Robert Lansing.

The Big Four and others of the Peace Conference online

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They did not tell us the truth. We relied on their
advice, and now see where we are! We won't
make that mistake again.''

However, the damage had been done and
could not be undone. The public mind in Italy
had been so inflamed that nothing but Italian
control of Fiume would satisfy the nation. With
that practically impossible, in view of the un-
compromising attitude of the President, the
overthrow of the Orlando Government was only
a question of time unless something unforeseen
occurred to affect the situation. But by neither
word nor manner did Signor Orlando show his
feelings. Even up to the time when the defeat
of his Government was certain to take place
within a few days, and it was substantially
settled that Signor Tittoni would succeed him
at Paris as the head of the Italian delegation,
the cheerfulness and good humor of the retiring
Premier never forsook him. He accepted his ap-

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proacliing political overthrow with a fine spirit.
In these trying circumstances he was the same
pleasant, smiling gentleman that he had been
during the early sessions of the Council of Ten.

Just how far Signor Orlando was influenced in
his policy as to Fiume by Baron Sonnino» I do
not know. There were many competent ob-
servers who were disposed to lay the responsi-
bihty for it on the latter's shoulders, as he was
a past-master in arranging settlements through
secret agreements. No one in the Council oi Ten
was so adept as he in negotiations of that sort.
Persuasive and plausible, with a manner that
impressed his listener with the sense of being
the specially favored recipient of important
information. Baron Sonnino was unquestionably
successful in winning to his support those who
were susceptible to this species of flattery, and
who had a generous opinion of their own
importance. Where the Baron failed was in his
overvaluation of the support which he won in
this way. Had that not been the case, the ItaUan
plan in regard to the Adriatic would have been
successful and the Orlando Government, of which
Baron Sonnino was so influential a member,
would have been stronger than ever at Rome.

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What has been said of Baron Sonnmo is
not by way of criticism of him as a man, but of
the school of diplomacy to which he belonged.
The pity is that all the intrigues and secretive-
ness, from which the Peace Conference suffered
so grievously, did not end as the Fiume affair
ended. K the Conference had done nothing else
than discredit diplomacy of that sort, it would
have been well worth while. Unfortunately,
others who practiced similar methods were able
to form combinations and make bargains to the
mutual and material advantage of their coun-
tries. Baron Sonnino's reputation as a clever
diplomat and negotiator who was credited — I
think unjustly —with hiding his real objects did
not help him, while other statesmen, less known
in diplomacy and possibly less frank in purpose,
engaged in the same practices that he did with
impunity and with frequent success.

The fact is, when one who knows what went on
in Paris outside the recorded proceedings con-
siders the months during which the Conference
was in session, he cannot deny that there was a
lot of hypocrisy practiced, a lot of pretense about
doing things openly and stating things candidly
when secrecy and intrigue were only too evident.

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One might not like Baron Sonnino's policies and
might feel that they flouted the conscience of the
nations and were out of harmony with the spirit
of the times, but no one could charge him with
being a hypocrite. He was in fact far less blame-
worthy than some who criticized him. Whatever
may have been thought of the Italian Minister
of Foreign Affairs by these self-righteous negotia-
tors, he was a more reliable man than they, a
better man with whom to deal. He was without
question an able diplomat, possessing poise and
sagacity, while as a companion he was all that
could be desired.

Neither Signor Orlando nor Baron Sonnino
took as active a part in the debates on general
questions which came before the Council of Ten
as did the representatives of the United States,
France, and Great Britain. Signor Orlando was
always ready to give his opinion on such subjects
when asked, and he did it with the clearness of
statement and logical presentation of reasons "
of which he was master. When, however, the
question was one which had to do with the
national interests of Italy, he appeared to be
eager to express his views, and seized the first
opportunity to address the Council. It was also

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observable that in any discussion which touched
his government or people even so remotely as
the establishment of a precedent or policy which
might be later invoked against them, Signor
Orlando spoke with greater earnestness and much
more emphatically than he did on other occa-
sions.

This was evidence of a fact, already mentioned,
that the Italian statesmen concentrated their
entire eflfort on the advancement of the material
welfare of their country. It is impossible to deny
that Italy, however favorably or sympathetically
her course may be viewed, entered the war on
conditions which in the event of victory by the
Allies ensured her future territorial and economic
expansion. She sought a good bargain, and Great
Britain and France, in view of the conditions
existing in April, 1915, were forced to accede to
her terms. That same dominant purpose was
apparent throughout the negotiations at Paris.
Having secured to a large extent the rewards
promised a month before Italy declared war
against Austria-Hungary, which were embodied
in the Pact of London, the Italian representatives
at the Peace Conference sought further advan-
tages by advancing new claims. Of course these

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claims were selfish and not based primarily on
international justice, but in that they did not
differ from the claims of other Allied Govern-
ments. The difference lay, as I see it, in the fact
that the Italians urged their claims frankly and
without subterfuge, while others, seeking to hide
their nationalistic purposes, deipanded that their
claims should be recognized on the ground that
to do so would make for the future peace of the
world and for the welfare of the inhabitants
of the territories the possession of which they
coveted.

While Signor Orlando had taken part in secret
negotiations as to Fiume and had endeavored to
obtain his object by bringing personal influence
to bear on others, it always seemed to me that
the secretive method employed contradicted the
frankness and openness which he otherwise dis-
played. He was certainly not by nature disposed
to deceive as to his purpose. Possibly he, and
Baron Sonnino as well, was too frank, from the
point of view of expediency. In any event, ap-
parent frankness, seasoned by assertions of high
moral purpose and garnished with unctuous
precepts and platitudes, succeeded where real
frankness failed. To admit openly that one was

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impelled by selfish motives was an offense to
those who proclaimed their own altruism, wh§it-
ever their true motives might have been. It was
not playing the game according to the rules.
The truth is there was at Paris too much lip
virtue and too little heart virtue in the settle-
ments that were reached.

The Italian aspirations conflicted more with
those of France than with those of any other of
the Great Powers. In the Balkans, and to an
extent in Asia Minor, they came into direct con-
flict in the endeavor of each coimtry to extend
its sphere of commercial influence in those re-
gions. It was when these questions were being
considered that M. Clemenceau and Signor
Orlando crossed swords in debate. While I
think that The Tiger's domineering manner and
sarcastic conmients had a subduing effect on the
ItaUan, he replied with vigor and defended his
position with skillful parry and counter-thrust, in
spite of the interruptions of the older statesman,
who was or pretended to be very much out of
temper.

As a rule the impression made by the debate
was that for logic and force of reasoning Signor
Orlando had the better of the argiunent. He

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seemed to know his case more thorougMy iind to
present it more convincingly than did his French
adversary. In fact, if. the latter had not been
the great personality that he was, he would often
have been forced to acknowledge defeat. But he
never did. Clemenceau drfeated was unthink-
able to Clemenceau, and that attitude had im-
questionably a potent influence on his associates.
As a consequence Signor Orlando did not triumph
as frequently as he otherwise might have done
in his word combats with the fierce old cham-
pion of France, who treated him — I believe
intentionally — with far less consideration than
he did Mr. Wilson and Mr. Lloyd George.

Though Signor Orlando possessed admirable
traits of character and exhibited a skill in debate
which none of his confreres excelled, he was
nevertheless the least influential of the Big Four
and had the least to do with formulating the
terms of peace with Germany. This was doubt-
less due in large measure to the relative military,
naval, and financial strength of the Great Powers
represented in the Council of Four. Comparison
by this standard — which, it is to be regretted,
was the principal standard in weighing influ-
ence at the Peace Conference — tended to place

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Italy jn the background and to subordinate the
views of her statesmen. I know also that some
felt that the Italian Government had driven too
sharp a bargain with the Entente in 1915, and
was now demanding more than its pound of
flesh, in spite of the small part, which the more
critical in Europe asserted, Italy had taken in
the later months of the struggle. There seemed
to be a disposition to repudiate the Italian claims
or at least to reject many of them. It was with
evident reluctance that France and Great Britain
conceded their treaty obligations. Neither of
them vigorously supported Italy when her
claims were urged. The attitude seemed to be
that of tolerance for a nation which had not won
by arms a right to a voice in the decisions, but
was by agreement entitled to it. It was therefore
especially fortunate for the Italian people that
I they had in Signor Orlando so well-trained a
^statesman, so talented an advocate, and so keen
^ logician to represent them at the Conference.
He could not be and was not ignored. Another
f epresentativfe less able might have been.

A review of the foregoing estimate of the
personalities of the four statesmen composing^*

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the Councfl of the Heads of States, in whose
hands, it may be said, rested the political and
economic future of the world, shows that they
each possessed qualities of mind which fitted
them to be leaders of men, but which did not
necessarily equip them to act as negotiators. I
think candor compels one to admit, however
much he may admire the superior attainments
of the Big Four, that it was a misfortune for
the nations that the actual formulation of the
treaty with Germany was assumed by them. ^ \
In the first place, the only one of them who
had the legal or diplomatic experience necessary
for such a task was Signor Orlando, the least
influential of the Council, and the one who was
handicapped by not knowing English, in which
language the proceedings were chiefly conducted.
Of the others. President Wilson thought like a
professor advocating a pet theory and expanded
his philosophic ideas in a series of epigrams,
which sounded well, but which were diflicult of
practical application, if not of definition. Mr.
Lloyd George, who lacked the background which
only a thorough student of history could have,
was an opportunist, who jumped to conclusions
without going through the reasoning processes

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which are necessary for wise statesmanship.
Careless in thought, he was equally careless in
speech. Accuracy of expression, so essential in
the final settlement of an international question,
was not one of his attainments. M. Clemenceau
never bothered himself with the actual wording
of a decision. The general principle was all that
interested him. The technical phraseology he
left to the Secretariat General, directing them to
send the decisions of the Council of Ten to the
drafting committee. A more unsystematic and
loose way of conducting business of such mo-
ment can hardly be imagined. To term it in-
expert is a mild characterization.

To other delegates, appreciative from previous
experience of the importance of exact and definite
expression, this lax and haphazard procediu-e
caused grave concern, though it did not seem to
disturb any members of the Council of Four.
Fortunately, the drafting committee included
such trained international jurists as Dr. James
Brown Scott, for the United States; Mr. — now
Sir — Cecil J. B. Hurst, of the British Foreign
OflSce; and M. Henri Fromag6ot, of the French
Ministry of Foreign AflFairs. To their legal
knowledge, carefulness, and industry are due the

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phraseology of the majority of the articles of
the treaty and their orderly arrangement. One
dreads to think what the docimient would have
looked like if it had not passed through their
experienced hands.

K I were asked to state the strongest motives
influencing the conduct of each member of the
Council of Four during the Peace Conference, I
would state them as follows: M. Clemenceau
— protection of France from future German
attack, indenmification for her war losses, and
the perpetuation of her international power in
the world; President Wilson — the creation of a
league of nations to make permanent the terms
of peace, to prevent war, and to supervise inter-
national relations in the future; Mr. Lloyd
George — the satisfaction of British public opin-
ion, measured in terms of political success and
commercial advantage; and Signor Orlando —
the expansion of Italy*s territorial sovereignty
and economic power.

Of these controlling motives that of President
Wilson was on a higher ethical plane than that
of any of his colleagues. He unquestionably
felt that a great moral duty rested on the victori-
ous nations to make great wars impossible for

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the future. He believed that this could be done
by organizing the peoples of the world into a
league of nations. It was an idea which appealed
to his intellectual conception that he was devoted
to the welfare of mankind, and to his firm convic-
tion that he was destined to be the leader of the
nations, the commanding figure in this feder-
ation of the world. The theory of the proposed
organization was an appealing one. There was
Uttle that could be urged against the general
principle of union for the sake of peace. It was
in the application of the principle and in attempt-
ing to make the theory workable in practice that
the difficulty lay. The President should have
realized — possibly he did — that unless the
Great Powers subordinated their selfish and
materialistic interests to the altruistic purposes
which impelled him to concentrate his efforts
on the drafting and adoption of the covenant,
their support of the League would be merely the
expression of a moral sentiment, provided it did
not constitute a practical agency to protect them
in settlements which satisfied their selfish desires.
Consider and answer these questions, which
are significant as to the spirit which prevailed
among the Great Powers: Why did the French

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statesmen hesitate to accept the covenant until
an added guaranty against German aggression
had been substantially agreed upon with Presi-
dent Wilson and Mr. Lloyd George? Why did
Italy threaten to withdraw from the Conference
and not to become a member of the League until
a favorable settlement as to Fiume had been
reached, even though it had nothing to do with
the treaty with Germany? Why did the Japanese
let it be known that they would not join the
liCague unless the German rights in Shantung
were ceded to their empire?

The manifest answers to these questions show
that selfish motives were superior to moral
obUgations with the European Powers and with
Japan. The attitude seems to have been: Give
us all that we demand and we will aid in building
a wall for the protection of that which we have
obtained.

These incidents, with others which might be
cited, are manifestations of the weak influence
that abstract justice and the desire for the com-
mon good exerted on the Great Powers, and
of the impracticabihty of relying unreservedly on
their support of joint action, through an inter-
national organization, which was in any way

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detrimental to their material interests. From the
theoretical standpoint of the moral philosopher,
good faith and a sense of justice are irresistible
forces in the relations between nations, but
practically — and we must look to the practical
in the world of the present — selfishness is, and I
fear will continue to be, the supreme impulse of
nations in their dealings with one another, until
mankind is morally regenerated.

If the treaty of peace with Germany Is criti-
cally analyzed in order to determine the motives
which found expression in the settlements con-
tained in its himdreds of articles, I do not think
the brief statement of these motives which I have
made will appear to be prejudiced or unjust.
From the treaty terms there is much that can be
learned of the^psycholQ^^^^^he^^ who

rere most infl uentiaHnjorgaulating themT^uch
a study, if itls made carefully ttntflmpartially,
will, I beUeve, supplement and confirm this re-
view of the characters, the aims, the successes
and the failures of the Big Four of the Peace
Conference at Paris. In later years, when the
results of their labors find actual expression,
historians may render a diflFerent verdict as to
these men, but from the viewpoint of the present

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I can reach no other than that which it has been
my endeavor to state without favor and with
entire candor.

The negotiations at Paris may be described as
a conflict between altruism and selfishness, be-
tween the ideal and the material, between the
theOTetical^andthejita^^^ between principle

and expediency; a conflict in which President
Wilson, representing the higher standards, was
outmaneuvered by the forces of self-interest
and opportunism. The consequence was a treaty
in which national rather than international



interests are empliagS^[ra^3^u^hj^
sfeadfeterajT^Ss^^^^ discord.

No one imbued with the longing for a peace
founded on justice can study the treaty of peace
with Germany without a keen sense of disap-
pointment as to certain of the terms of settle-
ment or without a feeling of apprehension as to
the future. The treaty restored a legal state of
peace among the nations; in that was its virtue,
for it responded to the supreme longing and need
of the world. As for the League 6f Nations,
which is to be an instrument of performance as
well as the guardian of this great international
compact, it is charged with giviujg permanency

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to settlements which, in view of the nature of
some of them, invite modification or annulment.
Unless these defects are remedied, unless the
principle of the equality of nations is recognized,
and unless legal justice is emphasized, the Peace
of Versailles will be in many of its provisions
temporary and not permanent*



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IMPRESSIONS OF OTHER STATESMEN
at the Peace Conference



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- IMPRESSIONS

A MAN who has taken a prominent part in public
affairs is naturally subjected to critical observa-
tion by those who come in contact with him.
There exists a popular belief, gained from various
sources, as to his character and attainments,
which one is curious to test by personal ac-
quaintance. What is it that has given this man
a reputation for greatness, for shrewdness, for
wisdom? Wherein lie his powers of leadership?
Has he the traits and qualities with which he is
credited? Does he possess weaknesses, of which
the man in the street knows nothing? Is the
popular judgment concerning him accurate?
What is his real personality?

It id with such questions that one approaches a
leader in the world of thought or action. Almost
invariably on first acquaintance an impression
is formed of the man, which may be strengthened
or weakened by subsequent intercourse or by
personally acquired knowledge of his purposes,
his motives, his mentality, and his mode of
action. Such impressions are of value, because
unconsciously they are critical unless personal

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Impressions

likes and dislikes and the sentimentality of the
observer are pennitted to control his judgment.
Impressions, therefore, seem to be worth record-
ing, since they will confirm, modify, or deny the
popular estimate of a man by one who at least
has had the opportunity of personal contact,
through which the little things which enter into
character are frequently disclosed, those little
things which the general public cannot know
and so miss an important factor in the valuation
of a man's qualities of mind.

And yet it ought to be remembered that
records of this sort are records of impressions
rather than of reasoned opinions. They are not
based on intimate association with the subject or
on long and careful observation. They are not
convictions gained by comparison of known facts
and personal experiences. They spring from the
brain without going through the slow process of
analysis and deduction. Personal sentiment, to
an extent, is mingled with observation and knowl-
edge to produce an impression, and the latter
is as fallible as sentiment always is when it forms
the basis of opinion. In a sense, therefore, an
impression is a psychological phenomenon rather
than the product of the reason. It is a "'snap*

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Impressions

shot'* of a man rather than a "tune-exposure**
of hun. It is an outline lacking the detail of a
finished portrait.

I am not sure how far an impression is affected
by preconceived ideas of a man gathered from
his record of achievement and his popular reputa-
tion for ability, though it is undoubtedly affected
by them. Probably the influence varies in each
case. But I think that it may be assumed that, if
the impression conforms to a previous conception
of character, the impression becomes almost a
conviction; while, if it differs in marked degree
from what one has been led to believe concerning
a man's character, the effect is to deepen the
personal satisfaction or disappointment, as the
case may be, and to cause a feeling that the im-
pression approaches nearer the truth than the
evidence contradicting it, although the nature of
the evidence is an important factor in determin-
ing its rejection.

This tendency to rely more upon an impres-
sion gained from personal contact, however
slight, than upon popular opinion and knowledge
of the previous career and accomplishments of a
man, is normal. It may not be the soundest
basis for accurately estimating personality, but

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Impressions

it is very human and much more satisfying than
the careful weighing of facts which are generally
known. Reputations, in any event, are based not
so much upon what men think and do, as upon
what the world believes that they think and do;
and, since a public estimate of a man is founded
on belief, it is more easily overthrown by a per-
sonal impression than if it rested on proven facts.
In many cases the personality erf a man, to whom
public opinion imputes greatness, assumes heroic
proportions as the myth is increasingly accepted,
so that a first impression, which does not con-
form to the public belief, is a distinct shock
and disposes the observer to reject all the evi-
dences of greatness when, in fact, only certain


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Online LibraryRobert LansingThe Big Four and others of the Peace Conference → online text (page 7 of 11)