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Italians themselves when D'Annunzio, in the course of the war, had displayed such military aptitude. His skill and heroism had made him one of the most popular figures among soldiers. Early in October he was showing ability in another field, that of diplomacy, as evidenced in a message to the Croats. His message, written in Croation, said:
“The Adriatic is a Latin sea, on which the Slavs have full right to a free economic outlet for their commerce. Italy is glad not only to concede, but to assure and protect with her military and civil forces, the liberty of such an outlet for all races in the hinterland. Therefore, Italians and Slavs have an urgent common interest to prevent other nations from controlling a sea which does not belong to them, thus disturbing prosperity and concord. Italy is resolved to defend her annexation of Fiume against any one, but at the same time is ready to assure you sincere and ample guaranties of free transit and the development of your commercial traffic through the port. Recognize the rights of Italy, so that Italy can recognize yours, and all misunderstandings will be dissipated. Long live Italian Fiume! Long live the Adriatic really free! Long live Italo-Slav peace, herald of common prosperity!"
Still another example of such work as a league might perform was given when the Supreme Council on September 27th decided to send to the German Government, through Marshal Foch, a note demanding under drastic penalties for non-compliance, the evacuation of Lithuania by German troops a considerable force of whom still remained there. Germany was told that her provisioning at home would be stopt and the financial arrangement she had requested would be held up if Lithuania were not evacuated. After having tried, without success, other methods to secure compliance from Germany with the terms laid down in the armistice, which had been signed more than ten months before, the Peace Conference was about to try with Germany the "American way”—that is, to use the economic weapons which had long been favored by the American delegation. It was said that with 100,000 troops, of various nationalities, General von der Goltz had become the real lord of the Baltic and that he might within a few days declare himself independent of the German Government.
His immediate purpose seemed to be, first to overthrow the Russian Bolshevist Government, and then to establish cordial relations between the new Russia and Germany, and so lead to German domination of the Baltic provinces.
Weeks passed, however, and Germany failed to secure an evacuation by her troops. On the contrary, Riga by October 11th, had been attacked by Germans acting with anti-Red Russians, and the Letts under this pressure had abandoned their city.
An advance guard of German troops soon took possession of
Riga, and others, under von der Goltz with Russians, attacked the Letts thirty kilometers from Riga and occupied Shlotsk, the attack being repulsed. This German aggression was regarded in some quarters as the beginning of a new German attempt for supremacy in Europe by that Prussian landholding aristocracy which was still dominated by medieval ideas of aristocratic militarism. Von der Goltz's army was officered by the sort of men who had made Germany hated the world over, and was fighting in the interest chiefly of the land-owning nobility of the Baltic coast. Von der Goltz was cooperating with an organization calling itself "the West Russian Government,” which appeared to represent nothing more than Baltic German Barons, the most reactionary class in old Russia, men who had furnished or inspired most of the traitors who had betrayed the Russian armies to Germany in the early years of the war.
Von der Goltz, a few days after the attack on Riga, transferred his command in the Baltic region to General von Eberhardt, and was expected to arrive in Berlin soon after. The German Government had been deliberating on the latest note of the Entente with regard to the Baltic situation under which complete stoppage of provisions to the insubordinate troops in the Baltic lands had been ordered. All passenger traffic to the Baltic was to be stopt and only empty trains permitted to go there to fetch troops home.
Early in September was begun, so to speak, "an appeal to Cæsar," by President Wilson and by the chief opponents of the League covenant, through speaking trips across the continent and back. The appeal was made chiefly to the West and far West, the President's route being through the Middle West, the Rocky Mountain States, and the Pacific Coast States. The fact that Mr. Wilson was to speak in three different California cities-San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego-seemed proof of his anxiety to relieve any misunderstanding that may have been created in California as to the effect of the Shantung grant on the Japanese problem along the Pacific coast. When he reached Spokane President Wilson made a notable statement in declaring that was not averse to reservations of interpretation, but objected strongly to putting them in the ratification clause which would mean resubmission of the treaty, because, if textual changes were made in it, or if the resolution of ratification was qualified, the document would have to be resubmitted to the German Assembly; "that,” he remarked, "goes against my digestion.” He said further on this point:
“We can not honorably put anything in that treaty which Germany has signed and ratified without Germany's consent, whereas it is perfectly feasible, my fellow countrymen, if we put interpretations upon that
treaty, which its language clearly warrants, to notify the other Govern. ments of the world that we do understand the treaty in that sense. It is perfectly feasible to do so and perfectly honorable to do that, because, mark you, nothing can be done under this treaty through the instrumentality of the Council of the League of Nations except by unanimous vote. The vote of the United States will always be necessary, and it is perfectly legitimate for the United States to notify the other Governments beforehand that its vote in the Council of the League of Nations will be based upon such and such understanding of the provisions of the treaty."
Two days after the President made this speech a written appeal for ratification without delay and without amendments to the treaty with Germany was submitted to every member of the Senate by 250 leading Americans, Republicans as well as Democrats, in a nonpartizan effort to bring about prompt action by the Senate. The address was signed by former President Taft, former AttorneyGeneral Wickersham, President Lowell of Harvard, Judge George Gray of Delaware, President Gompers of the American Federation of Labor, Luther Burbank, Lyman Abbott, John Burroughs, Alton B. Parker, Oscar S. Straus, Jacob H. Schiff, Henry P. Davison, and others including Governors, former Governors and Senators. Men signing this petition lived in forty States of the Union, some of them of national reputation. The appeal declared that the "world is being put in imminent peril of new wars by the lapse of each day.” Delay in the Senate by postponing ratification “in this uncertain period of neither peace nor war, has resulted in indecision and doubt, has bred strife, and quickened the cupidity of those who sell the daily necessities of life and the fears of those whose daily wage no longer fills the daily market basket.” “The American people," the Senate was told, “can not after a victorious war, permit its Government to petition Germany for its consent to changes in the treaty.”
Opinion in the country was much divided as to the proper steps to be taken by the Senate. On the one hand many saw, in the refusal to accept the Treaty without reservations, merely a vindictive desire to embarrass the President, while by others it was pointed out that from the entry of the United States into the war, the President had received the whole-hearted support of the Republican party and that the same patriotic feeling was governing the Senate.
Another impetus, leading perhaps to an earlier ratification than had seemed likely, was given early in September by Herbert C. Hoover, in an interview with the press on his arrival from Europe where he had been continuing his notable and beneficent labors as the American Food Administrator. Mr. Hoover in effect reminded
Senators of the ruined cities and villages of France and Belgium which, under the terms of the treaty Germany was to restore, but neither the gold nor the labor for this work could be had until the treaty was ratified. While Senators were disputing over the future world attitude of America, the bodies of dead Europeans still lay unburied in the cellars of their nes, and survivors in the devastated regions were eating the bread of charity. Some 35,000,000 people were spread over a devastated, famine-stricken country, persecuted on one side by a German army in Silesia, and on the other by Bolsheviki over a front of 1,500 miles. Germans by terrorism were trying to force a vote for German government in Silesia, where lay the coal field of Central Europe. Coal mining in consequence was disorganized and railways, at least in eastern and southern Poland, were obliged to suspend service for want of fuel. Since rolling stock could not be divided between the Central European States as the Peace Treaty provided, traffic in Poland, Czecho-Slovakia and Lithuania continued to be greatly impeded. Poland was still without a port, except through German territory, and part of East Prussia was being stript of its harvest by the Germans, who were anticipating the annexation of that section under the treaty. Entente intervention was not possible until the Peace Treaty was signed. With the existence of all these conditions it was impossible for Poland to arrange foreign loans. Unable to provide raw material, her textile mills remained idle and her people were in rags. There was no hope in Poland of rehabilitating economic life and assuring the political independence of Poland and other states until peace was formally declared. This condition was typical of fifteen States in Europe, whose whole economic and political life was in a state of suspension that in many particulars was more disastrous than war itself had been. Seventy-five million people were living on Government unemployment doles.
At a dinner given in New York in his honor, Mr. Hoover said the war's end found Europe facing a famine the like of which had not been known since the ending of the Thirty Years' War. Throughout everything it seemed as if chaos had taken the reins, and over it all hung the menace of Bolshevism and anarchy. There was only one hope for Europe: that was the American people. It was in response to this appeal that President Wilson had intervened a second time in Europe; this time to rehabilitate her economic life. This service had been accomplished at no mean national sacrifice. From the armistice to the harvest of 1919, there had been furnished to Europe over $2,250,000,000 worth of supplies, the majority of which had been given freely upon the undertaking of the assisted
Governments of repayment at some future date. There had been no demand of special security; no political or economic privileges had been sought. The American people, by this second intervention, "had saved civilization."
On September 26 the President was stricken with illness at Wichita, Kansas, and was compelled to abandon his tour. For sometime he had shown by an increasing irritability the effect of the severe strain that he had been subjected to, yet he persisted in his effort to convert the country to his views concerning the Peace Treaty. Finally, however, the collapse came and, at the order of Doctor Grayson, the President's personal physician, all engagements for the future were cancelled and Mr. Wilson returned to Washington, arriving at the White House on September 29.
Dr. Grayson announced that the President was suffering from nervous exhaustion and that while his condition was "not alarming" "he would be obliged to rest for a considerable time.”
This sudden collapse gave rise to many alarming rumors, which the guarded bulletins from the sick-room did not tend to quell, and called forth from friend and foe alike genuine expressions of sympathy. So disturbing were the reports that the suggestion was made in Congress that the Vice-President should assume the duties of the President, as provided in Section One, Article Two of the Constitution. In face of the assurances from the physicians of the ultimate recovery of the President, however, this step was not taken.
Consequently, for several months the country was to all intents and purposes devoid of an executive head, and many matters of extreme importance were necessarily held in abeyance. It is true that the members of the Cabinet met on several occasions at the request of the Secretary of State, Mr. Lansing, but these meetings were necessarily of an informal nature and the government of the country was, none the less, at a standstill.
An unfortunate result of the President's illness was the inability of Viscount Grey, the newly appointed Ambassador from Great Britain, to present his credentials. Viscount Grey, who arrived in this country on September 26, returned to England on December 30 without having had an interview with President Wilson.
The utterances of the President in Cheyenne, Denver, and Pueblo, generally accepted as threats to withdraw the Treaty of Peace in case of the adoption by the Senate of specific amendments, gave the debate a stimulus too strong to allow of any actual truce between contending factions. In fact, it was generally recognized that the President's positive stand had brought the differences between himself and the Republican Senators to an unmistakable issue. This issue