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settlements, a practice which gave color to the charge of “secret diplomacy”; and, lastly, the admission of the Japanese claims to possession of German treaty rights at Kiao-Chau and in the Province of Shantung.
Of these seven subjects of difference the most important were those relating to the League of Nations and the Covenant, though our opposite views as to Shantung were more generally known and more frequently the subject of public comment. While chief consideration will be given to the differences regarding the League and the Covenant, the record would be incomplete if the other subjects were omitted. In fact nearly all of these matters of difference are more or less interwoven and have a collateral, if not a direct, bearing upon one another. They all contributed in affecting the attitude of President Wilson toward the advice that I felt it my duty to volunteer, an attitude which was increasingly impatient of unsolicited criticism and suggestion and which resulted at last in the correspondence of February, 1920, that ended with the acceptance of my resignation as Secretary of State.
The review of these subjects will be, so far as it is possible, treated in chronological order, because, as the matters of difference increased in number, they gave emphasis to the divergence of judgment which existed between the President and myself. The effect was cumulative, and tended not only to widen the breach, but to make less and less possible a restoration of our former relations. It
was my personal desire to support the President's views concerning the negotiations at Paris, but, when in order to do so it became necessary to deny a settled conviction and to suppress a conception of the true principle or the wise policy to be followed, I could not do it and feel that to give support under such conditions accorded with true loyalty to the President of the United States.
It was in this spirit that my advice was given and my suggestions were made, though in doing so I believed it justifiable to conform as far as it was possible to the expressed views of Mr. Wilson, or to what seemed to be his views, concerning less important matters and to concentrate on those which seemed vital. I went in fact as far as I could in adopting his views in the hope that my advice would be less unpalatable and would, as a consequence, receive more sympathetic consideration. Believing that I understood the President's temperament, success in an attempt to change his views seemed to lie in moderation and in partial approval of his purpose rather than in bluntly arguing that it was wholly wrong and should be abandoned. This method of approach, which seemed the expedient one at the time, weakened, in some instances at least, the criticisms and objections which I made. It is very possible that even in this diluted form my views were credited with wrong motives by the President so that he suspected my purpose. It is to be hoped that this was the true explanation of Mr. Wilson's attitude of mind, for the alternative forces a conclusion as to the cause for his resentful reception of honest differences of opinion, which no one, who admires his many sterling qualities and great attainments, will willingly accept.
Whatever the cause of the President's attitude toward the opinions which I expressed on the subjects concerning which our views were at variance — and I prefer to assume that the cause was a misapprehension of my reasons for giving them — the result was that he was disposed to give them little weight. The impression made was that he was irritated by opposition to his views, however moderately urged, and that he did not like to have his judgment questioned even in a friendly way. It is, of course, possible that this is not a true estimate of the President's feelings. It may do him an injustice. But his manner of meeting criticism and his disposition to ignore opposition can hardly be interpreted in any other way.
There is the alternative possibility that Mr. Wilson was convinced that, after he had given a subject mature consideration and reached a decision, his judgment was right or at least better than that of any adviser. A conviction of this nature, if it existed, would naturally have caused him to feel impatient with any one who attempted to controvert his decisions and would tend to make him believe that improper motives induced the opposition or criticism, This alternative, which is based of necessity on a presumption as to the temperament of Mr. Wilson that an unprejudiced and cautious student of personality would hesitate to adopt, I mention only because there
were many who believed it to be the correct explanation of his attitude. In view of my intimate relations with the President prior to the Paris Conference I feel that in justice to him I should say that he did not, except on rare occasions, resent criticism of a proposed course of action, and, while he seemed in a measure changed after departing from the United States in December, 1918, I do not think that the change was sufficient to justify the presumption of self-assurance which it would be necessary to adopt if the alternative possibility is considered to furnish the better explanation.
It is, however, natural, considering what occurred at Paris, to search out the reason or reasons for the President's evident unwillingness to listen to advice when he did not solicit it, and for his failure to take all the American Commissioners into his confidence. But to attempt to dissect the mentality and to analyze the intellectual processes of Woodrow Wilson is not my purpose. It would only invite discussion and controversy as to the truth of the premises and the accuracy of the deductions reached. The facts will be presented and to an extent the impressions made upon me at the time will be reviewed, but impressions of that character which are not the result of comparison with subsequent events and of mature deliberation are not always justified. They may later prove to be partially or wholly wrong. They have the value, nevertheless, of explaining in many cases why I did or did not do certain things, and of disclosing the state of mind that in a measure determined my conduct which without this recital of contemporaneous impressions might mystify one familiar with what afterwards took place. The notes, letters, and memoranda which are quoted in the succeeding pages, as well as the opinions and beliefs held at the time (of which, in accordance with a practice of years, I kept a record supplementing my daily journal of events), should be weighed and measured by the situation which existed when they were written and not alone in the light of the complete review of the proceedings. In forming an opinion as to my differences with the President it should be the reader's endeavor to place himself in my position at the time and not judge them solely by the results of the negotiations at Paris. It comes to this: Was I justified then? Am I justified now? If those questions are answered impartially and without prejudice, there is nothing further that I would ask of the reader.