The thoughts which I have expressed in the second chapter were not present to the mind of Paris. The future life of Europe was not their concern; its means of livelihood was not their anxiety. Their preoccupations, good and bad alike, related to frontiers and nationalities, to the balance of power, to imperial aggrandizements, to the future enfeeblement of a strong and dangerous enemy, to revenge, and to the shifting by the victors of their unbearable financial burdens on to the shoulders of the defeated.
Two rival schemes for the future polity of the world took the field,--the Fourteen Points of the President, and the Carthaginian Peace of M. Clemenceau. Yet only one of these was entitled to take the field; for the enemy had not surrendered unconditionally, but on agreed terms as to the general character of the Peace.
This aspect of what happened cannot, unfortunately, be passed over with a word, for in the minds of many Englishmen at least it has been a subject of very great misapprehension. Many persons believe that the Armistice Terms constituted the first Contract concluded between the Allied and Associated Powers and the German Government, and that we entered the Conference with our hands, free, except so far as these Armistice Terms might bind us. This was not the case. To make the position plain, it is necessary briefly to review the history, of the negotiations which began with the German Note of October 5, 1918, and concluded with President Wilson's Note of November 5, 1918.
On October 5, 1918, the German Government addressed a brief Note to the President accepting the Fourteen Points and asking for Peace negotiations. The President's reply of October 8 asked if he was to understand definitely that the German Government accepted "the terms laid down" in Fourteen Points and in his subsequent Addresses and "that its object in entering into discussion would be only to agree upon the practical details of their application." He added that the evacuation of invaded territory must be a prior condition of an Armistice. On October 12 the German Government returned an unconditional affirmative to these questions;-"its object in entering into discussions would be only to agree upon practical details of the application of these terms." On October 14, having received this affirmative answer, the President made a further communication to make clear the points: (1) that the details of the Armistice would have to be left to the military advisers of the United States and the Allies, and must provide absolutely against the possibility of Germany's resuming hostilities; (2) that submarine warfare must cease if these conversations were to continue; and (3) that he required further guarantees of the representative character of the Government with which he was dealing. On October 20 Germany accepted points (1) and (2), and pointed out, as regards (3), that she now had a Constitution and a Government dependent for its authority on the Reichstag. On October 23 the President announced that, "having received the solemn and explicit assurance of the German Government that it unreservedly accepts the terms of peace laid down in his Address to the Congress of the United States on January 8, 1918 (the Fourteen Points), and the principles of settlement enunciated in his subsequent Addresses, particularly the Address of September 27, and that it is ready to discuss the details of their application," he has communicated the above correspondence to the Governments of the Allied Powers "with the suggestion that, if these Governments are disposed to effect peace upon the terms and principles indicated," they will ask their military advisers to draw up Armistice Terms of such a character as to "ensure to the Associated Governments the unrestricted power to safeguard and enforce the details of the peace to which the German Government has agreed." At the end of this Note the President hinted more openly than in that of October 14 at the abdication of the Kaiser. This completes the preliminary negotiations to which the President alone was a party, adding without the Governments of the Allied Powers.
On November 5, 1918, the President transmitted to Germany the reply he had received from the Governments associated with him, and added that Marshal Foch had been authorized to communicate the terms of an armistice to properly accredited representatives. In this reply the Allied Governments, "subject to the qualifications which follow, declare their willingness to make peace with the Government of Germany on the terms of peace laid down in the President's Address to Congress of January 8, 1918, and the principles of settlement enunciated in his subsequent Addresses." The qualifications in question were two in number. The first related to the Freedom of the Seas, as to which they "reserved to themselves complete freedom." The second related to Reparation and ran as follows:--"Further, in the conditions of peace laid down in his Address to Congress on the 8th January, 1918 the President declared that invaded territories must be restored as well as evacuated and made free. The Allied Governments feel that no doubt ought to be allowed to exist as to what this provision implies. By it they understand that compensation will be made by Germany for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies and to their property by the aggression of Germany by land, by sea, and from the air."
The nature of the Contract between Germany and the Allies resulting from this exchange of documents is plain and unequivocal. The terms of the peace are to be in accordance with the Addresses of the President, and the purpose of the Peace Conference is "to discuss the details of their application." The circumstances of the Contract were of an unusually solemn and binding character; for one of the conditions of it was that Germany should agree to Armistice Terms which were to be such as would leave her helpless. Germany having rendered herself helpless in reliance on the Contract, the honor of the Allies was peculiarly involved in fulfilling their part and, if there were ambiguities, in not using their position to take advantage of them.
What, then, was the substance of this Contract to which the Allies had bound themselves? An examination of the documents shows that, although a large part of the Addresses is concerned with spirit, purpose, and intention, and not with concrete solutions, and that many questions requiring a settlement in the Peace Treaty are not touched on, nevertheless, there are certain questions which they settle definitely. It is true that within somewhat wide limits the Allies still had a free hand. Further, it is difficult to apply on a contractual basis those passages which deal with spirit, purpose, and intention;--every man must judge for himself whether, in view of them, deception or hypocrisy has been practised. But there remain, as will be seen below, certain important issues on which the Contract is unequivocal.
In addition to the Fourteen Points of January 18, 1918, the Addresses of the President which form part of the material of the Contract are four in number,--before the Congress on February 11; at Baltimore on April 6; at Mount Vernon on July 4; and at New York on September 27, the last of these being specially referred to in the Contract. I venture to select from these Addresses those engagements of substance, avoiding repetitions, which are most relevant to the German Treaty. The parts I omit add to, rather than detract from, those I quote; but they chiefly relate to intention, and are perhaps too vague and general to be interpreted contractually.
The Fourteen Points.--(3). "The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the Peace and associating themselves for its maintenance." (4). "Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety." (5). "A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims," regard being had to the interests of the populations concerned. (6), (7), (8), and (11). The evacuation and "restoration" of all invaded territory, especially of Belgium. To this must be added the rider of the Allies, claiming compensation for all damage done to civilians and their property by land, by sea, and from the air (quoted in full above). (8). The righting of "the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine." (13). An independent Poland, including "the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations" and "assured a free and secure access to the sea." (14). The League of Nations.
Before the Congress, February 11.--"There shall be no annexations, no contributions, no punitive damages.... Self-determination is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of action which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril.... Every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the populations concerned, and not as a part of any mere adjustment or compromise of claims amongst rival States."
New York, September 27.--(1) "The impartial justice meted out must involve no discrimination between those to whom we wish to be just and those to whom we do not wish to be just." (2) "No special or separate interest of any single nation or any group of nations can be made the basis of any part of the settlement which is not consistent with the common interest of all." (3) "There can be no leagues or alliances or special covenants and understandings within the general and common family of the League of Nations." (4) "There can be no special selfish economic combinations within the League and no employment of any form of economic boycott or exclusion, except as the power of economic penalty by exclusion from the markets of the world may be vested in the League of Nations itself as a means of discipline and control." (5) "All international agreements and treaties of every kind must be made known in their entirety to the rest of the world."
This wise and magnanimous program for the world had passed on November 5, 1918 beyond the region of idealism and aspiration, and had become part of a solemn contract to which all the Great Powers of the world had put their signature. But it was lost, nevertheless, in the morass of Paris;--the spirit of it altogether, the letter in parts ignored and in other parts distorted.
The German observations on the draft Treaty of Peace were largely a comparison between the terms of this understanding, on the basis of which the German nation had agreed to lay down its arms, and the actual provisions of the document offered them for signature thereafter. The German commentators had little difficulty in showing that the draft Treaty constituted a breach of engagements and of international morality comparable with their own offense in the invasion of Belgium. Nevertheless, the German reply was not in all its parts a document fully worthy of the occasion, because in spite of the justice and importance of much of its contents, a truly broad treatment and high dignify of outlook were a little wanting, and the general effect lacks the simple treatment, with the dispassionate objectivity of despair which the deep passions of the occasion might have evoked. The Allied governments gave it, in any case, no serious consideration, and I doubt if anything which the German delegation could have said at that stage of the proceedings would have much influenced the result.
The commonest virtues of the individual are often lacking in the spokesmen of nations; a statesman representing not himself but his country may prove, without incurring excessive blame--as history often records--vindictive, perfidious, and egotistic. These qualities are familiar in treaties imposed by victors. But the German delegation did not succeed in exposing in burning and prophetic words the quality which chiefly distinguishes this transaction from all its historical predecessors--its insincerity.
This theme, however, must be for another pen than mine. I am mainly concerned in what follows, not with the justice of the Treaty,--neither with the demand for penal justice against the enemy, nor with the obligation of contractual justice on the victor,--but with its wisdom and with its consequences.
I propose, therefore, in this chapter to set forth baldly the principal economic provisions of the Treaty, reserving, however, for the next my comments on the Reparation Chapter and on Germany's capacity to meet the payments there demanded from her.
The German economic system as it existed before the war depended on three main factors: I. Overseas commerce as represented by her mercantile marine, her colonies, her foreign investments, her exports, and the overseas connections of her merchants; II. The exploitation of her coal and iron and the industries built upon them; III. Her transport and tariff system. Of these the first, while not the least important, was certainly the most vulnerable. The Treaty aims at the systematic destruction of all three, but principally of the first two.