THE FOUNDATIONS OF PEACE
Destruction is easier and more rapid than construction, and it needs a wiser man and a longer labour to make peace than war. War begins with the first blow, but peace is not made when the fighting stops; and months were to pass in the troubled twilight between the two, with millions of men under arms, with budgets more suggestive of war than peace and men's thoughts more attuned to a contentious past than prepared for a peaceful future. The first act of the British Government was, indeed, to transfer hostilities from its foes abroad to those at home, and to rout its domestic enemies at a general election. The Parliament elected in 1910 had, after limiting its existence to five years, extended it during the war to eight; and the argument for an election and a fresh mandate for the Peace Conference would have been irresistible had any Ally followed our example, had the Government during the contest given any indication of the terms of peace it contemplated, and had the British delegates not been hampered rather than helped by the foolish concessions which ministers made to popular clamour for the Kaiser's execution and for Germany's payment of the total cost of the war. There could, indeed, be little discussion on the platform, because on principles all parties were substantially agreed, and details were matters for the Conference; and the election was fought to defeat opposition, not to the Government's policy, but to its personnel. In this the Coalition was triumphantly successful: three-quarters of the new members had accepted its coupon, and of the remainder the largest party consisted of seventy Sinn Feiners who were in prison or at least pledged not to attend the House. The Labour group returned some fifty strong, but Mr. Asquith's followers were reduced to thirty. This result was, however, a triumph of political strategy manipulating a very transient emotion, the evanescence of which was shown in a series of bye-elections before the Conference reached its critical points. It was well for British influence in the councils of the Allies that it did not depend upon the vagaries of popular votes, and it would have been well for the repute of British statesmen if they had not had the occasion or the temptation to indulge in the hectic misrepresentation and profligate promises of which their electioneering speeches were full.
The weight which the various Allies exerted at the Conference depended upon the services they had rendered to the common cause and the force they had at their disposal. At the conclusion of the armistice the British Empire, in addition to its overwhelming naval preponderance, had over half a million men in arms more than any other belligerent. Its total military forces, including Dominion and Indian troops and garrisons abroad, amounted to 5,680,247 men; France had 5,075,000; the United States, 3,707,000; Italy, 3,420,000; Germany about 4,500,000; Austria, 2,230,000; while Bulgaria had had at the end of September half a million, and Turkey at the end of October some 400,000. Great Britain and France had also been fighting since the beginning of the war, while Italy had joined in May 1915, and the United States in April 1917. On the other hand, all the European Powers had reached, if not passed, their meridian of strength, whereas the United States could with a corresponding effort raise her forces to over ten millions. Potentially she was the most powerful of the associated nations, and only the existence of the British fleet brought any rival up to anything like equality. Together the United States and the British Empire were irresistible; and so long as they were agreed, any concessions they might make to others would be due, not to fear, but to their sense of justice, desire for peace, and consideration for the susceptibilities of others. The responsibility for the issue of the Conference rested therefore upon them to a very special degree; and in spite of unspeakably foolish and ignorant chatter in reactionary quarters, it was an inestimable advantage that the British Empire could look to the United States and President Wilson to bear most of the odium of insisting upon sound principles and telling unpalatable truths. America was in the better position to play the part of the candid friend, because she had no territorial ambitions to serve and no axe to grind save that of peaceful competition in the arts of industry and commerce; and if European allies occasionally grumbled at American interference, the reply was obvious that they should have won the war without waiting for or depending on American intervention.
In spite of a somewhat weak pretence to public diplomacy, the secret history of the Conference is not likely to be known to this generation; but its decisions were promptly published, and the attitude of the various Powers to the principal problems with which they had to deal was easily discerned. President Wilson had made a personal survey of the ground by a visit to Europe, unprecedented in the history of the Presidential office, in December, before the Conference opened at Versailles on 18 January 1919. It was largely owing to his presence and prestige that in the forefront of the programme and performance of the Conference stood a plan for an international organization for the future avoidance of war, settlement of disputes, and regulation of labour conditions. The idea of a League of Nations had made rapid progress as the war increased in extent, intensity, and horror. At Christmas 1917 the British Government, at the instigation of Lord Robert Cecil and General Smuts, had appointed a committee to explore the subject, and it had reported in the following summer in favour of a scheme in which the main stress was laid upon the avoidance of war. The French Government had also appointed a commission which likewise reported favourably in the summer of 1918: the principal difference between the two was that the French commission advocated the establishment of an organized standing international army. President Wilson preferred to proceed by means of more informal discussions with committees not appointed by his government; and the American stress was laid rather on the organization of an international council and tribunal. The fruitful idea of a mandatory system was first publicly advocated by General Smuts.
Lord Robert Cecil was charged with the principal share in accommodating such divergences as existed between the various governments on the matter, and remarkable progress was made, which resulted in President Wilson's production before the Conference, on 14 February, of a Covenant embodying the scheme for a future League of Nations. It was subjected to a good deal of criticism, and party-spirit in America sought to make capital out of the proposed abandonment of the self-sufficient isolation of the United States and the subordination of the Monroe Doctrine to the interests of the world and the common judgment of mankind. In Great Britain there were also those who preferred the guarantee of a predominant British navy to the security of any scrap of paper, and somewhat ignored the fact that the war had been fought to establish the sanctity of international obligations. In France, with her vivid recollection of painful experience, there was similarly a tendency to make the most of our military victory and to base the stability of peace upon the establishment of military predominance and the possession of conquests guaranteed by a permanent anti-German alliance. Italy was frankly out for all she could get irrespective of the principles of nationality and self-determination. A rigorous censorship, not merely of news from other countries, but of serious and moderate Italian books on history and politics, had combined with an ingenuous self-esteem to produce the popular conviction that Italy had been the main factor in the victory of the Entente, and that the Conference was therefore bound to concede whatever rewards she might demand in return for her services. She contended that her sentiment for Dalmatia was as sincere as that of the French for Alsace-Lorraine, and ignored the difference made by the fact that Dalmatia was peopled with Jugo-Slavs. Italy therefore had little sympathy with the Fourteen Points which at President Wilson's instigation had been accepted as the basis of the armistice and the principles of peace. Finally, Japan had a special grievance in the reluctance of the United States to accept the maxim of racial equality and a special interest in the acquisition of Chinese territory; and prejudice against her racial claim prejudiced the Aliies' defence of Chinese territorial integrity.
These were some of the fundamental difficulties of the Conference which could only be settled in part by self-restraint and compromise. Much had to be left over to the patient labours of the future League of Nations in an atmosphere less charged than the Conference with the passion of war; and it gradually became evident that, instead of the League of Nations depending upon the excellence of the peace it was to guarantee, the permanence of the peace would depend upon the capacity of the League of Nations to remedy its imperfections. The League emerged as the cardinal factor in the situation which was to make the vital difference between the work of the Conference of 1919 and that of the Congresses of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Reflection tended, moreover, to mitigate some of the objections to the Covenant, though various of its details were modified in response to criticism. Public opinion in the United States rallied to the argument that America would be stultifying herself if, after entering the war to win it and make the world safe for democracy, she refused to participate in the only means of making the peace tolerable and permanent; and it was recognized that the Monroe Doctrine was not so much being superseded as expanded from America to cover all the world. British reliance on sea-power was likewise somewhat impressed by the determination of the United States, if the League of Nations failed, to build a navy at least equal to our own, and by the recognition of the fact that the maintenance of even a two-Power standard would consequently involve us in a race for naval armaments more severe than that before the war and pregnant with an even greater disaster to the cause of civilization. French opinion, too, was gradually modified by the realization that Great Britain and the United States could not be expected to sanction a militarist settlement resembling in its spirit and its motives the German terms of 1871, or to guarantee a peace of which their people disapproved; and a halting trust in a League of Nations was fortified by a more specific guarantee of protection by Great Britain and the United States against an unprovoked attack by Germany. Italy, the youngest of the Great Powers among the Allies, the least mature in its political wisdom, and the most subject before the war to the influence of German realpolitik, carried her obstruction to the point of temporarily leaving the Conference in April; but her delegates returned on finding that the rest of the Allies were prepared to make peace without her participation.
Apart from these conflicts of point of view, the Conference had infinite trouble to deal with territories which had been conquered and peoples which had been liberated from autocratic yokes. The problem of races and lands in Africa and in the former Turkish Empire which were admittedly unfit for self-government had been simplified by the happy thought of the mandatory system which again depended for its efficacy upon the idea of a League of Nations. It had long been the claim of the British Empire, that so far as it was an empire and not a league of free States, it was a power held in trust and wielded not for the benefit of the Government, but of the governed. It was now proposed to formulate and expand this idea by treating these conquered lands not as the freeholds of the conqueror, but as lands to be held of the League of Nations by a mandate, for the execution of which the mandatory would be responsible to the common judgment of the nations. There was some objection to the proposal on the ground of national pride and resentment at the idea of being held responsible; but a juster appreciation led to the reflections that irresponsibility was a Prussian ideal of government, that a better cause for national pride arose from the general confidence in a nation's integrity implied in the conferment of the mandate, and that only those whose deeds were evil need fear the intrusion of international light upon their methods of administration. To be able to do what one liked with one's own was a baser ambition than to satisfy the conscience of mankind that one was making the best use of the talents with which one had been entrusted; and the general approbation with which the idea of mandates was received testified better than other proceedings in the Conference to the growth of a sense of common responsibility for the welfare of mankind. In this way the administration of German colonies in Africa was to be entrusted to Great Britain, France, and the Union of South Africa; Pacific Islands to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand; Mesopotamia and Palestine to Great Britain, Syria to France, and parts of Asia Minor to Italy and Greece.
More difficult was the self- or other determination of those parts of Europe which had escaped the iron hand of the three great Empires of Germany, Austria, and Russia. Alsace-Lorraine would revert by common consent to France, which was also given the Saar district for a term of years, not as a conquest but as a means of recovering the vast stores of coal and iron of which the Germans had robbed the French during their occupation. Belgium claimed a small strip on her frontier inhabited mainly by Belgian people; the self-determination which Bismarck had promised the Danes in Schleswig in 1864 was at last accorded them; and Heligoland was dismantled. The principal difficulties lay on Germany's eastern frontier, where the racial mixture between Germans and Poles was complicated by Poland's claim to a port and access to the sea, and by the fact that the cession of Dantzig and the Vistula to Poland would sever Germany from East Prussia, which was German in population and had been under German rule since 1524. Dantzig had been part of the Polish kingdom down to the first partition of 1772, but like other towns in Poland it had for centuries been inhabited and municipally governed mainly by Germans and Jews. For Poland was a kingdom which prolonged feudal conditions into the eighteenth century; it was a nation of serfs and landlords, and its commerce and industry, and therefore its towns, had been left for German and Jewish immigrants to develop. The corridor to the sea with most of Posen was eventually given to Poland, while parts of East Prussia and Upper Silesia were subjected to plebiscites which promised a similar result; but, like other territorial arrangements in central and eastern Europe, it was a settlement which could never prove satisfactory until racial antagonisms were modified by good government, and it became possible for different nationalities to live together in a State in Europe with as little sense of injustice and exploitation as immigrants in the United States of America.
As some offset to these losses of alien subjects, Germany hoped for an increase of population by the accession of German Austria (including the Tyrol) and the German fringes of Bohemia. The mountain ranges which ringed in Bohemia to the east, north, and west had, however, always been her boundaries, and were too natural a frontier to be surrendered by the new State of Czecho-Slovakia, the future independence of which had been recognized in 1918 as a testimony to the services rendered to the Entente by the Czecho-Slovak troops in Siberia and Russia; while conflicting views in German Austria, combined with the reluctance of France to see Germany aggrandized, postponed this reunion of German-speaking peoples, and left German Austria the weakest of the central European States into which the Hapsburg Empire dissolved. Hungary became entirely independent, but was shorn of her Rumanian, Serb, and Croat appanages. Rumanian troops held Transylvania, most of the Bukovina, and a slice of Hungary. Croatia and Carniola, like Bosnia, Herzegovina, and the previously independent Montenegro had already combined with Serbia to form a great Jugo-Slav kingdom stretching from north of Laibach to the south of Monastir, and from the Adriatic to the Danube. The Trentino, Trieste, and Pola had been occupied by Italy, but the future of Dalmatia, Fiume, and the islands in the Adriatic was the greatest bone of contention at the Conference, and their disposal was almost indefinitely postponed.
The gravest of all the problems which confronted the victorious Powers arose in connexion with their former ally, Russia, whose condition presented almost as many obstacles to peace as it had done to the successful prosecution of war. There was, however, one countervailing advantage of incalculable value. Had the imperialist Tsardom emerged triumphant from the struggle, the reactionary forces at the Conference would have been enormously strengthened; little would probably have been heard of the independence of Poland; Constantinople would have fallen into Russian hands; the Balkans and Asia Minor would have become, in fact if not in name, Russian protectorates; and there would have been found little scope for self-determination along the shores of the Baltic or in Eastern Europe. The great war of liberation would probably have resulted merely in the substitution of Russia for Germany as a greater menace to the independence of little nations and to the peace of the world. Nevertheless, the problems imposed upon the Conference by warring factions in Russia proper, by discordant races emancipated from Russian domination and pursuing their own conflicting ambitions, and by the folly of the Allies themselves in ignoring the principle impressed upon them since 1917, that it was legitimate to assist Russians against the Germans but not against one another, were harassing enough. The half-hearted, disingenuous, and misguided military efforts made by the Allies in Russia introduced alien irritants into the domestic situation and prolonged that painful process of internal evolution which could alone produce a satisfactory solution in a stable Russian government. If the responsible Allied statesmen had studied the history of previous attempts to impose particular governments on independent peoples by the force of arms, they would have been even more reluctant to attempt a repetition of the experiment in Russia. As it was, their efforts were hampered by their own subjects and Allies. The United States stood aloof; French soldiers and sailors refused to fight against Bolsheviks at Odessa; Italy did nothing; and the burden of an unwise policy was left to Great Britain, where not even the systematic manipulation of news from Russia in the interests of intervention could induce public opinion to condone more than perfunctory help to the cause of restoration.
The fairest guise this policy could assume was defence of the principle of self-determination, and the assumption was maintained that the Russian people were opposed to the Soviet government. There would have been better ground for assisting Finns, Letts, Esthonians, and Ukrainians against Bolshevik imperialism; but it was to Koltchak, Denikin, and their north Russian friends, rather than to the little peoples that help was sent, and a powerful motive in the discrimination was the pledge of the Russian conservatives to resume responsibility for Russia's debts to her Allies, particularly France, which the Bolsheviks had repudiated. Whatever success might attend this policy would not be due to its wisdom, and events were to show that the British Government misjudged the Russian situation in 1919 as much as European monarchies did that of the French Republic in 1793. The crimes and follies committed by the Soviet and the Jacobin governments were equally repulsive, but they did not make foreign intervention in either case a sound or successful policy; and the Allies would have been wiser to confine their military action to the defence of the nascent States which had asserted their independence of Russia and claimed the right of self-determination. The clearest case was that of Finland, which had always since its acquisition by Russia in the eighteenth century protested against its loss of independence. In Esthonia and Latvia, which had passed under the Russian yoke during the same period, the native movement was complicated by the class ambitions of the German barons; and there was a confused triangular struggle between German, Russian, and native influences, in which the interests and the principles of the Conference obviously lay on the side of the native party. The situation was more obscure in Lithuania. It had been bound by a personal union of its sovereign with Poland since 1370 and by a legislative union since 1569. There had been no conquest on either side any more than there had been in the personal and legislative unions of England and Scotland in 1603 and 1707; and the problem was rather one for domestic arrangement than for decision by the Conference. The Ukraine, on the other hand, had first been conquered by Poland and then seized by Russia during the successive partitions of Poland; and it required the constraint of a superior authority to check the predatory claims of both those Powers to their dubious inheritance.
The prospect of dealing successfully with the manifold problems which confronted the Conference depended to a large extent upon the order in which they were tackled. Manifestly they could not be handled simultaneously, and the first thing to do was to lay down the principles not only of the peace, but of its future adjustment and modification by establishing a League of Nations. When that Covenant had been provisionally accepted by the Conference in February, the next step was to settle with Germany; for no provisions for general peace or the security of new nations could be satisfactory until Germany was bound by material and moral guarantees to accept and to respect them. It was therefore both a logical and a practical necessity which constrained the Conference, after enunciating the principles of peace in the Covenant, to deal next with their application to Germany.
The terms were eventually settled in April and presented to the German delegation, which had been invited to Versailles for the purpose, on 7 May. The conditions were harsh, in parts vindictive, and in others manifestly inconsistent with any natural interpretation of the Fourteen Points which all the belligerents had accepted as the basis of the armistice and consequent peace; and they were not such as any Power could be expected to sign without an effort to get them amended before peace was concluded or a mental reservation to procure their modification as soon as might be thereafter. The German delegates, with Count Brockdorff-Rantzau at their head, did their best to expose the inconsistencies between the Allies' professions and their performance, and to secure a reconsideration of the more distasteful terms. An elaborate protest and counterproposals were delivered early in June and promptly answered by the Allies. A few minor points were conceded, but the terms as a whole were maintained, with an intimation that unless they were accepted at once as they stood, the Allies would draw the sword again. Count Brockdorff-Rantzau thereupon resigned, and Scheidemann's government fell on 20 June. He was succeeded as Prime Minister by Herr Bauer, and Herr MŘller was sent to replace Brockdorff-Rantzau at Versailles with a mandate to sign the dictated peace. It was signed by Germany and by all her enemies, with the exception of China, on 28 June, five years to a day since the murder at Serajevo; and early in July it was ratified by a two to one vote of the German Assembly at Weimar and by the German President Ebert.
The Treaty, which filled a volume of over four hundred pages, had no precedent for its importance or its bulk. It was an epitome of the affairs of the world, and its predecessors, the Treaties of Utrecht and Paris, which ushered in peace early in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, were miniature in comparison. The German terms were an unsatisfactory and comparatively unimportant part of the Treaty except in so far as they bound Germany to accept the principles for which the Allies had fought the war and upon which they were determined that the future government of the world should rest. They were, indeed, not so much a pact of peace as a punishment of war; and an idealistic scheme of government by consent started by imposing on the weaker party conditions with which it could not but violently disagree. Millions of Germans in Alsace-Lorraine, Bohemia, Poland, and East Prussia were transferred to alien domination; millions of others in German Austria were denied the right of self-determination in the form of union with Germany; cities like Dantzig and Memel, which were admittedly German, were severed from Germany on the grounds that neighbouring districts were not, and that the economic interests of foreign States required the severance; and where German lines of communication crossed those of the Allies and their friends, the German lines were cut in order to provide what was regarded as an indispensable continuity for those of their rivals. These and like provisions were due to Allied distrust of Germany and lack of confidence in the efficacy of their own principles. For if the League of Nations succeeded in establishing that freedom of intercourse at which it professed to aim, there would be no need for this transfer of control or for the enforcement of access to the sea at the expense of the principle of self-determination; and these arbitrary arrangements on Germany's eastern frontier were the counterpart of the special alliance of Great Britain and the United States to afford France a protection which the League of Nations did not immediately or adequately provide. The judgment of posterity, which rarely coincides with that of the parties to a dispute or to a treaty, is likely to agree with the declaration of General Smuts, after signing the Treaty, that real peace would not be found in it so much as in the machinery it created for its own amendment, and in the spirit which would in time tone down the passions and products of war.
But that hope would have been vain without the crushing of Prussian militarism, and the best justification of the terms imposed upon Germany is that they sealed the defeat of that spirit and annulled its works in the past since the days of Frederick the Great. Here at least the Allies worked with a will and without susceptibilities to conciliate. The German army was reduced to an internal police force of a hundred thousand men, and meticulous care was taken to prevent the evasion of this exiguous limit. Her fleet was restricted to six battleships, six light cruisers, twelve destroyers, and twelve torpedo-boats; and she was denied submarines and air-forces altogether. Conscription--despite the war-time plea of our own conscriptionists that it had nothing to do with militarism--was abolished as the head and front of Germany's offence; and her armaments and munitions were limited to diminutive proportions. Much of what Germany had won by the mailed fist--Alsace-Lorraine, Posen, and West Prussia--was taken away, while the presumptive Belgian lands of Eupen and Malmedy, the indubitably German Saar district, Danish Schleswig, and disputed territories in Upper Silesia and East Prussia were reserved for determination by plebiscites held under the auspices of the League of Nations. But the purely German lands which had been conquered by Prussia's sword, Holstein, Hanover, Westphalia, most of Silesia, and half of Saxony, were left where the sword had brought them, presumably on the ground that popular acquiescence had condoned the barbarous arbitrament of war. Reparation was to supplement restitution: ton for ton the shipping sunk by submarines was to be made good out of existing German tonnage and future construction; and two thousand million pounds were to be paid in two years as a first instalment towards the repair of damage done by the German army in Belgium, France, and elsewhere. German colonies were held forfeit on the double but discrepant counts of the fortune of war and the failure of Germany to govern them according to the standard professed by all and practised by some of the Allies. The gain to their inhabitants consisted to no small extent in the fact that they were to be administered by mandatories whose responsibility was to be enforced by an annual report to the League of Nations. Finally, Germany was required to acquiesce in whatever conditions the victors might impose on her defeated Allies, and to surrender for trial whomsoever of her nationals the Conference might select to charge with crime in their conduct of the war.
In earlier times a treaty of peace was commonly styled a treaty of peace and amity, and the whilom belligerents swore eternal friendship to date from the ratification. Here there was no pretence to amity, and the terms of peace were penalties imposed upon a prisoner at the bar. The justice in the peace was criminal justice, justice ad hoc rather than impartial equity. Other nations than Germany had waged wars of aggression; and if the breach of 1914 was a crime, the jury which adjudged it so had criminal records of their own. Even the British Empire and the United States had not attained their vast proportions or acquired their subject populations by the force of argument or in self-defence. There was no law against aggression in 1914; all nations were responsible more or less for its non-existence, and all except Belgium had themselves as well as Germany to thank for what they suffered in consequence. These, however, were precisely the reasons for making a law which was lacking and a peace for which there was no precedent. It was Germany who had taken advantage of the weakness of international law and done most to prevent its growth; and it was fitting that Germany should pay a corresponding penalty. There is a wholesome prejudice against retrospective legislation, but the benefit cannot be claimed by those who obstructed the legislation because they wanted to pursue the conduct which it would have made criminal. Occasions arise which imperatively require the creation of precedents, and the time had surely come in 1919 to enforce the principle that States must observe a moral code in their relations with one another, and to assert the responsibility of governments to that code by imposing penalties for its breach. For that the Allies had contended throughout the war, and the repudiation of that issue by the Germans was no ground for their immunity after their defeat.
Their claims were not, indeed, consistent. If there was no international code to which they could be held responsible, there was none to prevent the Allies from crying vae victis and using their victory as the Germans had hoped to use theirs. Their delegates first pleaded the absence of this code in order to absolve their former rulers, and then urged its existence to escape from punishment themselves. It was a specious plea that their revolution had acquitted the German people of the crimes of the German Government; but even more pregnant for the future welfare of mankind than insistence upon the responsibility of governments to their people was insistence upon the responsibility of peoples for their government. If the government of Germany was a criminal government, the fault could only be charged against the German people; and it is only when peoples realize that they will have to pay for the sins of the rulers they choose or tolerate that there can be any security in a democratic age for decent conduct in the relations of governments to one another. For fifty years the German people had been content to profit from the aggressiveness of their government, releasing it from responsibility to domestic opinion and denying its responsibility to any other tribunal. That negligence on the part of the Germans to guarantee the respectability of their State cost the world thirty million casualties and thirty thousand million pounds; and the debt to humanity could not be discharged by simply dismissing the agent who had incurred it. Germany herself could not undo the harm she had done nor restore the more precious losses she had caused. Repentance was something, and good conduct would lighten the burden she had to bear and shorten the term of her isolation. But judgment could not be evaded; and the majority of the German people showed good sense in their acceptance of the terms and in the rapidity with which the treaty was ratified.
From German affairs the Conference turned to those of Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey, the minor importance of which was indicated by the departure from Versailles of the principal delegates who had determined the Covenant of the League and the terms of the treaty with Germany. President Wilson returned to America to secure the reluctant consent of the Senate to the settlement he had made; Mr. Lloyd George came back to England to the less arduous task of obtaining parliamentary sanction for those parts of the treaty which required it; and the further work of the Conference was left to the foreign ministers and other experts rather than to Prime Ministers, though M. ClÚmenceau remained to preside, and the Italian affairs in dispute were vital enough to require the presence of a full Italian delegation. These were concerned with the liquidation of the Hapsburg Empire, but not with that fragment of it to which Austria had been reduced by the recognition of Czecho-Slovakian independence, the transference of Galicia to Poland, and the union of Croats and Slovenes under the Serbian crown. Deprived of German support by the German treaty, this little Austria was but a suppliant at the Conference, and its efforts were mainly bent towards reducing its share in the liabilities of the Empire of which it had once formed part. Hapsburg Government was defunct, and it was difficult to apportion its liabilities fairly among those who acquired its assets; for some of them, like the Czechoslovaks and Jugo-Slavs, had exonerated themselves from complicity for Hapsburg malfeasance by rebelling against their government and fighting for the Entente. The problem was complicated by a further revolution in Hungary where a Soviet Government was established, and Bela Kun endeavoured to rule after the manner of Lenin. The Russian Bolsheviks were, however, unable to help their Hungarian pupils, in spite of the hesitancy shown by the Allies in dealing with the situation; and early in August Bela Kun's government fell before domestic reaction and the advance of the Rumanian army, which occupied Buda-Pesth. At last Rumania had her revenge, and it required energetic protests on the part of Versailles to induce her to recognize its restraining authority, refrain from reprisals, and regard the spoils of war as the common assets of the Allies instead of her own particular booty. She had ample compensation in the settlement through the redemption of Rumanes not only from the Hapsburg-Magyar yoke but from that Russian yoke in Bessarabia which had dulled her ardour for the anti-Hapsburg cause.
These diversions delayed until September the presentation by the Allies of their final terms to the Austrian Republic. Its territories were reduced to the limits of Austrian lands before the Hapsburg Empire was created four hundred years ago by the Emperors Charles V and Ferdinand I; parts even of their inheritance were lost, though the ecclesiastical lands like Salzburg acquired during the Napoleonic secularization were retained, and the future of Klagenfurt was reserved for plebiscitary determination. Instead of an Empire Austria became the fragment of a nation, divorced from the rest of the German people by the fears of the Entente, required like Germany to forswear conscription, denied all access to the sea, and left with regard to the size of its territories and weakness of its frontiers in much the same situation as the Serbia she had attacked in 1914. Protest was as idle as delay, and the treaty which was presented on 2 September was signed on the 10th.
Nine days later Bulgaria learnt her fate, and the draft treaty presented to her delegates at Versailles on 19 September condemned her to pay an indemnity of ninety millions, to reduce her army to 20,000, and to lose the town and district of Strumnitza and the whole of her Ăgean coast. Strumnitza was given to Serbia, but the Ăgean coast was reserved for disposal with the rest of Thrace and the remains of the Turkish empire. Bulgaria herself received a fraction of Turkish territory on the river Maritza, and her frontiers with Rumania were left unchanged. In the Balkans, as elsewhere, the Allies applied the principle of self-determination only to conquered countries; none but an Ally was allowed the privilege of retaining Irelands in subjection, and in the Balkans at least the victory of the Entente increased the populations under alien rule. Guarantees respecting the rights of minorities were, indeed, imposed on the lesser States, but they would have been more effective and less invidious, had the greater Powers subjected themselves to the rule they made for others.
The Conference found it easier to dispose of its enemies' lands than to compose the rivalries of its friends; and the blunders of Italy's statesmen combined with the blindness of public opinion to reduce her to a position of almost pathetic isolation. Signor Orlando's abandonment of the Conference in April failed to shake the resistance of the Allies to her extravagant expectations, and on 20 June, by a remarkable vote of 229 to 80 in the Italian Chamber, his government was driven from office. Not only in Italy but in Allied countries, Italian communities abstained from celebrating the peace with Germany, and grave indeed would have been the difficulties of the Conference if the conclusion of that treaty had depended upon Italy's signature. There was friction amounting to bloodshed between French and Italians at Fiume, and an Albanian rising against the protectorate which Italy had proclaimed. Her resolve to establish Italian domination along the eastern coasts of the Adriatic evoked opposition from all the native populations, who strongly appealed to the sympathies and principles of the Allies; and her dependence upon them for the necessaries of commerce and industry made defiance an impossible policy. Gradually her new government under Signor Nitti sought to withdraw from an untenable position; but D'Annunzio's raid on Fiume in September once more inflamed popular passion, and Dalmatia, the islands in the Adriatic, Albania, Epirus, and the Dodecanese were apples of discord between Italy and the Balkan States which distracted the Allies throughout the summer and autumn.
The settlement was also delayed by the enormous difficulty of liquidating the Ottoman Empire and the reluctance of the United States to accept the obligation of mandates in Europe or Asia. The curious spectacle was afforded of the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race indulging in a rivalry of retirement and endeavouring to saddle each other with fresh acquisitions of territory; and between them Armenia was almost abandoned once more to the Turks and the Kurds. France was less retiring in Syria, the inhabitants of which were believed to prefer to French rule any one of three alternatives, Arab independence, a mandate for the United States, or one for Great Britain; and the anxiety of great Powers to leave countries where their presence was wanted was only equalled by their determination to stay where it was not. French soreness over the lack of appreciation shown by the Syrian people was increased by an independent arrangement between Great Britain and Persia which gave us as complete a control over Persian administration as we possessed in Egypt during the eighties; and it was somewhat pertinently asked why Persia should be allowed to dispose of her government in this way, while Austria was sternly forbidden to unite with Germany without the consent of the League of Nations. The sovereignty of Persia had, however, been recognized at Versailles, and the League could not entrust a mandate for its government to any other State. It was therefore left for Persia to secure assistance in its administration by private treaty dictated by Lord Curzon and traditional views about India, Russia, and the Persian Gulf. Our patronage of Koltchak's government prevented him from making any protest.
Russia remained the sphinx of the situation, and the obscurity of her future darkened the counsels of Versailles. Early in the war the Entente had acquiesced in all the imperialist pretensions of the Tsardom to Constantinople, the Dardanelles, and Asia Minor; and even after the Revolution the web of the old diplomacy entangled the feet of the Allies. Fear of Bolshevism threw them on to the side of Restoration, and Restoration at the hands of Koltchak and Denikin implied a revival of the Russian Empire at the expense of independent fringes. The Ukraine, Lithuania, Esthonia, and Latvia, and even Poland and Finland, looked askance at such a policy, and naturally could not be brought into a crusade to carry it out. The straightforward line to take would have been to recognize these emancipated States on the principle of self-determination and limit our action to their defence. Hatred and haste had, however, betrayed the Allies into armed intervention in the domestic politics of Russia proper, and committed them to supporting a cause which had doubtful chances of success and, if successful, might produce greater embarrassment for them than defeat. From success they were saved by Koltchak's failure. Having mastered Siberia and made a brave show of descending on Bolshevist Russia from the Urals in the spring, he was routed in July and August and driven back to Omsk, while Bolshevist forces rose up in his rear. His defeat ruined our plans in North Russia, and at last convinced the Allies of their folly in seeking to impose a government on the Russian people; and evacuation became the order of the day. In South Russia Denikin, unassisted by foreign legions, met with more native support and greater success. The Bolsheviks were driven from the shores of the Black Sea, and the Ukraine recovered Kiev. Students of Russian history drew interesting parallels with the Russian Time of Troubles in the seventeenth century, but rather neglected the fact that they lasted thirty years; and the foundations laid at Versailles had long to wait before the temple of peace was erected upon them in Russia.
The Allies themselves were slow to ratify the terms they dictated to others, and months passed after the German ratification before its example of promptness was followed by the Entente. The British Empire had to await the separate decisions of all its Dominions; and the Senate of the United States was led, by the fact that a majority in it was politically opposed to the President, to make an even greater use than was customary of its constitutional powers of obstruction in foreign policy. Italy ratified the treaty on 7 October; Great Britain, her four Dominions having assented by 2 October, ratified on the 10th, and France on the 12th. But the Adriatic and the Baltic, Russia and the Balkans, Turkey and Syria, still defied a settlement and delayed the peace; and the Powers at Versailles discovered that their apparent omnipotence was impotent for many purposes. Not one of their peoples was willing to go to war to enforce the decisions of the Conference, and the submission of Germany removed the one possible exception to this rule. Almost against its own will the Conference was compelled to act on its own principles and find other methods than those of military force to settle the problems with which it was faced; and this situation provided ample scope for diplomatic recalcitrance and delay. The advantage was that practice was thus acquired in the exercise of such economic and other peine forte et dure as the League of Nations would in future have to use to reduce its unruly members to order. Proceedings at Versailles therefore took less and less the character of a conclusion to the war and more and more that of an endless introduction to a new era. The work of a temporary Conference to settle terms of peace was merging into that of a permanent League of Nations for maintaining it; and the world happily got into its international habits while its individual governments and legislatures were still debating whether they would fit. Just as before the war the appearance of peace was deceptive, so the clouds of a storm that was passed obscured the clearing sky, and filled the weather-prophets of the platform and the press with a gloom which the people declined instinctively to share. There were indeed symptoms that we, like our forefathers a century ago, were destined to tread the downward path from Waterloo to Peter-loo. The ties of nationality and the stimulus of patriotism weakened; the home-fires which kept brightly burning in the war threatened to end in smoke through dissensions over coal, and men reverted to their ancient anarchy of class and craft. Mr. Lloyd George's House of Commons, which owed its existence to past events and to a passing mood, soon forfeited the confidence of a fickle public, and the impotence to which it was reduced left the country prone to the temptations and a prey to the turbulence of direct and unrepresentative action. In the absence of effective opposition and incentive in Parliament nothing constitutional appeared to move the Government, and an evil example was set when a few hundred soldiers in January demanded in Whitehall and obtained their prompt demobilization. The Premier himself, who had been on Pisgah in September 1914, descended to a lower level and a dusty arena in his general election speeches; and animosities which had been concentrated on the Huns were dissipated in domestic directions.
Distance alone will lend discernment to the view, and only time will reveal the ascent of man during the five great years of war. There will be much backsliding to measure and record, and the intense agitation of war brought out the worst in the bad as well as the best in the good. Much that came to the top was scum, while often the salt of the earth went under. Treason blotted the pages illumined by heroism, and profiteering tarnished peoples redeemed by the devotion of their sons. Wastefulness and corruption ran riot even in government circles, while hundreds of thousands of humble men and women voluntarily stinted and starved themselves beyond the rigid requirements of the law. Lip-service was paid to the principle of equality in sacrifice, and some efforts were made to enforce it. But they failed to remove the inexorable inequalities of human fate, and the war which brought death and distress to millions, brought to others ease and honours, wealth and fame. These are the common property of wars; and if men did more evil in this than in any preceding conflict, it was not because they were worse than their forefathers, but because the war was more comprehensive and they had ampler means of working ill. Even the cruelty with which it was waged by the Germans created horror mainly because they sinned against the higher standards of modern times, and because their cruelty found more scientific and effective methods of expression.
All the nations which fought believed in the justice of their cause and fought as a rule with a courage which belied the alleged degeneracy of the human race. None of the Powers save Russia fell short of their previous fame. France strove at Verdun with a fortitude in adversity unequalled in her annals. German discipline and determination would have evoked unstinted praise but for the cause in which those qualities were displayed. Belgium exhibited a national spirit new in her history, and Serbian heroism was a revelation which earned for the southern Slavs the greatest relative gains in the war. The people of the United States became a nation of crusaders moved by motives at least as high as those which inspired the hearers of Peter the Hermit, Urban II, or St. Bernard; and the British Empire eclipsed its own and all other records. History tells of many a shining example of ancient valour in individuals and in the elect; but here we had heroism in the mass and courage in the common man. Human memory recalls no parallel to that uprising of the spirit which led five million Britons to fight as volunteers for the honour of their country and the liberty of other lands; despite its shortcomings the Conference of Versailles achieved higher ideals than those attained by any preceding congress of peace; and if during the war for its common weal the world paid, in flesh and in spirit, a price greater than that ever paid before, it purchased a larger heritage of hope and laid a surer foundation for its faith.