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"since August, 1914, the fight had been for the highest spiritual
advantages of mankind and without a petty thought or am-
bition." His colleague, General Joffre, hero of the Marne,
though reserved, paternal, circumspect, and given to silence
on momentous matters, was also received with tumultuous
acclaim by the masses for his martial glory.

In quiet conferences with President Wilson, these com-
missioners described the desperate plight of the Entente Allies
ind demonstrated the imperative need for immediate helo
with money, supplies, and men at the front. In response, loans
running into the billions were granted with alacrity, and pro-
visions made for united action in controlling world trade and
pouring an unbroken stream of materials into the allied coun-
tries in spite of the submarine menace, then growing deadlier
every hour.

"Send us American soldiers!" was the universal cry from
the Associates of the United States; "let the American flag
be unfurled on the fields of France and let the tramp of
American armies thrill anew the worn spirits of those who
have borne the brunt of battle for three long years." In June,
General Pershing went to France to prepare the way for the
coming hosts, followed in a few days by the first units of the
regular forces which marched through the streets of Paris as
a pledge of America's high resolve. Until the draft army
was ready, of course, the transport of forces was inevitably
slow, but in the opening weeks of 1918 the tiny current became
a torrent; by July a million American soldiers were on the
of action. When at last in November the curtain was



scene of action.
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rung down on the world tragedy, the number doubled,
belieing the contemptuous prophecies of German critics and
astounding the world by the miracle in the transformation of
America into a fighting machine.

Naturally the posture of allied affairs determined the dis-
position of American forces along the front. The English
held the western section near their base of supplies; the heart
of France was concentrated on the defense of Paris; accord-
ingly the most tranquil section toward the east was firs
assigned to the American associates. With incredible swiftnes
a huge American war mechanism was created on the bas
of this arrangement, with its chief port of entry at Bordeau
and its headquarters at Chaumont, below Verdun.

After a winter of cautious preparations, General Pershing
was ready to work effectively with General Foch in breakir.
the shock of the mighty German offensive launched in March
Again in the summer, when General Ludendorff's last desperate
drive threw the French and Allied forces back upon the
Marne, American soldiers at Belleau Wood, Chateau-Thierry,
and other points along the flaming line played well their part
in the awful fighting that turned the tide of battle. In Sep-
tember, with French assistance, they wiped out the German
salient at Saint Mihiel and then joined in the fierce surge from
the mountains to the Channel that burst wide the gates of
victory.

On the. ocean, American cooperation with the Allied powers,
though less spectacular, proceeded with equal resolve. In
protecting the American coast, in patrolling the war zones for
submarines, in sowing mines through the North Sea, in bomb-
ing submarine bases, and in convoying troop ships, the American
navy rose to the requirements of the conflict. When at length
the long struggle was over and the armistice was proclaimed on
November n, 1918, more than three hundred American war
vessels and seventy-five thousand sailors were operating in
European waters.

BESIDES economic might and military power, new social
and intellectual forces were thrown into the balance. In
days of old when kings made war with mercenary armies, no
grand proclamation of aims and purposes was required; the
royal will was made known and good subjects obeyed. That
was the state of affairs when the French Revolution altered
the face of politics, thrusting the ballot and the bayonet into
the hands of peasants, hairdressers, and carters, and making
it expedient, on summoning them to arms, to accompany the
call by a declaration of principles answering to their moral
aspirations. In this service the resourcefulness of the human
mind never failed. Napoleon was past-master of the publicity
art and his successors imitated him at a distance. When the
statesmen of Europe blindly blundered into war in the summer
of 1914, as Lloyd George, one who sat at the council table
of the great, bluntly described the tragedy in after years,
belligerent managers on both sides engaged an army of phil-
osophers and scribes to formulate convincing reasons for each
turn in affairs, manufacturing in this fashion a literature that
was immense and imaginative.

In addition to designing moral patterns for popular use,
European statesmen in charge of the war had also to agree
upon more substantial objectives. Of course there was little
doubt about the character of the settlement that the German
militarists would have imposed upon the world if victory had
perched upon their banners; out of their historic past and
out of their mouths they stood confessed the treaty of Brest-
Litovsk forced on Russia revealing in drastic terms in 1918
the range of their ambitions. It was not necessary for the
Central Powers to enter into secret understandings as to the
division of the booty to be acquired; they formed a solid bloc
under German dominion.

But the case of the Entente Allies was different in that no
single power was dominant. Italy, for example, had been
brought into the war only by heroic bargaining which resulted
in a secret treaty stating exactly what her reward was to be ;
and all the Associates were afraid of defections induced by
favorable offers from the enemy. To make sure of their
unity, therefore, the diplomats of France, England, Russia,
and Japan in 1915 set projects for distributing the spoils, on
the fine old Roman principle of "Woe to the vanquished!" If
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54



the Bolsheviki had not torn open the secret archives of
Petrograd and flung the documents in the face of mankind
in December, 1917, these plighted war aims of the Entente
Allies would have remained unknown perhaps forever and
their official hypothesis would have been challenged only by
the cynical at home and the Germans abroad. But the Russian
Revolution made the facts public property, enabling the gen-
eration that fought the war to get its sources straight from
authentic records.

To these European understandings America had been no
party. President Wilson privately believed that both embattled
hosts were righting for the same thing namely, to relieve
historic grudges and gain material advantages. It was this
conviction, founded on no mean knowledge, that kept him cold
in the early years of the war while ardent compatriots raged
around the White House.

But, as he watched the smoke and flames of burning Europe
month after month, the President came to certain general
conclusions relative to the kind of settlement that ought to be
made long before he threw the American sword into the
scales. These conclusions he had expounded in his peace
address before the Senate in January, 1917, in which lay the
;erms of his later program, but which was greeted at the time
with doubts and derision by the managers of Europe.

Yet water flowed swiftly under the bridge. In less than a
fear, while the decision of the battle fronts still hung in the
>alance, the Russian Revolution of November, 1917, shook
the social order of Europe to its very foundations making
the whole earth vibrate with the tramp of the proletariat and
tremble at the most daring call for a universal uprising against
governments issued to mankind since the French Declaration
of Rights in 1789. At once it became evident that Russia
could be held in line and the war morale of Germany under-
mined only by radical statements of a democratic policy flatly
slicing the imperialistic aims hidden in the secret treaties of
the Allied Powers.

It was then that President Wilson, renewing his former
professions, came to the rescue of his hard-pressed associates
)f little faith. In the tempestuous days of January, 1918, when
he Bolsheviki were staggering before the hard terms proposed
>y the imperial governments of Germany and Austria at Brest-
Jtovsk, he went before Congress and proclaimed his Fourteen
'oints in ringing periods that flew on the wings of lightning
vherever subject peoples were ruled by imperial powers.

Briefly digested, these articles of political faith embraced
he following items: open diplomacy, freedom of the seas,
emoval of hampering trade barriers among nations, reduction
of armaments, adjustment of colonial claims in the interests
>f the populations involved, fair treatment for Russia, restora-
ion of Belgium, righting the wrong done to France in 1871,
idjustment of Italian frontiers on principles of nationalism,
more autonomy for the peoples of the Austro-Hungarian em-
)ire, restoration of Rumania and Servia, an independent
'oland, reorganization of the Turkish empire, and finally an
jssociation of nations to uphold a peaceful world order.

Such was the American creed formulated by the spokesmen
for the nation and received with a shout of approval from
coast to coast. Like drowning men grasping at straws, re-
sponsible statesmen among the Entente Allies gave their sanc-
tion to the Wilsonian formulas "in principle" privately sub-
ject to discreet and appropriate reservations. With revolu-
tionary doctrines thus phrased and approved, the people of
the Central Powers, soldiers and civilians, were drenched in
a propaganda for liberty and democracy, warning them that
they were righting for imperialist masters against governments
that offered them a peace of justice and freedom.

"VT^ET it would be a mistake to lay too much stress on the
JL achievements of this indoctrination. It was the weight of
metal rather than of words that defeated Germany and Aus-
tria. On August 14, 1918, Ludendorf, according to secret
papers now revealed, confessed to his imperial master that the
great game was over, that the German armies were beaten,
and that the one remaining task was to wring from the victors
the best possible terms. By way of preparation, they admitted
a large number of the Socialists to their council, introduced
the English parliamentary system of government, and called



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a mild liberal, Prince Maximilian of Baden, to the chancellor-
ship. In a startling call sent to Wilson through the mediation
of Switzerland, on October 5, 1918, the new German govern-
ment asked him to take steps to end the war because, forsooth,
the principles proclaimed by him were in accord with the
"general ideas cherished by the new German government and
with it the overwhelming majority of our people."

In trying circumstances Wilson faced the test of his hypo-
thesis. When it came to laying down the exact conditions of
an armistice, political theories had to descend to concrete
realities. In this sphere it was General Foch, responsible
head of the Allied and associated armies, who was the natural
master of ceremonies. For more than a month the discussion
of provisional conditions for peace went on while the German
armies in France crumbled before the relentless drive. At the
end of September, Bulgaria had surrendered unconditionally.
Late in October, Austria, after suffering ruinous reverses on
the Italian front, begged for peace, and on November 3 laid
down her arms. Two days later President Wilson transmitted
the draconian armistice terms, drawn by military men, to the
authorities in Berlin where revolution had already raised its
red specter. Confronted by an implacable foe and deserted
by his weary nation, the German Kaiser laid down the insig-
nia of office and fled with the Crown Prince to personal safety
in Holland. On the morning of November 11, at eleven
o'clock, the armistice went into effect and the roll of guns
that had thundered along the front for four agonizing years
died away. A tumult of thanksgiving surged throughout the
world, even the Germans finding crumbs of comfort in the
fact that there was to be no triumphal march of victors into
Berlin.

WILSON now had to meet the greatest crisis of his life
and without the support of a united country. At the
congressional elections held a few days before the armistice
the American voters, spurning his appeal for a Democratic
House of Representatives to sustain his hand in negotiating
peace on his avowed principles, had returned a majority of
Republicans after a savage campaign in which many outstand-
ing leaders had demanded the unconditional surrender of Ger-
many, a Spartan peace for the vanquished, and the utter re-
jection of the proposed league of nations. "In no other free
country in the world today would Mr. Wilson be in office,"
was the taunt flung at the President on the eve of his de-
parture for the peace conference in France a taunt taken up
with glee by the imperialist press of London and Paris.

On his arrival in Europe to realize the dream of his Fourteen
Points, President Wilson was, therefore, a broken instrument
compelled by fate to engage in high diplomatic combat with
the most astute politicians thrown to the top in the volcanic
upheaval of the war all of them sustained by powerful
chauvinistic passions at home. To them it made little differ-
ence if the President was acclaimed as the Moses of a new
day and with Mrs. Wilson at his side, received a triumphal
ovation that would have turned the head of a Caesar or a
Napoleon. Knowing that the singing masses would soon lose
their fervor and shift to new attractions, these more experi-
enced statesmen played for delay when he reached Paris in
the early days of December with a veritable army of Amer-
ican experts in history, geography, economics, diplomacy and
the four commissioners chosen by him to serve as his aides.
More than a month was allowed to elapse before the plenary
peace council of the thirty-two victorious belligerents met
formally, on January 18 to receive the information that all
important business would be transacted by a supreme council
composed of the representatives of the United States, Great
Britain, France, Italy, and Japan.

When eventually the diplomats got down to laying out
boundaries and distributing goods, a contest of wits com-
menced a contest held behind closed doors at Wilson's re-
quest, with the ready acquiescence of his colleagues. Assured
in the matter of Shantung, Japan dropped out; and Orlando,
angered by Wilson's flat refusal to yield to Italy's intransigent
demands, withdrew amid the cheers of his countrymen. So in
the end, "the big three" Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and
Wilson in their private chambers wrote the significant
clauses for the voluminous treaty of peace including the sec-
tion putting the responsibility for starting the war on the



Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesThe Survey (Volume 58) → online text (page 12 of 130)