Page images
PDF
EPUB

ultimate text of the treaty deviated from the recommendations; and, thirdly, he must be cautious even to the point of agnosticism about the current explanations of these discrepancies between the views of the experts and those of the responsible statesmen. Unfortunately there are questions, by no means unimportant, on which no experts were formally consulted; there are others on which the experts never agreed among themselves. In such cases even Mr Temperley and his collaborators are obliged to form some opinion about the motives of the Four.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

A volume entitled • What Really Happened at Paris' naturally excites the hope that we may glean from it some knowledge of the kind that Mr Temperley believes to be unobtainable. But the contributors to this volume, with the sole exception of Colonel House, did not belong to the inmost circles of the Conference; and they write with an object which is considerably more modest than their title would suggest. They are specialists explaining to an American audience the exact force and significance of particular sections of the treaty. They define in each case the problem which had to be solved; they explain the reasons of justice or policy which suggested the solution; sometimes, with great modesty and restraint, they venture on a criticism. They were experts at Paris, but they are now private citizens. They warmly defend the conduct of President Wilson, but they do so from honest conviction. They represent a point of view which is often less official than that of the History, and is always strictly American. It is not uninteresting to collect their opinions about the relations of the Four with the experts, and of the decisions of the Four to the findings of the commissions.

Of the Four as individuals they have little to say that is new.

We are told that no one was ever more ready than Mr Wilson to consult the experts and to give them due credit for their suggestions; but that he wore himself out by attending in person to business which ought to have been delegated, simply because he had not learnt how to work by proxy. As to M. Clemenceau, there is an interesting difference of opinion between Colonel House-who describes him as inspiring the affection of

[ocr errors]

many and the admiration of all and a less intimate observer who was principally impressed by the 'cynical wisdom,' the bored tolerance,' the 'arid humour,' and the 'biting sarcasm' of the President of the Conference when dealing with the delegates of the new nationalities.

The chief interest, however, of the American writers is not to dissect personal idiosyncrasies. They are anxious to show that the relations between the Four were cordial; that there was never any question of one of them 'hypnotising' or 'duping' his colleagues; and that the pictures which have been drawn of Mr Wilson as a good man led astray or overborne by M. Clemenceau or Mr Lloyd George are quite beside the mark. If Mr Wilson was defeated in his original purpose, he was defeated by the difficulties of the situation, and not by the wiles of European statesmen.

More important is the general attitude of the American writers towards the Four as a collective body. One delegate, who was specially connected with the problem of the partitioning of Austria-Hungary, goes out of his way to state that the recommendations of the Boundary Commissions were accepted by the Four with only a few amendments which 'seemed more important at the moment, and to the members of the commission, than they will to the historian.' This statement naturally does not cover the question of South Tirol, which was submitted to no commission and was settled in a way that some of the American delegates disliked. The Brenner position is evidently one of the cases, if not the chief case, to which another contributor, Mr Clive Day, refers in characterising the usual procedure of the Four:

Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Orlando were bound by considerations of home politics to fight for certain terms of settlement which they had given their peoples reason to expect. Wilson was bound to fight for terms conforming to the principles which he had published. Agreement was possible only by way of compromise. Compromise was possible only as each individual became convinced that he was getting the most he could, and that what he got was better than the nothing which would ensue if he declined altogether to agree.'

Mr Day concludes that, under these conditions, secret conferences were justified and indeed imperative:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* An attempt to realise at this time the ideal of "open covenants openly arrived at” might readily have started another war, and would certainly have delayed interminably the agreement on terms of peace' (p. 32).

He avoids the two difficult questions whether the European plenipotentiaries, in following this course of action, were really loyal to the Fourteen Points and the other bases of the peace preliminaries; and whether Mr Wilson was justified in assenting to any compromise with these fundamentals. Several of his colleagues repudiate with indignation the theory that Mr Wilson ever allowed himself to be dislodged from his original platform of principles. There is, however, an anecdote in this volume which is given at first hand, and which suggests that in at least one instance the theory holds good. Mr Wilson, after he had been converted, by a certain famous memorandum of General Smuts,* to the view that pensions might legitimately be included in the Reparations Bill, had to face the unanimous opinion of his legal advisers that all the logic' was against the memorandum. He made the reply: 'I don't give a damn for logic. I am going to include pensions.' In conceding the Brenner frontier to Italy Mr Wilson had a better case; it seemed to be a choice between doing an injustice to a relatively small body of Austrian-Germans in South Tirol and a relatively large body of Yugo-Slavs on the Adriatic littoral. The Germans were sacrificed to save the Slavs. It was one of those instances in which, as Colonel House remarks, there was no possibility of an ideally just solution; whatever was decided, the seeds of another war would be sown. Colonel House is convinced that things went better at Paris when Mr Wilson was present than they did after his final departure. It seems to be the Adriatic negotiations and the final settlement of the Serbo-Bulgarian frontier which move Colonel House to this conclusion. But he is not

* Now published in "The Peace History,' vol. v, p. 372, and referred to adversely by Mr Keynes in his ‘Revision of the Treaty.'

† America's views about the Adriatic are well known. But why Colonel House and his colleagues should be so distressed about Bulgaria it is difficult to see. The salients which were lopped off from Bulgaria and presented to Serbia were comparatively small. But the transference diminished the danger-which had proved very real in Serbia's defensive

6

altogether happy about the golden period of the Conference. He suggests that the secret meetings of the Four were objectionable after a certain stage:

'It may be entirely proper to have conferences in groups of two or more, in which no one but those vitally interested may appear; but when the meetings begin to be official and take on an aspect of final decision, then the public should be given the text of the entire discussion. In this way, and in this way alone, may the public of every country know and fairly assess the motives of each participant, and bring to bear, if need be, the power of public opinion' (p. 436).

The lightest word of so cautious and so moderate a critic as Colonel House deserves to be attentively considered ; and in this case the careful reader is bound to ask himself whether anything more is intended than a general remark about the inevitable tendencies of secret negotiations. Has Colonel House a suspicion of illicit bargains being struck, of mutual concessions between Great Powers at the expense of innocent third parties? He does not explain himself, and we naturally turn for information to other American witnesses.

Among the contributors to Major Temperley's fourth volume is Prof. Coolidge (of Harvard), who was an American commissioner in Central Europe during the early days of the Conference, but afterwards took part in the preparation of the Minorities Treaties at Paris. His remarks on the general character of the Austrian treaty constitute a severer criticism of the European Allies than we find in any part of the volume What Really Happened at Paris':

“The Conference strove to act according to justice, but it was a justice that had to take many elements into consideration. Although the claims of self-determination, which we may assume as almost coinciding with those of nationality, were to remain the basis of the decisions of the tribunal, it was only when those claims were unfavourable to GermanAustria that they were certain to be decisive. When they were on the side of the Austrians, other considerations came into account. ... Under these circumstances, one need not be surprised if the Austrians have since regarded the Fourteen Points, and especially the principle of self-determination, as a mockery and a sham which merely served to lure them to their ruin.'

operations against the Central Powers-of an unexpected attack upon the Belgrade-Salonica railway. The case for Serbia was at least as strong as the Italian claim for the Brenner line, which America approved ; and the concession to Serbia had the effect of silencing more unreasonable claims elsewhere--an advantage which was not secured by Mr Wilson's concession to Italy.

He adds that the Austrian impression is not altogether just, since the principle of self-determination served to protect them against even more extreme claims, on the part of the Czecho-Slovaks and the Yugo-Slavs, than were actually allowed, and also served to give them, in theory at least, the ownership of West Hungary. But he is certain that, on the whole, the scales were weighted against the Austrians, who, he remarks, were in this respect treated like the Germans before them and the Bulgarians after them' (History,' iv, pp. 475-6).

While Prof. Coolidge deplores the partiality of the principal European Allies, other American critics are more impressed by what they consider to be evidence of selfish and materialistic ambitions. Mr Bowman, the Chief Territorial Adviser of the American Peace Com. mission, leans obviously to the view that Great Britain never neglects to push her trade. He and his fellowexpert, Mr Westermann, hold that the question of Constantinople has been settled very advantageously for British interests :

'In the reconstruction of commerce in the Constantinople region, and in the revival of shipping facilities, Great Britain stands ready to play not merely the principal, but a wholly dominating part. To her statesmen it would be wholly unthinkable that, with these material advantages in her hands, her diplomacy should fail to give her such a measure of control in so vital an outlet as the Bosporus, as not to enable her to develop there a great trading realm, possibly second only to that which she has established in India' (* What Happened,' pp. 152-3).

Mr Bowman even thinks that Mr Lloyd George insisted on making Danzig a Free City because he hoped that, with the help of a British High Commissioner in Danzig, Poland would easily be made a preserve for English capitalists and concession hunters. We are glad to observe that this far-fetched hypothesis is not supported

« PreviousContinue »