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joyed under Austrian rule in this historic
Polish city, Russian officials, military and
civil, started right in on the old policy of
sweeping Russification, and let the Poles
understand clearly that there was no hope
of emancipation from Russia. It is not
too much to say that had Russia been suc-
cessful in her initial campaign and kept
the Germans out of Poland, we should
have heard no more of the promises of
August, 1914.

Hard a blow as it was, then, to the cause

of the Allies, the entry of the Germans

into Warsaw was a distinct step forward

for the reahzation of Pohsh aspirations;



while the failure of the Russians to capture
Cracow and their debacle in eastern Gali-
cia could not be looked upon by the Poles
in any other light than as rescue from a
great danger.

I do not mean to infer by this that the
success of the Central Powers, if perma-
nent, would have resulted in the restora-
tion of Poland to independence or auton-
omy. The decisive success of either group
of belligerents, in a short war, would have
meant for the Poles merely the passing
from Scylla to Charybdis. Victorious
Germany would not have needed to con-
ciliate the Poles any more than victorious
Russia. In fact, had the war lasted only
one or two years, the question of Poland
and her aspirations would easily and
quickly have been forgotten in the peace
conference. Had Germany been victori-
ous, no voice would have been raised to


compel her to settle the destinies of central
and eastern Europe in any other way than
in accordance with her own selfish desires.
Certainly a protest in behalf of Poland
would never have come from the German
people. Is not the impotence of liberal
sentiment of the imperial Reichstag to
prevent the execution of Prussian iniq-
uitous measures in Posnania during the
last decade sufficient proof of this? On
the other hand, had Russia been imme-
diately and overwhelmingly successful,
could liberal public sentiment in France
and England have forced the czar's gov-
ernment to do the square thing by the
Poles ? We cannot forget the remarkable
words of Lord Castlereagh to the House
of Commons after his return from the
Congress of Vienna in 1815. His com-
ment upon the failure to resuscitate
Poland was simply this:


There was undoubtedly^ a strong feeling in
England upon the subject of independence and
a separate government of Poland : indeed, there
was, I believe, but one feeling, and, as far as I
was able, I exerted myself to obtain that ob-

Nothing was ever done for Poland, even
at the time of the events of 1831, 1846, and
1863, by the British Government and the
British people.

We have come to the end of the third
year of the war, and the destinies of
Europe are still in the balance. But
Poland has already entered again upon
the map of Europe. On November 5,
1916, the emperors of Germany and Aus-
tria-Hungary, by a proclamation at War-
saw, reconstituted the kingdom of Poland.
It is true that this was a war measure, and
that there can be no de jure Poland until
the peace conference has passed upon the
question. But the act of the Central


Powers, who are in possession, constitutes
a de facto Poland that neither group of
belhgerents will be able to do away with.
Poles are not satisfied with the Austro-
German proclamation, which did not settle
the frontiers of the new state, and which
seemed by significant omission to indicate
a determination of the Central Powers
not to contribute themselves to the new
kingdom. Germany has said nothing at
all about Posnania, and Austria-Hun-
gary's declaration of fuller autonomy for
Galicia seems to signify that Galicia is not
to be part of the independent Poland.

The Entente Powers lost a great op-
portunity through their inability to force
Russia to forestall the Teutonic offer.
Even after it was made, there was still
opportunity for the Entente Powers to
unite in a solemn guarantee to assure to
Poland unity and independence. Since it


could have included unity, the offer would
have been better than that of the Central
Powers. But Russia remained stubborn,
and the telegrams of the French and
British premiers and the proclamation of
the czar promising united Poland "au-
tonomy under the scepter of the czars"
were pitiful and impotent subterfuges.
No Pole is to be longer fooled by Russian
offers of "autonomy," and the only guar-
antee of the Entente Powers worth the
paper it was written on would be the col-
lective guarantee of independence. The
Petrograd Conference "to discuss the fu-
ture organization of Poland and her rela-
tions with the Russian Empire," an-
nounced for the end of February, 1917,
was interrupted by the Revolution which
overthrew the government of Czar Nich-
olas. One of the first acts of the Provi-
sional Government was to proclaim the


principles of Polish independence, and the
Polish members of the Dmiia resigned,
claiming that there was no longer reason
for them to sit in a Russian Parliament.
The action of the Provisional Government
remains to be ratified by the Russian na-
tion. Poles will suspend judgment until
the ratification is a fact. There is one dis-
quieting phrase in the proclamation of the
Provisional Government. After stating
that "the Polish people will be freed and
unified and will determine themselves their
form of government," the proclamation
goes on to say, "Attached to Russia by a
free military union," etc. If the Poles are
to determine their form of government,
they must not be bound by any stipula-
tions made beforehand by Russia. The
term "independence" does not bear quali-

The Central Powers, on the other hand,


have not won the Poles any more than the
Entente Powers; for they have tried to
raise an army among the Poles before
settling the territorial and political status
of the new Poland, and they are opposed
on principle to the Pohsh ideal of united

The Poles are undoubtedly placed in an
extremely embarrassing and delicate situ-

1 On February 4, 1917, the Germans and Austrians de-
cided to recognize formally a provisional Government,
composed of Poles, and independent of Generals Kuk
and Beseler. The Council of State of Poland, created
at the beginning of the year, now enjoys governing au-
thority. This can be considered as a victory for the
Poles in their determination not to allow the Germans
and Austrians to hold forth a fictitious autonomy as
bait for raising a "Polish army" under Austro-German
control. From November 7 to February 3 the Poles
were successful in frustrating the German schemes of
recruiting. The Council of State seems to have failed,
owing to Austro-German bad faith. The Warsaw Poles
are not allowing themselves to be fooled. Even if they
do raise a really national army under Austro-German
auspices, the problem of United Poland still remains.
Only Russian Poland is now "freed." The Poles still
have before them the task of winning back Posnania
from Germany and Galicia from Austria.



ation. Nearly one and one half million
Poles are fighting on opposing sides, and
another half million, of militaiy age, are
within the spheres of influence of the two
groups of belligerents, and are being
called upon to take arms "against the op-
pressor" in "liberating" armies. What
Sir Roger Casement did in Germany is
being done to-day among prisoners of war
in all the prison camps of Europe. The
invitation to treason (for it is treason to
fight with the enemy against the nation of
which one is a subject) is being given to
Poles everywhere. The invitation is cou-
pled with a threat. Both sides tell the
unhappy Poles that if they do not now
choose to "fight for Poland" the promises
will naturally be withdrawn. As Ger-
many and Austria have the greatest nimi-
ber of Polish prisoners and hold virtually
all of what is ethnographically Polish ter-


ritory, the danger is greatest to Poles of
Russian subjection who are at present at
the mercy of the Central European Pow-
ers. There is only one way of safety, and
that is for the Poles to stick resolutely, on
technical grounds, to their present alle-
giance, and not to spoil the future by act-
ing for one or the other of the belligerent
groups. The people of Russian Poland
may suffer at the hands of Germany by
such a stand, but they will not lose in the
long run. For if they are loyal to Russia
during this period of trial, the self-respect
of the Allies will never tolerate putting
them back again under Russian slavery
when the war is ended. Similarly, after
what has happened in Ireland, the Eng-
lish people cannot hold against the Poles
of Galicia and Posnania the fact that they
remain loyal, for the duration of the war,
to Austria and Germany.


All the world is longing for peace. We
must begin now to prepare for the difficult
task of making peace. A durable peace
can come only through the determination
of enlightened men throughout the whole
world to see that justice is done to every
race involved in the struggle. Otherwise,
another treaty of Vienna or of Berlin will
impose upon our children and our grand-
children a sacrifice of blood and treasure,
and a burden of human suffering, similar
to that which we are making and bearing
during these years of horror.

Foremost among the problems to be
solved is that of the future of Poland.
There is only one satisfactory solution —
the renascence of Poland as an inde-
pendent state. Lovers of justice and
friends of peace must work for this object
with all their heart and soul. To this end,
it behooves us to estabhsh a propaganda of


information, free from bias and prejudice,
so that the reasons for this only safe and
just solution of the Polish problem be put
clearly before those who are fighting, and
those whose sympathy goes out to the
fighters and the sufferers.

There are four considerations that we
would do well to comprehend and ponder
ov^er in connection with the future of

1. The reconstituted Polish state must
not be made subject in any way to Russia.

Notwithstanding the enormous amount
of ink that is being used these days to
prove that Russia is the "big sister" of the
Slavs, it is certainly not true in connection
with the Poles, and it is doubtful if it is
true in connection with any Slavic nation.
We cannot bank on what Russia some day
may become. To-day she is far behind
other European nations in civihzation, and


will remain so as long as eighty per cent,
of her population is illiterate. Her Gov-
ernment was yesterday a corrupt Oriental
despotism, and what it will be to-morrow
no man knows. The blood of her people
is mixed, and the Asiatic strain is large
and recent. During the period of consti-
tutional development, her leaders are
bound to show a narrow and fanatical na-
tionalism, which makes impossible under-
standing of, or proper relations with, a
subject nationality. The Poles, on the
other hand, are a pure Slavic race, who
have received their culture and laws and
religion from the West. They have noth-
ing in common with the Russians. As a
part of the Russian Empire they would
prove the same thorn in the flesh to the
Russians of the twentieth century as they
have been to the Russians of the nineteenth
century. After the experiment of the last


hundred years, it is unwise to yoke to-
gether again two nations in a different
stage of development, of different back-
ground, and with different ideals, making
the more civilized nation the political in-
ferior of its social inferior. It may be
advanced that the "guarantee of Europe"
would protect autonomous Poland from
Russian bad faith and aggression. But is
bitter experience no teacher? In a great
political organism, only the relative fee-
bleness of the predominant nationality
safeguards the autonomy of other nation-

It is unsafe for the future of Europe to
increase the dominions of Russia toward
the west by the extension of the Russian
sovereignty over German and Austrian
Poland. This statement needs neither
amplification nor argument to the think-
ing man.



2. The reconstituted Polish state must
not be made subject in any way to Ger-

Germany, with less excuse than Russia
(for she pretends to and actually does
enjoy a far higher degree of civilization
and enlightenment ) , has a black record of
arrogance toward and intolerance of other
nations whose legitimate aspirations have
stood in the path of her pohtical and com-
mercial expansion. Her good faith can-
not be depended upon. If Poland, either
as a semi-independent or autonomous
state, is placed under the tutelage of Ger-
many, the Germans will leave no stone
unturned to bind the Poles hand and foot.
Although the new Polish state would have
al30ut fifteen million inhabitants, it would
stand little chance of resisting Germany,
for ninety per cent, of the Poles follow
agricultural pursuits. Their industries


and commerce are almost entirely in the
hands of Germans and Jews; so they
would be powerless to use the weapon of
economic boycott against Germany, and
would gradually be assimilated by their
powerful western neighbor. German
statesmen and publicists know this fatal
weakness of Poland, which can be reme-
died only by wholly independent national
life. The Germans have studied their
trump-cards, and do not hesitate to under-
take the "management" of a united Po-

The suggestion that re-united Poland
be made a constituent member of the
Hapsburg dominions is equally inimical to
the realization of Polish aspirations. The
present war has irrevocably committed
Austria-Hungary to a common destiny
with Teutonic Europe. Vienna and
Budapest will continue to act with Berlin.


3. The boundaries of the reconstituted
state must be determined not on historical
grounds, but solely by conservative, un-
sentimental, ethnological considerations,
and by sound economic and political con-

In this the Polish question is similar to
many other questions that will come before
the makers of the new map of Europe.
The most perplexing problem of forming
national boundaries, of reconciling con-
flicting national aspirations, is that of irre-
dentism. Irredentism is a term used to
describe the desire of states which have
come into existence in the nineteenth cen-
tury to extend their boundaries so as to
include adjacent populations of the same
race and language and adjacent territories
which were in the past "historically"
theirs. Most of the later states that have
appeared on the map of Europe are


strongly influenced by irredentism. Irre-
dentism is the cause of the antagonism and
rivahy between the Balkan States. Irre-
dentism is the cause of Italy's intervention
in the war. It has also brought Rumania
into the war. It is the disease which dena-
tured the German people. It is the rock
upon which Poland may be shipwrecked.
In solving irredentist difficulties, it is
important to keep two facts in mind : that
nationahsm is a product of the nineteenth
century; and that the formation and evo-
lution of political organisms has been, and
always will be, influenced fully as much
by economic as by racial considerations.
In dealing with the Balkan problem, I
emphasize the cardinal fact that the vari-
ous races of the Balkan peninsula were
subjected to the Ottoman yoke centuries
before the feeling of nationality was born
in the European races. Therefore any


attempt to go back to tradition and his-
toric claims in the formation of a modern
state is illogical and mischievous. The
Germans found this to their cost when
they annexed Alsace and Lorraine.

They sowed the seed for another war.
Will Italy attempt to saddle herself with
a similar cause for inevitable future con-
flict with Teuton and Slav by trying to
annex the territories at the head of the
Adriatic? Will Rumania persist in her
hope to cross the Carpathians?

One reads the abimdant literature of
Polish nationalists with misgiving and
sinking of the heart. Poland went to her
downfall as an independent nation by re-
fusing to recognize the loss of territories
on the west and northwest through the
working of economic laws, and by diffus-
ing her energies and making herself vul-
nerable through the extension of her po-


litical system over eastern and southeast-
ern territories that could not be assimi-
lated. In the last generations of her ex-
istence she went on the principle of all or
nothing. The result was two partitions
and nothing. It is altogether hopeless
for the Poles of to-day to beheve that they
can include in their new Poland all their
"historic" territories. No cataclysm of
defeat, whichever way the fortune of war
turns, is going to compel Germany and
Russia to give up Silesia, the Prussian
Baltic coast line, Lithuania, Volhynia, and
Podolia, and it is doubtful if the Poles can
make good their claim to the eastern por-
tion of Galicia.^ Even if economic and

1 The Central Powers are attempting: to limit Poland
on the east and northeast by constituting Lithuania into
an independent kingdom, which it historically was be-
fore the union with Poland. Eastern Galicia, outside of
the city of Lemberg, is overwhelmingly Ruthenian in
population, and attached to the Ruthenians (Ukrainians)
of the limitrophe Russian provinces. The Ukrainian
movement demands the separation of the southwest prov-



political considerations do not militate
against the Polish claims to these terri-
tories, the hard facts of present ethnologi-
cal conditions are not in favor of Poles.
Many patriotic Poles who read these
words will think either that I am misin-
formed and an ignoramus, or that I have
at heart no real sympathy with or under-

inces from Russia, including the cities of Kieff and
Odessa. The Ruthenians or Ukrainians tell us that they
are a nation distinct from both Russians and Poles, and
far greater in number than the latter. Like the Lithu-
anians, they, too, have their history of days before the
Polish and Russian conquests. When we go into the
history of national movements in eastern Europe, we see
that Russia is as much a composite empire as is Austria-
Hungary. If the demands and sufferings of these races
in subjection to Russia are less known than the sim-
ilar aspirations and persecutions of the races subject to
the Hapsburgs, it is only because they have been less
advertised. In the first month of the Russian Revolu-
tion, a surprisingly large number of Ukrainians demon-
strated in the streets of Petrograd, demanding that their
national claims be recognized by the new Government.
The Russian Socialists — at present in control — favor
federalism as the underlying princi])le of the Russian
republic, and are inclined to encourage national revendi-
cations of Ukrainians, Armenians, Georgians, etc.



standing of Polish aspirations. I am not
able here to elaborate the arguments
against unreasonable Polish irredentism.
But how can you argue with the man who,
when you point out to him that the popula-
tion of Dantsic is only four per cent.
Polish, replies, "We have been under the
German yoke: now they must taste ours"?
His mind is fixed not only upon unreaH-
ties, but also upon impossibilities. Who
is going to force Russia and Germany to
give up "historic" Polish territories, and
some of them lost centuries before the first
partition? Certainly not the Poles, or the
rest of Europe combined. Never in the
history of the world has it been more im-
perative for us all to face cold facts than
it is to-day. Irredentism, except where
it is a question of a homogeneous popula-
tion whose economic interests would be
favored by union with the "mother coun-


try," has nothing in common with facts
and logic.

Possible independent Poland would in-
clude about two thirds of Posnania from
Germany ; the kingdom of Poland, includ-
ing Khelm, from Russia; and Galicia, ex-
cluding the eastern territory known as
Red Ruthenia, from Austria. It is con-
ceivable that the issue of the war may
compel, or persuade, the three partitioners
of Poland to yield these territories to an
independent Polish state.

4. The reconstitution of Poland as an
independent state is not only a wise poli-
tical step in establishing a durable peace,
but is also an act of justice to one of the
largest and best races of Europe, which
has purchased the right to be free by heroic
sacrifices willingly made and by the ability
amply demonstrated to survive and thrive
through four generations of persecution.


Poland is the best example of the wis-
dom of the buffer-state theory. Russia
and Germany, the largest and most
powerful states in Europe, have been en-
deavoring to expand each in the direction
of the other. The j)artition of Poland
was long held to be the bond that kept
peace between them, for they were part-
ners in crime. But their common frontier
eventually brought them into conflict.
German statesmen and publicists have
frequently told me since the beginning of
the war that the underlying as well as the
direct cause of the present conflict was the
ever-present nightmare of the Panslavic
*' Westward-ho !" and that the Germans
were fighting for European civilization
against "Asiatic" invasion. On the other
hand, Russian polemicists claim that the
Teutonic Drang nach Osten is the basic
cause of the war, from the point of view


of their particular national interest. If
this be true, as far as the issue between
Germany and Russia is concerned, why
not restore Poland to her traditional his-
toric past as the defender of Slavs against
Teutons, and the outpost of Occidental
Europe against invasion from the East ?

The creation of an artificial buffer state,
closely allied in race and sj^mpathies with
one or the other of the rival Powers, or
too weak to resist her neighbors, would be
a makeshift and a farce. But the Poles
are neither pro-German nor pro-Russian,
nor are they weak. In numbers, in brains,
in vitality, in wealth, in unity of spirit,
they are stronger to-day than ever in their
historj^ and as an independent nation
would very rapidly become the seventh
"Great Power" of Europe. In consider-
ing the fitness of the Poles for inde-
pendence, it is just as absurd to hark back


to the weakness and the faults of Poland
of the seventeenth and eighteenth cen-
turies as to judge Germany and Italy of
to-day by the Germans and Italians of
two hundred years ago. It is what the
Poles are to-day that counts. Poland
was partitioned before the Poles became a
nation. Their birth as a nation has come
in the period of bondage. Now they are
ready to break the bonds, for they have
arrived at the age of manliood which
Talleyrand prophesied.

The Poles were once as enlightened and
cultivated a people as any in Europe.
They have come back to their former place
in Galicia. In Posnania they have con-
founded every effort of German Kultur
and organization to assimilate them, and
in the face of Prussian Landtag, Prussian
officials, and Prussian schoolmasters, they
have gained in lands, in wealth, and in


knowledge of their own language and lit-
erature since 1898. In Russian Poland
economic and political handicaps have
brought an increasing degree of superi-
ority in wealth and culture to their op-

There are more Poles to-day in the
world than ever before, and their fecundity
is unrivaled. Their national feeling was
never deeper-rooted and more intelhgent.
If a Pole tells you he is in favor of au-
tonomy under Germany or Russia or Aus-
tria, he is lying for expediency's sake, or
he is a Jew, or he has some narrow, selfish
business interest stronger than patriotism.
The Poles want only one thing, and that
is independence. In this are they not like
every other nation worth its salt? Would
you not despise them if they did not long
for that which you yourself hold to be the

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Online LibraryHerbert Adams GibbonsThe reconstruction of Poland and the Near East ; problems of peace → online text (page 2 of 9)