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_The Inside Story of

The Peace Conference_


Dr. E.J. Dillon_




Copyright 1920, by Harper & Brothers

Printed in the United States of America

Published February, 1920


in memory of interesting conversations

on historic occasions

These pages are inscribed._





















It is almost superfluous to say that this book does not claim to be a
history, however summary, of the Peace Conference, seeing that such a
work was made sheer impossible now and forever by the chief delegates
themselves when they decided to dispense with records of their
conversations and debates. It is only a sketch - a sketch of the problems
which the war created or rendered pressing - of the conditions under
which they cropped up; of the simplicist ways in which they were
conceived by the distinguished politicians who volunteered to solve
them; of the delegates' natural limitations and electioneering
commitments and of the secret influences by which they were swayed; of
the peoples' needs and expectations; of the unwonted procedure adopted
by the Conference and of the fateful consequences of its decisions to
the world.

In dealing with all those matters I aimed at impartiality, which is an
unattainable ideal, but I trust that sincerity and detachment have
brought me reasonably close to it. Having no pet theories of my own to
champion, my principal standard of judgment is derived from the law of
causality and the rules of historical criticism.

The fatal tactical mistake chargeable to the Conference lay in its
making the charter of the League of Nations and the treaty of peace with
the Central Powers interdependent. For the maxims that underlie the
former are irreconcilable with those that should determine the latter,
and the efforts to combine them must, among other untoward results,
create a sharp opposition between the vital interests of the people of
the United States and the apparent or transient interests of their
associates. The outcome of this unnatural union will be to damage the
cause of stable peace which it was devised to further.

But the surest touchstone by which to test the capacity and the
achievements of the world-legislators is their attitude toward Russia in
the political domain and toward the labor problem in the economic
sphere. And in neither case does their action or inaction appear to have
been the outcome of statesman-like ideas, or, indeed, of any higher
consideration than that of evading the central issue and transmitting
the problem to the League of Nations. The results are manifest to all.

The continuity of human progress depends at bottom upon labor, and it is
becoming more and more doubtful whether the civilized races of mankind
can be reckoned on to supply it for long on conditions akin to those
which have in various forms prevailed ever since the institutions of
ancient times and which alone render the present social structure
viable. If this forecast should prove correct, the only alternative to a
break disastrous in the continuity of civilization is the frank
recognition of the principle that certain inferior races are destined to
serve the cause of mankind in those capacities for which alone they are
qualified and to readjust social institutions to this axiom.

In the meanwhile the Conference which ignored this problem of problems
has transformed Europe into a seething mass of mutually hostile states
powerless to face the economic competition of their overseas rivals and
has set the very elements of society in flux.





The choice of Paris for the historic Peace Conference was an
afterthought. The Anglo-Saxon governments first favored a neutral
country as the most appropriate meeting-ground for the world's
peace-makers. Holland was mentioned only to be eliminated without
discussion, so obvious and decisive were the objections. French
Switzerland came next in order, was actually fixed upon, and for a time
held the field. Lausanne was the city first suggested and nearly chosen.
There was a good deal to be said for it on its own merits, and in its
suburb, Ouchy, the treaty had been drawn up which terminated the war
between Italy and Turkey. But misgivings were expressed as to its
capacity to receive and entertain the formidable peace armies without
whose co-operation the machinery for stopping all wars could not well be
fabricated. At last Geneva was fixed upon, and so certain were
influential delegates of the ratification of their choice by all the
Allies, that I felt justified in telegraphing to Geneva to have a house
hired for six months in that picturesque city.

But the influential delegates had reckoned without the French, who in
these matters were far and away the most influential. Was it not in the
Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, they asked, that Teuton militarism had
received its most powerful impulse? And did not poetic justice, which
was never so needed as in these evil days, ordain that the chartered
destroyer who had first seen the light of day in that hall should also
be destroyed there? Was this not in accordance with the eternal fitness
of things? Whereupon the matter-of-fact Anglo-Saxon mind, unable to
withstand the force of this argument and accustomed to give way on
secondary matters, assented, and Paris was accordingly fixed upon....

"Paris herself again," tourists remarked, who had not been there since
the fateful month when hostilities began - meaning that something of the
wealth and luxury of bygone days was venturing to display itself anew as
an afterglow of the epoch whose sun was setting behind banks of
thunder-clouds. And there was a grain of truth in the remark. The Ville
Lumière was crowded as it never had been before. But it was mostly
strangers who were within her gates. In the throng of Anglo-Saxon
warriors and cosmopolitan peace-lovers following the trailing skirts of
destiny, one might with an effort discover a Parisian now and again. But
they were few and far between.

They and their principal European guests made some feeble attempts to
vie with the Vienna of 1814-15 in elegance and taste if not in pomp and
splendor. But the general effect was marred by the element of the
_nouveaux-riches_ and _nouveaux-pauvres_ which was prominent, if not
predominant. A few of the great and would-be great ladies outbade one
another in the effort to renew the luxury and revive the grace of the
past. But the atmosphere was numbing, their exertions half-hearted, and
the smile of youth and beauty was cold like the sheen of winter ice.
The shadow of death hung over the institutions and survivals of the
various civilizations and epochs which were being dissolved in the
common melting-pot, and even the man in the street was conscious of its
chilling influence. Life in the capital grew agitated, fitful,
superficial, unsatisfying. Its gaiety was forced - something between a
challenge to the destroyer and a sad farewell to the past and present.
Men were instinctively aware that the morrow was fraught with bitter
surprises, and they deliberately adopted the maxim, "Let us eat and
drink, for to-morrow we die." None of these people bore on their
physiognomies the dignified impress of the olden time, barring a few
aristocratic figures from the Faubourg St.-Germain, who looked as though
they had only to don the perukes and the distinctive garb of the
eighteenth century to sit down to table with Voltaire and the Marquise
du Châtelet. Here and there, indeed, a coiffure, a toilet, the bearing,
the gait, or the peculiar grace with which a robe was worn reminded one
that this or that fair lady came of a family whose life-story in the
days of yore was one of the tributaries to the broad stream of European
history. But on closer acquaintanceship, especially at conversational
tournaments, one discovered that Nature, constant in her methods,
distributes more gifts of beauty than of intellect.

Festive banquets, sinful suppers, long-spun-out lunches were as frequent
and at times as Lucullan as in the days of the Regency. The outer,
coarser attributes of luxury abounded in palatial restaurants, hotels,
and private mansions; but the refinement, the grace, the brilliant
conversation even of the Paris of the Third Empire were seen to be
subtle branches of a lost art. The people of the armistice were weary
and apprehensive - weary of the war, weary of politics, weary of the
worn-out framework of existence, and filled with a vague, nameless
apprehension of the unknown. They feared that in the chaotic slough into
which they had fallen they had not yet touched bottom. None the less,
with the exception of fervent Catholics and a number of earnest
sectarians, there were few genuine seekers after anything essentially

Not only did the general atmosphere of Paris undergo radical changes,
together with its population, but the thoroughfares, many of them,
officially changed their names since the outbreak of the war.

The Paris of the Conference ceased to be the capital of France. It
became a vast cosmopolitan caravanserai teeming with unwonted aspects of
life and turmoil, filled with curious samples of the races, tribes, and
tongues of four continents who came to watch and wait for the mysterious
to-morrow. The intensity of life there was sheer oppressive; to the
tumultuous striving of the living were added the silent influences of
the dead. For it was also a trysting-place for the ghosts of
sovereignties and states, militarisms and racial ambitions, which were
permitted to wander at large until their brief twilight should be
swallowed up in night. The dignified Turk passionately pleaded for
Constantinople, and cast an imploring look on the lone Armenian whose
relatives he had massacred, and who was then waiting for political
resurrection. Persian delegates wandered about like souls in pain,
waiting to be admitted through the portals of the Conference Paradise.
Beggared Croesus passed famishing Lucullus in the street, and once
mighty viziers shivered under threadbare garments in the biting frost as
they hurried over the crisp February snow. Waning and waxing Powers,
vacant thrones, decaying dominations had, each of them, their accusers,
special pleaders, and judges, in this multitudinous world-center on
which tragedy, romance, and comedy rained down potent spells. For the
Conference city was also the clearing-house of the Fates, where the
accounts of a whole epoch, the deeds and misdeeds of an exhausted
civilization, were to be balanced and squared.

Here strange yet familiar figures, survivals from the past, started up
at every hand's turn and greeted one with smiles or sighs. Men on whom I
last set eyes when we were boys at school, playing football together in
the field or preparing lessons in the school-room, would stop me in the
street on their way to represent nations or peoples whose lives were out
of chime, or to inaugurate the existence of new republics. One face I
shall never forget. It was that of the self-made temporary dictator of a
little country whose importance was dwindling to the dimensions of a
footnote in the history of the century. I had been acquainted with him
personally in the halcyon day of his transient glory. Like his
picturesque land, he won the immortality of a day, was courted and
subsidized by competing states in turn, and then suddenly cast aside
like a sucked orange. Then he sank into the depths of squalor. He was
eloquent, resourceful, imaginative, and brimful of the poetry of
untruth. One day through the asphalt streets of Paris he shuffled along
in the procession of the doomed, with wan face and sunken eyes, wearing
a tragically mean garb. And soon after I learned that he had vanished
unwept into eternal oblivion.

An Arabian Nights touch was imparted to the dissolving panorama by
strange visitants from Tartary and Kurdistan, Korea and Aderbeijan,
Armenia, Persia, and the Hedjaz - men with patriarchal beards and
scimitar-shaped noses, and others from desert and oasis, from Samarkand
and Bokhara. Turbans and fezzes, sugar-loaf hats and headgear resembling
episcopal miters, old military uniforms devised for the embryonic armies
of new states on the eve of perpetual peace, snowy-white burnooses,
flowing mantles, and graceful garments like the Roman toga, contributed
to create an atmosphere of dreamy unreality in the city where the
grimmest of realities were being faced and coped with.

Then came the men of wealth, of intellect, of industrial enterprise, and
the seed-bearers of the ethical new ordering, members of economic
committees from the United States, Britain, Italy, Poland, Russia,
India, and Japan, representatives of naphtha industries and far-off coal
mines, pilgrims, fanatics, and charlatans from all climes, priests of
all religions, preachers of every doctrine, who mingled with princes,
field-marshals, statesmen, anarchists, builders-up, and pullers-down.
All of them burned with desire to be near to the crucible in which the
political and social systems of the world were to be melted and recast.
Every day, in my walks, in my apartment, or at restaurants, I met
emissaries from lands and peoples whose very names had seldom been heard
of before in the West. A delegation from the Pont-Euxine Greeks called
on me, and discoursed of their ancient cities of Trebizond, Samsoun,
Tripoli, Kerassund, in which I resided many years ago, and informed me
that they, too, desired to become welded into an independent Greek
republic, and had come to have their claims allowed. The Albanians were
represented by my old friend Turkhan Pasha, on the one hand, and by my
friend Essad Pasha, on the other - the former desirous of Italy's
protection, the latter demanding complete independence. Chinamen,
Japanese, Koreans, Hindus, Kirghizes, Lesghiens, Circassians,
Mingrelians, Buryats, Malays, and Negroes and Negroids from Africa and
America were among the tribes and tongues forgathered in Paris to watch
the rebuilding of the political world system and to see where they "came

One day I received a visit from an Armenian deputation; its chief was
described on his visiting-card as President of the Armenian Republic of
the Caucasus. When he was shown into my apartment in the Hôtel Vendôme,
I recognized two of its members as old acquaintances with whom I had
occasional intercourse in Erzerum, Kipri Keui, and other places during
the Armenian massacres of the year 1895. We had not met since then. They
revived old memories, completed for me the life-stories of several of
our common friends and acquaintances, and narrated interesting episodes
of local history. And having requested my co-operation, the President
and his colleagues left me and once more passed out of my life.

Another actor on the world-stage whom I had encountered more than once
before was the "heroic" King of Montenegro. He often crossed my path
during the Conference, and set me musing on the marvelous ups and downs
of human existence. This potentate's life offers a rich field of
research to the psychologist. I had watched it myself at various times
and with curious results. For I had met him in various European capitals
during the past thirty years, and before the time when Tsar Alexander
III publicly spoke of him as Russia's only friend. King Nikita owes such
success in life as he can look back on with satisfaction to his
adaptation of St. Paul's maxim of being all things to all men. Thus in
St. Petersburg he was a good Russian, in Vienna a patriotic Austrian, in
Rome a sentimental Italian. He was also a warrior, a poet after his own
fashion, a money-getter, and a speculator on 'Change. His alleged
martial feats and his wily, diplomatic moves ever since the first Balkan
war abound in surprises, and would repay close investigation. The ease
with which the Austrians captured Mount Lovtchen and his capital made a
lasting impression on those of his allies who were acquainted with the
story, the consequences of which he could not foresee. What everybody
seemed to know was that if the Teutons had defeated the Entente, King
Nikita's son Mirko, who had settled down for the purpose in Vienna,
would have been set on the throne in place of his father by the
Austrians; whereas if the Allies should win, the worldly-wise monarch
would have retained his crown as their champion. But these well-laid
plans went all agley. Prince Mirko died and King Nikita was deposed. For
a time he resided at a hotel, a few houses from me, and I passed him now
and again as he was on his way to plead his lost cause before the
distinguished wreckers of thrones and régimes.

It seemed as though, in order to provide Paris with a cosmopolitan
population, the world was drained of its rulers, of its prosperous and
luckless financiers, of its high and low adventurers, of its tribe of
fortune-seekers, and its pushing men and women of every description. And
the result was an odd blend of classes and individuals worthy, it may
be, of the new democratic era, but unprecedented. It was welcomed as of
good augury, for instance, that in the stately Hôtel Majestic, where the
spokesmen of the British Empire had their residence, monocled
diplomatists mingled with spry typewriters, smart amanuenses, and even
with bright-eyed chambermaids at the evening dances.[1] The British
Premier himself occasionally witnessed the cheering spectacle with
manifest pleasure. Self-made statesmen, scions of fallen dynasties,
ex-premiers, and ministers, who formerly swayed the fortunes of the
world, whom one might have imagined _capaces imperii nisi imperassent_,
were now the unnoticed inmates of unpretending hotels. Ambassadors whose
most trivial utterances had once been listened to with concentrated
attention, sued days and weeks for an audience of the greater
plenipotentiaries, and some of them sued in vain. Russian diplomatists
were refused permission to travel in France or were compelled to
undergo more than average discomfort and delay there. More than once I
sat down to lunch or dinner with brilliant commensals, one of whom was
understood to have made away with a well-known personage in order to rid
the state of a bad administrator, and another had, at a secret
_Vehmgericht_ in Turkey, condemned a friend of mine, now a friend of
his, to be assassinated.

In Paris, this temporary capital of the world, one felt the repercussion
of every event, every incident of moment wheresoever it might have
occurred. To reside there while the Conference was sitting was to occupy
a comfortable box in the vastest theater the mind of men has ever
conceived. From this rare coign of vantage one could witness
soul-gripping dramas of human history, the happenings of years being
compressed within the limits of days. The revolution in Portugal, the
massacre of Armenians, Bulgaria's atrocities, the slaughter of the
inhabitants of Saratoff and Odessa, the revolt of the Koreans - all
produced their effect in Paris, where official and unofficial exponents
of the aims and ambitions, religions and interests that unite or divide
mankind were continually coming or going, working aboveground or
burrowing beneath the surface.

It was within a few miles of the place where I sat at table with the
brilliant company alluded to above that a few individuals of two
different nationalities, one of them bearing, it was said, a well-known
name, hatched the plot that sent Portugal's strong man, President
Sidonio Paes, to his last account and plunged that ill-starred land into
chaotic confusion. The plan was discovered by the Portuguese military
attaché, who warned the President himself and the War Minister. But
Sidonio Paes, quixotic and foolhardy, refused to take or brook
precautions. A few weeks later the assassin, firing three shots, had no
difficulty in taking aim, but none of them took effect. The reason was
interesting: so determined were the conspirators to leave nothing to
chance, they had steeped the cartridges in a poisonous preparation,
whereby they injured the mechanism of the revolver, which, in
consequence, hung fire. But the adversaries of the reform movement which
the President had inaugurated again tried and planned another attempt,
and Sidonio Paes, who would not be taught prudence, was duly shot, and
his admirable work undone[2] by a band of semi-Bolshevists.

Less than six months later it was rumored that a number of specially
prepared bombs from a certain European town had been sent to Moscow for
the speedy removal of Lenin. The casual way in which these and kindred
matters were talked of gave one the measure of the change that had come
over the world since the outbreak of the war. There was nobody left in
Europe whose death, violent or peaceful, would have made much of an
impression on the dulled sensibilities of the reading public. All values
had changed, and that of human life had fallen low.

To follow these swiftly passing episodes, occasionally glancing behind
the scenes, during the pauses of the acts, and watch the unfolding of
the world-drama, was thrillingly interesting. To note the dubious
source, the chance occasion of a grandiose project of world policy, and
to see it started on its shuffling course, was a revelation in politics
and psychology, and reminded one of the saying mistakenly attributed to
the Swedish Chancellor Oxenstjern, "_Quam parva sapientia regitur

The wire-pullers were not always the plenipotentiaries. Among those were
also outsiders of various conditions, sometimes of singular ambitions,
who were generally free from conventional prejudices and conscientious
scruples. As traveling to Paris was greatly restricted by the
governments of the world, many of these unofficial delegates had come in
capacities widely differing from those in which they intended to act. I
confess I was myself taken in by more than one of these secret
emissaries, whom I was innocently instrumental in bringing into close
touch with the human levers they had come to press. I actually went to
the trouble of obtaining for one of them valuable data on a subject
which did not interest him in the least, but which he pretended he had
traveled several thousand miles to study. A zealous prelate, whose
business was believed to have something to do with the future of a
certain branch of the Christian Church in the East, in reality held a
brief for a wholly different set of interests in the West. Some of these
envoys hoped to influence decisions of the Conference, and they
considered they had succeeded when they got their points of view brought
to the favorable notice of certain of its delegates. What surprised me
was the ease with which several of these interlopers moved about,
although few of them spoke any language but their own.

Collectivities and religious and political associations, including that
of the Bolshevists, were represented in Paris during the Conference. I
met one of the Bolshevists, a bright youth, who was a veritable apostle.
He occupied a post which, despite its apparent insignificance, put him
occasionally in possession of useful information withheld from the
public, which he was wont to communicate to his political friends. His
knowledge of languages and his remarkable intelligence had probably
attracted the notice of his superiors, who can have had no suspicion of
his leanings, much less of his proselytizing activity. However this may
have been, he knew a good deal of what was going on at the Conference,
and he occasionally had insight into documents of a certain interest. He

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