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at the peace conference will go home with
their heads upon their breasts, knowing that
they have failed for. they were bidden not
to come home from there until they did some-
thing more than sign a treaty of peace."

What necessity is there for raising the
impertinent and defamatory question, What
would become of the world if America failed
to do her duty? The American people have
no thought of failing in the performance of
their duty, and the description of what would


happen if they did fail is superfluous. The
real question is, What is America's duty?
and it is not answered by a dogmatic asser-
tion that America must make herself respon-
sible for the future peace of the whole world,
which may be beyond her powers of accom-
plishment. Her plain duty is to do now what
she can do, which is by loyal cooperation with
her allies to impose and maintain immediate
peace on a common enemy growing every
day more dangerous.

The President has never frankly spoken of
the Powers with whom we have together
fought in this war as our "allies." For a
long time he was in a state of cold neutrality
regarding them. Gradually they became in
his mind "associates," but they have never
seemed nearer than that ; and to-day his aim
is to place them, after this intimate compan-
ionship in action and suffering, in which our
soldiers and sailors have fought side by side
with British, and French, and Belgian, and
Italian combatants to win a common cause,
in a "general association of nations" to which


he would have all peoples irrespective of
their affinities equally belong.

The President's mind seems always to
dwell in a region of abstractions. The con-
crete does not appeal to him. Overlooking
the pressing necessity of immediate peace,
the one imperative duty in this regard has
not been performed. His policy has been,
and is, world reconstruction first and peace
afterward. This policy has obstructed and
prevented the action by the Entente Allies
that should have been taken, and would have
been taken, but for his personal interference.
It was the right of the Entente Allies, as
victors, to impose an immediate peace upon
the enemy; and it was the duty of the United
States not only to aid in this, but to secure
the execution and preservation of the peace
after the treaty of peace was signed. It
could not then be said of it, as the President
says, that such a treaty would be a "scrap
of paper."

If, in November, 1918, when the German
armies were defeated in the field and called
for an armistice, a peace had been signed


during that month at Berlin, Germany and
her allies would have known that they were
beaten, and that the terms insuring a Euro-
pean peace would be imposed and would
have to be carried out. Among those terms
it would have been proper to include this:
that any attempt on the part of the Central
Powers or their allies to make an unprovoked
attack upon any of the Entente Powers
would be regarded as an attack upon all, in-
cluding the United States. That would have
been the honorable way for America to have
treated her co-belligerents in the war against
a common enemy, and that alone would
have been sufficient to dispel all thoughts of
war for a long time to come. Peace once
secured, the new nationalities would have
had an opportunity to complete their organi-
zation under conditions of peace, and Rus-
sian Bolshevism could have been taken in
hand and suppressed by a united Europe.
France would have been made at once secure.
Without this, the war has been virtually lost.
That security was the first and most pressing
problem, and it is still unsolved.


And what is the situation that has been
allowed to develop? I quote the words of
one of the most candid and best informed
observers of the proceedings of the Peace
Conference now in Paris. "Mr. Wilson came
to Paris," says Mr. Frank H. Simonds,
"resolved that there should be a league
of nations. . . . Finding French interest
and French attention fixed upon the salva-
tion of France rather than upon the formula-
tion of the principles of a league of nations,
Mr. Wilson and those associated with him
were not successful in concealing their dis-
appointment or their disapproval of what
seemed to them a particularistic national
policy. When France as a whole asked Mr.
Wilson to go and see her devastated regions,
that he might understand her heart, he re-
turned a cold and unequivocal negative. I
do not think that any single act of any man
ever carried with it profounder disappoint-
ment than Mr. Wilson's refusal to go tothe
northern regions and see what the boche had

"And we have had week after week, a


slow but sure change in French emotion with
respect to the President. He was hailed by
the little people of France as a savior. He
was hailed as a man who came from another
world to deliver France and other peoples of
the world from the shadow of tragedy which
had been, and little by little his course here
had the effect at least of creating the impres-
sion that he cared nothing for the life or
death of France, that he was not concerned
with those things which the tragic years of
war had burned into the soul of every French
man and woman.

"I do not think it possible accurately to
represent how profound was the disappoint-
ment of France at this course of the Ameri-
can President. A sense first of desertion
and then of utter isolation crept into the
French heart, as more and more the Ameri-
can attitude toward France passed from
mere coldness with respect of French neces-
sities to open criticism and hardly concealed
suspicion. I do not think one would exag-
gerate by saying that three months ago
France believed the war won and to-day, as


a result of what has occurred here in the
peace conference, there is something amount-
ing to real terror lest the war shall be lost
after all, and France left alone again across
the pathway of a Germany increased in
power and population by the last war."

These words were received from Paris on
the very day when the President was deliv-
ering his speech in Boston, in which there
was not one word regarding the sufferings
and peril of France, but the intimation of
changes of government in Europe, if a
"League" was not accepted. At the same
time the newspapers were informing us that
the Constitution finally assented to as a pro-
ject for a "League" is by no means a spon-
taneous embodiment of the desires of the
fourteen nations alleged to have adopted it.
We were assured that the "League" had
been "on the rocks," because Monsieur Cle-
menceau had urged that France could not
subscribe to a compact that did not offer her
security; whereupon the situation for the
"League" was saved by an American diplo-
mat's sending for Monsieur Bourgeois and


saying to him "that President Wilson was
very near the limit of his patience in the mat-
ter," was very much chagrined by the atti-
tude of the French press, which was plead-
ing for the security of France, and would
perhaps drop the whole question of a
"League of Nations." It was then put
squarely to Monsieur Bourgeois that he
would have to decide between this compact
and no "League" at all. After consulting
Monsieur Clemenceau, Monsieur Bourgeois
reported his reluctant acceptance of the pro-
posed covenant rather than permit France
to be thus deprived of the goodwill of

It is known that when the President went
to Europe the main object of his going was
that he might be able to say privately what
he did not wish to write or to discuss openly.
He had in mind a program of universal peace
which he had gradually thought out in isola-
tion without giving it full publicity, based
on the conception of a "League of Nations,"
a project which had been strongly advocated
for some years by the "League to Enforce


Peace." Such a "League," as foreshadowed
by the President in his public speeches, in-
volved a "general association of nations"
that would mutually guarantee the independ-
ence and the territorial integrity of all its
members ; that would secure freedom of navi-
gation upon the seas, alike in peace and war ;
and that, by the removal of economic bar-
riers, would establish equality of trade condi-
tions for all nations.

At the time this idea of a "League" was
conceived, it was intended as a medium for
reconciling the differences made prominent
in the Great War by securing a compromise
peace which might afterward be made the
basis of a permanent peace. This was the
inner meaning of the "fourteen points."
These rubrics were formulated at a time
when victory on either side was thought by
the President to be still doubtful, and when
his original idea of "a peace without victory"
may have seemed to him the best method of
demonstrating the utter futility of war.

The problem at that time seemed to him to
be, to formulate a plan that could be ac-


cepted by both sides by promising to secure
in the future the most important interests of
all the belligerents. The wrong done to
France by Prussia in 1871 was to be "righted
in order that peace might once more be made
secure in the interest of all." Belgium was
to be "evacuated and restored" as a sover-
eign State, without any stipulation of indem-
nity. In return, since the new "association"
was to be "general," Germany was to have a
place in it, and also to enjoy the status quo
determined by the peace after surrendering
the conquered territories, together with all
the advantages which the plan implied. Great
Britain was to abandon her naval supremacy
under the protection of the "League." Ar-
maments were to be reduced to the lowest
point consistent with domestic safety. A
free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial
judgment of all colonial claims was to be
assured, based upon a strict observance of
the principle that in determining all such
questions of sovereignty the interests of the
populations concerned must have equal


weight with the claims of the government
whose title is to be determined.

Thus, it was imagined, the gates of the
temple of Janus would be permanently
closed. There would never be any more war,
because there would remain no just causes
for war. As to the unjust ambitions of
nations, these would of course wholly disap-

As a plan for universal and permanent
peace, this is comparable with the great pro-
posal attributed by Sully to Henry IV of
France, and should no doubt appeal to the
imagination and the sympathies of peace-
loving men in a similar manner; but, like
that and other great and noble conceptions
of world reorganization, its defect was that
it did not reckon with the fact that no Great
Power was ready to accept it in its entirety
except as the result of military defeat.

The truth of this last statement is demon-
strated by the events which have followed.
When the fourteen rubrics of peace were
proposed, in January, 1918, seeing that they
embodied a purely mediatory proposal, Ger-


many was ready to accept five of the four-
teen points, but these were the five that the
Entente Allies were not willing to accept be-
cause they implied that Germany was to be
treated and trusted as if she were a just and
pacific nation. In October, 1918, when the
certainty of her defeat dawned upon her, and
her allies were failing her, Germany, in the
belief that all fourteen were intended in a
mediatorial sense, was ready to accept them
all "as a basis for discussion." The Entente
Allies when invited, not wishing to alienate
the President, whose support was necessary
in the war, also accepted them with one ex-
ception, in the belief that the conditions of
the armistice would be sufficiently strong to
show that a victory had been won, and on
that basis peace was possible with honor.

When the President went to Europe, he
hoped to persuade the Entente Allies to ac-
cept his entire plan. He intended to con-
vince the British Government that it would
be in the interest of Great Britain to accept
his idea of the "freedom of the seas" under
international control, for if this were not


accepted, the United States would in future
prepare to hold the supremacy of the seas;
and, to impress this point, he directed the
Secretary of the Navy to propose immedi-
ately an extensive programme of naval con-
struction, and through him exhorted Con-
gress to hasten in passing the necessary leg-
islation, subject to its non-execution if the
"League" were formed.

If the British Government had resented
this proposal, the consequences to the
Entente would have been serious, indeed,
but, retorting that, as the two nations were
fast and inseparable friends, the building of
a greater navy by the United States would
afford to Great Britain a new sense of
security, the agile-minded Premier convinced
the President that British sea-power could
not be a menace to neutral nations, since,
under the "League" there would be no neu-
trals in any war in which Great Britain
could engage ; and the President is reported
to have declared that "the joke was on him
for not thinking of this," and the "freedom
of the seas" is thus settled!


With regard to the "general association"
promised in the fourteenth point of the Pres-
ident's peace programme, a similar renun-
ciation has been made, as it was certain from
the beginning it would have to be. Nothing
could induce France, after what she has en-
dured, to enter any "general association" of
which Germany is a member ; and of course
Russia, although arrangements were made
to negotiate with the Bolsheviki, in spite of
Monsieur Clemenceau's declaration that
France would never associate with assassins,
could not be included. Germany's recent
allies will also, no doubt, if the "League"
comes into being, and probably some other
Powers, have to sit a long time in the ante-
room, even if they are on the waiting list.
As a scheme of world organization, therefore,
the President's plan is far from being ac-
cepted, although so recently as his speech in
Manchester on December 30th, he voiced his
conception of what the "League" should be
in the words : "If the future had nothing for
us but a new attempt to keep the world at
a right poise by a balance of power, the


United States would take no interest, be-
cause she will join no combination of Powers
which is not a combination of all of us."

It is precisely such a combination as he
here repudiates which the President now in-
sists it is our sacred duty to join, or remain
"selfish and provincial." It is Monsieur
Clemenceau who has had his way regarding
the "balance of power" ; for the "League," as
the President represents, would be "a scrap
of paper" if the power of the United States
were not thrown into the scale to render pre-
ponderant this combination of four Great
Powers and some little ones, which latter
will need but not afford protection.

From the moment when the President saw
the "joke" regarding British naval suprem-
acy, the British Government became as
eager for the "League" as the President had
been. In this the Government was joined
by the British press and British public opin-
ion, for it was seen that the adherence to
such a combination, with the United States
as a member," would create a preponderant
balance of power. With an American alli-


ance in which the United States would as-
sume equal responsibility with the European
Entente Powers for the peace and control of
the rest of Europe, a "League" would un-
doubtedly be a great security to them all.
It would, in effect, place the balance of
power entirely in the hands of the "League."
It is not surprising, therefore, that Great
Britain, with vast imperial interests in every
part of the world exposed to attack, should
become an eager advocate of the proposed
combination. Retaining her naval suprem-
acy, acquiring no new obligations, and re-
lieved of a share of her responsibility, Great
Britain is much interested in bringing the
"League" into being. General Smuts, a
former Boer officer who had become an ar-
dent imperialist, in order to satisfy the Presi-
dent's desire for a "League" of some kind,
had made ready for use in the Peace Confer-
ence a detailed plan that would be acceptable
to Great Britain. That plan, which con-
tained a provision for the administration of
the colonies conquered from Germany, now
figures more largely in the proposed "Con-


stitution of a League of Nations" than any
other. The idea of administration by "Man-
dataries" ingeniously extricates those who
have taken the German colonies from the
dilemma of either stultifying their claims to
democracy by annexing them outright or
returning them to Germany, by placing them
under the administration temporary, no
doubt of other Powers, preferably of the
United States, which would thus be drawn
into the complications of a joint imperialism
in distant parts of the world.

It is quite intelligible that, although it was
assumed in Europe that the President speaks
with authority for the purpose and policy of
the United States, there is in this country
no corresponding unanimity regarding the
obligations which the United States should
undertake to assume in remote and turbulent
parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, or the
islands of the Pacific.

In the United States it is clearly perceived
that we should be an unequal partner in the
combination that is proposed; and the Presi-
dent not only admits this, but urges it as a


reason for our accepting new and unpredict-
able responsibilities.

In stating the case thus candidly, there is
no intention to disregard the strong friend-
ship which has grown up with Great Britain
during the latter years of the war. On the
contrary, it is timely to emphasize the wish
that this friendship may always continue to
be close, loyal, and permanent; but it is the
part of wisdom to avoid those complications
which, in circumstances that may arise, might
tend to alienate two great nations by too
close an intimacy in affairs that separately
concern them. Great Britain and America
have many great interests, as well as many
strong bonds of sympathy and understand-
ing, in common. We have among the
nations no better friend, unless it is France,
for which we have a particular affection of
long date and recent demonstration. The
British fleet, it is true, annoyed our ship-
ping and embarrassed our trade early in the
war, but before the war was ended it became
our faithful protector and co-partner. Any-
where in the world, on sea or land, we feel


safe where the British flag floats over us, and
we should not wish to see it lowered. But be-
fore we could agree that we would send our
sons and brothers across the seas to fight to
keep it wherever it floats outside Great Brit-
ain itself, which to many of us is a mother-
land, we should have to ask ourselves
whether we or our fathers would have fought
to place it everywhere in the world where the
policy of the British Empire has carried it.

Nations and governments, like individuals,
from their very nature, must limit their
responsibilities. Without this they weaken
and destroy their own capacity for useful-
ness. It is necessary to be strong before we
can help the weak, and we render no real
service to those for whom we become entirely
responsible. It is for this reason that we
ought not as a nation to permit ourselves to
be influenced by an appeal to our national
pride or the personal sentiments which might
properly control us in affairs of a private

The personal experience of the President
during his unprecedented ovation in Europe,


as the head of a nation that turned the scale
in the war, is of a kind that appeals power-
fully to the emotional element in his nature.
He has led the Entente nations to expect
great things of America, and he undoubtedly
feels responsible for realizing these expecta-
tions. He has held up to enraptured audi-
ences that have thronged to see and hear him
the vision of a reconstructed world. Natur-
ally they have had faith in him. They were
longing for peace, and he has pictured to
them Utopia. He returned to America with
a demand for the realization of his promises.
The urgent appeal to the United States to
adhere to a "League" without debate, with-
out hesitation, and without regard to any
question of national interest or expediency,
is the almost necessary psychological conse-
quence of the President's self-imposed activ-
ity. The Covenant presented for adoption
is not, it is true, the realization of his original
purpose; but it is a result of it, the near-
est approach to it that he could achieve. To
reject it utterly would be a repudiation of
his leadership. The acceptance of it, at least


in substance, is necessary to his prestige. It
is for this that his "fighting blood" is aroused.
It is for this that the President's public and
his still more fervid and less parliamentary
private denunciations of all critics and oppo-
nents, have seemed to him justified. The
role must be carried to its logical conclusion.

In commending immediate action the
President employs none of the arguments
which would be expected of a statesman.
He has found in Europe, he reports, a gen-
eral confidence in the disinterestedness of
America as a country of great ideals. This
is the chief impression of his experience. He
said to his Boston audience: "Every interest
seeks out first of all, when it reaches Paris,
the representatives of the United States.
Why? Because and I think I am stating
the most wonderful fact in history because
there is no nation in Europe that suspects the
motives of the United States."

It is frankly admitted that all other

nations have "interests," that they are

objects of contention among themselves, and

that all these nations turn to the United



States as a great disinterested benefactor.
The United States alone is presumed to have
no interests, or to act without regard to them.
The President never mentions them. He
even scorns a reference to them. His appeal
to the country is as emotional as his experi-
ence has been. We should, he affirms, act in
this great emergency "without regard to the
things that may be debated as expedient."
There is grave danger to our national life
in resting a decision upon an appeal to the
emotions of the people. In the past our
statesmen have not hesitated to defend the
national interests entrusted to their keep-
ing. These interests are now deliberately ex-
cluded from view and sunk in the advocacy
of a vague internationalism. This is pro-
posed ostensibly in behalf of "peace," but
it will have other consequences. The pros-
pect is confessedly one of interminable sus-
picion, intervention, and restricted independ-
ence. In the end, nations will settle their
differences in the manner that seems to them
at the time in accordance with their highest
interest. Nothing can more effectually


breed strife than to mix them up in one an-
other's disputes, disputes which, if the
nations desire mediation, can be more readily
composed by a free, strong, united, and in-
dependent America, whose word of counsel
would be listened to, than by an America
bound to the control of a group of Powers,
constituting perhaps a third of Europe, in
which her voice would be drowned in the gen-
eral clamor.

We have, of course, a great interest in
peace. We have a special and immediate in-
terest in a conclusive and permanent settle-
ment of the actual issues of the war, in which
our honor as well as our interests as a nation
is bound up. We cannot without disloyalty
desert our allies so long as we have a com-
mon enemy, but this does not make it neces-
sary to assume new obligations in other parts
of the world. Unless we assume these, the
President assures us, America "will have to
keep her power for those narrow, selfish, pro-
vincial purposes which seem so dear to some
minds that have no sweep beyond the nearest

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Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillPresent problems in foreign policy → online text (page 10 of 17)