« PreviousContinue »
promise failed of confirmation in writing or by formal public declaration.
It is fair to presume that, if the conflicting claims of Japan and China to the alleged rights of Germany in Chinese territory had been settled upon the merits through the medium of an impartial commission named by the Conference, the Treaty provisions relating to the disposition of those rights would have been very different from those which “The Three” ordered to be drafted. Before a commission of the Conference no persuasive reasons for conceding the Japanese claims could have been urged on the basis of an agreement on the part of Japan to adhere to the League of Nations or to abandon the attempt to have included in the Covenant a declaration of equality between races. It was only through secret interviews and secret agreements that the threat of the Japanese delegates could be successfully made. An adjustment on such a basis had nothing to do with the justice of the case or with the legal rights and principles involved. The threat was intended to coerce the arbiters of the treaty terms by menacing the success of the plan to establish a League of Nations — to use an ugly word, it was a species of "blackmail” not unknown to international relations in the past. It was made possible because the sessions of the Council of the Heads of States and the conversations concerning Shantung were secret.
It was a calamity for the Republic of China and unfortunate for the presumed justice written into the Treaty
that President Wilson was convinced that the Japanese delegates would decline to accept the Covenant of the League of Nations if the claims of Japan to the German rights were denied. It was equally unfortunate that the President felt that without Japan's adherence to the Covenant the formation of the League would be endangered if not actually prevented. And it was especially unfortunate that the President considered the formation of the League in accordance with the provisions of the Covenant to be superior to every other consideration and that to accomplish this object almost any sacrifice would be justifiable.
It is my impression that the departure of Signor Orlando and Baron Sonnino from Paris and the uncertainty of their return to give formal assent to the Treaty with Germany, an uncertainty which existed at the time of the decision of the Shantung Question, had much to do with the anxiety of the President as to Japan's attitude. He doubtless felt that to have two of the Five Great Powers decline at the last moment to accept the Treaty containing the Covenant would jeopardize the plan for a League and would greatly encourage his opponents in the United States. His line of reasoning was logical, but in my judgment was based on the false premise that the Japanese would carry out their threat to refuse to accept the Treaty and enter the League of Nations unless they obtained a cession of the German rights. I did not believe at the time, and I do not believe now, that Japan would have made good her threat. The superior international position, which she held as one of the Five Great Powers in the Conference, and which she would hold in the League of Nations as one of the Principal Powers in the constitution of the Executive Council, would never have been abandoned by the Tokio Government. The Japanese delegates would not have run the risk of losing this position by adopting the course pursued by the Italians.
The cases were different. No matter what action was taken by Italy she would have continued to be a Great Power in any organization of the world based on a classification of the nations. If she did not enter the League under the German Treaty, she certainly would later and would undoubtedly hold an influential position in the organization whether her delegates signed the Covenant or accepted it in another treaty or by adherence. It was not so with Japan. There were reasons to believe that, if she failed to become one of the Principal Powers at the outset, another opportunity might never be given her to obtain so high a place in the concert of the nations. The seats that her delegates had in the Council of Ten had caused criticism and dissatisfaction in certain quarters, and the elimination of a Japanese from the Council of the Heads of States showed that the Japanese position as an equal of the other Great Powers was by no means secure. These indications of Japan's place in the international oligarchy must have been evident to her plenipotentiaries at Paris, who in all probability reported the situation to Tokio. From the point of view of policy the execution of the threat of withdrawal presented dangers to Japan's prestige which the diplomats who represented her would never have incurred if they were as cautious and shrewd as they appeared to be. The President did not hold this opinion. We differed radically in our judgment as to the sincerity of the Japanese threat. He showed that he believed it would be carried out. I believed that it would not be.
It has not come to my knowledge what the attitude of the British and French statesmen was concerning the disposition of the Shantung rights, although I have read the views of certain authors on the subject, but I do know that the actual decision lay with the President. If he had declined to recognize the Japanese claims, they would never have been granted nor would the grant have been written into the Treaty. Everything goes to show that he realized this responsibility and that the cession to Japan was not made through error or misconception of the rights of the parties, but was done deliberately and with a full appreciation that China was being denied that which in other circumstances would have been awarded to her. If it had not been for reasons wholly independent and outside of the question in dispute, the President would not have decided as he did.
It is not my purpose to enter into the details of the origin of the German lease of Kiao-Chau (the port of Tsingtau) and of the economic concessions in the Province of Shantung acquired by Germany. Suffice it to say that, taking advantage of a situation caused by the murder of some missionary priests in the province, the German Government in 1898 forced the Chinese Government to make treaties granting for the period of ninety-nine years the lease and concessions, by which the sovereign authority over this “Holy Land” of China was to all intents ceded to Germany, which at once improved the harbor, fortified the leased area, and began railway construction and the exploitation of the Shantung Peninsula.
The outbreak of the World War found Germany in possession of the leased area and in substantial control of the territory under the concession. On August 15, 1914, the Japanese Government presented an ultimatum to the German Government, in which the latter was required “to deliver on a date not later than September 15 to the Imperial Japanese authorities, without condition or compensation, the entire leased territory of Kiao-Chau with a view to the eventual restoration of the same to China."
On the German failure to comply with these demands the Japanese Government landed troops and, in company with a small British contingent, took possession of the leased port and occupied the territory traversed by the German railway, even to the extent of establishing a civil government in addition to garrisoning the line with Japanese troops. Apparently the actual occupation of this Chinese territory induced a change in the policy of the Imperial Government at Tokio, for in December, 1914, Baron Kato, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared that the restoration of Tsingtau to China “is to be settled in