Current History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 online

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having fallen, and operations were hampered. Although the British had
not taken part in serious fighting, yet they had some share in the
improvement which, he says, had taken place.

The work of the R. F. C., under Brig. Gen. Webb-Bowen, during the period
under review (says Sir Herbert) has been quite brilliant. From the
moment of arrival they made their presence felt, and very soon overcame
the difficulties of the mountains. They have taken part in all
operations, and rendered much assistance to the Italians in the air.
They have carried out a large number of successful raids on enemy
aerodromes, railway junctions, &c., and have during the period destroyed
sixty-four hostile machines, a large proportion of which were German,
and nine balloons, our losses to the enemy during the period being
twelve machines and three balloons.

A comparison of the photographs of hostile battery positions when our
artillery entered the line with the positions now occupied shows that
the enemy batteries have been successfully forced back almost throughout
the whole front. Some British artillery assisted both in French and
Italian operations, and a frequent interchange of British and Italian
batteries was made, together with counterbattery staff officers, in
order that experience of each other's methods might be gained. Every
effort was made to illustrate the value of counterbattery work, the
value of which we had learned by experience in France, but which the
Italians had not hitherto fully appreciated.

"The Italians were only too anxious to profit by any experience we could
give them, and this was done not only by frequent interchange of visits
of commanders and staffs to the various sectors of defense, but by the
establishment of schools of instruction, at which a large number of
Italian officers actually underwent the courses. About 100 Italian
officers attended the courses at the various schools, together with some
French officers. Similarly, British officers underwent courses at French
and Italian schools."

Sir Herbert thanks the Italian authorities for their assistance,
especially General Diaz, Chief of the Staff, and expresses indebtedness
to Generals Fayolle and Maistre, in command of the French troops.

Emperor Charles's "Dear Sixtus" Letter

French Supplemental Statement Corroborates Its Authenticity

The publication of the letter of Emperor Charles of Austria to his
brother-in-law, Prince Sixtus, in which he sought a separate peace with
France, referring to the "just claims" of France to Alsace-Lorraine, and
which caused the downfall of Count Czernin, the Austrian Foreign
Secretary, was followed by this official denial by the Austrian

The letter by his Apostolic Majesty, published by the French Premier
in his communiqué of April 12, 1918, is falsified, (verfaelscht.)
First of all, it may be declared that the personality of far higher
rank than the Foreign Minister, who, as admitted in the official
statement of April 7, undertook peace efforts in the Spring of 1917,
must be understood to be not his Apostolic Majesty but Prince Sixte
of Bourbon, who in the Spring of 1917 was occupied with bringing
about a rapprochement between the belligerent States. As regards the
text of the letter published by M. Clemenceau, the Foreign Minister
declares by All Highest command that his Apostolic Majesty wrote a
purely personal private letter in the Spring of 1917 to his
brother-in-law, Prince Sixte of Bourbon, which contained no
instructions to the Prince to initiate mediation with the President
of the French Republic or any one else, to hand on communications
which might be made to him, or to evoke and receive replies. This
letter, moreover, made no mention of the Belgian question, and
contained, relative to Alsace-Lorraine, the following-passage: "I
would have used all my personal influence in favor of the French
claims for the return of Alsace-Lorraine, if these claims were just.
They are not, however." The second letter of the Emperor mentioned
in the French Premier's communique of April 9, in which his
Apostolic Majesty is said to have declared that he was "in accord
with his Minister," is significantly not mentioned by the French

This statement drew forth from the French Government the following

There are rotten consciences. The Emperor Charles, finding it
impossible to save his face, falls into the stammerings of a man
confounded. He is now reduced to accusing his brother-in-law of
forgery, by fabricating with his own hand a lying text. The original
document, the text of which has been published by the French
Government, was communicated in the presence of M. Jules Cambon,
Secretary General of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and delegated
for this purpose by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the
President of the Republic, who, with the authorization of the
Prince, handed a copy of it to the President of the Council.

The Prince spoke of the matter to M. Ribot himself in terms which
would have been devoid of sense if the text had not been that
published by the French Government, is it not evidence that no
conversation could have been opened, and that the President of the
Republic would not even have received the Prince a second time, if
the latter, at Austria's instance, had been the bearer of a document
which contested our rights instead of affirming them?

The Emperor Charles's letter, as we have quoted it, was shown by
Prince Sixte himself to the Chief of State. Moreover, two friends of
the Prince can attest the authenticity of the letter, especially the
one who received it from the Prince to copy it.

The Serbian Government, moreover, gave the lie direct to Count Czernin's
statement in reference to offering peace to Serbia. Premier Pashitch was
asked in the Skupshtina at Corfu by Deputy Marco Trifcovitch whether
Count Czernin's statement was true. He replied that he had denied Count
Czernin's statements as soon as he had received the text of the speech
from Amsterdam, and that he welcomed this fresh opportunity of declaring
before Parliament that, so far as Serbia was concerned, the statements
were totally inaccurate. (Exclamations from the right, "Czernin lied!")
The Premier then proceeded to say that Count Czernin had never made
peace overtures to Serbia, and that, if he had, such proposals would not
have been accepted. "All the statements of Count Czernin," continued M.
Pashitch, "are only the result of Austro-Hungarian intrigues."

Premier Clemenceau explained in detail before three committees of the
French Chamber, the Committees on Foreign Affairs, the Army, and the
Navy, which represented practically one-fourth of the total membership,
the circumstances connected with the letters; it was unanimously agreed
that there was nothing in the situation to justify any further
consideration than had been given them. The Paris Temps gave the
following details concerning their receipt:

The Emperor's two letters, and the conversations arising out of
them, will form an essential part of the proceedings before the
committees today. The letter from the Emperor to Prince Sixte of
Bourbon-Parma was communicated to M. Poincaré on March 31 last year,
but it remained in the possession of the Prince, who gave a copy of
it to M. Ribot, by whom it was placed in the archives of the French
Foreign Office. "Let us add," says the Temps, "that in the course
of the interview which he had with Lloyd George at Folkestone a few
days after the copy of the letter came into his possession that M.
Ribot handed a copy of this copy to the British Premier. A little
later in the interview which took place at St. Jean de Maurienne, in
Savoy, between the chiefs of the British, French, and Italian
Cabinets the question was raised as to what should be done in case
the Austro-Hungarian Cabinet took steps toward peace negotiations.
An agreement was come to without difficulty between the Allies as to
the line of conduct to be adopted in such an eventuality. Let us add
that this first letter sent to Prince Sixte had determined the
Allies to ask for further explanations, as the result of which
Prince Sixte received from his imperial brother-in-law a second
letter, which was also communicated to M. Poincaré and M. Ribot. We
have no right to give any indication on this subject, but we believe
we can state that this second letter was regarded unanimously by the
Allies as of such a nature that it would not permit them to pursue
the conversations further."

Kaiser Wilhelm in the following telegram accepted without reserve
Emperor Charles's statement that the Sixtus letter had been distorted:

Accept my heartiest thanks for your telegram, in which you repudiate
as entirely baseless the assertion of the French Premier regarding
your attitude toward French claims to Alsace-Lorraine, and in which
you once again accentuate the solidarity of interest existing
between us and our respective empires. I hasten to inform you that
in my eyes there was no need whatever for any such assurance on your
part, for I was not for a moment in doubt that you have made our
cause your own, in the same measure as we stand for the rights of
your monarchy. The heavy but successful battles of these years have
clearly demonstrated this fact to every one who wants to see. They
have only drawn the bonds close together. Our enemies, who are
unable to do anything against us in honorable warfare, do not recoil
from the most sordid and the lowest methods. We must, therefore, put
up with it, but all the more is it our duty ruthlessly to grapple
with and beat the enemy in all the theatres of war. In true
friendship, WILHELM.

As a sequel to the matter it was reported from Vienna that the mother of
Empress Zita and Prince Sixtus had been compelled to leave Vienna and
live in retirement at her estates, remote from the Austrian capital.


Official Report of the Irish Convention - Full Text of the Chairman's
Summary of the Proceedings

The Irish home-rule question, in consequence of the failure of the Irish
Convention to agree, became an important war issue in the Spring of 1918
on account of its effect upon Great Britain's man-power measures.

Premier Lloyd George, on May 21, 1917, announced the Government's
decision to summon a convention of Irishmen representing all parties and
interests to endeavor to reach an agreement on the home-rule question.
The Sinn Feiners refused to send representatives, but all other factions
were represented in the convention, which met July 25, 1917, at Dublin
and elected Sir Horace Plunkett Chairman. The report of its
recommendations was made public April 13, 1918, in three separate
documents - the proposals for a scheme of Irish self-government, adopted
by vote of 44 to 29 in a total membership of 90; a protest by the Ulster
Unionist delegates, who dissented from any agreement, and the report of
22 Nationalist delegates, who were unable to agree to the fiscal
proposals. The majority proposals were accepted by practically all the
Nationalists, all the Southern Unionists, and 5 out of 7 of the Labor

The summary of the proceedings, presented by Sir Horace Plunkett, and
the scheme of government as agreed upon by the majority, are of
importance historically for a comparison with subsequent measures of
home rule, which the British Government announces it intends to
introduce before putting into force conscription in Ireland.


Sir Horace Plunkett's letter reads:

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith the report of the
proceedings of the Irish Convention. For the immediate object of the
Government the report tells all that needs to be told:

It shows that in the convention, while it was not found possible to
overcome the objections of the Ulster Unionists, a majority of
Nationalists, all the Southern Unionists, and five out of the seven
Labor representatives were agreed that the scheme of Irish
self-government set out in Paragraph 42 of the report should be
immediately passed into law. A minority of Nationalists propose a
scheme which differs in only one important particular from that of
the majority. The convention has, therefore, laid a foundation of
Irish agreement unprecedented in history.

I recognize that action in Parliament upon the result of our
deliberations must largely depend upon public opinion. Without a
knowledge of the circumstances which, at the termination of our
proceedings, compelled us to adopt an unusual method of presenting
the results of our deliberations, the public might be misled as to
what has actually been achieved. It is, therefore, necessary to
explain our procedure.

Adopting the Report

We had every reason to believe that the Government contemplated
immediate legislation upon the results of our labors. The work of an
Irish settlement, suspended at the outbreak of the war, is now felt
to admit of no further postponement. In the dominions and in the
United States, as well as in other allied countries, the unsettled
Irish question is a disturbing factor both in regard to war effort
and peace aims. Nevertheless, urgent as our task was, we could not
complete it until every possibility of agreement had been explored.
The moment this point was reached - and you will not be surprised
that it took us eight months to reach it - we decided to issue our
report with the least possible delay. To do this we had to avoid
further controversy and protracted debate. I was, therefore, on
March 22, instructed to draft a report which should be a mere
narrative of the convention's proceedings, with a statement, for the
information of the Government, of the conclusions adopted, whether
unanimously or by majorities.

It was hoped that this report might be unanimously signed; and it
was understood that any groups or individuals would be free to
append to it such statements as they deemed necessary to give
expression to their views. The draft report was circulated on March
30, and discussed and amended on April 4 and 5. The accuracy of the
narrative was not challenged, though there was considerable
difference of opinion as to the relative prominence which should be
given to some parts of the proceedings. As time pressed, it was
decided not to have any discussion upon a majority report, nor upon
any minority reports or other statements which might be submitted.
The draft report was adopted by a majority, and the Chairman and
Secretary were ordered to sign it and forward it to the Government.
A limit of twenty-four hours was, by agreement, put upon the
reception of any other reports or statements, and in the afternoon
of April 5 the convention adjourned sine die.

The public is thus provided with no majority report, in the sense of
a reasoned statement in favor of the conclusions upon which the
majority are agreed, but is left to gather from the narrative of
proceedings what the contents of such a report would have been. On
the other hand, both the Ulster Unionists and a minority of the
Nationalists have presented minority reports covering the whole
field of the convention's inquiry. The result of this procedure is
to minimize the agreement reached, and to emphasize the
disagreement. In these circumstances I conceive it to be my duty as
Chairman to submit such explanatory observations as are required to
enable the reader of the report and the accompanying documents to
gain a clear idea of the real effect and significance of the
convention's achievement.

I may assume a knowledge of the broad facts of the Irish question.
It will be agreed that of recent years the greatest obstacle to its
settlement has been the Ulster difficulty. There seemed to be two
possible issues to our deliberations. If a scheme of Irish
self-government could be framed to which the Ulster Unionists would
give their adherence, then the convention might produce a unanimous
report. Failing such a consummation, we might secure agreement,
either complete or substantial, between the Nationalist, the
Southern Unionist, and the Labor representatives. Many entertained
the hope that the effect of such a striking and wholly new
development would be to induce Ulster to reconsider its position.

Ulster Issue Unsolved

Perhaps unanimity was too much to expect. Be this as it may, neither
time nor effort was spared in striving for that goal, and there were
moments when its attainment seemed possible. There was, however, a
portion of Ulster where a majority claimed that, if Ireland had the
right to separate herself from the rest of the United Kingdom, they
had the same right to separation from the rest of Ireland. But the
time had gone by when any other section of the Irish people would
accept the partition of their country, even as a temporary
expedient. Hence, the Ulster Unionist members in the convention
remained there only in the hope that some form of home rule would be
proposed which might modify the determination of those they
represented to have neither part nor lot in an Irish Parliament. The
Nationalists strove to win them by concessions, but they found
themselves unable to accept any of the schemes discussed, and the
only scheme of Irish government they presented to the convention was
confined to the exclusion of their entire province.

Long before the hope of complete unanimity had passed, the majority
of the convention were considering the possibilities of agreement
between the Nationalists and the Southern Unionists. Lord Midleton
was the first to make a concrete proposal to this end. The report
shows that in November he outlined to the Grand Committee and in
December brought before the convention what looked like a workable
compromise. It accepted self-government for Ireland. In return for
special minority representation in the Irish Parliament, already
conceded by the Nationalists, it offered to that Parliament complete
power over internal legislation and administration, and, in matters
of finance, over direct taxation and excise. But, although they
agreed that the customs revenue should be paid in to the Irish
Exchequer, the Southern Unionists insisted upon the permanent
reservation to the Imperial Parliament of the power to fix the rates
of customs duties. By far the greater part of our time and attention
was occupied by this one question, whether the imposition of customs
duties should or should not be under the control of the Irish
Parliament. The difficulties of the Irish Convention may be summed
up in two words - Ulster and Customs.

Customs and Excise Problem

The Ulster difficulty the whole world knows; but how the customs
question came to be one of vital principle, upon the decision of
which depended the amount of agreement that could be reached in the
convention, needs to be told. The tendency of recent political
thought among constitutional Nationalists has been toward a form of
government resembling as closely as possible that of the dominions,
and, since the geographical position of Ireland imposes obvious
restrictions in respect of naval and military affairs, the claim for
dominion home rule was concentrated upon a demand for unrestricted
fiscal powers. Without separate customs and excise Ireland would,
according to this view, fail to attain a national status like that
enjoyed by the dominions.

Upon this issue the Nationalists made a strong case, and were able
to prove that a considerable number of leading commercial men had
come to favor fiscal autonomy as part of an Irish settlement. In the
present state of public opinion in Ireland it was feared that
without customs no scheme the convention recommended would receive a
sufficient measure of popular support to secure legislation. To
obviate any serious disturbance of the trade of the United Kingdom
the Nationalists were prepared to agree to a free-trade arrangement
between the two countries. But this did not overcome the
difficulties of the Southern Unionists, who on this point agreed
with the Ulster Unionists. They were apprehensive that a separate
system of customs control, however guarded, might impair the
authority of the United Kingdom over its external trade policy.
Neither could they consent to any settlement which was, in their
judgment, incompatible with Ireland's full participation in a scheme
of United Kingdom federation, should that come to pass.

It was clear that by means of mutual concessions agreement between
the Nationalists and the Southern Unionists could be reached on all
other points. On this important point, however, a section of the
Nationalists, who have embodied their views in a separate report,
held that no compromise was possible. On the other hand, a majority
of the Nationalists and the whole body of Southern Unionists felt
that nothing effective could result from their work in the
convention unless some understanding was reached upon customs which
would render an agreement on a complete scheme attainable. Neither
side was willing to surrender the principle; but both sides were
willing, in order that a Parliament should be at once established,
to postpone a legislative decision upon the ultimate control of
customs and excise. At the same time each party has put on record,
in separate notes subjoined to the report, its claim respecting the
final settlement of this question. A decision having been reached
upon the cardinal issue, the majority of the convention carried a
series of resolutions which together form a complete scheme of

Parliament for All Ireland

This scheme provides for the establishment of a Parliament for the
whole of Ireland, with an Executive responsible to it, and with full
powers over all internal legislation, administration, and direct
taxation. Pending a decision of the fiscal question, it is provided
that the imposition of duties of customs and excise shall remain
with the Imperial Parliament, but that the whole of the proceeds of
these taxes shall be paid into the Irish Exchequer. A joint
Exchequer Board is to be set up to determine the Irish true revenue,
and Ireland is to be represented upon the Board of Customs and
Excise of the United Kingdom.

The principle of representation in the Imperial Parliament was
insisted upon from the first by the Southern Unionists, and the
Nationalists conceded it. It was felt, however, that there were
strong reasons for providing that the Irish representatives at
Westminster should be elected by the Irish Parliament rather than
directly by the constituencies, and this was the arrangement

It was accepted in principle that there should be an Irish
contribution to the cost of imperial services, but owing to lack of
data it was not found possible in the convention to fix any definite

It was agreed that the Irish Parliament should consist of two
houses - a Senate of sixty-four members and a House of Commons of
200. The principle underlying the composition of the Senate is the
representation of interests. This is effected by giving
representation to commerce, industry, and labor, the County
Councils, the Churches, learned institutions, and the peerage. In
constituting the House of Commons the Nationalists offered to
guarantee 40 per cent. of its membership to the Unionists. It was
agreed that, in the south, adequate representation for Unionists
could only be secured by nomination; but, as the Ulster
representatives had informed the convention that those for whom they
spoke could not accept the principle of nomination, provision was

Online LibraryVariousCurrent History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 → online text (page 20 of 30)