“The President has issued a public statement, which appears in this morning’s papers, in which he refers to the ‘surprising impression’ that the discussions concerning the League of Nations have delayed the making of peace and he flatly denies that the impression is justified.
“I doubt if this statement will remove the general impression which amounts almost to a conviction. Every one knows that the President’s thoughts and a great deal of his time prior to his departure for the United States were given to the formulation of the plan for a League and that he insisted that the ‘Covenant’ should be drafted and reported before the other features of the peace were considered. The real difficulties of the present situation, which had to be settled before the treaty could be drafted, were postponed until his return here on March 13th.
“In fact the real bases of
peace have only just begun to receive the
attention which they deserve.
“If such questions as the Rhine Provinces, Poland, reparations, and economic arrangements had been taken up by the President and Premiers in January, and if they had sat day and night, as they are now sitting in camera, until each was settled, the peace treaty would, I believe, be to-day on the Conference’s table, if not actually signed.
“Of course the insistence that the plan of the League be first pushed to a draft before all else prevented the settlement of the other questions. Why attempt to refute what is manifestly true? I regret that the President made the statement because I do not think that it carries conviction. I fear that it will invite controversy and denial, and that it puts the President on the defensive.”
The views expressed in this memorandum were those held, I believe, by the great majority of persons who participated in the Peace Conference or were in intimate touch with its proceedings. Mr. Wilson’s published denial may have converted some to the belief that the drafting of the Covenant was in no way responsible for the delay of the peace, but the number of converts must have been very few, as it meant utter ignorance of or indifference to the circumstances which conclusively proved the incorrectness of the statement.
The effect of this attempt of President Wilson to check the growing popular antipathy to the League as an obstacle to the speedy restoration of peace was to cause speculation as to whether he really appreciated the situation. If he did not, it was affirmed that he was ignorant of public opinion or else was lacking in mental acuteness. If he did appreciate the state of affairs, it was said that his statement was uttered with the sole purpose of deceiving the people. In either case he fell in public estimation. It shows the unwisdom of having issued the denial.