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fice. With pational safety as the primary object to be attained in territorial settlements, the factors of the problem assume generally, though not always, the following order of importance: the strategic, to which is closely allied the geographic and historic; the economic, affecting the commercial and industrial life of a nation; and lastly the ethnic, including in the terms such conditions as consanguinity common language, and similar social and religious institutions.
The national safety and the economic welfare of the United States were at stake in the War of Secession, although the attempt to secede resulted from institutional rather than ethnic causes. The same was true when in the Papineau Rebellion of 1837 the French inhabitants of the Province of Lower Canada attempted for ethnic reasons to free themselves from British sovereignty. Had the right of “self-determination” in the latter case been recognized as "imperative” by Great Britain, the national life and economic growth of Canada would have been strangled because the lines of communication and the commercial routes to the Atlantic seaboard would have been across an alien state. The future of Canada, with its vast undeveloped resources, its very life as a British colony, depended upon denying the right of “self-determination.” It was denied and the French inhabitants of Quebec were forced against their will to accept British sovereignty.
Experience has already demonstrated the unwisdom of having given currency to the phrase "self-determination.” As the expression of an actual right, the application of which is universal and invariable, the phrase has been repudiated or at least violated by many of the terms of the treaties which brought to an end the World War. Since the time that the principle was proclaimed, it has been the excuse for turbulent political elements in various lands to resist established governmental authority; it has induced the use of force in an endeavor to wrest the sovereignty over a territory or over a community from those who have long possessed and justly exercised it. It has formed the basis for territorial claims by avaricious nations. And it has introduced into domestic as well as international affairs a new spirit of disorder. It is an evil thing to permit the principle of “self-determination” to continue to have the apparent sanction of the nations when it has been in fact thoroughly discredited and will always be cast aside whenever it comes in conflict with national safety, with historic political rights, or with national economic interests affecting the prosperity of a nation.
This discussion of the right of “self-determination,” which was one of the bases of peace which President Wilson declared in the winter of 1918, and which was included in the modifying clause of his guaranty as originally drafted, is introduced for the purpose of showing the reluctance which I felt in accepting his guidance in the adoption of a principle so menacing to peace and so impossible of practical application. As a matter of fact I never discussed the subject with Mr. Wilson as I purposed doing, because a situation arose on January 10, 1919, which discouraged me from volunteering to him advice on matters which did not directly pertain to legal questions and to the international administration of legal justice.
THE CONFERENCE OF JANUARY 10, 1919
It is with extreme reluctance, as the reader will understand, that I make any reference to the conference which the President held with the American Commissioners at the Hôtel Crillon on January 10, because of the personal nature of what occurred. It would be far more agreeable to omit an account of this unpleasant episode. But without referring to it I cannot satisfactorily explain the sudden decision I then reached to take no further part in the preparation or revision of the text of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Without explanation my subsequent conduct would be, and not without reason, open to the charge of neglect of duty and possibly of disloyalty. I do not feel called upon to rest under that suspicion, or to remain silent when a brief statement of what occurred at that conference will disclose the reason for the cessation of my efforts to effect changes in the plan of world organization which the President had prepared. In the circumstances there can be no impropriety in disclosing the truth as to the cause for a course of action when the course of action itself must be set forth to complete the record and to explain an ignorance of the subsequent negotiations regarding the League of Nations, an ignorance which has been the subject of public comment. Certainly no one THE CONFERENCE OF JANUARY 10, 1919 107 who participated in the conference can object to the truth being known unless for personal reasons he prefers that a false impression should go forth. After careful consideration I can see no public reason for withholding the facts.
At this meeting, to which I refer, the President took up the provisions of his original draft of a Covenant, which was at the time in typewritten form, and indicated the features which he considered fundamental to the proper organization of a League of Nations. I pointed out certain provisions which appeared to me objectionable in principle or at least of doubtful policy. Mr. Wilson, however, clearly indicated — at least so I interpreted his words and manner that he was not disposed to receive these criticisms in good part and was unwilling to discuss them. He also said with great candor and emphasis that he did not intend to have lawyers drafting the treaty of peace. Although this declaration was called forth by the statement that the legal advisers of the American Commission had been, at my request, preparing an outline of a treaty, a “skeleton treaty” in fact, the President's sweeping disapproval of members of the legal profession participating in the treaty-making seemed to be, and I believe was, intended to be notice to me that my counsel was unwelcome. Being the only lawyer on the delegation I naturally took this remark to myself, and I know that other American Commissioners held the same view of its purpose. If my belief was unjustified, I can only regret that I did not persevere
criticisms and suggestions, but I could