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“In fact the real bases of peace have only just begun to receive the attention which they deserve.
“If such questions as the Rhine Provinces, Poland, reparations, and economic arrangements had been taken up by the President and Premiers in January, and if they had sat day and night, as they are now sitting in camera, until each was settled, the peace treaty would, I believe, be to-day on the Conference's table, if not actually signed.
“Of course the insistence that the plan of the League be first pushed to a draft before all else prevented the settlement of the other questions. Why attempt to refute what is manifestly true? I regret that the President made the statement because I do not think that it carries conviction. I fear that it will invite controversy and denial, and that it puts the President on the defensive.”
The views expressed in this memorandum were those held, I believe, by the great majority of persons who participated in the Peace Conference or were in intimate touch with its proceedings. Mr. Wilson's published denial may have converted some to the belief that the drafting of the Covenant was in no way responsible for the delay of the peace, but the number of converts must have been very few, as it meant utter ignorance of or indifference to the circumstances which conclusively proved the incorrectness of the statement.
The effect of this attempt of President Wilson to check the growing popular antipathy to the League as an obstacle to the speedy restoration of peace was to cause speculation as to whether he really appreciated the situation. If he did not, it was affirmed that he was ignorant of public opinion or else was lacking in mental acuteness. If he did appreciate the state of affairs, it was said that his statement was uttered with the sole purpose of deceiving the people. In either case he fell in public estimation. It shows the unwisdom of having issued the denial.
THE PROPOSED TREATY WITH FRANCE
THERE is one subject, connected with the consideration of the mutual guaranty which, as finally reported by the Commission on the League of Nations, appears as Article 10 of the Covenant, that should be briefly reviewed, as it directly bears upon the value placed upon the guaranty by the French statesmen who accepted it. I refer to the treaties negotiated by France with the United States and Great Britain respectively. These treaties provided that, in the event of France being again attacked by Germany without provocation, the two Powers severally agreed to come to the aid of the French Republic in repelling the invasion. The joint nature of the undertaking was in a provision in each treaty that a similar treaty would be signed by the other Power, otherwise the agreement failed. The undertakings stated in practically identical terms in the two treaties constituted, in fact, a triple defensive alliance for the preservation of the integrity of French territory and French independence. It had the same object as the guaranty in the Covenant, though it went even further in the assurance of affirmative action, and was, therefore, open to the same objections on the grounds of constitutionality and policy as Article 10.
In a note, dated March 20, stating my "Impressions as
to the Present Situation,” I discussed the endeavors being made by the President to overcome opposition and to remove obstacles to the acceptance of his plan for a League of Nations by means of compromises and concessions. In the note appears the following:
“An instance of the lengths to which these compromises and makeshifts are going, occurred this morning when Colonel House sent to Mr. White, General Bliss, and me for our opinion the following proposal: That the United States, Great Britain, and France enter into a formal alliance to resist any aggressive action by Germany against France or Belgium, and to employ their military, financial, and economic resources for this purpose in addition to exerting their moral influence to prevent such aggression.
“We three agreed that, if that agreement was made, the chief reason for a League of Nations, as now planned, disappeared. So far as France and Belgium were concerned the alliance was all they needed for their future safety. They might or might not accept the League. Of course they would if the alliance depended upon their acceptance. They would do most anything to get such an alliance.
“The proposal was doubtless made to remove two provisions on which the French are most insistent: First, an international military staff to be prepared to use force against Germany if there were signs of military activity; second, the creation of an independent Rhenish Republic to act as a 'buffer' state. Of course the triple alliance would make these measures needless.
“What impressed me most was that to gain French support for the League the proposer of the alliance was willing to destroy the chief feature of the League. It seemed to me that here was utter blindness as to the consequences of such action. There appears to have been no thought given as to the way other nations, like Poland, Bohemia, and the Southern Slavs, would view the formation of an alliance to protect France and Belgium alone. Manifestly it would increase rather than decrease their danger from Germany since she would have to look eastward and southward for expansion. Of course they would not accept as sufficient the guaranty in the Covenant when France and Belgium declined to do it. “How would such a proposal be received in the United
a States with its traditional policy of avoiding 'entangling alliances'? Of course, when one considers it, the proposal is preposterous and would be laughed at and rejected.”
This was the impression made upon me at the time that this triple alliance against Germany was first proposed. I later came to look upon it more seriously and to recognize the fact that there were some valid reasons in favor of the proposal. The subject was not further discussed by the Commissioners for several weeks, but it is clear from what followed that M. Clemenceau, who naturally favored the idea, continued to press the President to agree to the plan. What arguments were employed to persuade him I cannot say, but, knowing the shrewdness of the French Premier in taking advantage of a situation, my belief is that he threatened to withdraw or at least gave the impression that he would withdraw his support of the League of Nations or else would insist on a provision in the Covenant creating a general staff and an international military force and on a provision in the treaty establishing a Rhenish Republic or else ceding to France all territory west of the Rhine. To avoid the adoption of either of these provi