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The Problem of Ratifying the Treaty
By HERBERT ADAMS GIBBONS
However imbued with idealism and internationalism we Americans may be, it would be folly for us to enter blindly and unreservedly under unqualified conditions a League of Nations which is simply a coalition of victorious powers, presided over by diplomats of the old school.
O ALL the nations that participated in the conference of Paris except Great Britain and China it is a problem, what attitude to adopt toward the Treaty of Versailles.
China solved the problem by not accepting the treaty at all. Her delegates refused to sign the document that put thirty millions of their fellow-citizens of the sacred and historic province of Shan-tung into the hands of Japan. At the command of the President of the United States, the American Minister to China formally invited the Chinese to participate in the World War for the triumph of certain definite principles which had been clearly set forth in detail by the President, who said he spoke on behalf of the American people. On this basis, believing in President Wilson, the Chinese came into the war. When they discovered in the Treaty of Versailles that their confidence had been betrayed, they simply withdrew from the conference, whose leaders seemed to them to have lost all sense of honor and self-respect. In his spectacular trip west to defend the treaty President Wilson tried to explain away the Shan-tung deal, but he could not fool others where he had fooled himself.
The British Parliament ratified the treaty without debate. Naturally. Like the Treaty of Vienna a hundred years ago and the Treaty of Berlin forty years ago, the Treaty of Versailles is a triumph of British foreign policy. The Continental powers are weak and disrupted, incapable of threatening in the near future "the
peace of the world" as Downing Street understands that term, and of contesting with the Mistress of the Seas extra-European markets and intercontinental carrying trade. German naval power is destroyed, German colonial and commercial ambitions have received a serious setback. Russia is no longer a menace to British supremacy in Persia and the rest of Asia. The Treaty of Versailles establishes new safeguards to India by recognizing the British protectorate over Egypt, by ignoring the plea of Persia to be a signatory of, or at least a beneficiary by, the treaty, by making no provision for the future of Asiatic and Transcaucasian Russia, and by giving international sanction to Great Britain's secret treaties, no matter what as yet unknown provisions those treaties may contain. It makes Great Britain the dominant power in Africa. It accepts the right of the British Cabinet to speak for and sign for the 300,000,000 inhabitants of India. Above all, it stipulates that the United States shall underwrite the aggrandized British Empire, whose self-governing population numbers 60,000,000, by entering a League of Nations in which the British will have six votes, and in which the United States, with a self-governing population of 100,000,000, will have one vote. Only on a single point, the indemnity question, were British parliamentarians disappointed. But being sensible men, they let well enough alone, promptly ratified the treaty, and looked to the rest of the world to follow suit.
But the other nations have their misgivings. "Contemptible quitters,"
as President Wilson is pleased to call his American opponents, are not confined to the United States Senate. It is important for us to remember this.
The Treaty of Versailles was subject to long and penetrating criticism in the French Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Clear-headed and farsighted men in French political life have not ceased to protest against the treaty on the same grounds as American senators: (1) fear that national interests have been sacrificed to questionable international advantages; (2) uncertainty as to the adequacy of the means of enforcing the provisions of the treaty; (3) dissatisfaction with the League of Nation's covenant as it stands in the treaty; (4) doubt as to the wisdom of attempting to incorporate in one document the solution of two different questions, making peace with Germany and setting up the machinery of a new-world order. During the conference of Paris I had the privilege of traveling far and wide in France and of coming into contact with all classes of Frenchmen. I found everywhere the same sentiments that have since been expressed in the parliamentary discussions over the treaty. That part of the "heart of the world" which is France accepted with joy the Wilsonian theories of the bases of a just and durable peace-before the conference of Paris; but when I left France at the end of August, 1919, Mr. Wilson was thoroughly discredited. The last straw was his statement to the Senate committee that the additional treaty he signed with Premiers Clemenceau and Lloyd George, guaranteeing to come to the aid of France in case of a fresh German aggression, was only a "moral understanding." An enthusiastic champion of the Wilsonian principles, with a brilliant record of nearly half a century of public life, said to me sadly, "After all, your President is merely a politician like the others."
In Belgium I found ratification of the treaty regarded as a painful necessity. There was no enthusiasm for it, and no hope that a new order would be born of it. The prime ministers of Greece and Rumania told me that the
work of the conference of Paris and the creation of the League of Nations could not be pronounced either good or bad by their countries until the other treaties with enemy countries were concluded. But both of them felt that new wars and not peace were likely to be the result of the secret pourparlers among the "Big Four" that gave birth to the Treaty of Versailles. The minister of foreign affairs of another "secondary state" expressed to me his belief that the incorporation of the League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles killed its chances of success. "How can international machinery for righting justice and establishing a new international morality be provided for in a document that furnishes numerous instances of just the sort of thing the League of Nations is created to abolish?" he cried. I can see him now as he walked up and down the room, shaking both arms, with elbows bended, and saying, "Pooling of interests, renunciation of special interests, refusal to transfer territories from one sovereignty to another without consulting their inhabitants, recognition of the right of self-determination-bah! bah! BAH!" The poor man had just been shown a draft of the clauses relating to his country that were to be put into the treaty of St.Germain. "If this is the Big Four's idea of how an international council should function," he declared, "we shall not ratify the Treaty of Versailles or any of the other treaties, and we do not want to enter Wilson's League of Nations."
In Italy the spirit of revolt against the League of Nations and the determination to make the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles dependent upon how national interests are acknowledged in the other treaties is universal. It is idle to close our eyes to this fact. Italians claim that the Treaty of Versailles has recognized and guaranteed in every way all British demands and selfish interests, and in almost every particular French demands and selfish interests. It has given Japan what Japan wanted in defiance of Wilsonian principles. Why should Italy ratify a treaty so much to