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General Bliss volunteered to write the President a letter on the subject, a course which Mr. White and I heartily endorsed.
The next morning the General read the following letter to us and with our entire approval sent it to Mr. Wilson:
“Hôtel de Crillon, Paris
April 29, 1919 “MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT:
“Last Saturday morning you told the American Delegation that you desired suggestions, although not at that moment, in regard to the pending matter of certain conflicting claims between Japan and China centering about the alleged German rights. My principal interest in the matter is with sole reference to the question of the moral right or wrong involved. From this point of view I discussed the matter this morning with Mr. Lansing and Mr. White. They concurred with me and requested me to draft a hasty note to you on the subject.
"Since your conference with us last Saturday, I have asked myself three or four Socratic questions the answers to which make me, personally, quite sure on which side the moral right lies.
“First. Japan bases certain of her claims on the right acquired by conquest. I asked myself the following questions: Suppose Japan had not succeeded in her efforts to force the capitulation of the Germans at Tsing-Tsau; suppose that the armistice of November 11th had found her still fighting the Germans at that place, just as the armistice found the English still fighting the Germans in South-East Africa. We would then oblige Germany to dispose of her claims in China by a clause in the Treaty of Peace. Would it occur to any one that, as a matter of right, we should force Germany to cede her claims to Japan rather than to China? It seems to me that it would occur to every American that we would then have the opportunity that we have long desired to force Germany to correct, in favor of China, the great wrong which she began to do to the latter in 1898. What moral right has Japan acquired by her conquest of Shantung assisted by the British? If Great Britain and Japan secured no moral right to sovereignty over various savages inhabiting islands in the Pacific Ocean, but, on the other hand, we held that these peoples shall be governed by mandates under the League of Nations, what moral right has Japan acquired to the suzerainty (which she would undoubtedly eventually have) over 30,000,000 Chinese in the sacred province of Shantung?
Second. Japan must base her claims either on the Convention with China or on the right of conquest, or on both. Let us consider her moral right under either of these points. a) If the United States has not before this recognized
the validity of the rights claimed by Japan under her Convention with China, what has happened since the Armistice that would justify us in recog
nizing their validity now? "b) If Germany had possessed territory, in full sover
eignty, on the east coast of Asia, a right to this territory, under international law, could have been obtained by conquest. But Germany possessed no such territory. What then was left for Japan to acquire by conquest? Apparently nothing but a lease extorted under compulsion from China by Germany. I understand that international lawyers hold that such a lease, or the rights acquired, justly or unjustly, under it, cannot be acquired by con
quest. “Third. Suppose Germany says to us, 'We will cede our lease and all rights under it, but we will cede them back to China.' Will we recognize the justice of Japan's claims to such an extent that we will threaten Germany with further war unless she cedes these rights to Japan rather than to China?
“Again, suppose that Germany, in her hopelessness of resistance to our demands, should sign without question a clause ceding these rights to Japan, even though we know that this is so wrong that we would not fight in order to compel Germany to do it, what moral justification would we have in making Germany do this?
“Fourth. Stripped of all words that befog the issue, would we not, under the guise of making a treaty with Germany, really be making a treaty with Japan by which we compel one of our Allies (China) to cede against her will these things to Japan? Would not this action be really more unjustifiable than the one which you have refused to be a party to on the Dalmatian Coast? Because, in the latter case, the territory in dispute did not belong to one of the Allies, but to one of the Central Powers; the question in Dalmatia is as to which of two friendly powers we shall give territory taken from an enemy power; in China the question is, shall we take certain claimed rights from one friendly power in order to give them to another friendly power.
"It would seem to be advisable to call particular attention to what the Japanese mean when they say that they will return Kiao-chow to China. They do not offer to return the railway, the mines or the port, i.e., Tsingtau. The leased territory included a portion of land on the north-east side of the entrance of the Bay and another on the south-west and some islands. It is a small territory. The 50 Kilometer Zone was not included. That was a limitation put upon the movement of German troops.