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obvious way of finding out their wishes is to consult them directly-to take a plebiscite. This was one of the methods used by the Conference, and during the period which has elapsed since the ratification of the Treaty we have been enabled to watch in different parts of the Continent the working of this procedure. It is an important chapter, which affords many points of interest for the historical and political student; it is one which, but for the Upper Silesian plebiscite, is now closed, and the opportunity seems suitable for some general observations upon it.

The method was not novel. We have before us two valuable works on its earlier history, the one a brief and compendious account in the valuable series of Handbooks prepared by the Historical Section of the Foreign Office for the use of the British Delegates at Paris; the other, a very full study issued by the Carnegie Trustees, which contains an admirable general historical narrative by the Editor, Miss Sarah Wambaugh, and in addition provides an extremely full collection of all the relevant documents, which run to some 800 pages and afford a mine of information which will be invaluable to all students.

The plebiscite originated with the French Revolution. It was an inevitable outcome of the doctrine of popular sovereignty, and in the springtide of the Revolution it was first used to define the boundaries of States. As Miss Wambaugh says, to the theorists of the Revolution -and for a few months theory and practice coincided


‘it was evident that the old principles of territorial cession which confounded the State with the Prince were wholly unsuited to the new doctrine of popular sovereignty, which, when established within the State, implied as a corollary that no change of sovereignty was legal without the consent of the people concerned. To the leaders of the Revolution, devoted to abstract principles as guides for action, this admitted of no argument.'

They entirely repudiated the right of conquest as a means of adding to the territories of the State. The first demand for annexation to revolutionary France was from Avignon. Strong as the reasons were for immediate annexation,


so devoted was the majority of the Constituent Assembly to the principle of popular sovereignty and the recent pledge against conquest, that for two years no measures looking to union could get a majority.'

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The union was not achieved until there had been a formal vote of the people. It is interesting to record the methods by which it was taken. The doctrine of the Revolution refused to accept any verdict except that of the people met in the Primary Assemblies of each individual commune. The Communal Assemblies met during July 1791, and there each of them elected their representative to the National Assembly.' This Assembly proclaimed the independent State of · Vaucluse,' and having done so, voted that this State should be incorporated with France. A similar procedure was adopted in the case of Savoy and Nice. Everywhere we have, first of all, the Primary Assemblies, which are the only ones where the people can exercise sovereignty”; then, the Delegates from these Primary Assemblies to the National Convention; and, finally, the National Convention voting for union. This is the classical illustration of pure revolutionary procedure. It is probable that few of those who at Paris took part in arranging the plebiscites of 1920 had in their minds the models of 1791.

This pristine purity was not long maintained. In the next year Belgium, Mayence, the Saar Valley, and other districts on the left bank of the Rhine, were asked to vote on incorporation with France. But the vote was no longer free. It was conducted under procedure imposed by decree of Nov. 17, 1791, of which M. Cambon was the author. The voting had to take place in districts occupied by French troops and under the supervision of the Commissioners of the Republic. But the Commissioners of the Republic were the agents of the Terror, and the vote was one extorted by force and fear. Moreover, already the doctrine of what by anticipation we may term 'self-determination' was met by another doctrine, that of the natural frontiers of France, to which Danton gave the authority of his name. And from this time it was by the armies of France and unvarnished conquest that the territories of France were


extended. The Congress of Vienna notoriously and on principle carved out the map of Europe with frank disregard of the wishes of the inhabitants. It is not until the time of Napoleon III, who in this matter made himself the heir, not of his uncle but of the earlier revolutionaries, that the method was once more used. It was through his influence that it was applied ; first to Moldavia and Walachia; then, at the time of the creation of the Kingdom of Italy, he brought about by it the incorporation of Nice and Savoy in France, and also wished by it to settle the disputed frontier between Germany and Denmark. The war of 1870 was again followed by reaction. The growth of the Kingdom of Prussia had always been carried through with disregard of the wishes of the annexed territories; and, while the foundation of the German Empire achieved the popular desires of the German people, it meant the forcible suppression of the similar aspirations of other nations. Alsace and Lorraine were annexed by a frank and brutal appeal to the power of the sword; a few years later the treaty by which Prussia had agreed to allow the inhabitants of North Slesvig to vote, whether they would be Danish or German, was repealed. Supported by the power of the Prussian army, Poles, Roumanians, Italians, and Croats were held in unwilling submission to an alien Government. This was the system which was to be overthrown by the Great War, and the rebound was summed up in the words of President Wilson:

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*Self-determination is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril. . . . Every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interests and for the benefit of the population concerned and not as a part of any mere adjustment or compromise of claims amongst rival States.'

If the Conference was to be guided by the wishes of the peoples, it might have been anticipated that in settling all boundaries the population concerned should be directly consulted. This anticipation was not realised. The treaties of peace, in fact, seldom adopt the method of a plebiscite. In the German Treaty we have Slesvig, Allenstein, Marienwerder, Upper Silesia, and to these may be added the negative plebiscite in Eupen and Malmedy, and the deferred plebiscite in the Saar Valley. The Austrian Treaty has only one, that of Klagenfurt; but we may add to this the plebiscite which was ordained, but never carried out, in Teschen. In other places where it was asked for, as by the Austrians themselves in West Hungary, the request was not granted, and the fate of Eastern Galicia is still undetermined. Not only were the plebiscites few, but, with the one exception of Upper Silesia, they were unimportant. The greater territorial changes and decisions, Alsace-Lorraine, West Prussia, Posen, Danzig, the whole reorganisation of the Austrian Empire, the assignation of Tyrol to Italy, of Slovakia to the new Czech State, of Transylvania to Hungary, were carried through by other methods. This has been the cause of much criticism. Why, it has been asked, should the people of Allenstein and Slesvig be consulted as to their future destination, while the fate of millions of peoples elsewhere was determined without such consultation ?


No brief or single answer can be given to this question. Each case had to be dealt with on its merits. In some cases the Fourteen Points themselves exclude a plebiscite. Germany by agreeing to them as a condition of the peace undertook to give Poland free access to the

The Allies in interpreting this went to the very extreme of what was possible when they decided that Danzig should not be annexed to Poland but established as a free city. It was not part of the agreement that the inhabitants of the district themselves should determine how this free access was to be secured. This is true also of Alsace-Lorraine. Here the question was one entirely for France and the French Government. Under the agreed terms France had acquired an absolute right to recover the lost provinces. The wrong done to France in 1870 was to be made good. What was the wrong? It was that the provinces had been taken away from France contrary to the unanimous wishes of the people constitutionally expressed through their representatives at Bordeaux. This act of violence was to be reversed. By the reversal the provinces automatically once more became French. To these conditions the Germans had agreed; they knew perfectly well what they were about, they were under no delusion. All that the Conference had to do was to endorse and ratify this decision. It was not for them to attach conditions or to impose upon France obligations under which she was not bound to the enemy. There were, of course, some who suggested that it would be wise for France to add to her other and undoubted titles that of giving the people a fresh opportunity of expressing their wishes. As a well-informed American writer says: Perhaps the . French would have been wise to call a large representative assembly by which some formal expression of opinion might have been made and later objections thus forestalled.' Whether she would do so or not was entirely a question for her. It is easy to understand why she did not. It would have been extraordinarily difficult to arrange for the vote so that every one would accept the verdict. Let us recollect that over 300,000 of the inhabitants had during the last fifty years emigrated and their places had been taken by immigrants from Germany. Moreover, a vote taken under French control would not have been accepted by the Germans. It would clearly have been impossible for the French to evacuate the country, to leave it, as would have been necessary, for some months in a state of political instability and detached from commercial relations with both France and Germany. The result would have been that the people would have starved.


In general, there were urgent practical reasons against a plebiscite wherever it could possibly be avoided. The method was costly; it meant much delay and involved very grave dangers. In almost every case it would have been necessary to set up external control which would have to be supported by large military forces, for there was no established administration to which the task of supervising the vote could be entrusted; and in the disturbed state of Europe, it would have been impossible to set up a provisional government the duty of which would have been to supervise the partition of the area over which it exercised control. Let us take, for instance, the frontiers between Germany and Poland. The line to be fixed was many hundreds of miles in length. It ran from the upper waters of the Oder to the

* What Really Happened at Paris,' by American Delegates, p. 47.

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