« PreviousContinue »
for peace was taken. It is upon them that the whole structure of peace must rest.
If those principles are to be adhered to, Fiume must serve as the outlet and inlet of the commerce, not of Italy, but of the lands to the north and northeast of that port: Hungary, Bohemia, Roumania, and the states of the new Jugo-Slavic group. To assign Fiume to Italy would be to create the feeling that we had deliberately put the port upon which all these countries chiefly depend for their access to the Mediterranean in the hands of a Power of which it did not form an integral part and whose sovereignty, if set up there, must inevitably seem foreign, not domestic or identified with the commercial and industrial life of the regions which the port must serve. It is for that reason, no doubt, that Fiume was not included in the Pact of London, but there definitively assigned to the Croatians.
And the reason why the line of the Pact of London swept about many of the islands of the eastern coast of the Adriatic and around the portion of the Dalmatian coast which lies most open to that sea was not only that here and there on those islands and here and there on that coast there are bodies of people of Italian blood and connection, but also, and no doubt, chiefly, because it was felt that it was necessary for Italy to have a foothold amidst the channels of the eastern Adriatic in order that she might make her own coasts safe against the naval aggression of Austria-Hungary. But Austria-Hungary no longer exists. It is proposed that the fortifications which the Austrian Government constructed there shall be razed and permanently destroyed. It is part, also, of the new plan of European order which centers in the League of Nations that the new states erected there shall accept a limitation of armaments which puts aggression out of the question. There can be no fear of the unfair treatment of groups of Italian people there because adequate guarantees will be given, under international sanction, of equal and equitable treatment of all racial or national minorities.
In brief, every question associated with this settlement wears a new aspect, a new aspect given it by the very victory for right for which Italy has made the supreme sacrifice of blood and treasure. Italy, along with the four other great Powers, has become one of the chief trustees of the new order which she has played so honorable a part in establishing.
And on the north and northeast her natural frontiers are com
pletely restored, along the whole sweep of the Alps from northwest to southeast to the very end of the Istrian peninsula, including all the great watershed within which Trieste and Pola lie and all the fair regions whose face nature has turned towards the great peninsula upon which the historic life of the Latin people has been worked out through centuries of famous story every since Rome was first set upon her seven hills. Her ancient unity is restored. Her lines are extended to the great walls which are her natural defence. It is within her choice to be surrounded by friends; to exhibit to the newly liberated peoples across the Adriatic that noblest quality of greatness, magnanimity, friendly generosity, the preference of justice over interest.
The nations associated with her, the nations that know nothing of the Pact of London or of any other special understanding that lies at the beginning of this great struggle and who have made their supreme sacrifice also in the interest, not of national advantage or defence, but of the settled peace of the world, now unite with her older associates in urging her to assume a leadership which cannot be mistaken in the new order of Europe.
America is Italy's friend. Her people are drawn, millions strong, from Italy's own fair countrysides. She is linked in blood as well as in affection with the Italian people. Such ties can never be broken. And America was privileged, by the generous commission of her associates in the war, to initiate the peace we are about to consummate, to initiate it upon terms she had herself formulated, and in which I was her spokesman. The compulsion is upon her to square every decision she takes a part in with those principles. She can do nothing else. She trusts Italy, and in her trust believes that Italy will ask nothing of her that cannot be made unmistakably consistent with these sacred obligations. Interest is not now in question, but the rights of peoples, of states new and old, of liberated peoples and peoples whose rulers have never accounted them worthy of right; above all the right of the world to peace and to such settlements of interest as shall make peace secure.
These, and these only, are the principles for which America has fought. These, and these only, are the principles upon which she can consent to make peace. Only upon these principles, she hopes and believes, will the people of Italy ask her to make peace.
REPLY OF SIGNOR ORLANDO, PREMIER OF ITALY, REGARDING THE
DISPOSITION OF FIUME 1
PARIS, April 24, 1919.
Yesterday, while the Italian delegation was assembled discussing an alternative proposal sent to it from the British Prime Minister, which had as object the conciliation of the opposing tendencies manifested on the subject of the Italian territorial aspirations, the Paris newspapers published a message from Mr. Wilson, the President of the United States, in which he expressed his own opinion in regard to some of the most serious problems that have been submitted to the judgment of the Conference.
The employment of a direct appeal to the different peoples is certainly an innovation in international relations. It is not my intention to complain about it, but I take official notice of it in order to follow this principle in my turn, inasmuch as this new system without doubt will contribute to giving the peoples a broader participation in international questions, and inasmuch as I have always personally been of the opinion that such participation was a sign of a new era. However, if such appeals are to be considered as being addressed to peoples outside of the governments which represent them, I should say, almost in opposition to their governments, I should have great regret in calling to mind that this procedure, which, until now, has been used only against enemy governments, is today for the first time being used against a government which has been, and counts on remaining, a loyal friend of the great American Republic-against the Italian Government.
I could also complain that such a message, addressed to the people, has been published at the very moment when the Allied and Associated Powers were negotiating with the Italian Government, that is to say, with the very government whose participation had been solicited and appreciated in numerous and serious questions which, up to now, had been dealt with in intimate and complete solidarity.
To oppose, so to speak, the Italian Government and people would be to admit that this great free people could submit to the yoke of a will other than its own, and I shall be forced to protest vigorously against such suppositions, unjustly offensive to my country.
1 New York Herald, Paris Edition, April 25, 1919, p. 1.
I now come to the contents of the President's message: it is devoted entirely to showing that the Italian claims, beyond certain limits defined in the message, violate the principles upon which the new régime of liberty and justice among peoples must be founded. I have never denied these principles, and President Wilson will do me the justice to acknowledge that in the long conversations which we have had, I have never relied on the formal authority of a treaty by which I knew very well that he was not bound. In these conversations I have relied solely on the force of reason and justice upon which I have always believed and still believe the aspirations of Italy are solidly based. I have not had the good fortune of convincing him: I regret it sincerely, but President Wilson himself has had the kindness to recognize, in the course of our conversations, that truth and justice are the monopoly of no one, and that all men are subject to error.
While remarking that more than once the Conference has been brought to change its sentiments radically when it was a question of applying these principles, I do not believe that I am showing disrespect towards this high assembly. On the contrary, these changes have been, and still are, the consequence of all human judgment. I mean to say only that experience has proved all the difficulties which are met in the application of these principles of an abstract nature to infinitely complex and varied concrete cases. Thus, with all deference, but all firmness, I consider the application made by President Wilson in his message of his principles to Italian claims is unjustified.
It is impossible for me, in a document of this nature, to repeat the detailed proofs which have been produced in great abundance. I shall only say that one cannot accept without reservation the statements according to which the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire implies a reduction of the Italian aspirations. It is even permissible to believe the contrary, that is to say, that at the very moment when all the varied peoples which constituted that empire seek to organize themselves according to their ethnic and national affinities, the essential problem set by the Italian claims can and must be completely solved. Now this problem is that of the Adriatic, in which is summed up all the rights of Italy, both ancient and modern, all her martyrdom throughout the centuries and all the benefits which she is destined to bring to the great international community.
The presidential message affirms that with the concessions which
she has received Italy would attain the barrier of the Alps, which are her natural defences. This is a concession of vast importance on condition that the eastern flank of that barrier does not remain uncovered and that there be included among the rights of Italy the line from Monte Neveso separating the waters which flow toward the Black Sea from those which flow into the Mediterranean.
Without that protection a dangerous breach would remain open in that admirable natural barrier of the Alps, and it would mean the rupture of that unquestionable political, historical and economic unity constituted by the peninsula of Istria.
I believe, moreover, that he who can proudly claim that it was he who proclaimed to the world the right of self-determination of nations, is the very person who must recognize this right to Fiume, ancient city, which proclaimed its Italianity even before the Italian ships were near; to Fiume, admirable example of national consciousness perpetuated throughout the centuries. To deny it this right for the sole reason that it has to do only with a small community, would be to admit that the criterion of justice toward nations varies according to their territorial expansion. And if, to deny this right, we fall back on the international character of this port, we see Antwerp, Genoa, Rotterdam-all international ports serving as an outlet for a variety of nations and regions without their being obliged to pay dearly for this privilege by the suppression of their national consciousness.
And can one describe as excessive the Italian aspiration for the Dalmatian coast, this boulevard of Italy throughout the centuries, which Roman genius and Venetian activity have made noble and great, and whose Italianity, defying all manner of implacable persecution throughout an entire century, today shares with the Italian nation the same feelings of patriotism? In regard to Poland, the principle is held forth that denationalization obtained by violent and arbitrary methods cannot constitute rights. Why not apply the same principle to Dalmatia?
And if we wish to support this rapid synthesis of our good national rights by cold statistical facts, I believe I can state that among the various national reorganizations which the Peace Conference has already brought about or may bring about in the future, none of the reorganized peoples will count within its new frontiers a number of people of another race proportionately less than that which would