others, that the two instruments were incompatible. He also apparently inclined to the belief that spiritual and moral agencies, if not wholly impotent to bring about the requisite changes in the politico-social world, could not effect the transformation for a long while to come, and that in the interval it behooved the governments to fall back upon the old system of so-called equilibrium, which, after Germany's collapse, meant an informal kind of Anglo-Saxon overlordship of the world and a pax Britannica in Europe. As for his action at the Conference, in so far as it did not directly affect the well-being of the British Empire, which was his first and main care, one might describe it as one of general agreement with Mr. Wilson. He actually threw it into that formula when he said that whenever the interests of the British Empire permitted he would like to find himself at one with the United States. It was on that occasion that the person addressed warned him against identifying the President with the people of the United States.

In truth, it was difficult to follow the distinguished American idealist, because one seldom knew whither he would lead. Neither, apparently, did he himself. Some of his own countrymen in Paris held that he had always been accustomed to follow, never to guide. Certainly at the Conference his practice was to meet the more powerful of his contradictors on their own ground and come to terms with them, so as to get at least a part of what he aimed at, and that he accepted, even when the instalment was accorded to him not as such, but as a final settlement. So far as one can judge by his public acts and by the admissions of State-Secretary Lansing, he cannot have seriously contemplated staking the success of his mission on the realization of his Fourteen Points. The manner in which he dealt with his Covenant, with the French demand for concrete military guaranties and with secret treaties, all afford striking illustrations of his easy temper. Before quitting Paris for Washington he had maintained that the Covenant as drafted was satisfactory, nay, he contended that "not even a period could be changed in the agreement." The Monroe Doctrine, he held, needed no special stipulation. But as soon as Senator Lodge and others took issue with him on the subject, he shifted his position and hedged that doctrine round with defenses which cut off a whole continent from the purview of the League, which is nothing if not cosmic in its functions.[115] Again, there was to be no alliance. The French Premier foretold that there would be one. Mr. Wilson, who was in England at the time, answered him in a speech declaring that the United States would enter into no alliance which did not include all the world: "no combination of power which is not a combination of all of us." Well, since then he became a party to a kind of triple alliance and in the judgment of many observers it constitutes the main result of the Conference. In the words of an American press organ: "Clemenceau got virtually everything he asked. President Wilson virtually dropped his own program, and adopted the French and British, both of them imperialistic."[116]

Again, when the first commission of experts reported upon the frontiers of Poland, the British Premier objected to a section of the "corridor," on the ground that as certain districts contained a majority of Germans their annexation would be a danger to the future peace and therefore to Poland herself, and also on the ground that it would run counter to one of Mr. Wilson's fundamental points; the President, who at that time dissented from Mr. Lloyd George, rose and remarked that his principles must not be construed too literally. "When I said that Poland must be restored, I meant that everything indispensable to her restoration must be accorded. Therefore, if that should involve the incorporation of a number of Germans in Polish territory, it cannot be helped, for it is part of the restoration. Poland must have access to the sea by the shortest route, and everything else which that implies." None the less, the British Premier, whose attitude toward the claims of the Poles was marked by a degree of definiteness and persistency which could hardly be anticipated in one who had never even heard of Teschen before the year 1919, maintained his objections with emphasis and insistence, until Mr. Wilson and M. Clemenceau gave in.

Or take the President's way of dealing with the non-belligerent states. Before leaving Paris for Washington, Mr. Wilson, officially questioned by one of his colleagues at an official sitting as to whether the neutrals would also sign the Covenant, replied that only the Allies would be admitted to affix their signatures. "Don't you think it would be more conducive to the firm establishment of the League if the neutrals were also made parties to it now?" insisted the plenipotentiary. "No, I do not," answered the President. "I think that it would be conferring too much honor on them, and they don't deserve it." The delegate was unfavorably impressed by this reply. It seemed lacking in breadth of view. Still, it was tenable on certain narrow, formal grounds. But what he could not digest was the eagerness with which Mr. Wilson, on his return from Washington, abandoned his way of thinking and adopted the opposite view. Toward the end of April the delegates and the world were surprised to learn that not only would Spain be admitted to the orthodox fold, but that she would have a voice in the management of the flock with a seat in the Council. The chief of the Portuguese delegation[117] at once delivered a trenchant protest against this abrupt departure from principle, and as a jurisconsult stigmatized the promotion of Spain to a voice in the Council as an irregularity, and then retired in high dudgeon.

Thus the grave reproach cannot be spared Mr. Wilson of having been weak, vague, and inconsistent with himself. He constituted himself the supreme judge of a series of intricate questions affecting the organization and tranquillity of the European Continent, as he had previously done in the case of Mexico, with the results we know. This authority was accorded to him-with certain reservations-in virtue of the exalted position which he held in a state disposing of vast financial and economic resources, shielded from some of the dangers that continually overhang European nations, and immune from the immediate consequences of the mistakes it might commit in international politics. For every continental people in Europe is in some measure dependent on the good-will of the United States, and therefore anxious to deserve it by cultivating the most friendly relations with its chief. This predisposition on the part of his wards was an asset that could have been put to good account. It was a guaranty of a measure of success which would have satisfied a generous ambition; it would have enabled him to effect by a wise policy what revolution threatened to accomplish by violence, and to canalize and lead to fruitful fields the new-found strength of the proletarian masses.

The compulsion of working with others is often a wholesome corrective. It helps one to realize the need of accommodating measures to people's needs. But Mr. Wilson deliberately segregated himself from the nations for whose behoof he was laboring, and from some of their authorized representatives. And yet the aspirations and conceptions of a large section of the masses differed very considerably from those of the two statesmen with whom he was in close collaboration. His avowed aims were at the opposite pole to those of his colleagues. To reconcile internationalism and nationalism was sheer impossible. Yet instead of upholding his own, taking the peoples into his confidence, and sowing the good seed which would certainly have sprouted up in the fullness of time, he set himself, together with his colleagues, to weld contradictories and contributed to produce a synthesis composed of disembodied ideas, disintegrated communities, embittered nations, conflicting states, frenzied classes, and a seething mass of discontent throughout the world.

Mr. Wilson has fared ill with his critics, who, when in quest of explanations of his changeful courses, sought for them, as is the wont of the average politician, in the least noble parts of human nature. In his case they felt especially repelled by his imperial aloofness, the secrecy of his deliberations, and the magisterial tone of his judgments, even when these were in flagrant contradiction with one another. Obstinacy was also included among the traits which were commonly ascribed to him. As a matter of fact he was a very good listener, an intelligent questioner, and amenable to argument whenever he felt free to give practical effect to the conclusions. When this was not the case, arguments necessarily failed of their effect, and on these occasions considerations of expediency proved a lever sufficient to sway his decision. But, like his more distinguished colleagues, he had to rely upon counsel from outside, and in his case, as in theirs, the official adviser was not always identical with the real prompter. He, too, as we saw, set aside the findings of the commissions when they disagreed with his own. In a word, Mr. Wilson's fatal stumble was to have sacrificed essentials in order to score on issues of secondary moment; for while success enabled him to obtain his paper Covenant from his co-delegates in Paris, and to bring back tangible results to Washington, it lost him the leadership of the world. The cost of this deplorable weakness to mankind can be estimated only after its worst effects have been added up and appraised.

In matters affecting the destinies of the lesser states Mr. Wilson was firm as a rock. Prom the position once taken up nothing could move him. Their economic dependence on his own country rendered their arguments pointless and lent irresistible force to his injunctions. Greece's dispute with Bulgaria was a classic instance. The Bulgars repaired to Paris more as claimants in support of indefeasible rights than as vanquished enemies summoned to learn the conditions imposed on them by the nations which they had betrayed and assailed. Victory alone could have justified their territorial pretensions; defeat made them grotesque. All at once, however, it was bruited abroad that President Wilson had become Bulgaria's intercessor and favored certain of her exorbitant claims. One of these was for the annexation of part of the coast of western Thrace, together with a seaport at the expense of the Greeks, the race which had resided on the seaboard for twenty-five hundred consecutive years. M. Venizelos offered them instead one commercial outlet[118] and special privileges in another, and the plenipotentiaries of Great Britain, France, and Japan considered the offer adequate.

But Mr. Wilson demurred. A commercial outlet through foreign territory, he said, might possibly be as good as a direct outlet through one's own territory in peace-time, but not in time of war, and, after all, one must bear in mind the needs of a country during hostilities. In the mouth of the champion of universal peace that was an unexpected argument. It had been employed by Italy in favor of her claim to Fiume. Mr. Wilson then met it by invoking the economic requirements of Jugoslavia, and by declaring that the Treaty was being devised for peace, not for war, that the League of Nations would hinder wars, or at the very least supply the deficiencies of those states which had sacrificed strategical positions for humanitarian aims. But in the case of Bulgaria he was taking what seems the opposite position and transgressing his own principle of nationality in order to maintain it.

Mr. Wilson, pursuing his line of argument, further pointed out that the Supreme Council had not accepted as sufficient for Poland an outlet through German territory, but had created the city-state of Dantzig in order to confer a greater degree of security upon the Polish republic. To that M. Venizelos replied that there was no parity between the two instances. Poland had no outlet to the sea except through Dantzig, and could not, therefore, allow that one to remain in the hands of an unfriendly nation, whereas Bulgaria already possessed two very commodious ports, Varna and Burgas, on the Black Sea, which becomes a free sea in virtue of the internationalization of the straits. The possession of a third outlet on the ?gean could not, therefore, be termed a vital question for his protégée. Thus the comparison with Poland was irrelevant.

If Poland, which is a very much greater state than Bulgaria, can live and prosper with a single port, and that not her own-if Rumania, which is also a much more numerous and powerful nation, can thrive with a single issue to the sea, by what line of argument, M. Venizelos asked, can one prove that little Bulgaria requires three or four exits, and that her need justifies the abandonment to her tender mercies of seven hundred and fifty thousand Greeks and the violation of one of the fundamental principles underlying the new moral ordering.

Compliance with Bulgaria's demand would prevent Greece from including within her boundaries the three-quarters of a million Greeks who have dwelt in Thrace for twenty-five centuries, preserving their nationality intact through countless disasters and tremendous cataclysms. Further, the Greek Premier, taking a leaf from Wilson's book, turned to the aspect which the problem would assume in war-time. Bulgaria, he argued, is essentially a continental state, whose defense does not depend upon naval strength, whereas Greece contains an island population of nearly a million and a half and looks for protection against aggression chiefly to naval precautions. In case of war, Bulgaria, if her claim to an issue on the ?gean were allowed, could with her submarines delay or hinder the transport and concentration in Macedonia of Greek forces from the islands and thus place Greece in a position of dangerous inferiority.

Lastly, if Greece's claims in Thrace were rejected, she would have a population of 1,790,000 souls outside her national boundaries-that is to say, more than one-third of the population which is within her state. Would this be fair? Of the total population of Bulgarian and Turkish Thrace the Turks and Greeks together form 85 per cent., the Bulgars only 6 per cent., and the latter nowhere in compact masses. Moreover-and this ought to have clinched the matter-the Hellenic population formed an absolute as well as a relative majority in the year 1919.

These arguments and various other considerations drawn from the inordinate ambitions, the savage cruelty,[119] and the Punic faith of the Bulgars convinced the British, French, and Japanese delegates of the soundness of Greece's pleas, and they sided with M. Venizelos. But Mr. Wilson clung to his idea with a tenacity which could not be justified by argument, and was concurrently explained by motives irrelevant to the merits of the case. Whether the influence of Bulgarophil American missionaries and strong religious leanings were at the root of his insistence, as was generally assumed, or whether other considerations weighed with him, is immaterial. And yet it is worth recording that a Bulgarian journal[120] announced with the permission of the governmental censor that the American missionaries in Bulgaria and the professors of Robert College of Constantinople had so primed the American delegates at the Conference on the question of Thrace, and generally on the Bulgarian problem, that all M. Venizelos's pains to convince them of the justice of his contention would be lost labor."[121]

However this may be, Mr. Wilson's attitude was the subject of adverse comment throughout Europe. His implied claim to legislate for the world and to take over its moral leadership earned for him the epithet of "Dictator," and provoked such epigrammatic comments among his own countrymen and the French as this: "Louis XIV said, 'I am the state!' Mr. Wilson, outdoing him, exclaimed, 'I am all the states!'"

The necessity of winning over dissentient colleagues to his grandiose scheme of world reorganization and of satisfying their demands, which were of a nature to render that scheme abortive, was the most influential agency in impairing his energies and upsetting his plans. This remark assumes what unhappily seems a fact, that those plans were mainly mechanical. It is certain that they made no provision for directly influencing the masses, for giving them sympathetic guidance, and enabling them to suffuse with social sentiments the aspirations and strivings which were chiefly of the materialistic order, with a view to bringing about a spiritual transformation of the social basis. Indeed we have no evidence that the need of such a transformation of the basis of political thought, which was still rooted in the old order, was grasped by any of those who set their hand to the legislative part of the work.

These unfavorable impressions were general. Almost every step subsequently taken by the Conference confirmed them, and long before the Treaty was presented to the Germans, public confidence was gone in the ability of the Supreme Council to attain any of the moral victories over militarism, race-hatred, and secret intrigues which its leaders had encouraged the world to expect.

"The leaders of the Conference," wrote an influential press organ,[122] "are under suspicion. They may not know it, but it is true. The suspicion is doubtless unjust, but it exists. What exists is a fact; and men who ignore facts are not statesmen. The only way to deal with facts is to face them. The more unpleasant they are the more they need to be faced.

"Some of the Conference leaders are suspected of having, at various times and in various circumstances, thought more of their own personal and political positions and ambitions than of the rapid and practical making of peace. They are suspected, in a word, of a tendency to subordinate policy to politics.

"In regard to some important matters they are suspected of having no policy. They are also suspected of unwillingness to listen to their own competent advisers, who could lay down for them a sound policy. Some of them are even suspected of being under the spell of some benumbing influence that paralyzes their will and befogs their minds, when high resolve and clear visions are needful."

Another accusation of the same tenor was thus formulated: "In various degrees[123] and with different qualities of guilt all the Allied and Associated leaders have dallied with dishonesty. While professing to seek naught save the welfare of mankind, they have harbored thoughts of self-interest. The result has been a progressive loss of faith in them by their own peoples severally, and by the Allied, Associated, and neutral peoples jointly. The tide of public trust in them has reached its lowest ebb."

At the Conference, as we saw, the President of the United States possessed what was practically a veto on nearly all matters which left the vital interests of Britain and France intact. And he frequently exercised it. Thus the dispute about the Thracian settlement lay not between Bulgaria and Greece, nor between Greece and the Supreme Council, but between Greece and Mr. Wilson. In the quarrel over Fiume and the Dalmatian coast it was the same. When the Shantung question came up for settlement it was Mr. Wilson alone who dealt with it, his colleagues, although bound by their promises to support Japan, having made him their mouthpiece. The rigor he displayed in dealing with some of the smaller countries was in inverse ratio to the indulgence he practised toward the Great Powers. Not only were they peremptorily bidden to obey without discussion the behests which had been brought to their cognizance, but they were ordered, as we saw, to promise to execute other injunctions which might be issued by the Supreme Council on certain matters in the future, the details of which were necessarily undetermined.

In order to stifle any velleities of resistance on the part of their governments, they were notified that America's economic aid, of which they were in sore need, would depend on their docility. It is important to remember that it was the motive thus clearly presented that determined their formal assent to a policy which they deprecated. A Russian statesman summed up the situation in the words: "It is an illustration of one of our sayings, 'Whose bread I eat, his songs I sing.'" Thus it was reported in July that an agreement come to by the financial group Morgan with an Italian syndicate for a yearly advance to Italy of a large sum for the purchase of American food and raw stuffs was kept in abeyance until the Italian delegation should accept such a solution of the Adriatic problem as Mr. Wilson could approve. The Russian and anti-Bolshevists were in like manner compelled to give their assent to certain democratic dogmas and practices. It is also fair, however, to bear in mind that whatever one may think of the wisdom of the policy pursued by the President toward these peoples, the motives that actuated it were unquestionably admirable, and the end in view was their own welfare, as he understood it. It is all the more to be regretted that neither the arguments nor the example of the autocratic delegates were calculated to give these the slightest influence over the thought or the unfettered action of their unwilling wards. The arrangements carried out were entirely mechanical.

In the course of time after the vital interests of Britain, France, and Japan had been disposed of, and only those of the "lesser states," in the more comprehensive sense of this term, remained, President Wilson exercised supreme power, wielding it with firmness and encountering no gainsayer. Thus the peace between Italy and Austria was put off from month to month because he-and only he-among the members of the Supreme Council rejected the various projects of an arrangement. Into the merits of this dispute it would be unfruitful to enter. That there was much to be said for Mr. Wilson's contention, from the point of view of the League of Nations, and also from that of the Jugoslavs, will not be denied. That some of the main arguments to which he trusted his case were invalidated by the concessions which he had made to other countries was Italy's contention, and it cannot be thrust aside as untenable.

At last Mr. Wilson ventured on a step which challenged the attention and stirred the disquietude of his friends. He despatched a note[124] to Turkey, warning her that if the massacres of Armenians were not discontinued he would withdraw the twelfth of his Fourteen Points, which provides for the maintenance of Turkish sovereignty over undeniable Turkish territories. The intention was excellent, but the necessary effects of his action were contrary to what the President can have aimed at. He had not consulted the Conference on the important change which he was about to make respecting a point which was supposed to be part of the groundwork of the new ordering. This from the Conference point of view was a momentous decision, which could be taken only with the consent of the Supreme Council. Even as a mere threat it was worthless if it did not stand for the deliberate will of that body which the President had deemed it superfluous to consult. As it happened, the British authorities were just then organizing a body of gendarmes to police the Turkish territories in question, and they were engaged in this work with the knowledge and approval of the Supreme Council. Mr. Wilson's announcement could therefore only be construed-and was construed-as the act of an authority superior to that of the Council.[125] The Turks, who are shrewd observers, must have drawn the obvious conclusion from these divergent measures as to the degree of harmony prevailing among the Allied and Associated Powers.

M. Clemenceau had a conversation on the subject with Mr. Polk, who explained that the note was informal and given verbally, and conveyed the idea only of one nation in connection with the Armenian situation. This explanation, accepted by the French government, did not commend itself to public opinion, either in France or elsewhere. Moreover, the French were struck by another aspect of this arbitrary exercise of supreme power. "President Wilson," wrote an eminent French publicist, "throws himself into the attitude of a man who can bind and loose the Turkish Empire at the very moment when the Senate appears opposed to accepting any mandate, European or Asiatic, at the moment when Mr. Lansing declares to the Congress that the government of which he is a member does not desire to accept any mandate. But is it not obvious that if Mr. Wilson sovereignly determines the lot of Turkey he can be held in consequence to the performance of certain duties? We have often had to deplore the absence of policy common to the Allies. But has each one of them, considered separately, at least a policy of its own? Does it take action otherwise than at haphazard, yielding to the impulse of a general, a consul, or a missionary?"[126]

It soon became manifest even to the most obtuse that whenever the Supreme Council, following its leaders and working on such lines as these, terminated its labors, the ties between the political communities of Europe would be just as flimsy as in the unregenerate days of secret diplomacy, secret alliances, and secret intrigues, unless in the meanwhile the peoples themselves intervened to render them stronger and more enduring. It would, however, be the height of unfairness to make Mr. Wilson alone answerable for this untoward ending to a far resonant beginning. He had been accused by the press of most countries of enwrapping personal ambition in the attractive covering of disinterestedness and altruism, just as many of his foreign colleagues were said to go in fear of the "malady of lost power." But charges of this nature overstep the bounds of legitimate criticism. Motive is hardly ever visible, nor is it often deducible from deliberate action. If, for example, one were to infer from the vast territorial readjustments and the still vaster demands of the various belligerents at the Conference, the motives that had determined them to enter the war, the conclusion-except in the case of the American people, whose disinterestedness is beyond the reach of cavil-would indeed be distressing. The President of the United States merited well of all nations by holding up to them an ideal for realization, and the mere announcement of his resolve to work for it imparted an appreciable if inadequate incentive to men of good-will. The task, however, was so gigantic that he cannot have gaged its magnitude, discerned the defects of the instruments, nor estimated aright the force of the hindrances before taking the world to witness that he would achieve it. Even with the hearty co-operation of ardent colleagues and the adoption of a sound method he could hardly have hoped to do more than clear the ground-perhaps lay the foundation-stone-of the structure he dreamt of. But with the partners whom circumstance allotted him, and the gainsayers whom he had raised up and irritated in his own country, failure was a foregone conclusion from the first. The aims after which most of the European governments strove were sheer incompatible with his own. Doubtless they all were solicitous about the general good, but their love for it was so general and so diluted with attachment to others' goods as to be hardly discernible. The reproach that can hardly be spared to Mr. Wilson, however, is that of pusillanimity. If his faith in the principles he had laid down for the guidance of nations were as intense as his eloquent words suggested, he would have spurned the offer of a sequence of high-sounding phrases in lieu of a resettlement of the world. And his appeal to the peoples would most probably have been heard. The beacon once lighted in Paris would have been answered in almost every capital of the world. One promise he kept religiously: he did not return to Washington without a paper covenant. Is it more? Is it merely a paradox to assert that as war was waged in order to make war impossible, so a peace was made that will render peace impossible?


[91] In March.

[92] Quoted by The Chicago Tribune (Paris edition), August 10, 1919.

[93] Delivered at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on March 4, 1919.

[94] The New York Herald, March 19, 1919 (Paris edition).

[95] Cf. The New York Herald, July 8, 1919.

[96] The semi-official journals manifested a steady tendency to lean toward the Republican opposition in the United States, down to the month of August, when the amendments proposed by various Senators bade fair to jeopardize the Treaties and render the promised military succor doubtful.

[97] Journal de Genève, May 18, 1919.

[98] The New York Herald (Paris edition), August 14, 1919.

[99] Cf. Paris papers of February 2, 1919, and The Public Ledger (Philadelphia), February 4, 1919.

[100] Cf. L'Echo de Paris, April 19, 1919.

[101] In April, 1919.

[102] About April 10,1919.

[103] On March 19, 1919.

[104] Cf. my cablegram published in The Public Ledger (Philadelphia), January 12, 1919.

[105] Cf. The Public Ledger (Philadelphia), February 5, 1919.

[106] Doctor Bunke, Councilor at the court of Dantzig, endeavors in The Dantzig Neueste Nachrichten to prove that the problem of Dantzig was solved exclusively in the interests of the Naval Powers, America and Britain, who need it as a basis for their commerce with Poland, Russia, and Germany. Cf. also Le Temps, August 23, 1919

[107] The New York Herald (Paris edition), March 1, 1919.

[108] Lysis, author of Demain, and many other remarkable studies of economic problems, and editor of Le Démocratie Nouvelle, May 30, 1919.

[109] For an account of analogous bargainings with Bela Kuhn, see the Chapter on Rumania.

[110] Bearing the number 3882.

[111] On October 12, 1918, and February 1, 1919

[112] On February 4, 1919.

[113] La Démocratie Nouvelle, May 30, 1919

[114] See his admirable article in The New York Herald (Paris edition) of May 21, 1919, from which the following extract is worth quoting: "I have said that certain great forces have steadily and occultly worked for a German peace. But I mean, in fact, one force-an international finance to which all other forces hostile to the freedom of nations and of the individual soul are contributory. The influence of this finance had permeated the Conference, delaying the decisions as long as possible, increasing divisions between people and people, between class and class, between peace-makers and peace-makers, in order to achieve two definite ends, which two ends are one and the same.

"The first end was so to manipulate the minds of the peace-makers, of their hordes of retainers and 'experts,' as to bring about, if possible, a peace that would not be destructive to industrial Germany. The second end was so to delay the Russian question, so to complicate and thwart every proposed solution, that, at last, either during or after the Peace Conference, a recognition of the Bolshevist power as the de facto government of Russia would be the only possible solution."

[115] "What confidence can be commanded by men who, asserting one week that the ultimate of human wisdom has been attained in a document, confess the next week that the document is frail? When are we to believe that their confessions are at an end?"-The Chicago Tribune (Paris edition), August 23, 1919.

[116] The Chicago Tribune (Paris edition), July 31, 1919.

[117] M. Affonso Costa, who shortly before had succeeded the Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Monas Egiz.

[118] Dedeagatch.

[119] See Rapports et Enquêtes de la Commission Interalliée sur les Violations du droit des gens commises en Macédoine Orientale par les armées bulgares. The conclusion of the report is one of the most terrible indictments ever drawn up by impartial investigators against what is practically a whole people.

[120] Zora, August 11th. Cf. Le Temps, August 28, 1919.

[121] Mr. Charles House published a statement in the press of Saloniki to the effect that the Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions forbids missionaries to take an active part in politics. He added that if this injunction was transgressed-and in Paris the current belief was that it had been-it would not be tolerated by the Missionary Board, nor recognized by the American government.

[122] The Daily Mail (Paris edition), March 31, 1919.

[123] The Daily Mail (Paris edition), April 6, 1919.

[124] Somewhere between August 17 and 20, 1919. It was transmitted by Admiral Bristol, American member of the Inter-Allied Inquiry Mission at Smyrna.

[125] Cf. L'Echo de Paris, August 28, 1919. Article by Pertinax.

[126] L'Echo de Paris, August 28, 1919. Article by Pertinax.

* * *

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top