The Peace Negotiations
by Robert Lansing
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"There is another practical obstacle to international arbitration as now conducted which ought to be considered, and that is the cost. This obstacle does not affect wealthy nations, but it does prevent small and poor nations from resorting to it as a means of settling disputes. Just how this can be remedied I am not prepared to say, although possibly the international support of all arbitral tribunals might be provided. At any rate, I feel that something should be done to relieve the great expense which now prevents many of the smaller nations from resorting to arbitration.

"I would suggest, therefore, that the Peace Treaty contain a provision directing the League of Nations to hold a conference or to summon a conference to take up this whole matter and draft an international treaty dealing with the constitution of arbitral tribunals and radically revising the procedure.

"On account of the difficulties of the subject, which do not appear on the surface, but which experience has shown to be very real, I feel that it would be impracticable to provide in the Peace Treaty too definitely the method of constituting arbitral tribunals. It will require considerable thought and discussion to make arbitration available to the poor as well as the rich, to make an award a judicial settlement rather than a diplomatic compromise, and to supersede the cumbersome and prolonged procedure with its duplication of documents and maps by a simple method which will settle the issues and materially shorten the proceedings which now unavoidably drag along for months, if not for years.

"Faithfully yours



"28 Rue de Monceau"

At the time that I sent this letter to Mr. Wilson I had not seen the revised draft of the Covenant which he laid before the Commission on the League of Nations. The probability is that, if I had seen it, the letter would not have been written, for in the revision of the original draft the objectionable Article V, relating to arbitration and appeals from arbitral awards, was omitted. In place of it there were substituted two articles, 11 and 12, the first being an agreement to arbitrate under certain conditions and the other providing that "the Executive Council will formulate plans for the establishment of a Permanent Court of International Justice, and this Court will be competent to hear and determine any matter which the parties recognize as suitable for submission to it for arbitration."

Unadvised as to this change, which promised a careful consideration of the method of applying legal principles of justice to international disputes, I did not feel that I could let pass without challenge the unsatisfactory provisions of the President's original draft. Knowing the contempt which Mr. Wilson felt for The Hague Tribunal and his general suspicion of the justice of decisions which it might render, it seemed to me inexpedient to suggest that it should form the basis of a newly constituted judiciary, a suggestion which I should have made had I been dealing with any one other than President Wilson. In view of the intensity of the President's prejudices and of the uselessness of attempting to remove them, my letter was intended to induce him to postpone a determination of the subject until the problems which it presented could be thoroughly studied and a judicial system developed by an international body of representatives more expert in juridical matters than the Commission on the League of Nations, the American members of which were incompetent by training, knowledge, and practical experience to consider the subject.

No acknowledgment, either written or oral, was ever made of my letter of February 3. Possibly President Wilson considered it unnecessary to do so in view of the provision in his revised Covenant postponing discussion of the subject. At the time, however, I naturally assumed that my voluntary advice was unwelcome to him. His silence as to my communications, which seemed to be intended to discourage a continuance of them, gave the impression that he considered an uninvited opinion on any subject connected with the League of Nations an unwarranted interference with a phase of the negotiations which he looked upon as his own special province, and that comment or suggestion, which did not conform wholly to his views, was interpreted into opposition and possibly into criticism of him personally.

This judgment of the President's mental attitude, which was formed at the time, may have been too harsh. It is possible that the shortness of time in which to complete the drafting of the report of the Commission on the League of Nations, upon which he had set his heart, caused him to be impatient of any criticism or suggestion which tended to interrupt his work or that of the Commission. It may have been that pressure for time prevented him from answering letters of the character of the one of February 3. Whatever the real reason was, the fact remains that the letter went unnoticed and the impression was made that it was futile to attempt to divert the President from the single purpose which he had in mind. His fidelity to his own convictions and his unswerving determination to attain what he sought are characteristics of Mr. Wilson which are sources of weakness as well as of strength. Through them success has generally crowned his efforts, success which in some instances has been more disastrous than failure would have been.

By what means the change of Article V of the original draft of the Covenant took place, I cannot say. In the memorandum of Messrs. Miller and Auchincloss no suggestion of a Court of International Justice appears, which seems to indicate that the provision in the revised draft did not originate with them or with Colonel House. In fact on more than one occasion I had mentioned arbitration to the Colonel and found his views on the subject extremely vague, though I concluded that he had almost as poor an opinion of The Hague Tribunal as did the President. The probability is that the change was suggested to Mr. Wilson by one of the foreign statesmen in a personal interview during January and that upon sounding others he found that they were practically unanimous in favor of a Permanent Court of Justice. As a matter of policy it seemed wise to forestall amendment by providing for its future establishment. If this is the true explanation, Article 12 was not of American origin, though it appears in the President's revised draft.

To be entirely frank in stating my views in regard to Mr. Wilson's attitude toward international arbitration and its importance in a plan of world organization, I have always been and still am skeptical of the sincerity of the apparent willingness of the President to accept the change which was inserted in his revised draft. It is difficult to avoid the belief that Article V of the original draft indicated his true opinion of the application of legal principles to controversies between nations. That article, by depriving an arbitral award of finality and conferring the power of review on a political body with authority to order a rehearing, shows that the President believed that more complete justice would be rendered if the precepts and rules of international law were in a measure subordinated to political expediency and if the judges were not permitted to view the questions solely from the standpoint of legal justice. There is nothing that occurred, to my knowledge, between the printing of the original draft of the Covenant and the printing of the revised draft, which indicated a change of opinion by the President. It may be that this is a misinterpretation of Mr. Wilson's attitude, and that the change toward international arbitration was due to conviction rather than to expediency; but my belief is that expediency was the sole cause.



The Commission on the League of Nations, over which President Wilson presided, held ten meetings between February 3 and February 14, on which latter day it submitted a report at a plenary session of the Conference on the Preliminaries of Peace. The report was presented by the President in an address of exceptional excellence which made a deep impression on his hearers. His dignity of manner, his earnestness, and his logical presentation of the subject, clothed as it was in well-chosen phrases, unquestionably won the admiration of all, even of those who could not reconcile their personal views with the Covenant, as reported by the Commission. It was a masterly effort, an example of literary rather than emotional oratory, peculiarly fitting to the occasion and to the temper and intellectual character of the audience.

Considering the brief time given to its discussion in the Commission and the necessary haste required to complete the document before the President's departure, the Covenant as reported to the Conference was a creditable piece of work. Many of the more glaring errors of expression and some of the especially objectionable features of the President's revised draft were eliminated. There were others which persisted, but the improvement was so marked that the gross defects in word and phrase largely disappeared. If one accepted the President's theory of organization, there was little to criticize in the report, except a certain inexactness of expression which indicated a lack of technical knowledge on the part of those who put the Covenant into final form. But these crudities and ambiguities of language would, it was fair to presume, disappear if the articles passed through the hands of drafting experts.

Fundamentally, however, the Covenant as reported was as wrong as the President's original draft, since it contained the affirmative guaranty of political independence and territorial integrity, the primacy of the Five Great Powers on the Executive Council, and the perplexing and seemingly unsound system of mandates. In this I could not willingly follow President Wilson, but I felt that I had done all that I could properly do in opposition to his theory. The responsibility of decision rested with him and he had made his decision. There was nothing more to be said.

On the evening of the day of the plenary session, at which the report of the League of Nations was submitted, the President left Paris for Brest where the George Washington was waiting to convey him to the United States. He carried with him the report of the Commission, whose deliberations and decisions he had so manifestly dominated. He went prepared to meet his political antagonists and the enemies of the League, confidently believing that he could win a popular support that would silence the opposition which had been increasingly manifest in the Halls of Congress and in some of the Republican newspapers which declined to follow Mr. Taft, Mr. Wickersham, Mr. Straus, and other influential Republican members of the League to Enforce Peace.

During the ten days preceding February 14, when the Commission on the League of Nations held daily sessions, the President had no conferences with the American Commissioners except, of course, with Colonel House, his American colleague on the Commission on the League. On the morning of the 14th, however, he called a meeting of the Commissioners and delivered to them the printed report which was to be presented that afternoon to the plenary session. As the meetings of the Commission on the League of Nations had been secret, the American Commissioners, other than Colonel House, were almost entirely ignorant of the proceedings and of the progress being made. Colonel House's office staff knew far more about it than did Mr. White, General Bliss, or I. When the President delivered the report to the Commissioners they were, therefore, in no position to express an opinion concerning it. The only remarks were expressions of congratulation that he had been able to complete the work before his departure. They were merely complimentary. As to the merits of the document nothing was or could be said by the three Commissioners, since no opportunity had been given them to study it, and without a critical examination any comment concerning its provisions would have been worthless. I felt and I presume that my two colleagues, who had not been consulted as to the work of the Commission on the League, felt, that it was, in any event, too late to offer suggestions or make criticisms. The report was in print; it was that afternoon to be laid before the Conference; in twelve hours the President would be on his way to the United States. Clearly it would have been useless to find fault with the report, especially if the objections related to the fundamental ideas of the organization which it was intended to create. The President having in the report declared the American policy, his commissioned representatives were bound to acquiesce in his decision whatever their personal views were. Acquiescence or resignation was the choice, and resignation would have undoubtedly caused an unfortunate, if not a critical, situation. In the circumstances acquiescence seemed the only practical and proper course.

The fact that in ten meetings and in a week and a half a Commission composed of fifteen members, ten of whom represented the Five Great Powers and five of whom represented the lesser powers (to which were later added four others), completed the drafting of a detailed plan of a League of Nations, is sufficient in itself to raise doubts as to the thoroughness with which the work was done and as to the care with which the various plans and numerous provisions proposed were studied, compared, and discussed. It gives the impression that many clauses were accepted under the pressing necessity of ending the Commission's labors within a fixed time. The document itself bears evidence of the haste with which it was prepared, and is almost conclusive proof in itself that it was adopted through personal influence rather than because of belief in the wisdom of all its provisions.

The Covenant of the League of Nations was intended to be the greatest international compact that had ever been written. It was to be the Maxima Charta of mankind securing to the nations their rights and liberties and uniting them for the preservation of universal peace. To harmonize the conflicting views of the members of the Commission—and it was well known that they were conflicting—and to produce in eleven days a world charter, which would contain the elements of greatness or even of perpetuity, was on the face of it an undertaking impossible of accomplishment. The document which was produced sufficiently establishes the truth of this assertion.

It required a dominant personality on the Commission to force through a detailed plan of a League in so short a time. President Wilson was such a personality. By adopting the scheme of an oligarchy of the Great Powers he silenced the dangerous opposition of the French and British members of the Commission who willingly passed over minor defects in the plan provided this Concert of Powers, this Quintuple Alliance, was incorporated in the Covenant. And for the same reason it may be assumed the Japanese and Italians found the President's plan acceptable. Mr. Wilson won a great personal triumph, but he did so by surrendering the fundamental principle of the equality of nations. In his eagerness to "make the world safe for democracy" he abandoned international democracy and became the advocate of international autocracy.

It is not my purpose to analyze the provisions of the Covenant which was submitted to the Conference on the Preliminaries of Peace on February 14, 1919. My objections to it have been sufficiently discussed in the preceding pages. It would be superfluous to repeat them. The innumerable published articles and the endless debates on the Covenant have brought out its good features as well as its defects. Unfortunately for the opponents and defenders of the document alike some of the objections urged have been flagrantly unjustifiable and based on false premises and misstatements of fact and of law, which seem to show political motives and not infrequently personal animosity toward Mr. Wilson. The exaggerated statements and unfair arguments of some of the Senators, larded, as they often were, with caustic sarcasm and vindictive personalities, did much to prevent an honest and useful discussion of the merits and demerits of the Covenant.

The effect upon President Wilson of this campaign against him personally—and it seems to me that it would have had the same effect upon any man of spirit—was to arouse his indignation. Possibly a less stubborn man would not have assumed so uncompromising an attitude as he did or have permitted his ire to find expression in threats, but it cannot be denied that there was provocation for the resentment which he exhibited. The President has been blamed for not having sought more constantly to placate the opponents of the Covenant and to meet them on a common ground of compromise, especially during his visit to the United States in February, 1919. From the point of view of policy there is justice in blaming him, but, when one considers the personal animus shown and the insolent tone assumed by some of his critics, his conduct was very human; not wise, but human. Mr. Wilson had never shown a spirit of conciliation in dealing with those who opposed him. Even in the case of a purely political question he appeared to consider opposition to be a personal affront and he was disposed to retaliate in a personal way. In a measure this explains the personal enmity of many of his political foes. I think that it is not unjust to say that President Wilson was stronger in his hatreds than in his friendships. He seemed to lack the ability to forgive one who had in any way offended him or opposed him.

Believing that much of the criticism of the Covenant was in reality criticism of him as its author, a belief that was in a measure justified, the President made it a personal matter. He threatened, in a public address delivered in the New York Opera House on the eve of his departure for France, to force the Republican majority to accept the Covenant by interweaving the League of Nations into the terms of peace to such an extent that they could not be separated, so that, if they rejected the League, they would be responsible for defeating the Treaty and preventing a restoration of peace. With the general demand for peace this seemed no empty threat, although the propriety of making it may be questioned. It had, however, exactly the opposite effect from that which the President intended. Its utterance proved to be as unwise as it was ineffective. The opposition Senators resented the idea of being coerced. They became more than ever determined to defeat a President whom they charged with attempting to disregard and nullify the right of the Senate to exercise independently its constitutional share in the treaty-making power. Thus at the very outset of the struggle between the President and the Senate a feeling of hostility was engendered which continued with increasing bitterness on both sides and prevented any compromise or concession in regard to the Covenant as it finally appeared in the Treaty of Versailles.

When President Wilson returned to Paris after the adjournment of the Sixty-Fifth Congress on March 4, 1919, he left behind him opponents who were stronger and more confident than they were when he landed ten days before. While his appeal to public opinion in favor of the League of Nations had been to an extent successful, there was a general feeling that the Covenant as then drafted required amendment so that the sovereign rights and the traditional policies of the United States should be safeguarded. Until the document was amended it seemed that the opposition had the better of the argument with the people. Furthermore, when the new Congress met, the Republicans would have a majority in the Senate which was of special importance in the matter of the Treaty which would contain the Covenant, because it would, when sent to the Senate, be referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations to report on its ratification and a majority of that Committee, under a Republican organization, would presumably be hostile to the plan for a League advocated by the President. The Committee could hinder and possibly prevent the acceptance of the Covenant, while it would have the opportunity to place the opposition's case in a favorable light before the American people and to attack the President's conduct of the negotiations at Paris.

I believe that the President realized the loss of strategic position which he had sustained by the Democratic defeat at the polls in November, 1918, but was persuaded that, by making certain alterations in the Covenant suggested by Republicans favorable to the formation of a League, and especially those advocating a League to Enforce Peace, he would be able to win sufficient support in the Senate and from the people to deprive his antagonists of the advantage which they had gained by the elections. This he sought to do on his return to Paris about the middle of March. If the same spirit of compromise had been shown while he was in America it would doubtless have gone far to weaken hostility to the Covenant. Unfortunately for his purpose he assumed a contrary attitude, and in consequence the sentiment against the League was crystallized and less responsive to the concessions which the President appeared willing to make when the Commission on the League of Nations resumed its sittings, especially as the obnoxious Article 10 remained intact.

In the formulation of the amendments to the Covenant, which were incorporated in it after the President's return from the United States and before its final adoption by the Conference, I had no part and I have no reason to think that Mr. White or General Bliss shared in the work. As these amendments or modifications did not affect the theory of organization or the fundamental principles of the League, they in no way changed my views or lessened the differences between the President's judgment and mine. Our differences were as to the bases and not as to the details of the Covenant. Since there was no disposition to change the former we were no nearer an agreement than we were in January.

The President's visit to the United States had been disappointing to the friends of a League in that he had failed to rally to the support of the Covenant an overwhelming popular sentiment in its favor which the opposition in the Senate could not resist. The natural reaction was that the peoples of Europe and their statesmen lost a measure of their enthusiasm and faith in the project. Except in the case of a few idealists, there was a growing disposition to view it from the purely practical point of view and to speculate on its efficacy as an instrument to interpret and carry out the international will. Among the leaders of political thought in the principal Allied countries, the reports of the President's reception in the United States were sufficiently conflicting to arouse doubt as to whether the American people were actually behind him in his plan for a League, and this doubt was not diminished by his proposed changes in the Covenant, which indicated that he was not in full control of the situation at home.

Two weeks after the President had resumed his duties as a negotiator and had begun the work of revising the Covenant, I made a memorandum of my views as to the situation that then existed. The memorandum is as follows:

"March 25, 1919

"With the increasing military preparations and operations throughout Eastern Europe and the evident purpose of all these quarreling nations to ignore any idea of disarmament and to rely upon force to obtain and retain territory and rights, the League of Nations is being discussed with something like contempt by the cynical, hard-headed statesmen of those countries which are being put on a war-footing. They are cautious and courteous out of regard for the President. I doubt if the truth reaches him, but it comes to me from various sources.

"These men say that in theory the idea is all right and is an ideal to work toward, but that under present conditions it is not practical in preventing war. They ask, what nation is going to rely on the guaranty in the Covenant if a jealous or hostile neighbor maintains a large army. They want to know whether it would be wise or not to disarm under such conditions. Of course the answers are obvious. But, if the guaranty is not sufficient, or accepted as sufficient, protection, what becomes of the central purpose of the League and the chief reason for creating it?

"I believe that the President and Colonel House see this, though they do not admit it, and that to save the League from being cast into the discard they will attempt to make of it a sort of international agency to do certain things which would normally be done by independent international commissions. Such a course would save the League from being still-born and would so interweave it with the terms of peace that to eliminate it would be to open up some difficult questions.

"Of course the League of Nations as originally planned had one supreme object and that was to prevent future wars. That was substantially all that it purposed to do. Since then new functions have been gradually added until the chief argument for the League's existence has been almost lost to sight. The League has been made a convenient 'catch-all' for all sorts of international actions. At first this was undoubtedly done to give the League something to do, and now it is being done to save it from extinction or from being ignored.

"I am not denying that a common international agent may be a good thing. In fact the plan has decided merit. But the organization of the League does not seem to me suitable to perform efficiently and properly these new functions.

"However, giving this character to the League may save it from being merely an agreeable dream. As the repository of international controversies requiring long and careful consideration it may live and be useful.

"My impression is that the principal sponsors for the League are searching through the numerous disputes which are clogging the wheels of the Conference, seizing upon every one which can possibly be referred, and heaping them on the League of Nations to give it standing as a useful and necessary adjunct to the Treaty.

"At least that is an interesting view of what is taking place and opens a wide field for speculation as to the future of the League and the verdict which history will render as to its origin, its nature, and its real value."

I quote this memorandum because it gives my thoughts at the time concerning the process of weaving the League into the terms of peace as the President had threatened to do. I thought then that it had a double purpose, to give a practical reason for the existence of the League and to make certain the ratification of the Covenant by the Senate. No fact has since developed which has induced me to change my opinion.

In consequence of the functions which were added to the League, the character of the League itself underwent a change. Instead of an agency created solely for the prevention of international wars, it was converted into an agency to carry out the terms of peace. Its idealistic conception was subordinated to the materialistic purpose of confirming to the victorious nations the rewards of victory. It is true that during the long struggle between the President and the Senate on the question of ratification there was in the debates a general return to the original purpose of the League by both the proponents and opponents of the Covenant, but that fact in no way affects the truth of the assertion that, in order to save the League of Nations, its character was changed by extending its powers and duties as a common agent of the nations which had triumphed over the Central Alliance.

The day before the Treaty of Peace was delivered to the German plenipotentiaries (May 6) its terms induced me to write a note entitled "The Greatest Loss Caused by the War," referring to the loss of idealism to the world. In that note I wrote of the League of Nations as follows:

"Even the measure of idealism, with which the League of Nations was at the first impregnated, has, under the influence and intrigue of ambitious statesmen of the Old World, been supplanted by an open recognition that force and selfishness are primary elements in international co-operation. The League has succumbed to this reversion to a cynical materialism. It is no longer a creature of idealism. Its very source and reason have been dried up and have almost disappeared. The danger is that it will become a bulwark of the old order, a check upon all efforts to bring man again under the influence which he has lost."

The President, in the addresses which he afterward made in advocacy of the Covenant and of ratification of the Treaty, indicated clearly the wide divergence of opinion between us as to the character of the League provided for in the Treaty. I do not remember that the subject was directly discussed by us, but I certainly took no pains to hide my misgivings as to the place it would have in the international relations of the future. However, as Mr. Wilson knew that I disapproved of the theory and basic principles of the organization, especially the recognition of the oligarchy of the Five Powers, he could not but realize that I considered that idealism had given place to political expediency in order to secure for the Covenant the support of the powerful nations represented at the Conference. This was my belief as to our relations when the Treaty of Peace containing the Covenant was laid before the Germans at the Hotel des Reservoirs in Versailles.



In the foregoing review of the opposite views held by the President and by me in regard to the plan for a League of Nations and specifically in regard to the Covenant as originally drawn and as revised, mention was made of the proposed mandatory system as one of the subjects concerning which we were not in agreement. My objections to the system were advanced chiefly on the ground of the legal difficulties which it presented because it seemed probable that the President would give more weight to my opinion on that ground than on one which concerned the policy of adopting the system. Viewed from the latter standpoint it appeared to me most unwise for the President to propose a plan, in which the United States would be expected to participate and which, if it did participate, would involve it in the political quarrels of the Old World. To do so would manifestly require a departure from the traditional American policy of keeping aloof from the political jealousies and broils of Europe. Without denying that present conditions have, of necessity, modified the old policy of isolation and without minimizing the influence of that fact on the conduct of American foreign affairs, it did not seem essential for the United States to become the guardian of any of the peoples of the Near East, who were aspiring to become independent nationalities, a guardianship which the President held to be a duty that the United States was bound to perform as its share of the burden imposed by the international cooeperation which he considered vital to the new world order.

The question of mandates issuing from the League of Nations was discussed at length by the Council of Ten in connection with the disposition and future control of the German colonies and incidentally as to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. The discussions were chiefly along the lines of practicability, of policy, and of moral obligation. The President's strong support of the mandatory system and his equally strong objection to the idea of condominium showed that his mind was made up in favor of the issuance of mandates by the League. Since it would have been highly improper for me to oppose openly a policy which the President had declared under his constitutional authority, there was no proper opportunity to present the legal difficulties of the system to the Council.

However, the seriousness of these difficulties and the possible troubles and controversies which might be anticipated from attempting to put the system into operation induced me, after one of the sessions of the Council of Ten, to state briefly to the President some of the serious objections to League mandates from the standpoint of international law and the philosophy of government. President Wilson listened with his usual attentiveness to what I had to say, though the objections evidently did not appeal to him, as he characterized them as "mere technicalities" which could be cured or disregarded. Impressed myself with the importance of these "technicalities" and their direct bearing on the policy of adopting the mandatory system, I later, on February 2, 1919, embodied them in a memorandum. At the time I hoped and believed that the negotiation of the completed Covenant might be postponed and that there would be another opportunity to raise the question. The memorandum, prepared with this end in view, is as follows:

"The system of 'mandatories under the League of Nations,' when applied to territories which were formerly colonies of Germany, the system which has been practically adopted and will be written into the plan for the League, raises some interesting and difficult questions:

"The one, which is the most prominent since it enters into nearly all of the international problems presented, is—Where does the sovereignty over these territories reside?

"Sovereignty is inherent in the very conception of government. It cannot be destroyed, though it may be absorbed by another sovereignty either by compulsion or cession. When the Germans were ousted from their colonies, the sovereignty passed to the power or powers which took possession. The location of the sovereignty up to the present is clear, but with the introduction of the League of Nations as an international primate superior to the conquerors some rather perplexing questions will have to be answered.

"Do those who have seized the sovereignty transfer it or does Germany transfer it to the League of Nations? If so, how?

"Does the League assume possession of the sovereignty on its renunciation by Germany? If so, how?

"Does the League merely direct the disposition of the sovereignty without taking possession of it?

"Assuming that the latter question is answered in the affirmative, then after such disposition of the right to exercise sovereignty, which will presumably be a limited right, where does the actual sovereignty reside?

"The appointment of a mandatory to exercise sovereign rights over territory is to create an agent for the real sovereign. But who is the real sovereign?

"Is the League of Nations the sovereign, or is it a common agent of the nations composing the League, to whom is confided solely the duty of naming the mandatory and issuing the mandate?

"If the League is the sovereign, can it avoid responsibility for the misconduct of the mandatory, its agent?

"If it is not the League, who is responsible for the mandatory's conduct?

"Assuming that the mandatory in faithfully performing the provisions of the mandate unavoidably works an injustice upon another party, can or ought the mandatory to be held responsible? If not, how can the injured party obtain redress? Manifestly the answer is, 'From the sovereign,' but who is the sovereign?

"In the Treaty of Peace Germany will be called upon to renounce sovereignty over her colonial possessions. To whom will the sovereignty pass?

"If the reply is, 'The League of Nations,' the question is: Does the League possess the attributes of an independent state so that it can function as an owner of territory? If so, what is it? A world state?

"If the League does not constitute a world state, then the sovereignty would have to pass to some national state. What national state? What would be the relation of the national state to the League?

"If the League is to receive title to the sovereignty, what officers of the League are empowered to receive it and to transfer its exercise to a mandatory?

"What form of acceptance should be adopted?

"Would every nation which is a member of the League have to give its representatives full powers to accept the title?

"Assuming that certain members decline to issue such powers or to accept title as to one or more of the territories, what relation would those members have to the mandatory named?"

There is no attempt in the memorandum to analyze or classify the queries raised, and, as I review them in the light of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, I do not think that some of them can be asked with any helpful purpose. On the other hand, many of the questions, I believe the large majority, were as pertinent after the Treaty was completed as they were when the memorandum was made.

As Colonel House was the other member of the Commission on the League of Nations and would have to consider the practicability and expediency of including the mandatory system in the Covenant, I read the memorandum to him stating that I had orally presented most of the questions to the President who characterized them as "legal technicalities" and for that reason unimportant. I said to the Colonel that I differed with the President, as I hoped he did, not only as to the importance of considering the difficulties raised by the questions before the system of mandates was adopted, but also as to the importance of viewing from every standpoint the wisdom of the system and the difficulties that might arise in its practical operation. I stated that, in my opinion, a simpler and better plan was to transfer the sovereignty over territory to a particular nation by a treaty of cession under such terms as seemed wise and, in the case of some of the newly erected states, to have them execute treaties accepting protectorates by Powers mutually acceptable to those states and to the League of Nations.

Colonel House, though he listened attentively to the memorandum and to my suggestions, did not seem convinced of the importance of the questions or of the advantages of adopting any other plan than that of the proposed mandatory system. To abandon the system meant to abandon one of the ideas of international supervision, which the President especially cherished and strongly advocated. It meant also to surrender one of the proposed functions of the League as an agent in carrying out the peace settlements under the Treaty, functions which would form the basis of an argument in favor of the organization of the League and furnish a practical reason for its existence. Of course the presumed arguments against the abandonment of mandates may not have been considered, but at the time I believed that they were potent with Colonel House and with the President. The subsequent advocacy of the system by these two influential members of the Commission on the League of Nations, which resulted in its adoption, in no way lessened my belief as to the reasons for their support.

The mandatory system, a product of the creative mind of General Smuts, was a novelty in international relations which appealed strongly to those who preferred to adopt unusual and untried methods rather than to accept those which had been tested by experience and found practical of operation. The self-satisfaction of inventing something new or of evolving a new theory is inherent with not a few men. They are determined to try out their ideas and are impatient of opposition which seeks to prevent the experiment. In fact opposition seems sometimes to enhance the virtue of a novelty in the minds of those who propose or advocate its adoption. Many reformers suffer from this form of vanity.

In the case of the system of mandates its adoption by the Conference and the conferring on the League of Nations the power to issue mandates seemed at least to the more conservative thinkers at Paris a very doubtful venture. It appeared to possess no peculiar advantages over the old method of transferring and exercising sovereign control either in providing added protection to the inhabitants of territory subject to a mandate or greater certainty of international equality in the matter of commerce and trade, the two principal arguments urged in favor of the proposed system.

If the advocates of the system intended to avoid through its operation the appearance of taking enemy territory as the spoils of war, it was a subterfuge which deceived no one. It seemed obvious from the very first that the Powers, which under the old practice would have obtained sovereignty over certain conquered territories, would not be denied mandates over those territories. The League of Nations might reserve in the mandate a right of supervision of administration and even of revocation of authority, but that right would be nominal and of little, if any, real value provided the mandatory was one of the Great Powers as it undoubtedly would be. The almost irresistible conclusion is that the protagonists of the theory saw in it a means of clothing the League of Nations with an apparent usefulness which justified the League by making it the guardian of uncivilized and semi-civilized peoples and the international agent to watch over and prevent any deviation from the principle of equality in the commercial and industrial development of the mandated territories.

It may appear surprising that the Great Powers so readily gave their support to the new method of obtaining an apparently limited control over the conquered territories, and did not seek to obtain complete sovereignty over them. It is not necessary to look far for a sufficient and very practical reason. If the colonial possessions of Germany had, under the old practice, been divided among the victorious Powers and been ceded to them directly in full sovereignty, Germany might justly have asked that the value of such territorial cessions be applied on any war indemnities to which the Powers were entitled. On the other hand, the League of Nations in the distribution of mandates would presumably do so in the interests of the inhabitants of the colonies and the mandates would be accepted by the Powers as a duty and not to obtain new possessions. Thus under the mandatory system Germany lost her territorial assets, which might have greatly reduced her financial debt to the Allies, while the latter obtained the German colonial possessions without the loss of any of their claims for indemnity. In actual operation the apparent altruism of the mandatory system worked in favor of the selfish and material interests of the Powers which accepted the mandates. And the same may be said of the dismemberment of Turkey. It should not be a matter of surprise, therefore, that the President found little opposition to the adoption of his theory, or, to be more accurate, of the Smuts theory, on the part of the European statesmen.

There was one case, however, in which the issuance of a mandate appeared to have a definite and practical value and to be superior to a direct transfer of complete sovereignty or of the conditional sovereignty resulting from the establishment of a protectorate. The case was that of a territory with or without a national government, which, not being self-supporting and not sufficiently strong to protect its borders from aggressive neighbors, or its people sufficiently enlightened to govern themselves properly, would be a constant source of expense instead of profit to the Power, which as its protector and tutor became its overlord. Under such conditions there was more probability of persuading a nation inspired by humanitarian and altruistic motives to assume the burden for the common good under the mandatory system than under the old method of cession or of protectorate. As to nations, however, which placed national interests first and made selfishness the standard of international policy it was to be assumed that an appeal under either system would be ineffective.

The truth of this was very apparent at Paris. In the tentative distribution of mandates among the Powers, which took place on the strong presumption that the mandatory system would be adopted, the principal European Powers appeared to be willing and even eager to become mandatories over territories possessing natural resources which could be profitably developed and showed an unwillingness to accept mandates for territories which, barren of mineral or agricultural wealth, would be continuing liabilities rather than assets. This is not stated by way of criticism, but only in explanation of what took place.

From the beginning to the end of the discussions on mandates and their distribution among the Powers it was repeatedly declared that the United States ought to participate in the general plan for the upbuilding of the new states which under mandatories would finally become independent nationalities, but it was never, to my knowledge, proposed, except by the inhabitants of the region in question, that the United States should accept a mandate for Syria or the Asiatic coast of the Aegean Sea. Those regions were rich in natural resources and their economic future under a stable government was bright. Expenditures in their behalf and the direction of their public affairs would bring ample returns to the mandatory nations. On the other hand, there was a sustained propaganda—for it amounted to that—in favor of the United States assuming mandates over Armenia and the municipal district of Constantinople, both of which, if limited by the boundaries which it was then purposed to draw, would be a constant financial burden to the Power accepting the mandate, and, in the case of Armenia, would require that Power to furnish a military force estimated at not less than 50,000 men to prevent the aggression of warlike neighbors and to preserve domestic order and peace.

It is not too severe to say of those who engaged in this propaganda that the purpose was to take advantage of the unselfishness of the American people and of the altruism and idealism of President Wilson in order to impose on the United States the burdensome mandates and to divide those which covered desirable territories among the European Powers. I do not think that the President realized at the time that an actual propaganda was going on, and I doubt very much whether he would have believed it if he had been told. Deeply impressed with the idea that it was the moral duty of the great and enlightened nations to aid the less fortunate and especially to guard the nationalities freed from autocratic rule until they were capable of self-government and self-protection, the President apparently looked upon the appeals made to him as genuine expressions of humanitarianism and as manifestations of the opinion of mankind concerning the part that the United States ought to take in the reconstruction of the world. His high-mindedness and loftiness of thought blinded him to the sordidness of purpose which appears to have induced the general acquiescence in his desired system of mandates, and the same qualities of mind caused him to listen sympathetically to proposals, the acceptance of which would give actual proof of the unselfishness of the United States.

Reading the situation thus and convinced of the objections against the mandatory system from the point of view of international law, of policy and of American interests, I opposed the inclusion of the system in the plan for a League of Nations. In view of the attitude which Mr. Wilson had taken toward my advice regarding policies I confined the objections which I presented to him, as I have stated, to those based on legal difficulties. The objections on the ground of policy were made to Colonel House in the hope that through him they might reach the President and open his eyes to the true state of affairs. Whether they ever did reach him I do not know. Nothing in his subsequent course of action indicated that they did.

But, if they did, he evidently considered them as invalid as he did the objections arising from legal difficulties. The system of mandates was written into the Treaty and a year after the Treaty was signed President Wilson asked the Congress for authority to accept for the United States a mandate over Armenia. This the Congress refused. It is needless to make further comment.



The differences between the President's views and mine in regard to the character of the League of Nations and to the provisions of the Covenant relating to the organization and functions of the League were irreconcilable, and we were equally in disagreement as to the duties of the League in carrying out certain provisions of the Treaty of Peace as the common agent of the signatory Powers. As a commissioned representative of the President of the United States acting under his instructions I had no alternative but to accept his decisions and to follow his directions, since surrender of my commission as Peace Commissioner seemed to me at the time to be practically out of the question. I followed his directions, however, with extreme reluctance because I felt that Mr. Wilson's policies were fundamentally wrong and would unavoidably result in loss of prestige to the United States and to him as its Chief Magistrate. It seemed to me that he had endangered, if he had not destroyed, his preeminent position in world affairs in order to obtain the acceptance of his plan for a League of Nations, a plan which in theory and in detail was so defective that it would be difficult to defend it successfully from critical attack.

The objections to the terms of the Covenant, which I had raised at the outset, were based on principle and also on policy, as has been shown in the preceding pages; and on the same grounds I had opposed their hasty adoption and their inclusion in the Peace Treaty to be negotiated at Paris by the Conference. These objections and the arguments advanced in their support did not apparently have any effect on President Wilson, for they failed to change his views or to modify the plan which he, with General Smuts and Lord Robert Cecil, had worked out for an international organization. They did not swerve him one jot from his avowed purpose to make the creation of the League of Nations the principal feature of the negotiations and the provisions of the Covenant the most prominent articles in the Treaties of Peace with the Central Powers.

Instead of accomplishing their designed purpose, my efforts to induce the President to change his policy resulted only in my losing his confidence in my judgment and in arousing in his mind, if I do not misinterpret his conduct, doubts of my loyalty to him personally. It was characteristic of Mr. Wilson that his firm conviction as to the soundness of his conclusions regarding the character of the League of Nations and his fixity of purpose in seeking to compel its adoption by the Peace Conference were so intense as to brook no opposition, especially from one whom he expected to accept his judgment without question and to give support in thought and word to any plan or policy which he advocated. In view of this mental attitude of the President it is not difficult to understand his opinion of my course of action at Paris. The breach in our confidential relations was unavoidable in view of my conviction of the duty of an official adviser and his belief that objections ought not to be urged as to a matter concerning which he had expressed his opinion. To give implied assent to policies and intentions which seemed to me wrong or unwise would have been violative of a public trust, though doubtless by remaining silent I might have won favor and approval from the President and retained his confidence.

In summarizing briefly the subjects of disagreement between the President and myself concerning the League of Nations I will follow the order of importance rather than the order in which they arose. While they also divide into two classes, those based on principle and those based on policy, it does not seem advisable to treat them by classes in the summary.

The most serious defect in the President's Covenant was, in my opinion, one of principle. It was the practical denial of the equality of nations in the regulation of international affairs in times of peace through the recognition in the Executive Council of the League of the right of primacy of the Five Great Powers. This was an abandonment of a fundamental principle of international law and comity and was destructive of the very conception of national sovereignty both as a term of political philosophy and as a term of constitutional law. The denial of the equal independence and the free exercise of sovereign rights of all states in the conduct of their foreign affairs, and the establishment of this group of primates, amounted to a recognition of the doctrine that the powerful are, in law as well as in fact, entitled to be the overlords of the weak. If adopted, it legalized the mastery of might, which in international relations, when peace prevailed, had been universally condemned as illegal and its assertion as reprehensible.

It was this doctrine, that the possessors of superior physical power were as a matter of right the supervisors, if not the dictators, of those lacking the physical power to resist their commands, which was the vital element of ancient imperialism and of modern Prussianism. Belief in it as a true theory of world polity justified the Great War in the eyes of the German people even when they doubted the plea of their Government that their national safety was in peril. The victors, although they had fought the war with the announced purpose of proving the falsity of this pernicious doctrine and of emancipating the oppressed nationalities subject to the Central Powers, revived the doctrine with little hesitation during the negotiations at Paris and wrote it into the Covenant of the League of Nations by contriving an organization which would give practical control over the destinies of the world to an oligarchy of the Five Great Powers. It was an assumption of the right of supremacy based on the fact that the united strength of these Powers could compel obedience. It was a full endorsement of the theory of "the balance of power" in spite of the recognized evils of that doctrine in its practical application. Beneath the banner of the democracies of the world was the same sinister idea which had found expression in the Congress of Vienna with its purpose of protecting the monarchical institutions of a century ago. It proclaimed in fact that mankind must look to might rather than right, to force rather than law, in the regulation of international affairs for the future.

This defect in the theory, on which the League of Nations was to be organized, was emphasized and given permanency by the adoption of a mutual guaranty of territorial integrity and political independence against external aggression. Since the burden of enforcing the guaranty would unavoidably fall upon the more powerful nations, they could reasonably demand the control over affairs which might develop into a situation requiring a resort to the guaranty. In fact during a plenary session of the Peace Conference held on May 31, 1919, President Wilson stated as a broad principle that responsibility for protecting and maintaining a settlement under one of the Peace Treaties carried with it the right to determine what that settlement should be. The application to the case of responsible guarantors is obvious and was apparently in mind when the Covenant was being evolved. The same principle was applied throughout the negotiations at Paris.

The mutual guaranty from its affirmative nature compelled in fact, though not in form, the establishment of a ruling group, a coalition of the Great Powers, and denied, though not in terms, the equality of nations. The oligarchy was the logical result of entering into the guaranty or the guaranty was the logical result of the creation of the oligarchy through the perpetuation of the basic idea of the Supreme War Council. No distinction was made as to a state of war and a state of peace. Strongly opposed to the abandonment of the principle of the equality of nations in times of peace I naturally opposed the affirmative guaranty and endeavored to persuade the President to accept as a substitute for it a self-denying or negative covenant which amounted to a promise of "hands-off" and in no way required the formation of an international oligarchy to make it effective.

In addition to the foregoing objection I opposed the guaranty on the ground that it was politically inexpedient to attempt to bind the United States by a treaty provision which by its terms would certainly invite attack as to its constitutionality. Without entering into the strength of the legal argument, and without denying that there are two sides to the question, the fact that it was open to debate whether the treaty-making power under the Constitution could or could not obligate the Government of the United States to make war under certain conditions was in my judgment a practical reason for avoiding the issue. If the power existed to so bind the United States by treaty on the theory that the Federal Government could not be restricted in its right to make international agreements, then the guaranty would be attacked as an unwise and needless departure from the traditional policies of the Republic. If the power did not exist, then the violation of the Constitution would be an effective argument against such an undertaking. Whatever the conclusion might be, therefore, as to the legality of the guaranty or as to whether the obligation was legal or moral in nature, it did not seem possible for it to escape criticism and vigorous attack in America.

It seemed to me that the President's guaranty was so vulnerable from every angle that to insist upon it would endanger the acceptance of any treaty negotiated if the Covenant was, in accordance with the President's plan, made an integral part of it. Then, too, opposition would, in my opinion, develop on the ground that the guaranty would permit European Powers to participate, if they could not act independently, in the forcible settlement of international quarrels in the Western Hemisphere whenever there was an actual invasion of territory or violation of sovereignty, while conversely the United States would be morally, if not legally, bound to take part in coercive measures in composing European differences under similar conditions. It could be urged with much force that the Monroe Doctrine in the one case and the Washington policy of avoiding "entangling alliances" in the other would be so affected that they would both have to be substantially abandoned or else rewritten. If the American people were convinced that this would be the consequence of accepting the affirmative guaranty, it meant its rejection. In any event it was bound to produce an acrimonious controversy. From the point of view of policy alone it seemed unwise to include the guaranty in the Covenant, and believing that an objection on that ground would appeal to the President more strongly than one based on principle, I emphasized that objection, though in my own mind the other was the more vital and more compelling.

The points of difference relating to the League of Nations between the President's views and mine, other than the recognition of the primacy of the Great Powers, the affirmative guaranty and the resulting denial in fact of the equality of nations in times of peace, were the provisions in the President's original draft of the Covenant relating to international arbitrations, the subordination of the judicial power to the political power, and the proposed system of mandates. Having discussed with sufficient detail the reasons which caused me to oppose these provisions, and having stated the efforts made to induce President Wilson to abandon or modify them, repetition would be superfluous. It is also needless, in view of the full narrative of events contained in these pages, to state that I failed entirely in my endeavor to divert the President from his determination to have these provisions inserted in the Covenant, except in the case of international arbitrations, and even in that case I do not believe that my advice had anything to do with his abandonment of his ideas as to the method of selecting arbitrators and the right of appeal from arbitral awards. Those changes and the substitution of an article providing for the future creation of a Permanent Court of International Justice, were, in my opinion, as I have said, a concession to the European statesmen and due to their insistence.

President Wilson knew that I disagreed with him as to the relative importance of restoring a state of peace at the earliest date possible and of securing the adoption of a plan for the creation of a League of Nations. He was clearly convinced that the drafting and acceptance of the Covenant was superior to every other task imposed on the Conference, that it must be done before any other settlement was reached and that it ought to have precedence in the negotiations. His course of action was conclusive evidence of this conviction.

On the other hand, I favored the speedy negotiation of a short and simple preliminary treaty, in which, so far as the League of Nations was concerned, there would be a series of declarations and an agreement for a future international conference called for the purpose of drafting a convention in harmony with the declarations in the preliminary treaty. By adopting this course a state of peace would have been restored in the early months of 1919, official intercourse and commercial relations would have been resumed, the more complex and difficult problems of settlement would have been postponed to the negotiation of the definitive Treaty of Peace, and there would have been time to study exhaustively the purposes, powers, and practical operations of a League before the organic agreement was put into final form. Postponement would also have given opportunity to the nations, which had continued neutral throughout the war, to participate in the formation of the plan for a League on an equal footing with the nations which had been belligerents. In the establishment of a world organization universality of international representation in reaching an agreement seemed to me advisable, if not essential, provided the nations represented were democracies and not autocracies.

It was to be presumed also that at a conference entirely independent of the peace negotiations and free from the influences affecting the terms of peace, there would be more general and more frank discussions regarding the various phases of the subject than was possible at a conference ruled by the Five Great Powers and dominated in its decisions, if not in its opinions, by the statesmen of those Powers.

To perfect such a document, as the Covenant of the League of Nations was intended to be, required expert knowledge, practical experience in international relations, and an exchange of ideas untrammeled by immediate questions of policy or by the prejudices resulting from the war and from national hatreds and jealousies. It was not a work for politicians, novices, or inexperienced theorists, but for trained statesmen and jurists, who were conversant with the fundamental principles of international law, with the usages of nations in their intercourse with one another, and with the successes and failures of previous experiments in international association. The President was right in his conception as to the greatness of the task to be accomplished, but he was wrong, radically wrong, in believing that it could be properly done at the Paris Conference under the conditions which there prevailed and in the time given for consideration of the subject.

To believe for a moment that a world constitution—for so its advocates looked upon the Covenant—could be drafted perfectly or even wisely in eleven days, however much thought individuals may have previously given to the subject, seems on the face of it to show an utter lack of appreciation of the problems to be solved or else an abnormal confidence in the talents and wisdom of those charged with the duty. If one compares the learned and comprehensive debates that took place in the convention which drafted the Constitution of the United States, and the months that were spent in the critical examination word by word of the proposed articles, with the ten meetings of the Commission on the League of Nations prior to its report of February 14 and with the few hours given to debating the substance and language of the Covenant, the inferior character of the document produced by the Commission ought not to be a matter of wonder. It was a foregone conclusion that it would be found defective. Some of these defects were subsequently corrected, but the theory and basic principles, which were the chief defects in the plan, were preserved with no substantial change.

But the fact, which has been repeatedly asserted in the preceding pages and which cannot be too strongly emphasized by repetition, is that the most potent and most compelling reason for postponing the consideration of a detailed plan for an international organization was that such a consideration at the outset of the negotiations at Paris obstructed and delayed the discussion and settlement of the general terms necessary to the immediate restoration of a state of peace. Those who recall the political and social conditions in Europe during the winter of 1918-19, to which reference has already been made, will comprehend the apprehension caused by anything which interrupted the negotiation of the peace. No one dared to prophesy what might happen if the state of political uncertainty and industrial stagnation, which existed under the armistices, continued.

The time given to the formulation of the Covenant of the League of Nations and the determination that it should have first place in the negotiations caused such a delay in the proceedings and prevented a speedy restoration of peace. Denial of this is useless. It is too manifest to require proof or argument to support it. It is equally true, I regret to say, that President Wilson was chiefly responsible for this. If he had not insisted that a complete and detailed plan for the League should be part of the treaty negotiated at Paris, and if he had not also insisted that the Covenant be taken up and settled in terms before other matters were considered, a preliminary treaty of peace would in all probability have been signed, ratified, and in effect during April, 1919.

Whatever evils resulted from the failure of the Paris Conference to negotiate promptly a preliminary treaty—and it must be admitted they were not a few—must be credited to those who caused the delay. The personal interviews and secret conclaves before the Commission on the League of Nations met occupied a month and a half. Practically another half month was consumed in sessions of the Commission. The month following was spent by President Wilson on his visit to the United States explaining the reported Covenant and listening to criticisms. While much was done during his absence toward the settlement of numerous questions, final decision in every case awaited his return to Paris. After his arrival the Commission on the League renewed its sittings to consider amendments to its report, and it required over a month to put it in final form for adoption; but during this latter period much time was given to the actual terms of peace, which on account of the delay caused in attempting to perfect the Covenant had taken the form of a definitive rather than a preliminary treaty.

It is conservative to say that between two and three months were spent in the drafting of a document which in the end was rejected by the Senate of the United States and was responsible for the non-ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. In view of the warnings that President Wilson had received as to the probable result of insisting on the plan of a League which he had prepared and his failure to heed the warnings, his persistency in pressing for acceptance of the Covenant before anything else was done makes the resulting delay in the peace less excusable.

Two weeks after the President returned from the United States in March the common opinion was that the drafting of the Covenant had delayed the restoration of peace, an opinion which was endorsed in the press of many countries. The belief became so general and aroused so much popular condemnation that Mr. Wilson considered it necessary to make a public denial, in which he expressed surprise at the published views and declared that the negotiations in regard to the League of Nations had in no way delayed the peace. Concerning the denial and the subject with which it dealt, I made on March 28 the following memorandum:

"The President has issued a public statement, which appears in this morning's papers, in which he refers to the 'surprising impression' that the discussions concerning the League of Nations have delayed the making of peace and he flatly denies that the impression is justified.

"I doubt if this statement will remove the general impression which amounts almost to a conviction. Every one knows that the President's thoughts and a great deal of his time prior to his departure for the United States were given to the formulation of the plan for a League and that he insisted that the 'Covenant' should be drafted and reported before the other features of the peace were considered. The real difficulties of the present situation, which had to be settled before the treaty could be drafted, were postponed until his return here on March 13th.

"In fact the real bases of peace have only just begun to receive the attention which they deserve.

"If such questions as the Rhine Provinces, Poland, reparations, and economic arrangements had been taken up by the President and Premiers in January, and if they had sat day and night, as they are now sitting in camera, until each was settled, the peace treaty would, I believe, be to-day on the Conference's table, if not actually signed.

"Of course the insistence that the plan of the League be first pushed to a draft before all else prevented the settlement of the other questions. Why attempt to refute what is manifestly true? I regret that the President made the statement because I do not think that it carries conviction. I fear that it will invite controversy and denial, and that it puts the President on the defensive."

The views expressed in this memorandum were those held, I believe, by the great majority of persons who participated in the Peace Conference or were in intimate touch with its proceedings. Mr. Wilson's published denial may have converted some to the belief that the drafting of the Covenant was in no way responsible for the delay of the peace, but the number of converts must have been very few, as it meant utter ignorance of or indifference to the circumstances which conclusively proved the incorrectness of the statement.

The effect of this attempt of President Wilson to check the growing popular antipathy to the League as an obstacle to the speedy restoration of peace was to cause speculation as to whether he really appreciated the situation. If he did not, it was affirmed that he was ignorant of public opinion or else was lacking in mental acuteness. If he did appreciate the state of affairs, it was said that his statement was uttered with the sole purpose of deceiving the people. In either case he fell in public estimation. It shows the unwisdom of having issued the denial.



There is one subject, connected with the consideration of the mutual guaranty which, as finally reported by the Commission on the League of Nations, appears as Article 10 of the Covenant, that should be briefly reviewed, as it directly bears upon the value placed upon the guaranty by the French statesmen who accepted it. I refer to the treaties negotiated by France with the United States and Great Britain respectively. These treaties provided that, in the event of France being again attacked by Germany without provocation, the two Powers severally agreed to come to the aid of the French Republic in repelling the invasion. The joint nature of the undertaking was in a provision in each treaty that a similar treaty would be signed by the other Power, otherwise the agreement failed. The undertakings stated in practically identical terms in the two treaties constituted, in fact, a triple defensive alliance for the preservation of the integrity of French territory and French independence. It had the same object as the guaranty in the Covenant, though it went even further in the assurance of affirmative action, and was, therefore, open to the same objections on the grounds of constitutionality and policy as Article 10.

In a note, dated March 20, stating my "Impressions as to the Present Situation," I discussed the endeavors being made by the President to overcome opposition and to remove obstacles to the acceptance of his plan for a League of Nations by means of compromises and concessions. In the note appears the following:

"An instance of the lengths to which these compromises and makeshifts are going, occurred this morning when Colonel House sent to Mr. White, General Bliss, and me for our opinion the following proposal: That the United States, Great Britain, and France enter into a formal alliance to resist any aggressive action by Germany against France or Belgium, and to employ their military, financial, and economic resources for this purpose in addition to exerting their moral influence to prevent such aggression.

"We three agreed that, if that agreement was made, the chief reason for a League of Nations, as now planned, disappeared. So far as France and Belgium were concerned the alliance was all they needed for their future safety. They might or might not accept the League. Of course they would if the alliance depended upon their acceptance. They would do most anything to get such an alliance.

"The proposal was doubtless made to remove two provisions on which the French are most insistent: First, an international military staff to be prepared to use force against Germany if there were signs of military activity; second, the creation of an independent Rhenish Republic to act as a 'buffer' state. Of course the triple alliance would make these measures needless.

"What impressed me most was that to gain French support for the League the proposer of the alliance was willing to destroy the chief feature of the League. It seemed to me that here was utter blindness as to the consequences of such action. There appears to have been no thought given as to the way other nations, like Poland, Bohemia, and the Southern Slavs, would view the formation of an alliance to protect France and Belgium alone. Manifestly it would increase rather than decrease their danger from Germany since she would have to look eastward and southward for expansion. Of course they would not accept as sufficient the guaranty in the Covenant when France and Belgium declined to do it.

"How would such a proposal be received in the United States with its traditional policy of avoiding 'entangling alliances'? Of course, when one considers it, the proposal is preposterous and would be laughed at and rejected."

This was the impression made upon me at the time that this triple alliance against Germany was first proposed. I later came to look upon it more seriously and to recognize the fact that there were some valid reasons in favor of the proposal. The subject was not further discussed by the Commissioners for several weeks, but it is clear from what followed that M. Clemenceau, who naturally favored the idea, continued to press the President to agree to the plan. What arguments were employed to persuade him I cannot say, but, knowing the shrewdness of the French Premier in taking advantage of a situation, my belief is that he threatened to withdraw or at least gave the impression that he would withdraw his support of the League of Nations or else would insist on a provision in the Covenant creating a general staff and an international military force and on a provision in the treaty establishing a Rhenish Republic or else ceding to France all territory west of the Rhine. To avoid the adoption of either of these provisions, which would have endangered the approval of his plan for world organization, the President submitted to the French demand. At least I assume that was the reason, for he promised to enter into the treaty of assistance which M. Clemenceau insisted should be signed.

It is of course possible that he was influenced in his decision by the belief that the knowledge that such an agreement existed would be sufficient to deter Germany from even planning another invasion of France, but my opinion is that the desire to win French support for the Covenant was the chief reason for the promise that he gave. It should be remembered that at the time both the Italians and Japanese were threatening to make trouble unless their territorial ambitions were satisfied. With these two Powers disaffected and showing a disposition to refuse to accept membership in the proposed League of Nations the opposition of France to the Covenant would have been fatal. It would have been the end of the President's dream of a world organized to maintain peace by an international guaranty of national boundaries and sovereignties. Whether France would in the end have insisted on the additional guaranty of protection I doubt, but it is evident that Mr. Wilson believed that she would and decided to prevent a disaster to his plan by acceding to the wishes of his French colleague.

Some time in April prior to the acceptance of the Treaty of Peace by the Premiers of the Allied Powers, the President and Mr. Lloyd George agreed with M. Clemenceau to negotiate the treaties of protective alliance which the French demanded. The President advised me of his decision on the day before the Treaty was delivered to the German plenipotentiaries stating in substance that his promise to enter into the alliance formed a part of the settlements as fully as if written into the Treaty. I told him that personally I considered an agreement to negotiate the treaty of assistance a mistake, as it discredited Article 10 of the Covenant, which he considered all-important, and as it would, I was convinced, be the cause of serious opposition in the United States. He replied that he considered it necessary to adopt this policy in the circumstances, and that, at any rate, having passed his word with M. Clemenceau, who was accepting the Treaty because of his promise, it was too late to reconsider the matter and useless to discuss it.

Subsequently the President instructed me to have a treaty drafted in accordance with a memorandum which he sent me. This was done by Dr. James Brown Scott and the draft was approved and prepared for signature. On the morning of June 28, the same day on which the Treaty of Versailles was signed, the protective treaty with France was signed at the President's residence in the Place des Etats Unis by M. Clemenceau and M. Pichon for the French Republic and by President Wilson and myself for the United States, Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Balfour signing at the same time a similar treaty for Great Britain. Though disagreeing with the policy of the President in regard to this special treaty it would have been futile for me to have refused to accept the full powers issued to me on June 27 or to have declined to follow the directions to act as a plenipotentiary in signing the document. Such a course would not have prevented Mr. Wilson from entering into the defensive alliance with France and Great Britain and might have actually delayed the peace. Feeling strongly the supreme necessity of ending the existing state of war as soon as possible I did not consider that I would be justified in refusing to act as the formal agent of the President or in disobeying his instructions as such agent. In view of the long delay in ratification of the Treaty of the Peace, I have since doubted whether I acted wisely. But at the time I was convinced that the right course was the one which I followed.

In spite of the fact that my judgment was contrary to the President's as to the wisdom of negotiating this treaty because I considered the policy of doing so bad from the standpoint of national interests and of doubtful expediency in view of the almost certain rejection of it by the United States Senate and of its probable effect on any plan for general disarmament, I was not entirely satisfied because I could not disregard the fact that an argument could be made in its favor which was not without force.

The United States entered the war to check the progress of the autocratic imperialism of Germany. That purpose became generally recognized before the victory was won. In making peace it was deemed, therefore, a matter of first importance to make impossible a revival of the aggressive spirit and ambitious designs of Germany. The prevailing bitterness against France because of the territorial cessions and the reparations demanded by the victor would naturally cause the German people to seek future opportunity to be revenged. With a population almost, if not quite, double that of the French Republic, Germany would be a constant menace to the nation which had suffered so terribly in the past by reason of the imperialistic spirit prevalent in the German Empire. The fear of that menace strongly influenced the French policies during the negotiations at Paris. In fact it was hard to avoid the feeling that this fear dominated the conduct of the French delegates and the attitude of their Government. They demanded much, and recognizing the probable effect of their demands on the German people sought to obtain special protection in case their vanquished enemy attempted in the future to dispossess them by force of the land which he had been compelled to surrender or attempted to make them restore the indemnity paid.

Whether France could have avoided the danger of German attack in the future by lessening her demands, however just they might be, is neither here nor there. It makes little practical difference how that question is answered. The important fact is that the settlements in favor of France under the Treaty were of a nature which made the continuance of peace between the two nations doubtful if Germany possessed the ability to regain her military strength and if nothing was done to prevent her from using it. In these circumstances a special protective treaty seemed a practical way to check the conversion of the revengeful spirit of the Germans into another war of invasion.

However valid this argument in favor of the two treaties of assistance, and though my personal sympathy for France inclined me to satisfy her wishes, my judgment, as an American Commissioner, was that American interests and the traditional policies of the United States were against this alliance. Possibly the President recognized the force of the argument in favor of the treaty and valued it so highly that he considered it decisive. Knowing, however, his general attitude toward French demands and his confidence in the effectiveness of the guaranty in the Covenant, I believe that the controlling reason for promising the alliance and negotiating the treaty was his conviction that it was necessary to make this concession to the French in order to secure their support for the Covenant and to check the disposition in certain quarters to make the League of Nations essentially a military coalition under a general international staff organized and controlled by the French.

There were those who favored the mutual guaranty in the Covenant, but who strongly opposed the separate treaty with France. Their objection was that, in view of the general guaranty, the treaty of assistance was superfluous, or, if it were considered necessary, then it discredited the Covenant's guaranty. The argument was logical and difficult to controvert. It was the one taken by delegates of the smaller nations who relied on the general guaranty to protect their countries from future aggressions on the part of their powerful neighbors. If the guaranty of the Covenant was sufficient protection for them, they declared that it ought to be sufficient for France. If France doubted its sufficiency, how could they be content with it?

Since my own judgment was against any form of guaranty imposing upon the United States either a legal or a moral obligation to employ coercive measures under certain conditions arising in international affairs, I could not conscientiously support the idea of the French treaty. This further departure from America's historic policy caused me to accept President Wilson's "guidance and direction ... with increasing reluctance," as he aptly expressed it in his letter of February 11, 1920. We did not agree, we could not agree, since our points of view were so much at variance.

Yet, in spite of the divergence of our views as to the negotiations which constantly increased and became more and more pronounced during the six months at Paris, our personal relations continued unchanged; at least there was no outward evidence of the actual breach which existed. As there never had been the personal intimacy between the President and myself, such as existed in the case of Colonel House and a few others of his advisers, and as our intercourse had always been more or less formal in character, it was easier to continue the official relations that had previously prevailed. I presume that Mr. Wilson felt, as I did, that it would create an embarrassing situation in the negotiations if there was an open rupture between us or if my commission was withdrawn or surrendered and I returned to the United States before the Treaty of Peace was signed. The effect, too, upon the situation in the Senate would be to strengthen the opposition to the President's purposes and furnish his personal, as well as his political, enemies with new grounds for attacking him.

I think, however, that our reasons for avoiding a public break in our official relations were different. The President undoubtedly believed that such an event would jeopardize the acceptance of the Covenant by the United States Senate in view of the hostility to it which had already developed and which was supplemented by the bitter animosity to him personally which was undisguised. On my part, the chief reason for leaving the situation undisturbed was that I was fully convinced that my withdrawal from the American Commission would seriously delay the restoration of peace, possibly in the signature of the Treaty at Paris and certainly in its ratification at Washington. Considering that the time had passed to make an attempt to change Mr. Wilson's views on any fundamental principle, and believing it a duty to place no obstacle in the way of the signature and ratification of the Treaty of Peace with Germany, I felt that there was no course for me as a representative of the United States other than to obey the President's orders however strong my personal inclination might be to refuse to follow a line of action which seemed to me wrong in principle and unwise in policy.

In view of the subsequent contest between the President and the opposition Senators over the Treaty of Versailles, resulting in its non-ratification and the consequent delay in the restoration of a state of peace between the United States and Germany, my failure at Paris to decline to follow the President may be open to criticism, if not to censure. But it can hardly be considered just to pass judgment on my conduct by what occurred after the signature of the Treaty unless what would occur was a foregone conclusion, and at that time it was not even suggested that the Treaty would fail of ratification. The decision had to be made under the conditions and expectations which then prevailed. Unquestionably there was on June 28, 1919, a common belief that the President would compose his differences with a sufficient number of the Republican Senators to obtain the necessary consent of two thirds of the Senate to the ratification of the Treaty, and that the delay in senatorial action would be brief. I personally believed that that would be the result, although Mr. Wilson's experience in Washington in February and the rigid attitude, which he then assumed, might have been a warning as to the future. Seeing the situation as I did, no man would have been willing to imperil immediate ratification by resigning as Commissioner on the ground that he was opposed to the President's policies. A return to peace was at stake, and peace was the supreme need of the world, the universal appeal of all peoples. I could not conscientiously assume the responsibility of placing any obstacle in the way of a return to peace at the earliest possible moment. It would have been to do the very thing which I condemned in the President when he prevented an early signing of the peace by insisting on the acceptance of the Covenant of the League of Nations as a condition precedent. Whatever the consequence of my action would have been, whether it resulted in delay or in defeat of ratification, I should have felt guilty of having prevented an immediate peace which from the first seemed to me vitally important to all nations. Personal feelings and even personal beliefs were insufficient to excuse such action.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse