TREATIES OF GUARANTEE
IT WAS on March 14, 1919, that Mr. Lloyd George and President Wilson proposed to M. Clemenceau, in place of the inter-allied occupation of an independent Rhineland, the undertaking by Great Britain and the United States to come immediately to the assistance of France in case the latter should be the object of an unprovoked aggression by Germany. I have shown in the preceding chapter how, after five weeks of negotiation, M. Clemenceau obtained at one and the same time the occupation of the Rhineland as well as the two Treaties. The genesis, text and ultimate fate of these solemn and unprecedented undertakings hold an important place in the peace considered as a whole.
I have said "unprecedented;" on that I would lay stress. England in the course of her history has entered into specific and temporary agreements with various continental countries but has never subscribed to any general and permanent obligation. She has at times lent her aid; she has never bound herself in advance to give it. Even in the years before the war---in spite of the ever growing German menace---Great Britain did not bind herself. On August 2, 1914, she was free and could in all independence shape her course. The conversations carried on in 1911, at the time of the Agadir crisis, by the French and English military staffs had been a study of the eventual possibilities of combined action. But nothing had been decided as to the aims and conditions of such action. The letters exchanged, in November, 1912, between Sir Edward Grey, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the French Ambassador, M. Paul Cambon, left both parties absolutely free. Sir Edward Grey wrote:
On various occasions during the past few years, the French and British Military and Naval Staffs have exchanged their views. It has always been understood that these exchanges of views in no way affect the liberty of either of the Governments to decide at any moment in the future whether it shall or not assist the other with armed forces.
We have admitted that exchanges of views between technical experts do not constitute and must not be regarded as constituting an engagement binding either of the Governments to interfere in an eventuality which has not yet presented itself and which may never arise. For example, the present distribution of the French and English Navies is not based upon an undertaking to cooperate in case of war.
When, in presence of the mobilization of the German Army, M. Poincaré addressed an appeal to His Majesty George V asking that Great Britain take her place at France's side in the conflict which was then certain, George V confined his reply, couched in terms of the utmost sympathy, to stating that exchanges of views would continue on all points between his Government and the French Government but that "as far as the attitude of his country was concerned events were changing too rapidly for it to be possible to foresee what would happen." The whole letter is worth quoting:
August 1, 1914
My Dear and Great Friend,
I appreciate most highly the sentiments which inspired you to write me in so cordial and friendly a spirit and I am grateful to you for having set forth your views so fully and frankly.
You may be assured that the actual situation in Europe causes me much anxiety and I am happy to think that our two Governments have worked together in so friendly a manner to try to find a peaceful solution for the questions which have arisen.
It would be for me a source of real satisfaction if our combined efforts met with success; and I am not without hope that the terrible events which seem so near, may still be averted.
I admire the calm that you and your Government have shown in avoiding exaggerated military measures on the frontier and in adopting an attitude that cannot in any manner be construed as a provocation.
I personally am making every effort to find a solution that will permit, in any case, of the adjournment of active military operations and leave to the Powers time for calm discussion among themselves. I intend to pursue these efforts unceasingly, as long as there remains a hope of a friendly settlement. As to the attitude of my country, events are changing so rapidly that it is difficult to foresee what will happen, but you may be assured that my Government will continue to discuss frankly and fully with M. Cambon all points of interest to the two nations.
GEORGE R. I.
On the evening of August 2, the British Government promised us to block the Channel with its fleet in case the German fleet should come out. Nothing more, nothing less. And it was only after the invasion of Belgium that England decided to enter the war. The formal undertaking offered to us by Mr. Lloyd George, on March 14, 1919, was a startling innovation in the development of his country's traditional policy. Had his desire to induce M. Clemenceau to forego the occupation of the Rhineland anything to do with it? Doubtless! But this offer was to an even greater extent, not only on the part of Mr. Lloyd George, but on the part of his country as well, an acceptance of the great lessons of the war; a homage rendered the tremendous effort and unexampled sufferings of France; a token of esteem and affection which honours the British nation as much as it does the French.
On the American side, the break with the past was no less worthy of note. Since Washington's Farewell Address, the United States had remained unswervingly faithful to the policy of aloofness from European affairs which the Father of His Country laid down when leaving office. The Monroe Doctrine a few years later gave form and substance to this policy. Mr. Roosevelt often expressed his regret that his fellow countrymen were unable to grasp the significance of world politics. That they were indeed unable is abundantly proved by the first years of the war.
It needed Germany's accumulated provocations and President Wilson's firm decision to enlighten their minds. The war once over, many citizens of the United States, with but summary notions as to the future of the world, desired nothing better than to return to their isolation. Political parties even urged this as a national duty. What reasons prompted President Wilson to ignore these objections and to associate himself with Mr. Lloyd George in the proposal which the latter laid before M. Clemenceau?
I have answered this question by publishing the Memorandum in which the French Government, on February 25, gave the reasons for its Rhineland policy. As a matter of fact it was our arguments on the inadequacy of the guarantee given to France by the Covenant of the League of Nations, that finally convinced Mr. Wilson. When M. Clemenceau, with all the intensity of his patriotic faith, said to him: "The Covenant may guarantee our victory; for the time being it is inadequate to guarantee us from invasion," Mr. Wilson honestly believed this to be true, and sought a solution. On March 28, he put this solution into concrete form, and handed the head of the French Government the following:
In a separate Treaty with the United States, a pledge by the United States, subject to the approval of the Executive Council of the League of Nations, to come immediately to the assistance of France as soon as any unprovoked movement of aggression against her is made by Germany.
This formula, approved by Mr. Lloyd George, became the basis of the negotiation. A difficult negotiation indeed, because, as I have said and repeat, M. Clemenceau had to derive the maximum of efficiency from the undertakings thus offered and at the same time to obtain the occupation ---that is to say the very thing in exchange for which the Treaties of Guarantee had been offered him. The debate on the occupation, longer and more difficult than the other, lasted until April 22.(22) The actual text of the two pledges was decided upon in the course of the following days.
It was proper first of all in urging reasons for them to give them their true meaning. Some political parties---notably the French Socialists---have discovered a contradiction between the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Treaties of Guarantee. Need I, after what I have just written, assert that this contradiction does not exist; or add that these Treaties form an integral part of the fundamental charter of the League and are destined, within its scope and in its service, to establish a security which the League itself might at first have proved incapable of assuring effectively? The two instruments, almost identical in form, make this clear in their preamble:
Whereas there is a danger that the stipulations relating to the left bank of the Rhine contained in the Treaty of Peace, signed this day at Versailles, may not, at first, provide adequate security and protection to the French Republic.
The Treaty with the United States, even more explicit in its statement of reason than that with Great Britain, emphasizes the general importance rather than the particular bearing of a German aggression against France and the union for protection that such an aggression would call forth.
Whereas the United States of America and the French Republic are equally animated by the desire to maintain the peace of the world, so happily restored by the Treaty of Peace signed at Versailles the twenty-eighth day of June, 1919, putting an end to the war begun by the aggression of the German Empire and ended by the defeat of that Power and,
Whereas the United States of America and the French Republic are fully persuaded that an unprovoked movement of aggression by Germany against France would not only violate both the letter and the spirit of the Treaty of Versailles to which the United States of America and the French Republic are parties, thus exposing France anew to the intolerable burdens of an unprovoked war but that such an aggression on the part of Germany would be, and is so regarded by the Treaty of Versailles, an hostile act against all the Powers signatory to that Treaty and as calculated to disturb the peace of the world by involving inevitably and directly the States of Europe and indirectly, as experience has unfortunately and amply demonstrated, the world at large ......
The reasons for general solidarity being thus asserted, the manner of giving it effect follows directly and is defined by Articles 2 and 3. Article 2 makes clear that what is involved is not an agreement between two Powers for particular ends, but a common measure of precaution which will come into force simultaneously with ratification by the signatory Powers.
The present Treaty, in similar terms with the Treaty of even date for the same purpose concluded between the United States and the French Republic, a copy of which Treaty is annexed hereto, will only come into force when the latter is ratified.
M. Clemenceau's opponents, in the course of the parliamentary debates on the ratification of the Peace Treaty, lyingly asserted that the aid to be furnished by one of the two Powers to the third would always be dependent upon prior negotiations between the first two. The very wording of these two Treaties gives the lie to this fabrication. It is only the coming into force of each Treaty that is put off until the other shall have been ratified. Once this condition is fulfilled, the provisions of both become binding without restriction or reserve, on all the contracting parties. These provisions, to fulfill the obligations assigned them, are to receive the approval of the League of Nations. To this effect:
The present Treaty must be submitted to the Council of the League of Nations and must be recognized by the Council---acting, if need be, by a majority---as an engagement which is consistent with the Covenant of the League.
Here another question arises. How long are the two Treaties to remain in force? Our Allies to make clearer their immediate purpose had at first proposed a period of three years. M. Clemenceau refused this absolutely. In support of his refusal, we drafted a Note which read:
The solution of undertaking for three years cannot be accepted by the French Government. First, it is not in the next months that Germany will again become dangerous, it is later. The guarantee would in that case cease to operate at the very moment when most necessary.
But this it not all. The French Government has shown in its Memorandum of February 25 how permanent is the need for the guarantee it demands. This permanent need finds expression in the numerical strength of the French population as compared with that of the German population and in all the history of the last century.
In a general way, the French Government believes that the proposed political guarantee will have its full material and moral value in international public opinion only if it expresses on the clearest lesson of the war unanimity of the three democracies of France, Great Britain and the United States. For this reason also, a temporary pledge should not be considered. Therefore we ask that the Treaties of Guarantee remain in force until such time as their three signatories, France, the United States and Great Britain, shall deem them to have become no longer necessary.
To this end, we proposed the following text which was accepted by President Wilson (Note of April 12):
The pledge to continue until it is considered by all the signatory Powers that the League itself affords sufficient protection.
The British Law Officers of the Crown felt that this wording while leaving France sole mistress of the decision, implied an inadmissible restriction of the rights of the Council of the League of Nations which would have to approve the two Treaties. The discussion lasted three days. At last a compromise draft was accepted by France who realized that the worth of Treaties, no matter how formal, is no greater than the good-will of their signatories. This was worded as follows:
The present Treaty will continue in force until, on the application of one of the parties to it, the Council of the League of Nations---acting, if need be, by a majority---agrees that the League itself affords sufficient protection.
In these conditions, and by virtue of these principles, the United States declared itself "bound to come immediately to the assistance of France in the event of any unprovoked movement of aggression against her made by Germany." Great Britain accepted the same undertaking. In consideration of this dual pledge, M. Clemenceau agreed that, if Germany fully complied with the Treaty, the occupation of the left bank of the Rhine should last only fifteen years and withdrew the demand that by the creation of an independent Rhineland, the Rhine should form the Western frontier of Germany---the left bank and fifty kilometers on the right bank being, moreover, demilitarized and forbidden to German troops.
Thus everything appeared to be settled. But everything being settled, the main problem resulting from this arrangement still confronted the French negotiators and demanded a solution. The guarantee of assistance offered to France by the United States and Great Britain was embodied in the two Treaties which I have just analyzed. On the contrary M. Clemenceau's concession---limitation to fifteen years of the occupation of the left bank if Germany observed faithfully the conditions of the Treaty---found place in the Treaty with Germany. In other words there was a risk that the two elements of the agreements registered in different instruments, might not come into play together. Great Britain and the United States who, in signing these two Treaties, had departed---how far I have already shown---from their common traditions, were parliamentary countries. Their negotiators could therefore bind them only subject to the approval of their respective Parliament. If, the Treaty with Germany having come into force, the House of Commons or the American Senate refused to ratify the Treaties of Guarantee the coming into force of which was mutually dependent upon each other, what would happen? France, bound by the German Treaty to the concession in exchange for which the defensive pledges were given, would have agreed to this sacrifice without compensation and accepted the evacuation at the end of fifteen years, without obtaining American and British military assistance. This was a risk that our country could not accept: it could be thus stated, "If, by failure of either to ratify, the British and American Treaties are lost to us, would we nevertheless at the end of fifteen years be deprived of the material guarantee resulting from the occupation?" The question was disconcerting and a proper answer hard to formulate.
It was, on April 25, that face to face as was his wont M. Clemenceau boldly confronted the difficulty in an interview with President Wilson by saying:
"The Treaty, as it stands, satisfies me on the score of guarantees; but the future belongs neither to you nor to me. You have a Senate and I have a Parliament. We cannot be sure of what they will do ten years hence, or even of what they will do to-morrow. If, for example, the Treaties with the United States and Great Britain were not ratified, what would be France's situation? What alternative guarantee would she have at her disposal?"
President Wilson answered:
"Your observation is perfectly just. But it raises a delicate question. Let us seek a solution."
Prior to this conversation, Chapter XIV of the Treaty (Article 429) relating to guarantees, read as follows:
If the conditions of the present Treaty are faithfully observed by Germany, the occupation (of fifteen years) provided by Article 428 will be successively reduced as stated below:
(1) At the end of five years...
(2) At the end of ten years...
(3) At the end of fifteen years the remainder of the occupied territories will be evacuated.
The right not to evacuate or to reoccupy after evacuation in the event of "Germany's refusing to observe all or part of her obligations concerning reparations," was embodied in Article 429. But anent the situation that would result from the non-ratification of either the English or the American Treaties, not a word! It was this omission that had to be remedied.
The debate lasted for more than a week. On five different occasions the two Presidents exchanged suggestions and drafts. The sequence of these drafts which are in existence throws full light upon their common efforts. They arrived on April 29 at the following solution which became the final paragraph of Article 429:
If, at that date (the end of fifteen years), the guarantees against an unprovoked aggression by Germany are not considered sufficient by the Allied and Associated Governments, the evacuation of the occupying troops may be delayed to the extent regarded as necessary for the purpose of obtaining the required guarantees."
What is the situation created by this additional clause? It is that at the end of fifteen years, on January 10, 1935, the Allied and Associated Governments will, according to the term of the last paragraph, have to decide whether the guarantees against an unprovoked aggression by Germany are or are not sufficient. What are the guarantees referred to? Those provided for at Versailles on June 28, 1919, by the Treaty with Germany and by the two English and American Treaties; that is, in the distant and indefinite future, the League of Nations; in the nearer future, occupation supplemented by the two Treaties. In what case would these guarantees, in 1935, be deemed insufficient? In case of course of the failure of the two Treaties; that is precisely the case actually presented by the negative vote of the American Senate. In this case what may happen? The evacuation may be delayed so long as is deemed necessary to secure the above guarantees.
In other words if, failing the ratification of the British and American Treaties, France in fifteen years has no other guarantee of security than the occupation of the left bank of the Rhine and the bridgeheads, this. occupation may be prolonged until other guarantees come into existence---that is to say until the coming into force of the two Treaties signed on June 28, or of equivalent agreements. Thus to the hypothetical question put, on April 23, 1919, by the head of the French Government to the President of the United States, and to the practical question raised on March 19, 1920, by the negative vote of the United States Senate, the final paragraph of Article 429 which crowned our efforts, brings a clear and formal answer. This answer whatever may happen safeguards the interests of France. For, in the by no means certain event that the contractual guarantee of the United States and Great Britain fails her, France will retain the physical and territorial guarantee afforded, and instead of retaining it at the risk of a break with her Allies she will hold it by virtue of the Treaty of Versailles itself. In a word, no Treaties of Guarantee, no evacuation in 1935.
Thus balanced, the agreement was equitable and satisfactory. The union publicly asserted against unjust aggression of the three greatest democracies of the world was an appreciable guarantee of stability. Remember the past---remember the last visit of the British Ambassador to Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg on August 2, 1914,---the stupefaction and the consternation of the German on hearing that England is to defend violated Belgium. Consider again that situation; suppose that in the weeks preceding the war, Germany, instead of being condemned by the absence of public pledges between the Western Nations to draw chance inferences concerning England's attitude, had known by the existence of a public Treaty that England would be on the side of Belgium and of France, that the United States would come in also. I think that without undue optimism it may be believed the idea of war would have less easily taken hold of German minds, that their plans of aggression would have vanished. This is the situation created by the Treaties of Guarantee. For the three contracting parties who had learned the lessons of the war, it was the part of logic and of prudent foresight .
For France it was the crowning achievement of the policy followed by M. Clemenceau. On December 29, 1918, the head of the French Government, applauded by the immense majority of the Chamber, had declared his determination to do everything to maintain in peace time complete harmony among the Allies so as to avoid after a victory won by unity a peace of disunion. Not only was this result achieved, but the signing of the Treaty with Germany was accompanied by the signing of agreements perpetuating the coalition against which German force had shattered itself. France there found the just satisfaction of a vital interest. In point of fact the triumphant end of. the war had left her alone and unallied. Russia had ceased to be, as regards Germany, the counterweight she had been in the past. The agreements entered into for the war with Great Britain, Belgium, Italy and the United States were valid only for the duration of the war and ended with peace. Where in this peace was France to turn for necessary assistance? Some people rather vaguely and as a timid echo of M. Caillaux's policies, had spoken of a "continental policy." But however dear and precious to France her relations of friendship with her European neighbors, the war itself has proved that no continental Power on our side could take the place of Great Britain and the United States, or bring us anything but an aid which no matter how desirable, could not be decisive. The policy of union with the Anglo-Saxon world remained after victory as before the part of wisdom and of truth.
Not only did this policy bind us to countries whose integrity, vigour and physical and moral soundness we had tested for long months; to countries which in both hemispheres were in touch with us and by their financial, industrial and commercial resources appeared more capable than any others of aiding us in our reconstruction; not only did it afford us the best of means for exercising a just influence within the League of Nations, at the same time as it joined us to two great and liberal nations whose democratic views we are certain of sharing; but in addition by making us one with Powers which by their magnitude and the nature of their interests are obliged both to interest themselves in European affairs and to avoid becoming absorbed therein, this policy placed us on our own continent in the honourable and lucrative position of being the representative and guarantor of the policy of peace which had triumphed in the war. These truths were so well understood by all France that M. Clemenceau's most impassioned opponents did not dare vote against the two Treaties, and that in the Chamber as in the Senate they were unanimously ratified.
But a misfortune has happened---through no fault of France's. The Franco-British Treaty was approved by the House of Commons. Not so the American Treaty which went down in the defeat of the Treaty of Versailles by the Senate in Washington. The Treaty of Versailles lacked six votes for ratification. The Treaty of Guarantee though favourably reported by the Commissions, was not even discussed; so that under Article 2, which provides that these two Treaties shall come into force simultaneously, the treaty with Great Britain is also pending. Need I say that this development has been exploited to the full against the French negotiators, who are accused in France-sometimes even in the United States---with having abandoned the substance for the shadow and renounced part of the substantial guarantees demanded in their Memorandum of February 25, 1919, for the sake of obtaining two Treaties which up to now do not exist? It has also been said that this mistake was the more inexcusable in that no one had the right to ignore the fact that Mr. Wilson was in a minority in Congress following the elections of November 5, 1918. The conclusion drawn is that the non-ratification of the agreements negotiated by him should have been foreseen. This double accusation has held a prominent place in discussions on the peace. Entrusted as I was with Franco-American relations in the Clemenceau Ministry, my desire to leave nothing unrevealed and to give the full facts, will easily be understood.
Moreover, the facts are quite simple; for the two accusations that I have mentioned can harm no one but their authors. We have, it is said, abandoned the substance for the shadow. Look at the last paragraph of Article 429, analyzed a few pages above, and you will see that failing the guarantees against German aggression, embodied in the Franco-British and Franco-American Treaties, the occupation of the left bank of the Rhine can be extended beyond fifteen years. So we did foresee the risk of nonratification and did adopt appropriate precautions. As to the childish accusation that we ignored the results of the American elections of November 5, 1918, or that we did not allow for their possible consequences---it is to laugh. These elections attracted some attention in the Press. Their possible effect on the ratification of the various Treaties escaped us so little that precisely because of the result, we demanded and obtained by strenuous efforts the final paragraph of Article 429. What more could we have done and what would others have done in our place? Not negotiated with President Wilson, our critics answer. With whom then should we have negotiated? The French Government knew as well as any one that on November 5, 1918, Mr. Wilson had lost his majority in Congress---a mishap that has befallen a number of his predecessors not excepting the greatest among them, George Washington. But it knew also that in spite of this adverse election, Mr. Wilson remained none the less until the end of his term the only constitutional power with whom we could treat; for the President of the United States is responsible not to Congress but to the whole electorate. It is objected that Mr. Wilson in appointing the American delegation has neglected to include Republican Senators. Was this an error of judgment on the part of the President? It is quite possible. But that was none of our business, any more than it would have been Mr. Wilson's or Mr. Lloyd George's business to decide whether M. Clemenceau was right or wrong in not calling upon M. Briand or M. Barthou. The reproach of "having negotiated with Mr. Wilson" is simply absurd---just as absurd in fact as it would be to reproach Mr. Lloyd George with having made important concessions to M. Clemenceau without foreseeing that M. Clemenceau, six months later, would be placed in a minority by M. Deschanel.
These are---whether we look upon it as good or bad---the risks of the parliamentary system The heads of Governments who negotiated the peace legally represented their respective Governments and it was possible, whether one liked it or not, to negotiate or bargain with them alone. None of them on the other hand could enter into an undertaking except subject to parliamentary ratification, which no one of them could command. These were the very conditions of the undertaking. It was in nobody's power to avoid the contradictions implied in these conditions. After the exchange of signatures, it was the delegates' business to return to their respective Parliaments and obtain their approval. Mr. Lloyd George was fortunate enough having his elections behind him to meet with no opposition. M. Clemenceau, whom his enemies sought to overthrow by means of the Treaty before the general elections of November, 1919, had to fight for more than two months in the Chamber finally to obtain the imposing majority of 372 votes against 53; on the other hand it took him but two days to secure the unanimous approval of the Senate. Mr. Wilson met with a harder fate, singularly aggravated by his illness which for more than six months isolated him physically and intellectually from his country and the rest of the world. A campaign lacking strong opposition succeeded in wrecking the work of unity he had accomplished in Paris,
France from the point of view of her own interests , which no one can reproach her for holding dear, deplored this and deplores it still, but it was not in her power to prevent it. All she could do was to take precautions and guarantees against this risk which had been present from the very first in the minds of her negotiators. This she did by obtaining the addition of the final paragraph to Article 429 on the importance of which I have laid such stress. The future rests with the Government of the United States, and with it alone, in the exercise of its national sovereignty. We know what we wish may be the outcome for the sake of the peace of the world in which France more than anyone else is interested. But in case the hoped-for assistance fails us, we shall have to remain on the Rhine and, in the absence of undertakings now pending as by virtue of the Treaty of Versailles for the common good of all, mount guard for Liberty.
If the policy of union with the Anglo-Saxon peoples was for France---as indeed it was for them---a labour of love, of experience and of foresight, there was for my country yet another labour, which experience commanded us to prepare equally with love and foresight: a union with Belgium! Like brothers both in danger and in misfortune, our two countries might have found in a more active pre-war policy some measure of protection. Had they been better informed of Germany, less trustful, more confiding in each other, they might perhaps have held the German onslaught at the start; won on the Meuse the Victory of the Marne; and if not by their own unaided efforts have decided the outcome of the war, at least saved from invasion and from ruin millions of acres of their soil.
From the beginning of the Conference, M. Clemenceau attached peculiar importance to the realization of this union. I shall advance but one proof. In our reply of March 17,(23) to the offer of the English and American Treaties, we ended our statement of the clauses which we considered essential with the following sentence which expressed the indissoluble unity of French and Belgian interests:
It goes without saying that by act of aggression against France the French Government understands also any aggression against Belgium.
Briefly in the mind of the French Government the destiny of France and that of Belgium were inseparable..
Our aim was to associate them practically. But to realize this association two preliminary conditions had to be met; first that a general plan of security in which Belgium should form an integral part be drawn up; second, that satisfaction in accord with France, be given to the Belgian demands by the Conference. M. Clemenceau's Government worked hard, until its retirement, to obtain these two results. When he relinquished power, both had been achieved and the way was open for the defensive agreement signed in August, 1920, between the Governments of France and Belgium.
It was necessary, in order to build up the future, to first clear away all vestiges of a dead past and for that purpose to obliterate the Treaties of 1839---the burdensome and unavailing charter of a violated neutrality. By the revision of these Treaties, moreover, Belgium summarized her various demands. The unswerving support of France was given her for the breaking of this obsolete encumbrance. On February 12, 1919, the Supreme Council appointed the Commission for Belgian Affairs of which I was chairman and in accord with my colleagues I immediately asked for explicit authority to present general proposals concerning the revision and its consequences. Why? Because knowing the hesitation of some in regard to stipulations which necessarily affected a neutral country---Holland---I wished, before entering into any discussion of details, to assert and justify the essential principle of the free existence of a victorious Belgium. On February 25, I said to the Supreme Council:
"There is only one question. It is this, Belgium lived wholly and entirely under the Treaties of 1839. The war has destroyed these Treaties, and Belgium demands that they be revised.
"The signatory Powers which fought together in the war are in agreement. President Wilson, in one of his fourteen points, expressed the opinion that the neutrality of Belgium ought to disappear.
"The Treaties of 1839 are signed not only by Belgium and Holland, but by the Guaranteeing Powers two of which are here represented. It results therefore that, so long as the Great Powers have not officially declared that new negotiations should be begun with a view to establishing ,a new régime in place of the Treaties of 1839, we shall continually encounter the difficulties already noted."
The delegates of the Powers were of this opinion and the next day the Commission set to work on the basis of my proposals. Five days later the report was unanimously adopted and transmitted to the Supreme Council. On the points of law we recalled first that the three Treaties of 1839---between Belgium and Holland and the Five Great Powers---by virtue of their stipulations formed an indivisible whole. Three of the guarantors had violated their undertakings---Prussia and Austria in 1914, Russia by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk---while two of them---France and Great Britain---have honoured their signature. The sixth Power among the signatories---Holland---had declared its neutrality. Without discussing either the question of the manner in which this neutrality had been observed, or that of the nullity in law of these Treaties by reason of the nonexecution of their fundamental clause, the Commission reported in favour of revision on the grounds that Belgium, France, Great Britain and the United States had declared it necessary and that furthermore it was the logical outcome of the events of the past seventy years.
Following the same line the Commission showed the Treaty of 1839 originally negotiated not on behalf of Belgium but against her by the authors of the Treaty of 1815; all the Belgian claims of 1839 concerning the freedom of the Scheldt, Limburg and Luxemburg ruthlessly rejected by the future guarantors; Belgium, eight years later declaring on the eve of the signature that "she was yielding to the imperious law of necessity." Our report established that these Treaties born of a so-called "higher interest' "---foreign in any case to Belgium and to Holland ---had, in no degree and at no time, expressed the self-determination of the two principal countries involved; and that moreover if they had imposed on Belgium undisputed and onerous servitudes, they had not in the hour of danger given her the promised security. Much to the contrary, the régime of the Scheldt had prevented sending supplies to Antwerp. Luxemburg had served as an offensive base for Germany. It had not been possible to hold the Meuse properly. Dutch Limburg had at the time of the Armistice given passage to German troops.
The Commission reported therefore, de jure et de facto, in favour of revision:
(1) The Treaties of 1839 should be revised in the totality of their clauses on the joint demands of the Powers which consider this revision necessary.
(2) Holland should take part in this revision.
(3) Those among the great guaranteeing Powers which have held their engagement, should also take part in it.
(4) The Great Powers which have general interests represented at the Peace Conference should also take part in it.
(5) The general aim of this revision is (in accordance with the purpose of the League of Nations) to liberate Belgium from the limitations of sovereignty imposed upon her by the Treaty of 1839, and to suppress as much for her sake as for that of peace in general the various risks and inconveniences resulting from the said Treaties.
On March 8, I presented the report to the Supreme Council which on the same day unanimously adopted its conclusions. The Treaty handed to Germany, on May 8, consequently stipulated that the latter, recognizing that the Treaties of 1839 no longer met the circumstances, accepted their abrogation and undertook to conform to all the conventions destined to replace them, between Belgium and the Powers.
There remained Holland. Some of our great Allies would have preferred---and they made no secret of it---that the negotiation be carried on directly between that country and Belgium. On the strength of the decision of March 8, I obtained on June 4, consent from the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, after long discussion, that the Great Powers should take part in the negotiations along with Belgium and Holland. The first meeting was held on July 29, 1919, the last on March 23, 1920. This agreement reached so laboriously was halted again, at the last moment by the unjustified claims of Holland to the Wielingen Channels which she herself during the war had recognized as not belonging to her territorial waters. In any case the revision of the Treaties of 1839 and its main consequence, the abrogation of Belgian neutrality, are no longer opposed by anyone. Thus liberated Belgium acquires the right of providing for her own safety. It is the birthright of the Belgian Army of 600,000 which to-morrow will be joined in brotherly union with our own for the defense of peace. France, by the part she played in the negotiations, may justly claim an honourable sponsorship.
On principle the case was won. But practically as regards the consequences, or at least some of them, Belgium was less fortunate. Here two distinct but contradictory currents manifested themselves in the Belgian Government, in which all parties were represented. The Socialists said: "No annexation." The bourgeois parties inclined to believe that to guarantee to Belgium full military and economic security (use of the Scheldt, canal from Ghent to Tervueren, canal from Antwerp to the Meuse) the simplest solution would be to place the left bank of the Scheldt and Dutch Limburg under Belgian sovereignty. It is superfluous to add that this transfer was justified not only on historical ground but by excellent arguments of national security confirmed by more than four years of war. In spite of this, the Belgian case was put forward with hesitation. Premises were presented and no conclusions drawn. Belgium did suggest, however, that in the event of satisfaction being given her Holland might receive compensation either on the banks of the Ems, or in Guelders---a Prussian district inhabited by a people of Dutch origin and tradition.
The Commission for Belgian Affairs, after a minute, discussion, admitted the principle of this solution which seemed to be a just and necessary guarantee of Belgian security; but it very soon appeared that such a solution---obviously delicate, as it implied cession of territory by Germany to a neutral power---would meet with objections. As early as February 11, Mr. Wilson had said..
"I do not see how Holland can be brought to discuss this question of sovereignty."
On March 31, he added:
"You ask Germany to yield German territory to a neutral country. That may be just, but it is difficult to justify."
April 4, the King of the Belgians insisted in his usual clear and straightforward fashion and expressed astonishment at the objections presented by the British Admiralty with regard to the left bank of the Scheldt. Mr. Lloyd George replied to him:
"If you wish to modify the régime of the Scheldt, we are ready. If however territorial questions are concerned, it is another matter."
On April 16, I was summoned, as President of the Commission for Belgian Affairs, to defend the report of this Commission before the Council of Four. Mr. Hymans was present. We both insisted upon the character of the proposal, it was-neither more nor less-to render possible a future Dutch and Belgian agreement, which could hardly be arranged without some medium of exchange. We asked to have a door left open and we expressly reserved the rights of the population by a plebiscite. We had the conviction that our suggestion was just and we defended it with force. In vain. All cession of Dutch territory to Belgium, and of German territory to Holland was rejected by the Council.
Henceforth, Belgium's territorial claims were limited to the two Walloon districts of Eupen and Malmeay and to the territory of Moresnet. Ten meetings of the Commission finally led to a favourable solution which events have since justified; for out of a population of 55,000 inhabitants only 266 protests were made within the time fixed by the Treaty. This was for Belgium, a very meagre extension of territory. The increases that were refused would have been of real importance to her. Belgium despite the weight of historical argument was defeated---as France had been in her demands for the 1814(24) frontier and an independent Rhineland.(25) But she had been able once again to test our country's active support and to understand the need of a close union between the two countries.
This union was riveted still more firmly by the result of another discussion equally vital for Belgium and for France---that of the reparations. Nothing more certain than Belgium's right in this matter. In the month of April, 1914, Herr Bethmann-Hollweg----" Necessity knows no law"---had himself recognized it. Attacked not on political grounds involving her, but as a result of her geographical situation; thrust into the struggle in violation of the Treaties of 1839 and of the Hague Convention of 1907 ---Belgium had on February 14, 1916, received from her Allies by the declaration of Ste. Adresse the solemn assurance that she would be restored and effectively aided in her recovery. January 8, 1918, President Wilson, in the seventh of his fourteen points, had declared for "the full restoration of Belgium." The bases of peace announced on November 5 following had sanctioned this declaration.
Agreement as to principle was complete. But its application was to give rise to difficulties.
As soon as the Commission and Sub-Commission entrusted by the Supreme Council with the study of the problem of reparations began their work in February, 1919, the Belgian delegate, M. Van den Heuvel, made no secret of the fact that he claimed exceptional treatment for his country. Other delegates immediately opposed this claim on the ground of absolute equality for all, and the desirability---which was unquestioned---of general solutions. I had met the same objections when as President of the Commission formed to draft the clauses relative to Alsace and Lorraine(26) I was obliged to fight through long sessions to obtain departures from the general principles of the Treaty no matter how justified in equity. Such was the Belgian situation in February. Neither Belgium nor France obtained all she asked. But we did get the essential.
M. Van den Heuvell's plea was a strong one. In order to avoid a total of more than a thousand billions which clearly could never be recovered, the Allies did not demand from Germany the reimbursement of their war expenditures. Belgium, contractually neutral and victim of a double violation of international law, asked that an exception be made to this rule and Germany be forced to pay all her war and Government expenditures which the loans of the Allies had enabled her to meet. Germany was compelled to pay the Allies pensions and separation allowances in addition to reparations for damage to property. Belgium asked that it be remembered that invaded at the very start of the war she had not been able to raise a large Army and that therefore her share of payments on account of pensions would be very small. Finally under the two heads settled upon by the Allies, Reparations and Pensions, Germany would have to pay hundreds of billions; Belgium urged that as her share would be only a small one, she would in the ordinary course of pro-rata distribution be obliged to wait too long for monies of which she stood in urgent need. For all these reasons, Belgium demanded privileged treatment and priority, the exact terms and amounts to be settled later. This demand was formulated in a Note of March 29 which ended as follows.:
Belgium does not overlook the demands for reparations that may be presented by other Powers; but she thinks she may legitimately claim that her special position should be taken into account and her recovery facilitated.
Owing to the de jure et de facto position in which it is placed, the Royal Government demands priority for Belgian claims, and solicits the aid of the Allied and Associated Governments to obtain such privilege for Belgium in the division of the indemnities paid by Germany, so that the reparation to which she is entitled may be completely and rapidly realized.
The opposition of Great Britain's representatives on the Commission, which had been apparent from the very beginning of the discussions, continued during the months of March and April. King Albert, at the meeting on April 4, was unable to overcome it. The British delegates answered that Belgium's losses were less than those of other countries, and that thousands of soldiers come from afar had died to give her back her land. Broad promises had been made at the time of the Armistice with regard to German payments; and it would not do for any Parliament to be able to say that Belgium alone had benefited from them. The resistance was unyielding, and M. Loucheur, in the Committee of five members appointed to deal with the financial questions, could not break it. Equality for all; such was the principle adhered to.
Belgium then made a supreme effort. On April 24 in two Notes handed to the plenipotentaries, M. Hymans summarized his country's demand. He no longer claimed full priority, but only a privileged payment of 2,500 millions. He asked in addition for the reimbursement of food relief expenses, war expenses, and expenses of administration while the Belgian Government was at Havre and also the reimbursement of communal relief loans, the interprovincial loan raised to pay off penalties inflicted by the Germans; and of loss sustained by the Government on marks repurchased at 1 fr. 25 from Belgian citizens. April 29, M. Hymans, accompanied by M. Van den Heuvel and M. Vandervelde, appeared before the Council of Four. It was a thrilling and tragic meeting, in which the three Belgian Ministers pleaded with their hearts and their heads, a confused meeting in which the Great Powers tried in every way to persuade Belgium to keep calm and be moderate---a tumultuous meeting also for at certain moments one wondered whether Belgium would not break away.
"Think of our people," said M. Vandervelde, "a little people but one that trusts you. Do not refuse what it expects and what it has a perfect right to."
"You have fewer dead than we," answered Mr. Lloyd George.
"Look at France," said M. Clemenceau, "I have not always been satisfied with the solutions that I have been obliged to accept. Our Parliaments all believe that we do not obtain enough. I do my duty and that is enough for me. I give way sometimes to solutions which I feel to be imperfect and even unjust. I do so in the interest of higher unity. You think that you have not been given enough. I do not say no. You ask our aid? I do not say no. But there are general rules against you, rules the strength of which lie in the very fact that they are general, equal for all. Do not be uncompromising and rest assured that you will never find us indifferent to your difficulties."
And France, by the side of Belgium---France unjustly attacked and who in order to facilitate the practical accord of the Allies did not claim the recovery of her own war expenses---France, through a new effort of her financial experts, principally due to M. Loucheur, succeeded, by dint of patience and firmness, in finding a solution which, although incomplete, gave Belgium essential advantages. She was not reimbursed, any more than France was, for her losses in marks; because such a course would have plunged us into an abyss of unlimited claims, on the part of Bohemia, Poland and Roumania. On the other hand, the reimbursement of all the loans contracted by Belgium up to the Armistice was charged against Germany, and Belgium was liberated by the Treaty itself from her debt to the Allies. In addition, a priority of 2,500 millions was granted to her on the first German payments to rank immediately after the expenses of occupation.
Four months later, M. Clemenceau declared in the Senate:
As far as priority is concerned, I have done something which may be said to be imprudent. We have not obtained priority for our own reparations... and yet, at a critical moment, Belgium having great need of us, I pleaded for her and obtained for her a priority payment of two and one-half billions. I was unable to get this priority for France, but I got it for another country. I repeat it was perhaps imprudent, but I could not permit that Belgium should be left in the situation you know of with the consent of France. (Applause.)
Several Senators. You were right.
From beginning to end of the financial discussion, without restriction or reserve but with practical foresight, France had lent Belgium her active, her full support. Honour commanded it. The result has justified it.
There remained a last question, more delicate than the others---that of Luxemburg. More delicate for it might easily, if caution were not exercised, lead to at least an apparent conflict between French and Belgian interests. On February 11, 1919, M. Hymans, with the unanimous support of Belgian opinion, had declared that his country, repudiating all policy of annexation, counted nevertheless upon the Powers to aid in establishing closer relations between Belgium and the Grand Duchy---relations justified by historic memories and considerations of security. In Luxemburg, on the other hand, many who desired to change the pre-war system were attracted politically and economically towards France rather than towards Belgium. Their appeal was heard in Paris and many of our countrymen, especially in Parliament, urged the blood shed in our cause by so many Luxemburgers as an argument to oppose Belgian claims. They demanded that Luxemburg should be permitted to choose freely, and that France should hearken to a call the tenour of which none of them doubted.
The French Government, even before the signing of the Armistice, had felt these two contradictory currents. M. Aristide Briand in his confidential Memorandum to the French Ambassadors of February, 1917, on the war aims, had avoided any definite reference to the solution of the Luxemburg problem. Five months later however on June 9, 1917, M. Ribot, then Premier, had declared to Baron de Gaiffier, the Belgian Minister, that the annexation of Luxemburg was not one of France's war aims and had formally authorized King Albert's representative to make official use of this declaration. At the opening of the Peace Conference, French policy had no other legal basis than this negative affirmation. Is it necessary to add that however lively our sympathies for the people of Luxemburg surrendered by its dynasty to Germany in 1914 but now steadfast in its desire for liberations, the will to give Belgium a proof of our friendship was uppermost in all minds?
During the negotiations of 1919, M. Clemenceau, in spite of pressure brought to bear upon him in varying directions, treated these difficult problems in the only right way, with complete loyalty and entire frankness. From the first day, he told Belgium what he would and what he could do. From the first day also he made clear the one thing he could not do. Confirming without restriction M. Ribot's promise he declared:
"France has in Luxemburg no design of annexation either open or disguised."
Going even further, he added:
"France will welcome any agreement between Belgium and Luxemburg. Not only will she rejoice at it, but she will aid it by every means in her power."
The only restriction---and who could fail to understand it---was the following:
"Settle your own affair with Luxemburg. But do not ask me to repel-by an official act-affections that turn towards France, or to impose the Belgian solution---a solution which, in my opinion, should come from a free understanding and form another link between our three countries."
Ever unchanging M. Clemenceau, to the day of his retirement, proved to Belgium by his acts the sincerity of his declaration. In the question of the recognition of the Luxemburg Government he constantly refused to take any initiative and declared his intention of leaving to Belgium the privilege of priority. On March 5 in response to the
wish of the Belgians he intervened to adjourn the hearing of the Luxemburg delegation by the Supreme Council. At the same period incidents having arisen in Luxemburg the responsibility for which Belgium laid to a French general, this general was relieved of his command. It was M. Clemenceau who in order to leave Belgium full liberty of action and negotiation, supported on two occasions the adjournment of the political plebiscite and the economic referendum. Finally when on May 28, M. Reuter, Minister of the State of Luxemburg, was heard by the Council of Four, these were the terms in which the head of the French Government summed up the situation:
"We are, and we wish to be, your friends. We also want to be on the best terms with the Belgian people, who threw themselves into the battle with a heroism that we can never forget, and which lays us under great obligations to them. As the political situation in Luxemburg did not appear to us to be very clear we have preferred to ask you to adjourn your plebiscite and your referendum. I am glad we waited. The potential difficulties and misunderstandings are now in fair way to be settled.
"Your object is to bring France, Belgium and Luxemburg closer together. Belgium has already begun these conversations. We are ready to join you in them, if you both desire it. I do not want to force myself upon you. If you desire our participation in your conversation, we shall be glad to add thereto our friendship."
It was in these conditions, and in this atmosphere that a Committee over which I presided and on which Baron de Gaiffier represented Belgium prepared Articles 40 and 41 relative to Luxemburg. Germany, under these articles, renounced the advantages accruing to her from all provisions in the Treaties and conventions that had been concluded between herself and the Grand Duchy from 1842 to 1902. Luxemburg was to withdraw from the German Zollverein. Germany was to renounce all her rights in the operation of the railways, and to adhere in advance, to all arrangements relative to the Grand Duchy that might be arrived at by the Powers. Moreover, according to Annex 5, Chapter 8, she undertook to deliver to Luxemburg an annual quantity of coal equal to that which the latter bought in Germany before the war. Thus was finally achieved emancipation from the tutelage imposed by Prussia. Full liberty was in addition guaranteed to the Allies for the negotiation of further agreements.
At the end of 1919, the situation was favourable to the definite conclusion of such agreements. At the meeting of the Supreme Council, November 13, M. Clemenceau said:
"At present there is no difficulty between France and Belgium with regard to the question of Luxemburg as a whole. The only point at issue relates to a railroad which Bismarck took from us in 1871. This technical difficulty is, moreover, in a fair way to be settled."(27)
Thus by his unwavering fairness the head of the French Government had succeeded in negotiating without a hitch a question which through no fault of Belgium's or of our own, might at times, by the very force of circumstances, have provoked friction. The road was clear for a complete and general agreement between our neighbors and ourselves. Before long this was to be officially consummated.
On January 6, 1920, as a result of technical negotiations between two members of the French and Belgian Governments, M. Loucheur and M. Jaspar, it was recognized that a general conversation was necessary and possible, notably with regard to the military agreement of which the French representatives in 1919, had occasion to speak either with the King of the Belgians or his Ministers. On January 8, M. Clemenceau called upon Marshal Foch to take up the question and prepare a plan. On January 18 the Clemenceau Cabinet resigned.
The negotiation thus begun-the consequence and the consecration of a year of brotherhood in peace after four years of brotherhood of arms-was carried to a successful conclusion by the Millerand Cabinet. Such an agreement answers so clearly to the interests and feelings of the two nations that it needs no comment. It is the contractual expression of the nature of things and the instincts of nations. France and Belgium, to whom the war has taught so much, had on the way to peace met the same obstacles. Great and loyal Allies without whose aid their very existence would have been compromised did not always understand certain of their claims. Who was wrong? Who was right? The future will tell. In any case the policy followed since November 11, 1918, has tightened bonds forged in anguish---that is the main thing! Two nations, brave and honest, standing shoulder to shoulder to uphold their rights and make Europe safe, can look to the future with confidence. In the future as in the past, in the future even more than in the past, in peace or in war---if ever Germany should resort to war again---Frenchmen and Belgians will hold for the welfare of mankind as much as for that of their respective lands.
Need I insist---after the foregoing-upon the character of these three Treaties---the first two still pending, the third in force? Whoever may have doubts as to their scope or origin will find an answer in the ruined cities and the devastated regions of Belgium and of France. They are like the Treaty of Versailles itself, the work of men who are determined that it shall never recur. Menace? No. Protection? Yes. Neither Belgium nor France can, to save the liberty of the world, inflict upon themselves every few decades the sufferings they underwent for five years. They are determined that in the future the door shall be closed and the bolt made strong. Moreover these three defensive Treaties are within the scope and beneath the control of the League of Nations. They are secret neither in their origin nor in their clauses. They appear as---what they indeed are---the living lesson of history--the seed of a prosperous future. They are also-and I hope that Great Britain and America will see it---an essential factor of that Peace of Justice and of Right which France, in complete accord with her Allies, wanted and has achieved,
ALSACE AND LORRAINE
WHAT Alsace and Lorraine were to France, the whole world knew on that day when the two provinces acclaimed the triumphant entry of our troops. Their loyalty was of long standing. As far back as the eighteenth century Prussians acknowledged it. Read what at the time of the Congress of Utrecht, their Government wrote to its plenipotentiaries:
It is notorious that the inhabitants of Alsace are more French than the Parisians and that the King of France is so sure of their attachment to his service and his glory that he commands them to provide themselves with swords, guns, halberds, pistols, powder and shot, whenever there is rumour that the Germans purpose crossing the Rhine, and that they rush in a body to the banks of that river to prevent or at any rate to oppose the passage of the Germanic nations at the evident risk of their own lives, as though they were marching to victory....
Were the Alsatians to be separated from the King of France whom they adore, he could not be deprived of their hearts except by two hundred years of bondage.
Bismarck knew this and what the result would be. After brief hesitation, he nevertheless yielded to Moltke's demands and to the theory of the military frontier. He attempted neither to deny nor to excuse the outrage perpetrated against the rights and the will of a people. Just as Bethmann-Hollweg was to appear in the Reichstag forty-three years later, so Bismarck was in the same place on May 2, 1871. Proclaiming "the repugnance of the inhabitants for their separation from France," he asserted his intention of taking no account of this. The representatives of Alsace and Lorraine had just launched from Bordeaux their heart-rending appeal for justice.(28) No one answered. The "Land of Empire" was necessary to the new-born Empire not only as a bulwark, but as cement. It became, under the absolute authority of the Emperor, King of Prussia, the common property of the German States. It was the first Imperial conquest, the first sign of Empire. But historically in a century of national aspirations, the annexation was a monstrous solecism. By it German victory assumed against France a meaning and an importance it had not had against Austria. For an indefinite future the relations between France and Germany were encumbered by a lien which precluded harmony or healthy exchanges. The peace of the whole world, to use President Wilson's words, "was greatly disturbed thereby."
From 1871 to 1914, the drama of two million men defending their national soul against a powerful Empire went on. In Alsace-Lorraine, in France and abroad, 536,000 Alsatians and Lorrainers declared for France. Those who remained at home did not give way. With ruthless severity Germanization fell upon both provinces. In Government as in education, everything that recalled the past was abolished and forbidden. Men came and went. Manteuffel, the two Hohenlohe, Wedel. The principle remained and never varied even when domination made pretense of indulgence. But the spirit of protest never abated even when the exigencies of life suggested accommodation. I will refrain from writing here the history of this long martyrdom: independent newspapers suppressed; the French language forbidden; the right of association denied; police pressure unloosed; political trials multiplied; individual relations hampered by passport regulations; the "peace of the grave" organized by the victors under the notorious "paragraph concerning dictatorship." Separated from France, refractory to Germany, Alsace and Lorraine sought refuge in their own genius; here too after a few months, everything this effort had created---museums, theatres, magazines, sporting clubs or literary societies---fell under the iron hand of unbending authority.
In 1902, the law establishing the dictatorship was repealed; in 1911, a new Constitution was promulgated but neither real liberty nor legal autonomy. resulted for Alsace-Lorraine. "We have been swindled," wrote the Abbé Wetterlé. A few isolated Germans understood the cleavage which Prussian officialism was every day widening between conquerors and conquered. Never did the Imperial Government abandon oppression of those it felt unable to convince. Its active and often beneficial administration was unable to offset the initial error and its consequences. Years pass and antagonism grows more bitter. In 1909 authoritarianism turned to persecution. Every day brought a lawsuit. Every verdict a renewal of protest which expressed itself in a thousand ingenious ways that irritated and exasperated the dull-witted Germans. Expulsions increase daily as do imprisonments. Suspects are hunted down and then came the Saverne incident when a colonel, setting law at naught, charges people in the streets and arrests magistrates in their homes, for the glory of an Army which he alleges has been insulted: a striking epitome ---not only for the people of Alsace and Lorraine, but also for Germany and the whole world---of the relentless struggle between a tortured race and a government of oppression. Thereafter, the "Land of Empire" is openly treated as enemy country. Spies lurked in every home. Germans no longer even try to dissimulate, they think only of crushing and of uprooting.
The war breaks out and the Imperial Government which up till 1918 is to repeat that "there was no Alsace-Lorraine question," the Imperial Government which by the mouth of Count Hertling is to aver that "Alsace-Lorraine is bound to Germanism by bonds that grow daily stronger:---the Imperial Government, I repeat, inflicts upon the downtrodden provinces an iron-clad régime the like of which history has never known. For the civilian population, Alsatians are forbidden, under pain of imprisonment, to post their letters in boxes other than those of their own districts. On January 5, 1917, 4,000 inhabitants of Mulhouse, between seventeen and sixty, are assembled in the barracks and deported to the interior of Germany. An old man in Strassburg, who took off his hat to French prisoners in the street, is sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment. To facilitate arbitrary repression, newspapers were forbidden to publish reports of courts-martial. An Alsatian nun for protesting against the destruction of the Cathedral at Reims is sent to prison for six months. Another, at Riedisheim, for treating the French wounded too kindly, is sentenced to five years' hard labour. A Swiss has computed the sentences passed in three years by German courts-martial upon natives of Alsace and Lorraine; the total exceeds 5,000 years' imprisonment. A label in French on any package brought fine or even imprisonment to the sender. Two women speak French in a tramcar: fourteen days' imprisonment. The mayor of a commune speaks in French to one of his fellow townsmen: three months in prison. Of course as soon as war began all newspapers printed in French were suppressed. The governor of Alsace-Lorraine summed up the situation in 1915 in a proclamation which brands the inhabitants as traitors, 14,000 of them having, at the risk of their lives joined the French Army in August, 1914.
Meanwhile, Alsatian recruits already conscripted when the war began, serve in the Germany Army. They are subjected to savage persecution. A general order prescribed special treatment for all soldiers, natives of Alsace or Lorraine: more stringent postal censorship: no leave: police supervision and corporal punishment. An Alsatian soldier complains of having had nothing to eat: his lieutenant and adjutant horsewhip him till he faints beneath their blows. Another officer instructs his sergeants to "break in well the Alsatians and Lorrainers who are all bandits and traitors." It is ordered that they be stationed in the most dangerous places and everywhere regarded as suspects. In the course of the battles of 1918, we captured on prisoners several hundred such orders. Among them I will quote two: one in which it is laid down that German troops, quartered in Alsace-Lorraine, are to conduct themselves "as in enemy country"; the other, issued by General Loewenfeld, commanding the Prussian Guard, where one may read: "The Lorrainers do not belong to our race." Herr von Kuhlmann said in December, 1917: "There is no Alsace-Lorraine question." To this piece of ministerial impudence fit answer was given throughout the war by the acts of German civil and military authorities. Besides, was it not a deputy for Saxony, the Socialist Wendel, who declared to the Reichstag on June 7, 1918: "If a vote of the people of Alsace-Lorraine were taken to-day, four-fifths ---that is to say, the whole, minus the German immigrants would vote in favour of France."
In France all parties without distinction, in peace as in war, have lived the martyrdom of Alsace-Lorraine. "Think of them always," said Gambetta. And, twenty years later, Jaurès answered this appeal: "Alsace and Lorraine are like two trees which may be separated from the forest by a wall but whose far-reaching roots extend beneath the enclosure and rejoin the roots of the main forest." The French did not declare a war of revenge. But when the conqueror of 1870 renewed his criminal aggression, the recovery of the two provinces became, with the defense of French soil, the instinctive war object of the nation. On that point neither hesitation nor doubt. Full recovery, pure and simple, was a natural right.
By no means all the Allied Governments and people had during the war an equally clear understanding of the manifest justice of our claim. Take Great Britain, for example. Up to the last moment, the more advanced Liberals accepted the idea of the return of Alsace and Lorraine to France only under express reservations. The least unreasonable demand a plebiscite which the conscience of France rejects as an outrage against truth and a challenge to justice. Others (read the articles published in the Nation, Manchester Guardian and Labour Leader)---go further still and demand that, when peace is declared, "both the annexed provinces, by universal and solemn Treaty, be placed under the guardianship of all the belligerent Powers, America included." An influential pacifist, M. Snowden , writes at the same time (end of 1917) that "if, in the question of Alsace-Lorraine, the Allies persist in their present attitude, the war will not be finished either in 1917 or in 1918." On January 18, 1918, a delegate of the Trades Unions, received by the Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, asks him this question which reveals both suspicion and lack of understanding:
"Is it the people of France or the people of Alsace Lorraine who complain of the latter's present situation?"
Mr. Lloyd George himself hesitated long before he asserted the conviction which will for ever honour his speech of January 5, 1918: "The question of Alsace-Lorraine is a sore, which, for the last half century, has infected the peace of Europe. Normal conditions cannot be re-established before it is cured .... We mean to support the French Democracy to the death, when it calls for a revision of the great iniquity perpetrated in 1871." Six months earlier? on July 14, 1917, he had not thought the question sufficiently clear in the minds of his fellow countrymen to warrant his being present at the banquet to which the Alsatians and Lorrainers in England had invited him. Up to the very end of the war, the special case---unique and clear---presented by the Alsace-Lorraine question, was persistently misunderstood by a portion of British public opinion.
In America the same misunderstanding prevailed to an even greater extent. On my arrival in Washington on May 15, 1917, as High Commissioner of the French Republic, I at once noticed that, however sincere the affection of America for France, the question of Alsace-Lorraine was misunderstood by the majority. For most Americans, Alsace was a German-speaking country. That settled everything. They were ignorant both of the facts and the feelings, as well as of the incomparable example of moral loyalty displayed for nearly fifty years by these people, hard and staunch as granite. They hesitated to take the word of Alsatians in America who, when speaking of the sufferings and the hopes of their native land, did so with an accent which though foreign, was not French. Moreover, every country in Europe---not without abuses of analogy---professed to have its own Alsace-Lorraine. Italians, Serbians, Greeks, Roumanians, Poles, to justify certain pretentions warranted in principle but very different in historical evolution from the case of Alsace-Lorraine, never tired of evoking Metz and Strassburg; and this generalization alarmed timid minds which regarded all territorial claims as germs of war. How often Americans have expressed to me the hope that France would be content with an independent and neutral Alsace-Lorraine! How many expressed surprise when, to the statement of our rights, I added that their obvious justice made a plebiscite useless and unacceptable. I remember a long discussion I had in August, 1917, with Mr. Walter Lippmann, a member of the Inquiry Office, the official bureau established for the advance study of peace questions: the idea of a plebiscite was so deeply rooted in his mind---the idea of Alsace and Lorraine forming an integral part of France was so perfectly foreign to him---that he had concocted a system of voting by fragments under which the two provinces would be divided into a dozen sections. Two hours of explanation were needed to dissuade him from a scheme at which the Alsatians and Lorrainers would have been the first dismayed could they have known of it.
A few months later this state of opinion was entirely changed. I venture to believe that the activities of my co-workers and of myself, the 15,000 lectures in English where young officers, with all the authority of their war record and of their wounds, presented the pitiful situation of the captive provinces, had something to do with this transformation. On May 10, 1918, in introducing in New York at an impressive ceremony, a company of chasseurs à pied, which I had asked M. Clemenceau to place at my disposal for the third Liberty Loan campaign, I described the convict system enforced in Alsace-Lorraine and added: "If, as alleged by Kuhlmann and Scheidemann, there is no Alsace-Lorraine question; if, as Hertling avers, Alsace and Lorraine are bound to Germanism by ever tightening bonds, then I ask why Germany has for the last four years, been treating Alsace-Lorraine as a conquered country; I ask why the regulations which she applied to those provinces are even more savage than those to which Belgium and Northern France have been subjected." I was answered by tremendous cheers. At my side, stood M. Daniel Blumenthal, former mayor of Colmar, who, by the reorganization under his presidency of the Associations of Alsatians and Lorrainers in America, had afforded me the most valuable assistance. Thousands of huge posters, reproducing Henner's "Alsacienne," with the text of the Bordeaux protest referred to above, had carried the meaning and scope of our claim to every state of the Union. Support came from all sides. The battle was won.
In this success which does honour to the heart of America, Americans themselves, particularly university men, worked with us. French gratitude must assign a place apart to the eminent university man who presided over the destinies of the United States. On January 8, 1918, at 11 o'clock in the morning, a gentleman connected with the White House telephoned me: "The President is to read a message to Congress at noon. Come. You will be pleased." An hour later, I heard President Wilson, before the Senate and House, which stood to cheer him, utter the famous words: "The wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871, in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all."
Of all the public declarations of our Allies upon this essential matter this was the clearest and most comprehensive. The President formulated the axiom of pure and simple reparation of an international outrage. It excluded at the same time the insultingly illegitimate solutions of neutrality and of a plebiscite. Lastly, it gave to the problem of Alsace-Lorraine its full significance not only from a French but from a human standpoint; its true symbolic value of a triumph of justice and liberty. A few days later, replying to the President of the Association of Alsatians and Lorrainers, Mr. Wilson telegraphed his hope that "the year 1918 would see the realization of the deferred hopes of Alsace-Lorraine." And as, owing to controversies in the Press, M. Pichon, Minister for Foreign Affairs, wished to have from the President himself a definite interpretation of his words, Mr. Wilson answered, smiling:
"I think I have spoken clearly. To right a wrong means only one thing---to put things back in the state where they were before the wrong was done. Alsace and Lorraine must be placed purely and simply in the situation they were in before the Treaty of Frankfort."
A Frenchman would not have spoken otherwise. Moreover, the President's conviction was of long standing.
"When I was a boy," he told me one day, " I could never think of Alsace-Lorraine without sorrow. For half a century, they had the unique privilege of representing violated justice in the eyes of the entire universe. In the world's history, there is no parallel of their case."
From the beginning to the end of the Peace Conference, President Wilson was for all our Alsace-Lorraine proposals, a staunch and active friend. Just as by his supreme authority, he had welded the public opinion in his country on the principle of the case, so, in its application, he loyally helped us in securing the necessary guarantees. I wish here to express to him my deep gratitude.
On July 14, 1918, at Mount Vernon, on the annual pilgrimage to Washington's tomb, each of the races represented in the American people sent delegates to speak in their name. When the turn came for Americans of French origin, it was an Alsatian who stepped forward and, on the verdant slopes which rise from the banks of the Potomac to the wooded heights above, a tremendous cheer greeted Alsace, as the spokesman of France. All America had understood.
Once the Conference began, our rights were never again challenged from any quarter. But when it came to its application, many difficulties arose, some of which were of a moral, others of a material order, but had the same origin.
Our Allies were willing in principle to entertain our demands. But it was their understanding that this should be subject to the same procedure and rules as applied to the other chapters of the Treaty of Peace. France on the contrary considered that the question of Alsace-Lorraine---not being like any other---should be settled in strict equity, even at the expense of precedent. We wished that by its preamble and its clauses, that portion of the Treaty relating to Alsace-Lorraine should bring out the unique character of a restitution consecrated by universal conscience as much as by the wave of joy which overwhelmed our troops after the Armistice and which caused one of our Socialists to say: "The plebiscite is over." We wished that by reason of its unique character this restitution should be accompanied both as regards persons and property by special conditions. And when we were told that what we wanted was contrary to the general principles of the Treaty, we replied: "All the more reason." Any Frenchman, in our place, would have felt and spoken as we did. Let us not blame foreigners---even Allies---for having felt otherwise. The soul of each nation has its secret garden.
I was personally responsible for this negotiation as President of a Committee of three members, on which Mr. Charles H. Haskins represented the United States, and Mr. Headlam Morley, Great Britain. I had cause to congratulate myself upon the friendly understanding of both of my eminent colleagues. But the dozen experts, by whom each was accompanied, at times gave me great trouble. Like all my compatriots, I was inclined to think that our claims in connection with Alsace-Lorraine called for no discussion whatever and were a foregone conclusion. Ten meetings lasting four hours each, in which Mr. Keynes poured out his pro-German views, taught me that with specialists feeling forfeits its rights. Without returning to the history of this long and minute controversy, I will by a few examples show the difficulties encountered and the results obtained.
I asked first of all that the Allied Powers, and Germany with them, should recognize the moral grounds for the arrangements to be made. Some opposition shows itself: Do we propose to write a preliminary explanation for each article? I replied that no article could be compared with this, that its meaning and importance to mankind had been recognized by all the Allies. I added that it was not enough for Germany to give up what she had stolen; that she must also confess her guilt and admit the justice of the penalty. Satisfaction was given us by the following paragraph:
The High Contracting-Parties (thus including Germany) recognizing the moral obligation to redress the wrong done by Germany in 1871, both to the rights of France and to the wishes of the population of Alsace and Lorraine, which were separated from their country in spite of the solemn protest of their representative at the Assembly of Bordeaux, agree upon the following articles:
In compliance with this principle, the Treaty defined the nature of the restitution, the principle of which has just been laid down. According to a wording nowhere else used in the Treaty, the two provinces were "restored to French sovereignty." They were so restored contrary to what was done for other territorial transfers, not as from the date on which the Treaty of Peace was signed, but as from the date of the Armistice concluded on November 11, 1918. Their emancipation de facto, in this particular case, sufficed to establish the right. The consequences were at once apparent in the section concerning nationality.
Here again the clauses demanded by the French negotiators, pursuant to the programme prepared by the authorities of Alsace-Lorraine, were prompted by the idea of reintegration and restoration. They differed on some important points from those which the Treaty of Versailles applied to cessions of territory in general. In all other cases, the right of option in favour of the ceding Nation was admitted. We rejected and caused to be set aside this procedure. In Alsace-Lorraine, there is no right of option in favour of the Germans. On the contrary, the French Government alone has the right, under the Treaty and in the exercise of its restored sovereignty, to confer the title of "Frenchmen" to true Alsatians and Lorrainers which it recognizes as such. For this it alone has power to determine the limits of reintegration pleno jure as well as the conditions with which Germans, who may seek naturalization, must comply. In short we have here in this matter of paramount importance an integral resurrection of our right which makes manifest by penal dispositions unlike anything else in the Treaty, the criminal character of the annexation. Other clauses, relating also to persons, are based upon the same principle: fines inflicted by Germany to be refunded by her; judgments rendered by the civil or commercial courts, since August 3, 1914, between Alsatians and Lorrainers and Germans not to be executory until confirmed,---sentences for political offenses or misdemeanours after the same date to be quashed. All this was only just in view of the special situation of Alsace-Lorraine, but to obtain this justice in derogation of the ordinary rules entailed several days' effort.
After questions affecting persons came questions relating to interests. Here the difficulty took shape; for we were claiming exemptions refused to others in clauses, the effects of which would amount to millions for each of the Allies. I am referring to the taking over of national debts, the repurchase of public property, of sequestrations and industrial organization. For all territories transferred, the Treaty stipulated the assumption by the Nation in whose favour the cession was made of a portion of the public debt of the ceding Nation. By derogation from Article 254 I asked and obtained---Bismarck having boasted in 1871 of having assumed no portion of the French debt on Germany's behalf---that Article 254 should not apply to Alsace-Lorraine. Article 256 stipulated that Powers, to whom German territories were transferred, would acquire all property or real estate belonging to the Empire or to the States located within such territories and that the value thereof should be placed to Germany's credit by the Reparations Commission; I asked and obtained, despite this formal provision, despite the enormous increment of certain State properties---railways, for instance---since 1871 that France should have nothing to pay. Belgium alone obtained a like privilege in respect to the territories of Malmedy and Eupen. By certain no less legitimate, but no less exceptional enactments, we obtained recognition of our right to sequestrate and dispose of all property in Alsace-Lorraine belonging to Germans, as well as of the right to prohibit hereafter all German participation in private enterprises of public interest, such as mines, electric power stations, etc.. . . and lastly, of the right to annul all German interests in the exploitation of potash deposits. By this clear-cut and total suppression, the rights of France were wholly restored---a matter of no less importance to us than the material advantages assured by the foregoing clauses. What a conflict of arguments before reaching this point! When at last Mr. Keynes, who had led the attack, saw that he had lost, he left our conference room with an angry gesture. He has vented his spite in his notorious book. Mr. Keynes has his book. France has the Treaty. So all is well!
Some articles remained in abeyance in which the position of France was even more delicate. To leave to victory its full moral significance, we had asked and obtained the solemn and absolute severing of all bonds forged by might between Germany and Alsace-Lorraine. But, in some things, perfectly respectable interests made it necessary to maintain temporarily economic relations, which this rupture would have jeopardized. And again it was necessary in view of the ruins caused by the war, that the maintenance of such relations, indispensable to Alsace-Lorraine, should not entail to the benefit of Germany the reciprocity generally prescribed in like matters by the Treaty; indeed, this reciprocity would only too obviously have tempted the Germans to try by commercial and industrial infiltration, to regain possession of everything that a just victory had so recently taken from them and restored to us. After what I have said of the state of mind of the Allies' experts, it can be guessed how easy this was. Despite the difficulty, France succeeded in obtaining both for herself and Alsace-Lorraine, all essential guarantees: the right for a period of five years to a special customs treatment without reciprocity for Germany; the guaranteed supply---for ten years and at the same rates as to Germans---of the electric current from the power stations on the left bank; the water power of the Rhine in its course through Alsace; the maintenance of private contracts with exclusive power to the French Government to cancel them---the maintenance in Germany and under German law of the industrial, literary and artistic rights of Alsatians and Lorrainers. Each of these derogations entailed hours of discussion. The final discussion lasted five days, it was over the port of Kehl. This port created by Germany just opposite Strassburg and splendidly equipped had been purposely used to the detriment of the Alsatian port. If, after the signature of Peace, Kehl were to be free to compete in any way it chose, Strassburg would be finally throttled. So we asked that for a certain number of years Strassburg should be afforded the possibility of organizing itself and that with this in view the two ports should during this period be placed under a single management. Objections rained upon us: Kehl. is a German port: a German port cannot be placed under a French comptroller .... Our only reply was to ask the experts to make an investigation on the spot; as soon as they got back; our demand, contrary to precedent but in accordance with equity, was acceded to. Its success is recorded in the Treaty.
France saw herself on the other hand obliged to comply with the ordinary rule on two other questions, which the Council of Four finally decided: that of redeeming the marks and that of reparations. In Alsace-Lorraine as in our liberated regions and in Belgium, the national Government had redeemed from the inhabitants, at the rate of francs 1.25, the marks put in compulsory circulation by the German authorities during their occupation. It had consequently suffered the loss caused by the depreciation of that currency. France and Belgium demanded, not without reason, that this loss be borne by Germany. The Peace Conference decided otherwise, to avoid the contingent effect of such a principle in Central and Eastern Europe, where Germany had abused the compulsory circulation of her currency to an even greater extent. Had this debt been admitted a bottomless pit would have been opened in the reparations fund. This decision, albeit well grounded, clearly did not permit the reimbursement of the loss sustained on marks in Alsace-Lorraine more especially as, up to the time of the Armistice, the mark had been the legal currency in that country. So the French Government itself bore the whole loss from which by redeeming the marks at francs 1.25, it had saved the Alsatians and Lorrainers. A like solution prevailed as regards the damages sustained by Alsatians and Lorrainers, which were not placed to the debit of Germany. An injustice, at first sight; why make a distinction between the damage sustained at Bacearat in France, for which Germany has to pay, and the damage sustained at Thann, in Alsace, for which she does not have to pay? Here again the decision was dictated by prudence for although the destructions in Alsace-Lorraine were relatively of slight importance, other transferred territories, such as those which passed to Poland and Roumania, would have been very difficult to verify. The reparations to the countries most severely damaged by five years of fighting would have been correspondingly reduced. The Conference thought it better not to run the risk.
Such as it is , the chapter of the Treaty dealing with Alsace-Lorraine presents a character of pure justice and draws from the war one of its grandest conclusions. Violated right restored to the full at the very point where violation had attained in modern times the maximum of its cynical brutality. To the full also is wiped out the wrong done both to these two provinces and to France and all proper steps are taken to prevent any of its consequences continuing in time of peace. It is to the honour of the Allies that they thus recognized that Alsace and Lorraine had all through Europe, infused life into the national ideal for which they had fought and by which they had conquered. At the sight of Alsatians and Lorrainers, suffering patient and undaunted for more than fifty years, Bohemia, downtrodden for centuries, began again to dream of liberty; Poland, divided into three enslaved parts, conceived possible an improbable restoration. It was in Strassburg and in Metz that the Tyrol, the Trient, Istria, Croatia, Slovania, Transylvania, the Greeks of Macedonia and Asia, the Belgians of the Walloon cantons and the Danes of Schleswig found abundant reason not to despair of the future. It was at Alsatian firesides that all oppressed nationalities kindled their hopes of redemption or of rebirth. All these hopes and all these aspirations were fed by Alsace and Lorraine. Quickeners of French energies, our oppressed brothers have quickened all the national energies of the present age. And as a crowning act of justice, the Treaty which liberated them, has carried to darkest Europe the same resplendent message of freedom.
In December, 1917, Herr von Kuhlmann, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the German Empire, cried: "Alsace-Lorraine? Never!" Less than two years later the Treaty of Versailles gave to the arrogance of this German Minister the reply of the universal conscience of mankind. Might this time---served Right!
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