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THE PEACE CONFERENCE OF PARIS, 1919
ITS ORGANIZATION AND METHOD OF WORK
ON January 18, 1919, the forty-eighth anniversary of the proclamation of the German Empire at Versailles after the invasion of France in 1870-1871, there assembled in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Paris a meeting of the representatives of the Allied and Associated belligerent Powers, as well as the Powers which had broken off diplomatic relations, to decide upon the terms of peace to be offered to Germany and her allies.
Emulating Bismarck, who used the emasculated telegram of Ems as the pretext of waging a war of conquest upon France,1 William II and his General Staff seized upon the rupture between Austria-Hungary and Serbia growing out of the assassination of the Austrian Crown Prince at Serajevo in June, 1914, as the pretext for launching Germany upon a carefully prepared program of world domination. Fearful lest delay might result in the loss of the opportunity for which she had deliberately planned and anxiously awaited, within a week after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914, Germany had declared war on Russia and France and had shamelessly violated the neutrality of Belgium which she had solemnly undertaken to respect. Great Britain, for self-protection and in response to treaty obligations, immediately entered the war against Germany, and was successively followed from time to time, as Germany evinced her disregard of international law, the laws of war and the dictates of humanity, by all the other large Powers and many of the smaller ones whose interests were jeopardized or rights infringed upon by Germany's increasingly reckless and ruthless conduct.
Of the forty-eight recognized governments in 1914, before hos
1 See translation from Bismarck, Gedanken und Erinnerungen, in A Survey of International Relations between the United States and Germany, by J. B. Scott. New York: Oxford University Press. 1917, pp. 359-362.
tilities ceased twenty-three were at war with Germany and her allies; four had severed diplomatic relations with them; two had joined Germany and Austria-Hungary, and seventeen (including Luxemburg) had remained neutral.
After over four years of the most costly war in human life and treasure that the world has ever witnessed, the first visible break in the lines of the opposing belligerents came when Bulgaria surrendered under an armistice on September 29, 1918.2 Turkey followed suit on October 31, 1918, and Austria-Hungary did likewise on November 4, 1918. These desertions from the "unholy alliance," coincident with the continued military successes of the Allies on Germany's western front, produced immediate results in the latter country. A mutiny, starting at Kiel on November 5th, quickly developed into a Socialist revolution throughout the Empire. On November 9th, Kaiser William fled to Holland, where he signed a formal act of abdication on November 28th. On November 11th representatives of a new "People's Government" in Germany signed an armistice with the Allies " pending the conclusion of peace, under the provisions of which Germany was made impotent to restore her shattered military power in order to oppose the terms of peace that might be decided upon by her former victims and present conquerors, to right, as far as possible, the many wrongs she has committed, compensate the numerous injuries she has inflicted, repair the inestimable damage she has done, and give bond, with ample securities, for her good conduct in the future.
In the words of President Poincaré of France, in welcoming the delegates at the opening of the preliminary peace conference at Paris, the German Empire, born in injustice, and consecrated by the theft
2 For a summary of the terms of the armistice with Bulgaria, see the New York Times, October 18, 1918.
3 For the text of the armistice with Turkey, see Pamphlet No. 133 of the American Association for International Conciliation, New York.
4 For the official text of the armistice with Austria, see SUPPLEMENT to this JOURNAL, p. 80.
5 See a Documentary History of the German Revolution in Pamphlet No. 137 of the American Association for International Conciliation.
6 For the official text of the armistice with Germany, see SUPPLEMENT to this JOURNAL, p. 97.