The Economic Consequences of the Peace eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 207 pages of information about The Economic Consequences of the Peace.

    Fair is foul, and foul is fair,
    Hover through the fog and filthy air.

The subtlest sophisters and most hypocritical draftsmen were set to work, and produced many ingenious exercises which might have deceived for more than an hour a cleverer man than the President.

Thus instead of saying that German-Austria is prohibited from uniting with Germany except by leave of France (which would be inconsistent with the principle of self-determination), the Treaty, with delicate draftsmanship, states that “Germany acknowledges and will respect strictly the independence of Austria, within the frontiers which may be fixed in a Treaty between that State and the Principal Allied and Associated Powers; she agrees that this independence shall be inalienable, except with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations,” which sounds, but is not, quite different.  And who knows but that the President forgot that another part of the Treaty provides that for this purpose the Council of the League must be unanimous.

Instead of giving Danzig to Poland, the Treaty establishes Danzig as a “Free” City, but includes this “Free” City within the Polish Customs frontier, entrusts to Poland the control of the river and railway system, and provides that “the Polish Government shall undertake the conduct of the foreign relations of the Free City of Danzig as well as the diplomatic protection of citizens of that city when abroad.”

In placing the river system of Germany under foreign control, the Treaty speaks of declaring international those “river systems which naturally provide more than one State with access to the sea, with or without transhipment from one vessel to another.”

Such instances could be multiplied.  The honest and intelligible purpose of French policy, to limit the population of Germany and weaken her economic system, is clothed, for the President’s sake, in the august language of freedom and international equality.

But perhaps the most decisive moment, in the disintegration of the President’s moral position and the clouding of his mind, was when at last, to the dismay of his advisers, he allowed himself to be persuaded that the expenditure of the Allied Governments on pensions and separation allowances could be fairly regarded as “damage done to the civilian population of the Allied and Associated Powers by German aggression by land, by sea, and from the air,” in a sense in which the other expenses of the war could not be so regarded.  It was a long theological struggle in which, after the rejection of many different arguments, the President finally capitulated before a masterpiece of the sophist’s art.

At last the work was finished; and the President’s conscience was still intact.  In spite of everything, I believe that his temperament allowed him to leave Paris a really sincere man; and it is probable that to this day he is genuinely convinced that the Treaty contains practically nothing inconsistent with his former professions.

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The Economic Consequences of the Peace from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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