« AnkstesnisTęsti »
every family in the belligerent nations is called upon to contribute blood and treasure, the people will inevitably decide for themselves the objects for which they are fighting. For the first time in history the public opinion of nations, not the private opinion of statesmen, will indicate the solutions to give to the questions before the peace conference.
Public opinion plays a more immediate rôle, in fact. Stupendous sacrifices in human lives, unprecedented financial demands upon the present and the future generations, have not enabled all of us together to bring Germany to her knees. It is mathematically sure that if we stick it out we shall have the victory. But the people who are paying the price want to understand clearly what the objectives are and what the objectives signify for each of the nations at war and for the world as a whole. Our statesmen cannot be too clearly warned that none of the belligerents intends to pull chestnuts out of the fire for another, and that those who have borne the brunt of the burden must not be kept indefinitely in uncertainty concerning our ideas of the terms of peace. All the Allied leaders are facing a situation where the exact objects for which the armies are fighting must be kept before the people clearly and unequivocally. These governmental aims must be satisfactory to the people. The different Allied peoples will have to satisfy one another.
Alsace-Lorraine is a concrete illustration of the vital importance of our taking a stand on European problems. Competent observers of American thought tell me that in America there is no widespread, clearly pronounced national sentiment which insists upon the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France. If the American Government is committed to back France to the bitter end in this question, the Americans do not seem to know it. The French certainly do not. winning back Alsace-Lorraine has become to the French the principal object of the war. I say this without hesitation. France would not have gone to war to win back Alsace and Lorraine, but the mo
ment Germany attacked France the pentup feelings of forty-three years broke loose. By those who did not know France, Marshal Joffre has been criticized for the initial, ill-fated expedition to Mülhausen and his proclamation to the Alsatians. The criticism is absurd. Joffre could not help himself. The Mülhausen expedition was France's answer to German aggression. Heart, not mind, rules in the great moments of life.
In the middle of August, 1914, before the years of sorrow began, France's first fortnight of the war was summed up in a sketch Georges Scott made for "L'Illustration." An Alsatian girl was clasped in the arms of a French soldier. A fallen frontier post marked Deutsches Reich lay on the ground beside them. Under the sketch was one simple word, "Enfin!" The sketch was reprinted by the hundreds of thousands. I have seen it in the trenches and in the rest camps everywhere along the French front, and I have seen it in the homes of patrician and bourgeois and peasant all over France. For a few months unpleasant experiences of the French troops in the retreat from Mülhausen and the discovery of false Alsatians domiciled in France caused a certain reaction in the attitude of the French toward the lost provinces. As the French came to realize that they had confused the German immigrés with real Alsatians, the feeling quickly passed. Far from being a sign of lack of sympathy, misunderstanding and coolness at the beginning showed how deeply the French felt about Alsace and Lorraine. One is most sensitive about what is most precious. In the declarations of successive ministries and in the press since the early months of 1915 the return of Alsace and Lorraine has been a subject upon which difference of opinion does not exist among Frenchmen.
Before the war, also, there was no difference of opinion about what would happen if a European war did break out. Frenchmen of the present generation have been brought up from infancy to regard Alsace and Lorraine as French. The French mind, however, with its admirable
quality of seeing and facing facts, believed the stolen goods recoverable only by a miracle. The French did not labor under the delusion that they would be able to win back the lost provinces in a war in which they stood alone against Germany, and they realized that no other nation would join them in attacking Germany for the purpose of wresting Alsace and Lorraine from the German Confederation. To understand the paradox of those who prayed for the miracle to happen and yet shrank from the ordeal of a European war, we must realize that France since 1870 has lived in Gethsemane. The cross was always there, but "let this cup pass from me." I feel as if I were trying to analyze something too sacred for words. But the analysis must be made. Americans simply must understand.
It wounds Frenchmen to hear Englishmen and Americans interpret the demand. for the return of Alsace and Lorraine as a question of revenge or of winning back territory. Our comrades-in-arms regard Alsace and Lorraine in a different light. To them the return of Alsace and Lorraine is a question of honor, of justice, of patriotism.
It is a question of honor. When the declaration of the deputies of Alsace and Lorraine was read at Bordeaux, and no answer could be given, shame and humiliation entered the soul of the French nation. The inhabitants of the eastern departments had fought loyally during the war of 1870. France, having failed to defend them, purchased peace from the victor at the price of their slavery. After the transfer had been made the inhabitants of Alsace and Lorraine continued to call to France. France was powerless to listen to their cry. The white-haired Frenchmen of to-day have never been allowed to forget the dishonor of their youth, and their children have inherited the shame and humiliation. Now France is fighting to wipe out the stain, to redeem the honor of the nation. There is joy in the crucifixion. But if it be not for redemption, the sacrifices of France are irreparable, and there will be death to this people, not resurrection.
It is a question of justice. The French are chivalrous by nature. They are keen about the wrongs of all subject races, and are as thoroughly imbued with the ideal of "the consent of the governed" as are Anglo-Saxons. The determination to continue to fight for the attainment of this ideal is enhanced in the particular case of Alsace and Lorraine by the fact that the people of the lost provinces have suffered for nearly half a century through France's own fault. The diplomatic blunders of Napoleon III and his ministers, the incompetent management and leadership of French generals, the hasty proclamation of the republic, made it possible for Germany to oppress Alsace and Lorraine. If the war does not end in undoing the wrongs nearest home, for what reason has France been fighting? There are obligations to Belgium and Serbia and other allies, but France rightly puts first the obligation to those of her own household.
It is a question of patriotism. The increase of wealth and population and territory through the return of Alsace and Lorraine to the mother country is no small stake to fight for, and it is a justifiable one, since it means taking back what has been stolen. But material considerations have little weight in this war, the prolonging of which is costing France far more than what Alsace and Lorraine could mean in compensation. It would be folly, not patriotism, to continue to fight for material gain where the outlay is greater than the stake. France did not fully realize how essential a part of the nation were the eastern departments until she lost them. The Third Republic has suffered more than can be measured by the amputation of a member of the national body. Like the populations of the Pas-de-Calais and the other northern and northeastern departments, the Alsatians and Lorrainers were an indispensable element of equilibrium in the political and economic and social structure of France. Patriotism, quite as much as honor and a sense of justice, cries out against the conclusion of a peace that does not stipulate
the return, pure and simple, of Alsace and Lorraine to France. For Frenchmen believe that the maintenance of the frontier along the Vosges would mean to France political and social injury of a mortal character.
So much for the sentiment and for the interest of France. The coalition against the Central powers is also interested in the return of Alsace and Lorraine to France.
We are fighting for a durable peace, we say. Can this durable peace be secured otherwise than by the substitution of right for force in international relations, by the removal of historic causes of conflict between nations, and by the reestablishment of all the belligerents within their legitimate boundaries? If we envisage peace solely as the forcing of the will of the conquerors upon the conquered, where, then, is the substitution of right for force? In every belligerent country the violent partizans, the cynics, and the reactionaries are banded together to combat the idea of the society of nations, and those who have taken at face-value the declared principles of the belligerents are called dreamers and dangerous fools. The great error of this war is the tendency to confuse the two terms, victory and peace. We must fight poison with poison, is the argument. Ergo, we shall have the victory only by doing as the Prussians do. All well and good. But if we go on to the next step and maintain that we must make peace as the Prussians would make it, we mock our dead. Are we crying out against the horror of a German peace, and in the same breath preparing to imitate what we consider no sacrifice too great to prevent our arch-enemy from doing? If we are not idealists, we are realists. If we are realists, what is the difference between ourselves and our enemies? The defeat of Germany is not an end. It is a means to an end. The end is the establishment of the principle that right makes might.
It is a pity that polemicists frequently fall into the trap of putting together clear and debatable issues. When they fail to
see distinctions and when they make analogies where there is no analogy, they do not serve the cause in which their pens are enlisted. "Going the whole hog" is dangerous. Absurd exaggerations of Polish claims and the attempt to put the aspirations of Italian irredentism on the same footing as France's title to AlsaceLorraine are examples of this. The successful pleader is he who knows what to leave out of his brief. Irredentist arguments, based on historical and ethnological considerations, can be met by exactly the same sort of reasoning on the other side. The question of Alsace-Lorraine is unique among the issues of the war. It must not be confused with certain aims of Italy, or with the revival of medieval states, some of which never existed as we conceive national organisms to-day.
The programs of partizans for remaking the map of Europe reveal the ignorance and inconsistency of those who present them. They are conceived not with the idea of rendering justice, but with the thought of breaking the power of the enemy. There is no effort to distinguish. between territories incorporated in their present political jurisdiction before the inhabitants as a whole had developed national consciousness and territories whose present political status was a violation of the will of the people concerned at the moment it was established, and has remained a violation of their will ever since. Of the latter category, Alsace-Lorraine stands out as the one clear case against Germany.
Hence the members of the coalition against the Central powers have a common interest in insisting upon the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France. Restoration to their rightful jurisdiction of the provinces wrested from France by force in 1870 will be the tangible symbol of our victory. It will mean the triumph of the principle for which we are fighting. It will prove to our enemies that we have been able to succeed in what we have set before us, the refutation of the doctrine that national expansion secured and maintained by force can receive the assent of the world. For a new order in interna
tional relations will be born of this war only by the abandonment of the doctrine of Cain that has heretofore been the basis of international polity. Unless our own national interests have dictated to us the wisdom of opposing a neighbor's title by force of arms, we have invariably accepted de facto extensions and changes of sovereignty. There never has been an international conscience. When we thought our own interests were at stake, we howled and sometimes backed our protests by force. Otherwise, we shrugged our shoulders, and said, "Laisser-faire!"
The future of Alsace-Lorraine is not a question between France and Germany. It is a question between the world and Germany, and we must see it that way. If Europe has been an armed camp since 1870, if the theft of Alsace-Lorraine was the beginning of a long preparation that visited upon the world its present calamities, is Germany alone to blame? What nation went to the aid of France at that time? What nation listened to the cry of distress of Alsatians and Lorrainers? What nation refused to accept the Peace of Frankfort? Because we tolerated this crime against civilization we all have our direct responsibility. Only those who strike their own breasts, with a sincere repetition of mea culpa, are successful in leading sinners to repentance.
But we cannot treat the question of Alsace-Lorraine solely from the French and international point of view. The reader who is far away from the bitterness and passion of the war and who is not impregnated with the feeling of France about Alsace-Lorraine will ask pointedly, "Is the milk spilt?" He will not be satisfied with assertions unsupported by facts of the continued loyalty of Alsatians and Lorrainers to France unless these assertions are supported by facts. Forty-seven years is a long time, and the Anglo-Saxon world is not ready to accept the French contention, voiced by Monsieur Ribot, that "a title based on right cannot be outlawed." Whatever the basis of the title, time does outlaw. The world has moved forward rapidly, and the economic and so
cial changes of the last half century are of a sweeping character. Because of the political evolution of nations, through universal education and universal suffrage, we have no right to assume that the children are bound by the action of their fathers or that they accept the judgment of their fathers. None can deny that the forcible incorporation of Alsace-Lorraine into the German Confederation was a violation of the principle of "the consent of the governed" in 1870. It does not follow per se, however, that the retention of Alsace-Lorraine in the German Confederation is a violation of that principle in 1918.
France's reasons for demanding the return of Alsace-Lorraine are convincing to her friends and allies. It is clear, also, that their interests-destroying German militarism and vindicating international morality — dictate a support of France's demand. But unless we are sure that the present generation wants to become French, the right and the wisdom of the restoration are open to question.
Now we have come to the very heart of the problem. Two questions arise. Are the lost provinces in the German Confederation against their will? Do they want to be reincorporated in France? Polemicists make these questions one and the same thing, and try to give a common answer. The result is that what they advocate lacks conviction to the impartial reader. In the eyes of the seeker after the truth, who does not intend to be misled or fooled, the case for France is not helped by briefs in which strong points and weak points, statements based on fact and inferences, are presented together as of equal value. A study of the polemical literature of the Alsace-Lorraine question shows how cleverly the Germans have attempted to strengthen their case by attacking the debatable arguments of their opponent.
Are the lost provinces in the German Confederation against their will? Yes. The proofs? Here they are: (1) proceedings of the Reichstag from 1871 to 1914 inclusive; (2) editorials and news columns of the papers of Strasburg, Mül
hausen, Colmar, and Metz, which fairly represent the whole of Alsace-Lorraine; (3) the testimony of ecclesiastics, Catholic and Protestant alike, who know the feeling of the people; (4) the attitude of the land-owning and industrial bourgeois classes; (5) the wide-spread refusal of young Alsatians and Lorrainers of all classes, in the face of exile, confiscation of property, and death, to serve in the German armies.
(1) The official reports of the sessions of the Reichstag show that the deputies of Alsace-Lorraine have never ceased to protest against their political status. These deputies were elected by universal suffrage, and their sentiments were known to their constituents. In the course of debates members of the Reichstag from other parts of Germany have frequently admitted that the Alsace-Lorraine members were interpreting accurately the opinion. of those whom they represented. Most striking is the evidence afforded by the official proceedings in 1910, 1911, and 1913. When the present war broke out the most prominent Alsatians and Lorrainers in the Reichstag fled from Germany and have carried on ever since their campaign of protest in France, Great Britain, and the United States. I know some of these men. Their record is clear. Fearless and of unquestioned integrity, they have sacrificed everything to represent their constituents before the public opinion of the world.
(2) Fortunately, just as members of the Reichstag were elected by universal suffrage and could speak freely, there was also liberty of the press in Germany. Newspaper editors, writers, and cartoonists were sometimes prosecuted and always persecuted by the German authorities. But there was no preventive censorship. In the newspaper files, which give the history of Alsace-Lorraine during the fortythree years between the two wars, written from day to day by people on the spot, we have not only the opinion of editorial. writers and cartoonists, but also the freshly recorded facts concerning events as they took place. The year 1913 shows no
change from the year 1872. I was personally interested in the question of Alsace-Lorraine before the present war, and between the years of 1910 and 1914 I have corroborated the statements of outside writers by consulting the newspapers of the locality where these events occurred. So there is no doubt in my mind about the accuracy of what has been written to show the hostility of Alsatians and Lorrainers of the present generation to Germany and to their position in the German Confederation. The facts are against German polemicists who assert that this hostility is shown by a few irreconcilables.
(3) German supporters among the ecclesiastics of Alsace-Lorraine are almost without exception immigrés.
to priests and pastors of Alsatian birth I have not found one who does not tell me that the members of his flock are antiGerman. Since 1870, even when German menaces came in the form of orders from ecclesiastical superiors and meant the sacrifice of preferment, the clergy and the religious orders remained obdurate. During the decade before the present war the Catholic Church had just grievances against France. In 1914, however, wherever the French returned into Alsatian territory, they were received with open arms by the local clergy. Contrast this attitude with that of the Belgian clergy in face of the German invasion. The religious orders dropped with alacrity German teaching in the schools and, although French was to many of them a less familiar language, they started to use it at once. No pressure was brought to bear by the French military authorities inside or outside the schools. In view of the pro-Germanism of many Catholic prelates and priests in Spain and Italy, these facts are most significant. Most of the immigrés are Protestant; but the aristrocracy of landed proprietors and the wealthy industrial bourgeoisie, the strongest elements of undying hostility to Germany, are also Protestant. Pastors have proved themselves as implacable enemies of Germanism as are the priests. The religious question, then, does not enter in.