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Bavarian Premier, who had just been assassinated. Erzberger declared:
“Germany must have sovereignty, not only over Belgium, but over the French coast from Dunkirk to Boulogne, and possession of the
Channel Islands. She must also take the mines in French Lorraine and create an African German Empire by annexing the Belgian and French Kongos, British Nigeria, Dahomey, and the French West Coast.
“In fixing indemnities, the actual capacity of a State at the moment should not be considered. Besides a large immediate payment, annual instalments spread over a long period, should be arranged. France could be helped in making them by decreasing her budget of naval and military appropriations, the reductions imposed in the peace treaty being such as would enable her to send substantial sums to Germany.
“Indemnities should provide for the
repayment of the full costs of the MATHIAS ERZBERGER
war and the damages of the war,
notably in East Prussia; the redempdemption of all of Germany's public debt and the creation of a vast fund for incapacitated soldiers.”
Mathias Erzberger's plea for humanity was not unlike many pleas that came out of Germany at this time. Declaring that the terms of peace contemplated the "physical, moral, and intellectual paralysis” of the German people and that Germans had been “hypnotized” by statements made by President Wilson, President Ebert exclaimed: “When in the course of 2,000 years was ever a peace offered to a defeated people which so completely contemplated their physical, moral, and intellectual paralysis as do the terms enunciated at Versailles ?" Before the Reichstag the Chancellor of the Republic, Scheidemann, made a long speech of violent protests with threats of not signing the treaty. Scheidemann was not taken seriously, being too well known as a public man of a type familiar in all States, the type that has an instinct for floating on eddies of opinion. When the war was launched Scheidemann's public record required him to oppose it, but all Germany was then shouting for the lustful adventure, and so he adopted the view that the Teuton had been at
tacked by the Slav, and when Belgium was invaded, accepted the fable that Belgium in her conduct had been non-neutral. When Petrograd, after the revolution, became temporarily pro-Ally, and the future looked dark for Germany, he had been selected by the Kaiser to manage at Stockholm a proposed peace conference. When the Germans, through Lenine and Trotzky, became masters of Russia and the Brest-Litovsk treaty was written, Scheidemann became silent and remained so until the German military offensive in the West was wrecked. Scheidemann seemed a man possest of no real convictions that prevented him from accommodating his views to the demands of any new hour.
Hugo Haase, leader of the Independent Socialists, announced his flat refusal to form a government of Independents which would sign the Versailles treaty, which caused a great sensation in political circles, but it was regarded as further proof of Haase's astuteness. The Independent Socialist Party, as Die Freiheit remarked, "did not dream of taking blame for the World War and the terrible consequences from the shoulders of those responsible for existing conditions in Germany—the Scheidemanns and Erzbergers, the Clericals, and Democrats, who had zealously aided the late Government's war policy, had granted all credits, and by their attitude had prevented an early termination of the war.” “Let them settle the bankrupt estate themselves,” added Die Freiheit.
In Berlin a Government statement was issued and cabled to Entente countries declaring that the treaty would not be signed by Germany. It was a statement evidently intended for the most part for American consumption, having been furnished especially to the Associated Press for circulation here, but was filled with the most amazing misconceptions of American public opinion. It assumed that "the American press” considered the treaty too hard on Germany and so the appeal was addrest “to all America, to every individual,” all of whom were asked to see to it that Germany's "claims” were fulfilled—these claims being such as worked out to Germany's advantage under Wilson's Fourteen Points. The assertion was made that, in the peace terms proposed, there was "not one single trace left of President Wilson's program.” The overdoing of protest in this statement rather disgusted than persuaded clear-eyed Americans. They said, in the first place, that Germany had not come into court with clean hands. She was loudly proclaiming that the peace terms meant her "economic destruction” and yet she was the same Germany whose intellectual élite—including 352 university professors—had united on June 20, 1915, in petitioning the German Chancellor to make sure that France was “enfeebled politically and economically, without any consideration,” and to insist upon levying on the French “a
heavy war indemnity without any mercy.” These and other proclamations of Germany's ruthless war intentions made it difficult to listen to pleas for leniency as made to people who had been her victims.
For the Germans now to pretend that the peace terms violated their "juristic right” under the Fourteen Points could not bear the weight of facts. Only a few of the Fourteen Points directly bore on the treaty now offered to Germany. She complained that she had received no assurance of the freedom of the seas, a point that had been expressly reserved by the Allies, with the assent of our Government, before the armistice was signed. Similarly it had been stipulated, with Germany's full knowledge, that German "reparation” should go beyond the apparent implication of President Wilson's phrase about "restoring” Belgium and invaded France. Those two points, therefore, were at once thrown out of court. Point 6 related to Russia; Points 9, 10, 11, and 12 concerned Italy and Austria, the Balkans and Turkey, and did not touch the German situation at all. In reality only seven of the Fourteen Points had to do with the German “claims,” and these could not bear examination to Germany's advantage. Take her loss of territory. All but a minute fraction of it was distinctly contemplated by Points 8 and 12, providing for the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine and the setting up of "an independent Polish State” with "free and secure access to the sea." Having agreed to this in advance, Germany's mouth was closed. As for the Saar Valley, it figured merely as part of the reparation in coal due to France from Germany, for what Germany had done with Lens, the area to be temporarily under control of the League of Nations. The creation of that League was promised in Point 14, and Germany could not say that the promise had not been kept.
There remained only three points, all of which had to do with trade relations, disarmament, and the colonies. Concerning the latter, President Wilson was abundantly able to maintain that the arrangement of mandataries for the temporary administration of the former German colonies was in compliance with his principle of consulting "the interests of the populations concerned” as well as those of "the Government whose title is to be determined.” As for disarmament, that of Germany was provided for in the treaty; that of other nations was to be undertaken under the League. While "equality of trade conditions" was not definitely assured to Germany by the treaty, assurance was repeatedly given that Germany's “industrial requirements” would be met. The German Government's statement had asked Americans to “place the Fourteen Points opposite the peace terms.” If this had been done no fair-minded man could have come to anything but one conclusion, which was that, in
A BERLIN MEETING OPPOSING THE PEACE TERMS
of Germans who, before the war, had lived in foreign countries
the matter of her claim, Germany had not a leg to stand on. Mr. Wilson, as if making a reply to the German claims as to his Fourteen Points, was quoted on June 6 as saying:
“I am convinced that our treaty projects violates none of my principles. If I held a contrary opinion I would not hesitate to confess it, and would endeavor to correct the error. The treaty as drawn up, however, entirely conforms with my fourteen points.
Following are the Fourteen Points as Wilson stated them in his speech in January, 1918:
1. Open Covenants of Peace openly arrived at, after which there shall he no private international understandings of any kind, but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.
2. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas outside territorial waters alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.
3. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.
4. Adequate guaranties given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
5. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all Colonial claims based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the Government whose title is to be determined.
6. The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing.
7. Belgium must be evacuated and restored without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired.
8. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all.
9. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
5 In the Matin (Paris).