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The Inside Story of the Peace Conference By Emile Joseph Dillon Characters: 7853

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Among all the strange products of the many-sided outbursts of the leading delegates' reconstructive activity, the Treaty with Bulgaria stands out in bold relief. It reveals the high-water mark reached by those secret, elusive, and decisive influences which swayed so many of the mysterious decisions adopted by the Conference. As Bulgaria disposed of an abundant source of those influences, her chastisement partakes of some of the characteristics of a reward. Not only did she not fare as the treacherous enemy that she showed herself, but she emerged from the ordeal much better off than several of the victorious states. Unlike Serbia, Rumania, France, and Belgium, she escaped the horrors of a foreign invasion and she possessed and fructified all her resources down to the day when the armistice was concluded. Her peasant population made huge profits during the campaign and her armies despoiled Serbia, Rumania, and Greek Macedonia and sent home enormous booty. In a word, she is richer and more prosperous than before she entered the arena against her protectors and former allies.

For, owing to the intercession of her powerful friends, she was treated with a degree of indulgence which, although expected by all who were initiated into the secrets of "open diplomacy," scandalized those who were anxious that at least some simulacrum of justice should be maintained. Germany was forced to sign a blank check which her enemies will one day fill in. Austria was reduced to the status of a parasite living on the bounty of the Great Powers and denied the right of self-determination. Even France, exhausted by five years' superhuman efforts, beholds with alarm her financial future entirely dependent upon the ability or inability of Germany to pay the damages to which she was condemned.

But the Prussia of the Balkans, owing to the intercession of influential anonymous friends, had no such consequences to deplore. Although she contracted heavy debts toward Germany, she was relieved of the effort to pay them. Her financial obligations were first transferred[333] to the Allies and then magnanimously wiped out by these, who then limited all her liabilities for reparations to two and a quarter milliard francs. An Inter-Allied commission in Sofia is to find and return the loot to its lawful owners, but it is to charge no indemnity for the damage done. Nor will it contain representatives of the states whose property the Bulgars abstracted. Serbia is allowed neither indemnity nor reparation. She is to receive a share which the Treaty neglected to fix of the two and a quarter milliard francs on a date which has also been left undetermined. She is not even to get back the herds of cattle of which the Bulgars robbed her. The lawgivers in Paris considered that justice would be met by obliging the Bulgars to restore 28,000 head of cattle in lieu of the 3,200,000 driven off, so that even if the ill-starred Serbs should identify, say, one million more, they would have no right to enforce their claim.[334]

Nor is that the only disconcerting detail in the Treaty. The Supreme Council, which sanctioned the military occupation of a part of Germany as a guaranty for the fulfilment of the peace conditions, dispenses Bulgaria from any such irksome conditions. Bulgaria's good faith appeared sufficient to the politicians who drafted the instrument. "For reasons which one hardly dares touch upon," writes an eminent French publicist,[335] "several of the Powers that constitute the famous world areopagus count on the future co-operation of Bulgaria. We shrink in dismay from the perspective thus opened to our gaze."[336]

The territorial changes which the Prussia of the Balkans was condemned to undergo are neither very considerable nor unjust. Rumania receives no Bulgarian territory, the frontiers of 1913 remaining unaltered. Serbia nets some on grounds which cannot be called in question, and

a large part of Thrace which is inhabited, not by Bulgars, but mainly by Greeks and Turks, was taken from Bulgaria, but allotted to no state in particular. The upshot of the Treaty, as it appeared to most of the leading publicists on the Continent of Europe, was to leave Bulgaria, whose cruelty and destructiveness are described by official and unofficial reports as unparalleled, in a position of economic superiority to Serbia, Greece, and Rumania. And in the Inter-Allied commission Bulgaria is to have a representative, while Serbia, Greece, and Rumania, a part of whose stolen property the commission has to recover, will have none.

A comparison between the indulgence lavished upon Bulgaria and the severity displayed toward Rumania is calculated to disconcert the stanchest friends of the Supreme Council. The Rumanian government, in a dignified note to the Conference, explained its refusal to sign the Treaty with Austria by enumerating a series of facts which amount to a scathing condemnation of the work of the Supreme Council. On the one hand the Council pleaded the engagements entered into between Japan and her European allies as a cogent motive for handing over Shantung to Japan. For treaties must be respected. And the argument is sound. On the other hand, they were bound by a similar treaty[337] to give Rumania the whole Banat, the Rumanian districts of Hungary and the Bukovina as far as the river Pruth. But at the Conference they repudiated this engagement. In 1916 they stipulated that if Rumania entered the war they would co-operate with ample military forces. They failed to redeem their promise. And they further undertook that "Rumania shall have the same rights as the Allies in the peace preliminaries and negotiations and also in discussing the issues which shall be laid before the Peace Conference for its decisions." Yet, as we saw, she was denied these rights, and her delegates were not informed of the subjects under discussion nor allowed to see the terms of peace, which were in the hands of the enemies, and were only twice admitted to the presence of the Supreme Council.

It has been observed in various countries and by the Allied and the neutral press that between the German view about the sacredness of treaties and that of the Supreme Council there is no substantial difference.[338] Comments of this nature are all the more distressing that they cannot be thrust aside as calumnious. Again it will not be denied that Rumania rendered inestimable services to the Allies. She sacrificed three hundred thousand of her sons to their cause. Her soil was invaded and her property stolen or ruined. Yet she has been deprived of part of her sovereignty by the Allies to whom she gave this help. The Supreme Council, not content with her law conferring equal rights on all her citizens, to whatever race or religion they may belong, ordered her to submit to the direction of a foreign board in everything concerning her minorities and demanded from her a promise of obedience in advance to their future decrees respecting her policy in matters of international trade and transit. These stipulations constitute a noteworthy curtailment of her sovereignty.

That any set of public men should be carried by extrinsical motives thus far away from justice, fair play, and good faith would be a misfortune under any circumstances, but that at a conjuncture like the present it should befall the men who set up as the moral guides of mankind and wield the power to loosen the fabric of society is indeed a dire disaster.


[333] In June, 1919.

[334] The comments on these terms, published by M. Gauvain in the Journal des Débats (September 20, 1919), are well worth reading.

[335] M. Auguste Gauvain.

[336] Le Journal des Débats, September 20, 1919.

[337] Concluded in the year 1916.

[338] Cf. The Daily Mail (Paris edition), September 21, 1919.

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