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The fact is that, with the exception of the people who made them and those most directly affected by them, no one is or has been interested in any of the armistices except the one with Germany. After that one went into effect, after the German Government had utterly collapsed and with it all possibility of military effort, some people, who had cordially approved the ármistice but who now for the first time appreciated the military helplessness of their enemy, began to ask the questions, Why were not the terms of the armistice different? Why was it made at all? Why didn't the Allies march to Berlin? Even then, although these men knew and then said that had it not been for the intervention of the United States in the war the Allies would have been defeated, there were some who, at first ignorantly and then maliciously, attributed some sinister purpose to the United States, a desire to rob the Allies of the fruits of the common victory. At various times since then this idea has been inculcated in various quarters, sometimes in ignorance, generally in malice. Recently, when the falsehood was moribund from inanition, it has been revived by an alleged interview, the authenticity of which has been denied, with a distinguished member of the literary world, and now widely circulated. He is quoted as saying,
"America had forced the Allies into making peace at the first opportunity instead of insisting upon finishing in Berlin. America quit the day of the Armistice without waiting to see the thing through.
Although these statements are not to be attributed to the recently alleged source, they are the exact charges notoriously and frequently made by many writers and speakers. It is proper, therefore, to examine into their truth.
Passing for the moment the allegation in the first of the above sentences, what is "the thing," mentioned in the second, that America did not wait to see through? Was there anything left to "see through" except the conclusion of formal peace? Did not America appoint her peace delegates before any other great Power did? Did they not arrive in Paris before any others were appointed, before even those of the French were announced? And after the consideration of the terms of peace began, was it America that caused delay "in seeing the thing through?” Or was it the passionate and selfish greed of European Powers who, dazzled by the enormity of the loot lying before them, refused to make peace with the enemy until they could settle their quarrels among themselves and decide on the distribution of this loot? Who refused to say, as they could have said within the first seven days, “Germany must surrender to the Allied and Associated Powers her battleships and her colonies,” but in their distrust of each other waited until they could decide which Allies could get what proportion of battleships and colonies?
Now, what of the "insisting upon finishing in Berlin"? That suggestion comes late now. There was a
ne who Allied Governments co ve
insisted on this, had they so desired. When the Government of the United States sent its note of October 23, 1918, saying that,
“The President has, therefore, transmitted his correspondence with the present German authorities to the Governments with which the Government of the United States is associated as a belligerent, with the suggestion that, if those Governments are disposed to effect peace upon the terms and principles indicated, their military advisers and the military advisers of the United States be asked to submit to the Governments associated against Germany the necessary terms of such an armistice as will fully protect the interests of the peoples involved and ensure to the associated Governments the unrestricted power to safeguard and enforce the details of the peace to which the German Government has agreed, provided they deem such an armistice possible from the military point
of view," —then was the time for the Allied Governments, or any one of them, to say “No, we are not disposed to effect peace upon the terms and principles indicated" and "we shall not ask our advisers to submit for our approval the necessary terms of such an armistice nor of any armistice." As a matter of fact, the Allies and Associated Powers immediately consulted their military advisers. These advisers were bound to advise such terms as, in their respective judgments, would not only guarantee against a resumption of hostilities during the peace proceedings but ensure also the successful imposition of the peace terms. Based on their advice, the political representatives drew up the exact terms and by their note of November 4, 1918, the three Prime Ministers informed the Government of the United States that they would discuss peace on the acceptance by Germany of these terms. Does anyone assert that there is a single one of these military terms that was imposed by the United States? Or that the Government suggested the change of an iota after the three Prime Ministers had accepted them? And after that acceptance, on prolonged and detailed scrutiny and discussion, and after that declaration by the three Prime Ministers, can there be anything more silly, groundless and malignant than the allegation that America forced the Allies into making peace at the first opportunity instead of insisting upon finishing in Berlin.
Probably most people believe that the first consideration by the European Allies of armistice terms as preliminary to peace was given after the communication of the United States' note of October 23, 1918. That, however, is not the case; and many citizens of those countries will be interested to know the steps taken to that end by their governments before that of the United States had received the conditions of the armistice agreed upon by them on November 4, 1918.
The first German note to the United States was announced in the Reichstag on October 5th, the note having been sent the night before through Berne and reaching Washington on October 6th. On October 5th the Prime Ministers of Great Britain, France and Italy met in Paris. At a meeting on October 6th they agreed upon certain principles for the basis of an armistice. At nine o'clock on the night of October 7th the American military representative received from them the following document:
The conference of Ministers at a meeting held on 7th October 1918, agreed to refer to the Military Representatives at Versailles, with whom shall be associated representatives of the American, British, French and Italian Navies, the consideration of the terms of an armistice with Germany and Austria, on the basis of the following principles accepted on the previous day.
1. Total evacuation, by the enemy, of France, Belgium, Luxemburg and Italy; 2. The Germans to retire behind the Rhine into Germany;
3. Alsace-Lorraine to be evacuated by German troops without occupation by the Allies;
4. The same conditions to apply to the Trentino and Istria;
7. Immediate steps to be taken for the evacuation of all territory belonging to Russia and Roumania before the war.
8. Immediate cessation of submarine warfare.
Unnumbered Paragraph. (It was also agreed that the Allied blockade should not be raised.)
The foregoing note was accompanied by a request that the military representatives, with the associates indicated in the note, meet for its consideration at 9.15 o'clock on the following morning, October 8th. The American representative at once decided not to participate in the discussion and recommendation of armistice terms thus requested. In the absence of official information he took note of the fact that it was commonly believed in every Allied capital in Europe that a German note on this subject was then pending before the Government at Washington. He could take no part in the discussion of it without specific instructions. He immediately cabled the note of the Ministers to Washington with his proposed action. At the same time he invited attention to par. 2 of the note, under which, if not modified, the Germans could retire to a strong position behind the Rhine with their army, armament and supplies intact. Accordingly, in the action taken at the meeting of military and naval representatives on the morning of October 8th there was no American participation. The following is the document that was then drawn up and submitted to the three Prime Ministers:
The Military Representatives and Naval Representatives meeting together on October 8th, in accordance with the Resolution taken by the Conference of Ministers at their meeting held on 7th October, 1918, are of opinion that the first essential of an armistice is the disarmament of the enemy, under the control of the Allies.
This principle having been established, the conditions specified by the Ministers at their meeting held on 7th October, require from a military point of view to be supplemented as follows:
1. Total and immediate evacuation, by the enemy, of France, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Italy on the following conditions:
(a) Immediate re-occupation by Allied troops of the territories so evacuated;
(b) Immediate repatriation of the civil population of these regions interned in enemy country;
(c) No "sabotage,” looting or fresh requisitions by enemy forces;
(d) Surrender of all arms and munitions of war and supplies between the present front and the left bank of the Rhine;
2. Germans to retire behind the Rhine into Germany.
3. Alsace-Lorraine to be evacuated by German troops without occupation by the Allies, with the exception stated in Clause 18 below.
It is understood that the Allies will not evacuate the territory in their occupation.
4. The same conditions apply to the territory included between the Italian frontier and a line passing through the Upper Adige, the Pusterthal as far as Tobloch, the Carnic Alps, the Tarvis and the meridian from Monte Nero, cutting the sea near the mouth of the Voloska (see Map of the Italian Military Geographical Institute 1 over 500,000).
5. Serbia, Montenegro and Albania to be evacuated by the enemy-under similar conditions to those stated in Clause 1.
6. Evacuation of the Caucasus by the troops of Central Powers.
7. Immediate steps to be taken for the evacuation of all territory belonging to Russia and Roumania before the war.
8. Prisoners in enemy hands to be returned to Allied Armies without reciprocity in the shortest possible time. Prisoners taken from the Armies of the Central Powers to be employed for the reparation of the wilful damage done in the occupied areas by the enemy, and for the restoration of the areas.
9. All enemy surface ships (including Monitors, River craft, etc.), to withdraw to Naval Bases specified by the Allies and to remain there during the Armistice.
10. Submarine warfare to cease immediately on the signature of the Armistice. 60 submarines of types to be specified shall proceed at once to specified Allied Ports and stay there during the Armistice. Submarines operating in the North Sea and Atlantic shall not enter the Mediterranean.
11. Enemy Naval air forces to be concentrated in bases specified by the Allies and there remain during the Armistice.
12. Enemy to reveal position of all his mines outside territorial waters. Allies to have the right to sweep such mines at their own convenience.
13. Enemy to evacuate Belgium and Italian coast immediately, leaving behind all Naval war stores and equipment.
14. The Austro-Hungarian Navy to evacuate all ports in the Adriatic occupied by them outside national territory.
15. The Black Sea Ports to be immediately evacuated and warships and material seized in them by the enemy delivered to the allies.
16. No material destruction to be permitted before evacuation.
17. Present blockade conditions to remain unchanged. All enemy merchant ships found at sea remain subject to capture.
18. In stating their terms as above, the Allied Governments can not lose sight of the fact that the Government of Germany is in a position peculiar among the nations of Europe in that its word can not be believed, and that it denies any obligation of honor. It is necessary, therefore, to demand from Germany material guarantees on a scale which will serve the purpose aimed at by a signed agreement in cases amongst ordinary civilized nations. In those circumstances, the Allied Governments demand that: within 48 hours:
1st. The fortresses of Metz, Thionville, Strassburg, Neu Breisach and the town and fortifications of Lille to be surrendered to the Allied Commander-in-Chief.
2nd. The surrender of Heligoland to the Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief of the North Sea.
19. All the above measures, with the exception of those specially mentioned in paragraph 18, to be executed in the shortest possible time, which it would appear should not exceed three or four weeks.
This document was at once cabled in extenso to Washington. The draft intended for submission to the Prime Ministers was brought to the American military representative with request that he reconsider his decision and sign it. This he declined to do in the absence of instructions from his government. And, to the document intended for these Ministers, he attached a note addressed to them giving his reasons for not signing it. Personally, he had no criticism of the general tenor of the document and he, of course, accepted the establishment of the essential principle of disarmament and the fixing of guarantees.
This document of October 8, 1918, undoubtedly represented the then Allied military and naval view and that of the great majority of their political men.
What caused its preparation? The invariable rule of proced ure of the Supreme War Council was that no military measure and an armistice is essentially such) would be considered by it unless the four military representatives were unanimous in recommending it. If they were unanimous, the measure was submitted to the heads of the four governments. If any one of the latter did not concur it failed. Therefore, the action of October 7th and 8th was not that of the Supreme War Council but that of the three Prime Ministers. What was the motive for the proceedings of those two days? This can only be inferred, because no further action was then taken; but it would seem that one or both of only two reasons can be assigned. One is this: it was known that the question was then pending in some form in Washington; it was not known what attitude towards it would be there taken; it was apprehended that some committal might be made adverse to Allied wishes or interests. If this were the reason, the Allies, who knew that this action would be immediately cabled in full to Washington, would also know that in this indirect way Washington would be made aware that they had views of their own on the subject of an armistice. The other reason may be that the Allies wished to be tentatively prepared by studies of their own in case notes should be addressed to them by Germany as had been done to the United States.
The essential fact to note is that the document of October 8th presented the Allied view, in the preparation of which no American military or naval or political representative had any part whatever.
From October 8th events, military and political, moved rapidly. The German notes of October 8th, 12th and 20th, and the American notes of October 8th, 14th and 23rd, were exchanged. This latter note of October 23rd is the one which placed, without limitation, the decision of the question whether there should, or should not, be an armistice in the discretion and judgment of the Allied Powers in Europe.
They having decided in favor of an armistice, the political representatives of the three principal European Allies, associated with that of the United States, began the study of armistice terms on October 26th. A reasonable construction of the words of the President's letter which read