THE LEFT BANK OF THE RHINE
THIS was one of the main issues of the Peace Conference. It brought out more clearly, more seriously than any other, the difference in national psychology, the difficulty that governments and peoples have in understanding one another, albeit they are loyal Allies, united by victory and by sacrifice. The occupation of the left bank of the Rhine and of the bridgeheads was for us French both an indispensable guarantee for the enforcement of the peace, and a necessary assurance against invasion such as had occurred twice in fifty years. To others, associated though they were heart and soul in our perils of the past and future but interpreting history in a different light, this occupation, no matter what its form or duration, seemed unjustifiable, useless and dangerous.
As early as November, 1918, Marshal Foch on purely military grounds had addressed a Note to M. Clemenceau, laying stress on the necessity of making the Rhine the Western frontier of Germany. On January 10 following, in a second Note which he handed to the Commanders-in-Chief of the Allied Armies, Marshal Foch had developed his arguments and summed them up in the following conclusion:
Marshal von Moltke placed the military frontier of Germany at the Rhine, and at the end of one of his papers writes: "There can be no doubt about the ordinary strength of our theatre of operations on the Rhine. One thing only could endanger it---a premature offensive by us on the left bank with insufficient forces." And elsewhere he states: "The main line of defense of Prussia against France is the Rhine with its fortresses. This line is so strong that it is far from requiring all the forces of the monarchy."
To-day this situation is reversed in favour of the coalition. The coalition cannot renounce its advantages, cannot relinquish its buckler of defense in that region---the Rhine---without seriously compromising its future. The "Wacht am Rhein" must be its slogan.
Henceforth the Rhine must be the Western frontier of the German peoples. Germany must be deprived of all access to or military utilization of it, that is to say, of all territorial sovereignty on the left bank of this River---in a word, of every facility to reach by sudden invasion, as in 1914, of Belgium and Luxemburg, the shores of the North Sea and threaten England; to move around France's natural defenses, the Rhine and the Meuse; to conquer her northern regions and approach that of Paris.
This is, for the present and the near future, a guarantee indispensable for the maintenance of peace, because:
1. Of Germany's material and moral situation.
2. Of her numerical superiority over the democratic countries of Western Europe.
The Rhine, a military frontier indispensable for the maintenance of peace, which is the aim of the coalition, offers no territorial advantage to any country. There is no question indeed of annexing the left bank of the Rhine, of increasing the territory of France or of Belgium but simply one of maintaining on the Rhine the common barrier of security essential to the society of democratic nations. There is no question of entrusting the guardianship of this common barrier to any one Power, but of assuring by the moral and material support of all the democratic powers the defense of their lives and futures by forbidding Germany, once for all, to carry war and her spirit of domination across the river.
Of course it will be the function of the Peace Treaty to fix the status of the inhabitants of the left bank of the Rhine not included within the French and Belgian frontiers.
But this arrangement, whatever it be, must take into consideration the military necessity set forth above and therefore,
1. Absolutely forbid to Germany all military access to, or political propaganda in, the Rhenish territories of the left bank, perhaps even protecting this territory by a neutral zone on the right bank.
2. Assure the military occupation of the Rhenish territories of the left bank by Allied forces.
3. Guarantee to the Rhenish territories of the left bank the outlet necessary to their economic activities by bringing them into a customs union with the other Western States.
On these conditions, and in accordance with the universally accepted principle of the liberty of peoples, it is possible to conceive the establishment, on the left bank of the Rhine, of new autonomous States, governing themselves subject to the above reservations, an arrangement which with the aid of a strong natural frontier the Rhine will alone be capable of assuring Peace to Western Europe.
M. Clemenceau, after examining these two documents, decided to support their conclusions. He was even of the opinion that in view of objections which preliminary discussions had already foreshadowed it would be necessary to reinforce this thesis with historical and political arguments, and at the same time to dispel the anxiety and answer the adverse criticism which it seemed to have aroused. I was entrusted, therefore, with the preparation of a general Memorandum in support of our demand. This document served as a basis for the whole discussion., It seems to me indispensable to publish it in full.
MEMORANDUM OF THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT On the FIXATION at the RHINE of the WESTERN FRONTIER of GERMANY and on INTER-ALLIED OCCUPATION of the RHINE BRIDGES.
THE OBJECTS TO BE ATTAINED
The considerations which the French Government submits to the Conference on the subject of the left bank of the Rhine have no selfish character.
They do not tend towards annexations of territories. They aim at the suppression of a common danger and the creation of a common protection.
It is a problem of general interest, a problem which France, the first exposed to the danger it is sought to avert, has the right and duty to place before the Conference, but which directly affects all the Allied and Associated Nations and can be solved only by them conjointly.
The essential aim which the Conference seeks to attain is to prevent by all just means that which has been from ever occurring again.
Now, what happened in 1914 was possible only for one reason: Germany because of her mastery over offensive preparations made by her on the left bank of the river thought herself capable of crushing the democracies, France and Belgium, before the latter could receive the aid of the Overseas Democracies, Great Britain, the Dominions, and the United States.
It was because this was possible that Germany determined to attack.
It is therefore this possibility which must be done away with, by depriving Germany of the means which permitted her to believe in the success of her plan.
In a word there is no question of the aggrandizement of any of the Allied Nations; it is merely a question of placing Germany in a position where she can do no harm by imposing upon her conditions indispensable to the common security of the Western Democracies and of their overseas Allies and associates, as well as to the very existence of France.
There is no question of annexing an inch of German soil; only of depriving Germany of her weapons of offense.
THE NECESSITY OF INTER-ALLIED OCCUPATION OF THE RHINE BRIDGES
It is necessary first to examine the nature of the danger to be averted; to show whom it threatens, in what it consists; by what means it can be suppressed.
1. The danger is common to all the Allies.
(a) If, in 1914, the Germans, throwing back the Belgians, the French and the few British divisions then in line, had taken the Channel ports, the aid brought by Great Britain in 1915 to the common cause would have been greatly delayed if not entirely prevented.
If, in 1918, the Germans had taken Paris, the concentration of the French Armies south of the Loire and the forcing back of our war industries would certainly have delayed the landing and movement by rail of the American Army, then just beginning to arrive, and this delay would have had consequences of the utmost gravity.
Thus, there is no doubt, on two occasions---and it would be easy to furnish other instances---the military assistance of the two great overseas Powers came very near being hampered, if not prevented entirely, before actually taking shape.
(b) In order that this may never be so, that is to say, in order that the maritime Powers may play a useful part on the Continent in a defensive war against an aggression coming from the East, they must have the assurance that French territory will not be overrun in a few days.
In other words, should there not remain enough French ports for the Overseas Armies to debark their troops and war supplies, should there not remain enough French territory for them to concentrate and operate from their bases, the Overseas Democracies would be debarred from waging a continental war against any Power seeking to dominate the Continent. They would be deprived of their nearest and most natural battleground. Nothing would be left to them but Naval and Economic warfare.
So, the lesson made plain by the last war is that a strong natural protection on the East is a matter of common concern to the Western and Overseas Democracies. And this lesson is emphasized by the fact that Russia to-day no longer exists.
To decide upon this protection, let us first see whence the danger comes.
2. The danger conies from the possession by Germany of the left bank and the Rhine bridges.
If Germany was able to plan and execute the sudden attack which nearly settled the outcome of the war in five weeks, it was because she held the left bank of the Rhine and had made of it against her neighbors an offensive military base constantly and quickly supplied, thanks to the capacity of the Rhine bridges.
All military history since 1815 demonstrates this and the plan is written out in full in the publications as well as in the acts of the German General Staff.
(a) History first, that of 1870, as of 1914.
In 1870, despite the then shortcomings of the Prussian system of railways, it was on the left bank that the concentration of the Prussian troops was carried out.
This fact is all the more significant because the Prussian General Staff was still under the impression of the reputation of the French Army in attack and consequently, very cautious. Despite this, but on the hypothesis that France would have taken the initiative, Prussia had confined itself to the preparation of a plan of concentration farther east but always on the left bank.
In other words, she had no thought of using the river as a protection; and, in any contingency, she looked upon it as the offensive base indispensable to the execution of a plan of attack. It is known that in fact, thanks to its concentration on the left bank, the Prussian Army invaded France in less than three weeks.
In 1914, the same situation produced the same results. But things moved faster, thanks to the enormous developments of facilities. Germany, massed once more on the left bank of the Rhine (and much nearer to the French frontier than in 1870, because of the perfection of her railway system) was in a few hours able to carry the war to Belgium and to France, and in a few weeks to the very heart of France.
Before even the declaration of war Germany invaded a region from which France drew 90 per cent. of her iron ore, 86 per cent. of her pig iron,, 75 per cent. of her steel, while 95 out of the 127 blast furnaces fell into the hands of the enemy.
This situation permitted Germany to multiply her war resources, while depriving France of her most necessary means of defense. It nearly resulted in the taking of Paris in 1914, of Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne six weeks later.
All this was possible only because, at our very gates, at a few days' march from our capital, Germany had the most formidable offensive military base known to history.
(b) This military base she has had for a century and in pursuit of a policy of aggression which has never varied---and which had as its objective the bridgeheads of the Sarre in 1815, of the Rhine and of the Moselle in 1870, and of the Meuse in 1914---has constantly reinforced it, openly asserting that the left bank of the Rhine was indispensable to her for that purpose.
During the negotiations at the Conference of Vienna, Gneisenau and Grolman already indicated that the "main concentration of the Prussian Army must take place between the Rhine and the Moselle."
Won over by their insistence, Castlereagh wrote to Wellington on October 1, 1815: "Mr. Pitt was altogether right when, as early as 1805, he wanted to give Prussia more territory on the left bank of the Rhine, and thus put her in closer military contact with France."
In 1832, Boyen repeated that the point of concentration must be Treves.
In 1840, Grolman, reiterating the same idea, declared the first objective of German concentration to be an offensive in Lorraine and in Champagne.
The same idea prompted Moltke's plan of operations against France in 1870. It is this same plan that Germany carried out in 1914 on an unprecedented scale and with unprecedented violence.
Finally, need we recall that in November, 1917, Admiral von Tirpitz declared in an address to the German Fatherland League, that "without the possession of the left bank, Germany would have been unable to pass her Armies through a neutral Belgium ?"
(c) Such being the doctrine Germany translated into action by organizing for military purposes the left bank of the Rhine and the bridges which are the key to that organization.
With this in view she built fortresses, concentration camps, finally and above all, a railway system powerfully equipped for attack and linked by the Rhine bridges with the whole railway system on the right bank, which also was laid out for the same purposes of attack. The fortifications of the Rhine and of its left bank comprised in addition to the fortified districts of Metz-Thionville and Strassburg-Molsheim (whose rôle will disappear with the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France) the Rhine fortresses---Cologne, Coblenz and Mayence---crossing points for the strategic railways, and vast entrenched camps (supplies, equipment, barracks, and factories and workshops, etc.).
The training camps, like that of Malmedy, were suitable for transformation into concentration camps---an easy way of concentrating troops under pretense of training in the neighborhood of a peaceful or even neutral state (France, Belgium, Luxemburg).
The railway system is of still wider significance. A glance at the map of German railways on the right bank of the Rhine, will show that nine great independent transportation highways converge towards the bridges and continue across them to the left bank.
Eight of these nine highways run between Duisburg and Rastatt, flooding the French frontier with troops and preparing the way for aggression.
It is, therefore, obvious that the plan of aggression, conceived and prepared as early as 1815, and twice executed---in 1870 and 1914---was based upon the transportation capacity of the Rhine bridges. Without the left bank, and above all, without the bridges---the second feeding the first---aggression would not have been possible.
(d) And this is so true, that, as early as 1909, General von Falkenhausen, in his book Der Grosse Krieg der Jetztzeit, showed that by her mastery of the bridges, Germany could wage war in enemy territory even supposing that the French, British and Italian Armies had utilized before the opening of hostilities the territories of Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Rhine, and had carried out their concentration in front of the Schlestadt-Sarreburg-Saint-Avold-Luxemburg-Bastogne line.
Even in such a contingency, according to the General, if Germany concentrated on the Rhine and controlled the bridges, the transportation capacity of these bridges would enable her, in three days, to transport half of her forces---more than twenty Army Corps---to the line Juliers-Duren-Koehem-Birkenfeld-Kaiserlautern-Haguenau, without her adversaries having time to prevent it.
It will be seen that the hypothetical conditions stated by General von Falkenhausen correspond exactly to the situation which would arise if peace were to leave Germany in possession of the Rhine bridges. This possession of these bridges, according to the General's own demonstration, would suffice, no matter what happened, to assure to Germany the advantages of an offensive war.
This hypothesis proves, in other words, that the danger arises from the possession by Germany not only of the left bank but also and, above all, of the Rhine bridges.
Thus, geography, history and the doctrine of the German General Staff all go to prove that the aggressive power of Germany depends upon the strategic railway system she has built on the left bank of the Rhine, taken in combination with the river fortresses, that is to say, in the last analysis, that her power of aggression is measured by the transportation capacity of the Rhine bridges.
If that power of aggression is to be abolished, it is essential to take from Germany not only the left bank, but the Rhine bridges, which amounts to the fixation of her Western frontier at the Rhine.
That is an absolutely essential condition. Is it a sufficient safeguard?
3. The safety of the Western and Overseas Democracies makes it imperative, in present circumstances, for them to guard the bridges of the Rhine.
Would the non-occupation by Germany of the left bank and the bridges suffice to prevent the renewal of her sudden attacks of 1870 and 1914? Certainly not.
(a) If indeed the bridges are not guarded against Germany, she can easily seize them by reason of her railway system on the right bank. The railway map shows this.
Can it be said that in this case it be enough to destroy the system of strategic railways on the left bank? It would either be impossible or useless.
Impossible, because a total destruction cannot be conceived; for the railways respond to economic as well as to strategic demands.
Useless, because a partial destruction, involving only the military equipment, would be ineffective, for the military and the commercial stations are often the same.
It would always, therefore, be possible for Germany either to build new stations on commercial pretexts or to supplement those already existing with debarcation sidings along the tracks.
(b) On the other hand, even dismantled, the Rhine towns, with their bridges, railway stations, commercial equipment could always constitute splendid points for the detraining and concentration of troops.
In other words, the only positive guarantee against a German aggression is inter-allied occupation of the bridges, for, if once this occupation is effected and Germany were again to plan an aggression, it would first be necessary for her to modify her railway system on the right bank. This would quickly become known.
Therefore, the occupation of the bridges is the minimum protection essential to the Western and Overseas Democracies.
(c) It is also an indispensable protection for the new States which the Allies have called into being to the cast and south of Germany.
Let us suppose that Germany, controlling the Rhine, should decide to attack the Republic of Poland, or the Republic of Bohemia.
Established defensively on the Rhine, she would hold in check for how long nobody knows the Western nations coming to the rescue of the young Republics, and the latter would be crushed before they could receive aid.
To sum up:
(a) The common safety of the Western and Overseas Democracies makes it essential that Germany should be unable to renew her sudden attack of 1870 and 1914.
(b) To prevent Germany from renewing that attack, it is essential to forbid her access to the left bank of the Rhine, and to fix her western border at the river.
(c) To forbid her this access, it is essential that the bridges be occupied.
This is the one and only way:
(a) To deprive Germany of her offensive base.
(b) To provide the Western Democracies with a proper and reliable defense; first, by the width of the Rhine (preventing any sudden attack by means of gases, tanks, etc.... ) ; second, by its straight course (preventing any flanking movement).
The history of a whole. century shows the necessity of this defense! The common safety of the Allies demands that the Rhine should become, in President Wilson's words "the frontier of freedom."
INADEQUACY OF PRESENT GUARANTEES FURNISHED BY THE LIMITATIONS OF THE MILITARY FORCES OF GERMANY OR BY THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS
Everybody, we believe, will be agreed on the object to be attained. But it may be asked whether there is only one way to attain it.
In other words, is the guarantee---Germany and her military forces thrust back across the Rhine and the Rhine bridges occupied by the Allies---which the French Government deems absolutely indispensable, the only one which can possibly attain the object sought?
Would not sufficient protection be afforded, on the contrary, either by limitation of Germany's military forces or by the terms of the first draft of the League of Nations?
To this question, the French Government for the following reasons makes a negative reply.
1. The limitation of the military forces of Germany is not at present an adequate guarantee.
(a) Germany's military strength rests upon three basic factors.
Man Power (seventy million inhabitants, furnishing 650,000 men a year) ; war supplies (existing stocks and potential production); General Staff (which constitutes a veritable State within the State).
Measures for limiting Germany's military forces are under consideration. They must rest upon the three foregoing factors, and more especially restrict:
---the number and composition of divisions, the annual contingent, etc.
---the equipment and supplies.
---the old military organization (war college, manoeuvres, etc.).
Suppose Germany accepts these restrictions. Will this be a complete safeguard? No.
(b) First history---though not wishing to lay undue stress upon its lessons---teaches the value of skepticism.
Just one instance; in September, 1808, Napoleon imposed upon Prussia the undertaking that for ten years she would not keep an Army of more than 42,000 men or resort to any extraordinary levy of militia or national guards or to any other device which might give her a military force exceeding this total of 42,000 men. But what actually happened?
In spite of Napoleon's unceasing diplomatic and military supervision, Prussia managed to elude or nullify all the clauses. Knowing that with a population of five millions, she could maintain an Army of 150,000 men, she passed all her male population fit for service through the Army in the shortest time possible, by reducing the term of active service, and she also organized preliminary military instruction in her schools.
Despite her conqueror's threats and his power to bring pressure to bear upon Prussia, this military reorganization proceeded uninterruptedly and resulted in the creation of the great National Army of several hundred thousand men which was mobilized in 1813.
(c) So much for the past. Will it be said that we shall have in the future more effective means of supervision than Napoleon had? Perhaps. But we answer that the difficulties attending this supervision will increase far more than the efficacy of our means of supervision.
Instead of a small country of five million inhabitants, we shall have to deal with a country of seventy millions.
Instead of a country without industries, we shall have to deal with a country possessing huge industrial resources.
For our supervision to be real, it should extend over:
---the war budget
---the industrial budget
---the organization of the General Staff and of the Army
---the size of the Army and the recruiting laws
---the supplies of war material
---the manufacturing capacity of the whole German territory
---the moral influences including schools and education.
Does anyone believe that this supervision can be established in a day? Does anyone believe that we shall know, for many years to come, whether or not it is effective? Assuredly not.
Can it fail to be recognized, on the other hand, that during the next few years Germany will retain through force of circumstances a military force, certain elements of which cannot be reduced---viz.:
---highly trained staffs
---an enormous corps of trained officers (110,500 in August, 1918, excluding the Bavarian Army)
---millions of soldiers broken to war
---a man power of military age which will grow for many years in direct ratio to the steady increase in the German birth rate.,
---war supplies and manufacturing potentialities, part of which Germany can conceal, since we, ourselves,---the Allies-have not yet been able to make an accurate estimate of our own existing war material.
And can one on the other hand rely upon Germany for an honest fulfillment of her undertaking, when the so-called German Democracy shows in every direction a total lack of morality and has placed at its head men who were the most active agents of militarism and imperialism: Ebert, Scheidemann, David, Erzberger and Brockdorff-Rantzau, not to mention Hindenburg?
Besides as regards their intentions, we have their own statements. The Ebert Government has declared its intention of adopting the Swiss military system. Translated into figures, what does this meant?
It means that Germany could on the basis of Swiss military law mobilize 193 divisions with the corresponding army troops---the exact force which she hurled against the Western front in her spring offensive of 1918.
Again in the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten of January 25, 1919, was published a statement by the Bavarian war minister, estimating at 7,700,000 men the war strength of the future German Army, 3,200,000 of them being fighting troops.
(d) From all this we may draw a conclusion, which all will admit to be just and conservative, that, at least for the present and for years to come, no limitation of Germany's forces is possible, no supervision of this limitation can assure complete safety, either to the victims of the German aggression in 1914, or to the new states now in process of formation.
On the seas the total surrender of the German Navy has, to a large extent, afforded such a safeguard. On land nothing of the kind is possible.
The result is that whatever improvement the future may bring to the general world situation, the limitation of Germany's military power can at present only hold out troops to the Western Democracies, but in no wise constitute a certain safeguard!
But hopes---without certainty---cannot suffice to those who suffered the aggression of 1914.
Hopes---without certainty---cannot suffice Belgium, victim of her loyalty to her pledged word, punished for her loyalty by invasion, fire, pillage, rape and ruin.
Hopes---without certainty---cannot suffice France, invaded before any declaration of war, deprived in a few hours (because she had drawn her troops back from the border to avoid incidents) of 90 per cent. of her iron ore and 86 per cent. of her pig iron. Hopes-without certainty---cannot suffice France whose losses were 1,364,000 killed, 790,000 crippled and 3,000,000 wounded, not to mention 438,000 prisoners who suffered physical martyrdom in German prison camps. Hopes---without certainty---cannot suffice France who lost 16 per cent. of her mobilized man power and 57 per cent. of her soldiers under 31 years of age---the most productive part of the nation. Hopes---without certainty---cannot suffice France who saw a fourth of her productive capital blotted out by the systematic destruction of, her industrial districts in the North and in the East, who saw taken into captivity---and what captivity---her children, her women and her girls.
To these two countries---Belgium and France---certain safeguards are essential---not only the certainty of never again being exposed to what they suffered five years ago, but also the certainty that, failing physical guarantees, they will not have to bear overwhelming military burdens. But these certain safeguards cannot be furnished France, and Belgium by the limitation of German military power.
2. Nor can the League of Nations, at present, provide an adequate guarantee.
Can this complete security, which is indispensable and which cannot now be given either by limiting German military power, or by supervising this limitation, be found in the Covenant of the League of Nations, as now submitted to the Conference?
(a) Eight articles of the draft Covenant (Articles X to XVIII) define the guarantees against aggression assured to the members of the League. These guarantees may be said to consist in a double interval of time, viz.:
(1) The longest possible time between the threat of war and the act of war (to increase the chances of reaching agreement).
(2) The shortest possible time between the act of war and the concerted action of the League members in aid of the country attacked.
Under such conditions, we believe that this guarantee is inadequate to prevent the recurrence of what took place in 1914, i. e. a sudden attack by Germany against France and Belgium and the immediate invasion of their territory.
The reasons for our belief are numerous, principally the following:
(b) First: the measures which determine the interval of time between the threat of aggression and the act of aggression (ordinary diplomatic methods, arbitration, inquiry by the Executive Committee, undertakings of the parties not to resort to force before arbitration and inquiry, and only three months after a judicial decision has been rendered) are applicable only if the dispute arises between nations having subscribed to the Covenant of the League.
Now Germany is not and cannot be a member of the League.
The Covenant provides, it is true, a complete procedure applicable to States not members. But there is no guarantee whatever that this procedure would be accepted by Germany, should she again plan a sudden attack.
On the contrary, we have every reason to believe that she would act with the utmost speed.
In such an hypothesis, it is clear that the Germany of to-day---the Germany that is evading the question of responsibilities,---the Germany of Scheidemann, Erzberger, Brockdorff-Rantzau---will be halted in her plans for aggression, neither by an invitation to join the League, nor by the threat of a financial and commercial blockade. It is clear that Germany---knowing the penalty she would have to pay if she gave international forces time to come into play---will fall upon France and Belgium with the idea, even more firmly implanted than in 1870 or 1914, that time is for her the essential factor of success.
We believe therefore that the provisions of the Covenant which enjoin legal steps between the threat of war and the act of war will not suffice to stop Germany, should she decide to attack. That is our first reason.
(c) Second. Germany's method is sudden attack. What immediate guarantee does the Covenant furnish? Remember that proposals made by the French delegation with a view to the creation of a permanent international force have been rejected.
If one of the members is attacked, what happens? The Executive Committee of the League takes action and specifies the strength of the military or naval contingents to be furnished by every member of the League.
Suppose that the Committee takes this action with the utmost speed. Only one thing is lacking, the decisions of the Committee are not of themselves executory.
Take, in order to make this clear, the case of America, for instance. What happens?
The naval and military forces of the United States cannot be used without the assent of the Congress. Suppose Congress is not in session. Between a German aggression and the moment when American aid could become effective, the following steps would have to be taken:
---a decision by the Executive Committee of the League.
---a meeting of Congress, with the necessary quorum, which might take four or five days.
---a message from the President of the United States.
---a discussion of the matter before Congress.
---the mobilization of an American Expeditionary Force and its transportation to Europe.
We have cited the case of America but it is not the only one.
Consider anew the necessary steps outlined above and apply them to the German attack of 1914.
Suppose that invaded France and invaded Belgium had had to set this complicated machinery in motion before obtaining British aid and that Great Britain, instead of beginning to ship troops within a week, had been obliged (after a meeting of and action by the Executive Committee of the League of Nations, communication of its decision, discussion of the case by the British Government, meeting of Parliament, debate, etc.) to delay her actual intervention till all these various things had been done, the left of the French Army would have been turned at Charleroi, and the war lost on August 24, 1914.
In other words, suppose that instead of the defensive military understanding---very limited indeed---which was given effect to between Great Britain and France in 1914 there had been no other bond between the two countries than the general agreements contained in the Covenant of the League, the British intervention would have been less prompt and Germany's victory thereby assured.
So we believe that, under present conditions, the aid provided for by the Covenant of the League would arrive too late. That is our second reason.
(d) Our third reason, and it is final, is that because of the geographical position of France we have two aims equally imperative:
---the one is Victory
---the other the protection of our soil.
It may be accepted as certain that, thanks to the principle of solidarity embodied in the Covenant of the League, final victory would rest with us in the case of a new German aggression.
But this is not enough. We are determined that invasion, the systematic destruction of our soil and the suffering of our fellow citizens in the North and East, shall not again be endured from the time of the aggression to that of final victory.
It is against this second danger, quite as much as against the. danger of defeat, that a certain safeguard is necessary. This guarantee the League does not provide, but it is provided by the proposals put forward by the French Government.
(e) Summing up here our argument touching the guarantee provided by the League, our contention is that:
On the one hand, Germany will remain outside of the League of Nations for an indefinite length of time.
On the other hand, the decisions of the Executive Committee, instead of automatically setting in motion an international force ready for action, will have to be submitted to the approval of the various Parliaments, which will decide whether or not their national forces may join the military forces of the nation attacked.
So we obtain neither of the two guarantees on which the peace-enforcing action of the League is supposedly based, namely:
---a very long interval between the idea of war and the act of war.
---a very brief interval between the act of war and the joining together of all the military forces of the League members.
In default of these two guarantees, we ask against a Germany whose population is twice that of France, and whose word cannot be trusted for a long time to come, another kind of guarantee: a physical guarantee.
This physical guarantee in our mind is not intended to take the place of the other, provided by the League, but to give the latter time to operate before it is too late.
This physical guarantee---We have shown that there is such guarantee, and only one such: the guard of the Rhine bridges by an inter-allied force.
Let us add that, for the time being, it is to the interest of the League of Nations itself that this supplementary guarantee should insure the normal and effective working of the dual machinery conceived by the League for the maintenance of peace.
SUPPRESSION BY INTER-ALLIED OCCUPATION OF THE RHINE BRIDGES OF SEVERAL CAUSES OF WAR
We have established:
(1) That a common guarantee against the recurrence of any sudden attack from Germany is necessary.
(2) That this guarantee cannot be completely assured either by the limitation or the suppression of Germany's military power, or by the proposed clauses of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
(3) That this guarantee can be found only in the fixation at the Rhine of the Western frontier of Germany, and in the occupation of the bridges by an inter-allied force.
It is easy to show, moreover, that the common guarantee assured by the occupation of the Rhine bridges accords with the common interests of the League and with its pacific ideals; it does away with a certain number of permanent causes of war which it is at once the interest and the duty of the League to eliminate.
(1) Elimination of a dangerous disproportion in strength.
Germany (even without Poznan, Schleswig, Alsace-Lorraine and the Rhine provinces on the left bank) still has more than fifty-nine million inhabitants, to which would probably be added in case of war seven million German-Austrians, making a total of sixty-six million men. France, Belgium and Luxemburg, on the other hand, have not more than forty-nine million.
Russia no longer exists as a counter-weight and the States recently created do not yet count. This, was strongly emphasized by Mr. Winston Churchill, at a meeting of the Supreme Council of the Allies on February 15, 1919: "There are twice as many Germans as French and by reason of the high German birth rate, Germany has annually three times as many young men of military age as France. That is a tremendous fact." This "tremendous fact" is a war factor. If it cannot be eliminated, it is at least useful to try to reduce it.
(2) Elimination of one of the economic causes of German aggressions.
It is generally admitted that it is essential that industrial zones vital to each nation should be protected.
For rapid occupation of these vital zones gives a decisive advantage to the aggressor, who thus adds to his own means of production those which he wrests from his adversary. It is thus certain that the possibility of securing such an advantage is a cause of war.
History demonstrates this. In 1815, Germany aimed at the coal of the Sarre; in 1870 at the ores of Lorraine; in 1914 at the ores of Briey.
Germany herself has explicitly admitted that, if she was able to carry on the last war it was because she was able by sudden attack to seize the French ores "without which she could never by any possibility have waged this war successfully." (Memorandum of the German iron and steel manufacturers, December, 1917).
If the Rhine had separated the two Powers, no such action would have been possible. And it is strengthening the peace to remove from Germany---in separating her from her historical objective---one of the main motives of her past aggressions.
(3) Protection for the smaller states whose safety the League of Nations seeks to secure.
First to Belgium by removing from her a dangerous neighbor. Admiral von Tirpitz, quoted above, made this statement to the German Fatherland League (Münchner Neueste Nachrichten, November 11, 1917):
"Realize clearly what would happen if our existing front---now resting on the sea,---should be on the eastern border of the Rhine country, we could never again succeed in throwing our armies through a neutral Belgium."
Then to Poland, to Czecho-Slovakia, to Jugo Slavia which, should Germany take advantage of their initial difficulties and seek to throttle them, must not see the Rhine, held by Germany, cut off the aid awaited by them from the Western Democracies.
(4) Closing the great historic road of invasion.
The left bank of the Rhine has been for centuries the road of invasions. Its natural situation on the one hand, the direction of its railway lines on the other, have made of it one of the battle grounds of history, where the peoples of the right bank (whenever they also controlled the left bank) found potentialities of aggression which the interests of peace demand should be done away with.
(5) Creation of a natural frontier equal for all.
The Rhine, both on account of its width and of the straightness of its course, offers to the peoples of both banks the same natural guarantee against aggression.
From the foregoing it is permissible to conclude that the common guarantee created by the fixation at the Rhine of the Western frontier of Germany and by the occupation of the Rhine bridges by an inter-allied force, is not only necessary but in complete accord with the principles advocated by the League of Nations for the prevention of future wars.
FRENCH INTERESTS IDENTICAL WITH GENERAL INTERESTS
It is now possible to obtain a bird's-eye view of the problem which can be summed up as follows:
(a) In this matter, France claims nothing for herself, neither an inch of territory, nor any right of sovereignty. She does not want to annex the left bank of the Rhine.
What she proposes is the creation in the interest of all of a common protection for all the peaceful democracies, of the League of Nations, of the cause of Liberty and of Peace.
But it is France's duty to add that her bequest, which accords with the general welfare and is free from any selfish design, is of vital necessity to herself and that on its principle she cannot compromise. France sees in it in fact the only immediate and complete guarantee that what she suffered in 1870 and 1914 will not occur again and she owes it to her people, to the dead who must not have died in vain, to the living who wish to rebuild their country in peace and not to stagger beneath overpowering military burdens to obtain this guarantee.
As to the manner of applying this guarantee, the French Government is ready to consult with its Allies with a view to establishing under the most favourable conditions the national, political and economical system of the regions, access to which it demands shall be forbidden to Germany. To this end, the French Government will accept any suggestions which are not inconsistent with the principle stated.
This principle may be summed up in three paragraphs.
1. No German military force on the left bank of the Rhine, and fixation at the Rhine of the Western frontier of Germany.
2. Occupation of the Rhine bridges by an inter-allied force.
3. No annexation.
This is what under present circumstances France asks as a necessary guarantee of international peace, as the indispensable safeguard of her national existence.
She hopes that all her Allies and Associates will appreciate the General Interests of this proposal.
She counts, on the other hand, that they will acknowledge her right and her duty to present and to support this demand for her own sake.
(b) Also this is not the only time that the vital interests of a nation have accorded with the general interests of mankind.
At all times the great naval Powers have asserted---whether the issue were Philip II or Napoleon or William II---that their strength was the only force capable of offsetting imperialistic attempts to control the continent.
It is on this ground that they have justified the maintenance, for their own advantages, of powerful fleets.
Yet, at the same time, they have never concealed the fact that these fleets were a vital necessity to themselves as well.
Of vital necessity to the British Isles and the British Empire---which have made known their refusal to give up any part of that naval power which enabled them to hold the seas against Germany.
Of a vital necessity to the United States, washed by two oceans, requiring safeguards for the export of its natural and industrial resources, and which despite its peaceful policy has for the above reason created a Navy that is even now being further expanded.
For Great Britain, in fact, as well as for the United States, the Navy is a means of pushing away from beyond their coasts the frontier which they would have to defend in case of aggression, and of creating a safety-zone in front of this frontier, in front of their national soil.
For France, the question is the same with this triple difference: that, first, she is not protected from Germany by the seas; that, second, she cannot possibly secure on land the complete guarantee which Great Britain and the United States secured on the sea by the surrender of the German fleet to the Allies, and that finally, the "one to two" ratio between her population and Germany's precludes the hope that in case of war she may ever enjoy the advantage which the naval Powers have always derived from the "two power standards."
For France, as for Great Britain and the United States, it is necessary to create a zone of safety.
This zone the naval Powers create by their fleets, and by the elimination of the German fleet. This zone France, unprotected by the ocean, unable to eliminate the millions of German trained to war, must create by the Rhine, by an inter-allied occupation of that river.
If she did not do so, she would once more be exposed, if not to final defeat, at least to a partial destruction of her soil by an enemy invasion.
It is a danger which she never intends to run again.
Moreover, as explained above, the guarantee of peace created by the existence of the naval Powers, could not be of full effect unless the occupation of the Rhine provided a similar guarantee for the Western Democracies.
At a recent meeting of the Supreme Council of the Allies, February 11, 1919, Mr. Winston Churchill and Mr. House showed one after the other what the future has to fear from a Russo-German rapprochement.
In such an event it is not with their fleets that the naval Powers, capable only of establishing a blockade, could defend the continent against an imperialistic aggression.
The naval Powers would still need the possibility of landing on the continent and of fighting there. For that the inter-allied guard of the Rhine is indispensable.
But there is more and one may ask whether, in such case, even the blockade established by the fleets would be effective. Of what use would it be against Germany, mistress of Russia, colonizing and exploiting Russia, if Germany were to strike a successful and decisive blow against France and Belgium, occupying their ports and dominating all the neutral powers of Europe?
This fear was expressed by Mr. House at the meeting of February 15, when he pointed out the danger of an union "of the whole world east of the Rhine." To prevent such an union, or at least to avert its consequences, there is only one way: that the Rhine, henceforth, instead of serving as in the past Germany against the Allies, should protect the Allies against the undertakings of Germany.
In commending this viewpoint to the attention of our Allies and Associates, and more especially of the two great naval Powers, the British Empire and the United States, the French Government is deeply conscious that it is working for peace, just as the naval Powers are conscious that they serve the cause of peace by maintaining or increasing their naval forces.
And just as the naval Powers, in maintaining or increasing their fleets, have no design whatsoever to conquer the seas, so the demand of France as to the guard of the Rhine involves neither gain nor sovereignty nor annexation of territory.
France does not demand for herself the left bank of the Rhine: she would not know what to do with it, and her interest equally with her ideals forbids any such claim.
France demands one thing only. It is that the necessary and only possible and certain measures to prevent the left bank of the Rhine from again becoming a base for German aggression, shall be taken by the Powers now gathered at the Peace Conference.
In other words, with no territorial ambitions, but deeply imbued with the necessity of creating a protection both national and international, France looks to an inter-allied occupation of the Rhine for the same results that Great Britain and the United States expect from the maintenance of their naval forces; either more, or less.
In both cases, a national necessity coincides with an international safeguard.
In both cases, even if the second be interpreted in different ways, the first will remain for the country concerned an obligation subject neither to restriction nor reserve.
Such is the principle that the French Government begs the Allied and Associated Governments to confirm and sanction by adopting the following decision to be inserted in the provisions of the preliminaries of Peace:
1. The Western frontier of Germany must be fixed at the Rhine.
2. The bridges of the Rhine must be occupied by an interallied force.
3. The above measures to imply no annexation of territory to the benefit of any Power.
To this document setting forth the principle of our demand I had attached two appendices. One was the outline of a political system applicable to an independent Rhineland, the other a study of the economic results of its independence, both on the left bank of the Rhine and in Germany itself.
The first of these Notes recalled that during the greater part of their history the Rhine provinces of the left bank, with their five and a half million inhabitants, had been independent of both Prussia and Germany. Since 1815 they had lived, under Prussian as well as under Bavarian rule, as "crown property"---a legal title abolished by the fall of the Hohenzollerns and the Wittelsbachs. Originally peopled by Celts and Latinized by Rome, they had in the course of centuries been affected quite as strongly by French as by German influences. In 1793, they had greeted the French as liberators and gratefully accepted the wise administration of Napoleon. Since that time, again attached to Germany, they had persisted in their hatred of Prussia and their inhabitants called themselves "must be Prussians" (Muspreussen). At present, all the concordant reports submitted by us to our Allies tended to show this rich region in terror of the separatist danger, wanting the maintenance of order above all else, distrustful of the Prussian officials and, though German in tongue and tradition, probably capable of developing politically along liberal lines, if it could thereby serve its own interest. The peace of Europe demanded, in our view, that the left bank of the Rhine should become independent. There was no reason we thought why the left bank itself should not appreciate the advantages of this independence. Our Note enumerated in support of this contention various measures: suppression of military service; relief from war taxes; facilities of food supplies and export; customs union; banking reforms; independent government under the protection of the League of Nations---all of which seemed likely to help the conditions imperative for common safety.
Our last Note, exhaustive and very detailed, analyzed, one by one, the conditions which would prevail both in Germany and in a free Rhine State, after the latter had been set up. This study dealt in turn with the territories, the inhabitants, the large cities, the railroads, river navigation, wine, wheat, rye, barley, oats, hay, potatoes, sugar, coal mines, lignite, iron ore, cast iron, steel, zinc, lead, copper and textiles. It was summarized in a table (table 1) and concluded as follows:
1. The loss of the left bank of the Rhine, added to that of Alsace-Lorraine, deprives Germany of eight per cent. of her territory and represents a loss of:
11% of her population
15% approximately of her railroad and river traffic
67% of her wine industry
12% of her coal mines
80% of her iron ore
33% at least of her metallurgy
30% of her textiles
Of the important articles, only cereals, sugar and potatoes would be slightly diminished by from four per cent. to nine per cent.
2. The left bank of the Rhine, separated from Germany, would easily find the products she needs (cereals, iron ore, mineral and chemical products).
Her fuel exports would provide an adequate outlet in France.
Her metal and textile products would, as before, be obliged to find a market outside of Germany.
Her chemical products (dyestuffs, etc.) would, like those of the right bank, have to face the budding competition of the countries of the Entente. Her wines, however, heretofore consumed in Germany, would probably have difficulty in finding buyers elsewhere, and it might be necessary to force Germany to levy only specified duties.
A customs union between France, Belgium and the Rhine country would offer advantages in regard to a large number of products and at least would offer no disadvantages.
It would, however, present four problems: one, easily solved, regarding metal products; and three others, more delicate, regarding wines, textiles and coloring matters.
The independence of the Rhineland, only effective guarantee that this region would act as barrier and buffer between Germany and the Western Democracies-for its autonomy as part of the German Reich would merely place it in the same position as Bavaria, whose theoretical "liberty" did not prevent it, in 1870 or 1914, from joining the attack against France---the independence of the Rhineland and its occupation by Allied forces---essential as a military safeguard---appeared to us to be a political and economic possibility. It was a solution of Liberty, not of Imperialism. A certain safeguard against a Germany ever more populous than France; a guarantee of the peaceful enforcement of the Treaty which was to found a new order of things in Europe---thus it was that France presented the problem from the beginning. And if only apart of France Is proposals prevailed, still it was as a safeguard and as a guarantee that the Treaty of Versailles imposed upon Germany the occupation by the Allies of the Rhineland left under her sovereignty, but forbidden to her Army.
By the end of December, M. Clemenceau. and I had presented our arguments to Mr. House who appreciated their importance. During the crossing from America, our Ambassador at Washington, M. Jusserand, had talked them over with President Wilson, who had seemed to acknowledge their weight and who, two months later, at the beginning of March, had not yet, according to his most intimate collaborators, any definite objection to them. On the English side, on the contrary, a strong resistance was encountered and the friendly tone in which it was couched in no way lessened its firmness.
The Rhine policy advocated by France had from the beginning been misunderstood by the British ministers. There where France saw an essential guarantee---a guarantee of execution and of security---Mr. Lloyd George and his colleagues, obsessed by memories of Napoleon and by the intemperance of part of our Press, feared as early as 1917 a menace to the peace of Europe. It was in 1917 that Mr. Balfour in two speeches energetically repudiated the idea of a self-governing Rhine State which M. Aristide Briand had suggested the preceding January in a confidential letter to M. Paul Cambon, French Ambassador at London. The British Minister of Foreign affairs had denied that an agreement between the Allies had ever contemplated the creation of independent States on the left bank of the Rhine. "Such a solution," he added, "has never entered into the policy of the British Government." Mr. Lloyd George, for his part, had often repeated: "We must not create another Alsace-Lorraine." He also said: "The strongest impression made upon me by my first visit to Paris was the statue of Strassburg veiled in mourning. Do not let us make it possible for Germany to erect a similar statue." Speeches and remarks revealed, under varying forms, a fear from which the British Government had never freed itself.
The first conversations brought us echoes of this fear. It was unreservedly admitted that we needed guarantees. But the means proposed by us caused alarm. All talk of separation between Germany and the left bank, of military occupation of the latter, of participation in this occupation, was extremely repugnant to our Allies. And, from the outset, they emphasized the fact that other securities. were possible, such as disarmament of Germany; the League of Nations; if need be, the complete demilitarization of the left bank of the Rhine. Our Memorandum, published above, had answered these objections. But despite the answer, the objections kept reappearing.
It was towards the beginning of March that the serious discussion began. President Wilson is, at the moment, on the ocean en route for France. Mr. Lloyd George has just returned to Paris. It is decided to prepare the work of the heads of Governments by a conference of three. I represent France, Mr. Philipp Kerr, Great Britain, and Doctor Mezes, the United States. We meet twice, on March 11 and 12, in Mr. Lloyd George's apartment at 23 rue Nitot. I explain verbally, in all its details the proposals of my Memorandum of February 25. As my explanation proceeds, I become conscious of the psychological barrier just mentioned. I am offered a strengthening of the disarmament clauses. I am offered a reinforcement of those dealing with demilitarization. As soon as I return to the question of occupation, opposition becomes more marked.
Mr. Mezes says little. These eight hours of discussion are a dialogue between Mr. Kerr and myself, and it is evident that through the voice of his Chief Secretary it is the British Prime Minister himself who---invisible but present---speaks with some reserve at the first meeting, more emphatically at the second. Is it possible, objects my opponent, to occupy a German territory, bridgeheads included, inhabitated by seven million Germans? Is it possible, on the other hand, to separate these Germans from Germany without consulting them and thus to betray the very principles for which the Allies have fought? French tradition? But years have passed, and the historical argument has been too much used and abused by Germany against France, for France to be willing to make use of it against Germany. Besides, in her official declarations, both by her Government and her Parliament (December 30, 1916, January 10 and June 5 and 6, 1917, and November 4, 1918) France made no such demands. So it is impossible to participate in such an occupation. So, also, it would cause deep regret if France sought to undertake it alone; and Mr. Kerr sums up his objection as follows:
"In a word we quite agree with France as to the object to be attained. We are not sure we agree with her as to the method to be employed.
"We do not agree to military occupation. England is equally opposed both to a permanent Army, and to the use of British troops outside of English territory. Furthermore occupation tends to create a nationalist irritation not only on the left bank of the Rhine but throughout all Germany. It may at the same time foster in Anglo-Saxon countries a propaganda unfavourable to the Allies, and especially to France. Besides, Germany being disarmed, is occupation necessary?
"Nor do we agree as to the creation of an independent State on the left bank of the Rhine. We see in it a source of complication and of weakness. If, after a longer or shorter period, this independent State asserts its will to reunite with Germany, what shall we do? If Press propaganda or public meetings with this end in view go on within its territory, are the troops of occupation to be used to prevent it? If local conflicts occur, whither will they lead? If war results from these conflicts, neither England nor her Dominions will have that deep feeling of solidarity with France which animated them in the last war.
"It is, therefore, impossible for us to accept the solution you propose."
I reply. I recall that the Rhinelanders are not Prussians. I show that the French proposal excluding annexation is the reverse of imperialistic; that the control of the League of Nations gives every facility for evolution; that France, after such unparalleled sufferings, has a right to insist upon the acceptance of the methods of her choice. Public opinion is hostile? Public opinion must be enlightened. It has already learned much during the war, and first of all this, that France is the sentinel of the Overseas Democracies. Besides in default of occupation, what guarantee is there that the treaty will be fulfilled? And I added:
"You say that England does not like English troops to be used away from home. It is a question of fact. England has always had troops in India and Egypt. Why? Because she knows that her frontier is not at Dover. But, the last war has taught her that her European frontier is on the Rhine and that the Rhine is more important to her than even the Suez Canal or the Himalayas.
"You say that the British public does not understand this question. It is the duty of the British Government to make it understand. Neither did the English public understand in 1914 the necessity of conscription. War has taught it many things.
"You say that there is a danger of provoking nationalist irritation in Germany. The German defeat has already created this feeling. Wherefore, then, the need of protection against a risk which will exist in any case?
"You say that the Rhineland will revolt. Our answer is that fear of Bolshevism and dread of war-taxes dominate the Rhinelander, and that, moreover, we are not threatening them with annexation. We are offering them independence. Other peoples---the Germans of Bohemia, for instance---will, under the Treaty, have to accept a foreign sovereignty.
"If you object to a possible resistance of British opinion, we rely on the certain revolt of French opinion against a peace which would not include the occupation of the Rhine. England did not feel that the complete surrender of the entire German fleet permitted her to do away with her own. And France will not admit that the partial disarmament of Germany on land---partial, because, for twenty years, she will have at her disposal three million trained men---absolves France from the necessity of taking guarantees.
"To ask us to give up occupation, is like asking England and the United States to sink their fleet of battleships. We, refuse.
"We want no annexation. But we want our security. We consider the question a vital one, and I do not even need to consult M. Clemenceau to declare, in his name, that we insist upon our demand."
Accordingly, I hand my friends a draft of seven articles and agree with them that, as no agreement has resulted from our conference, the question will have to be decided by the heads of Governments. The proposal I submitted was as follows:
March 12, 1919.
WESTERN FRONTIER OF GERMANY
1. In the general interest of peace and to assure the effective working of the constituent clause of the League of Nations, the Western frontier of Germany is fixed at the Rhine. Consequently Germany renounces all sovereignty over, as well as any customs union with the territories of the former German Empire on the left bank of the Rhine.
2. The line of the Rhine to be occupied under a mandate of the League of Nations by an inter-allied military force.
The extent and conditions of occupation in German territory of the bridgeheads of Kehl, Mannheim, Mayence, Coblenz, Cologne and Dusseldorf, necessary to the security of inter-allied forces to be fixed by the final Treaty of Peace. Until the signature of the said Treaty the conditions of occupation established by the Armistice of November 11, 1918, to remain in force.
In a zone of fifty kilometers east of her Western frontier Germany shall not maintain nor erect fortifications.
3. The territories of the left bank of the Rhine (except Alsace-Lorraine) to constitute one or several independent States under the protection of the League of Nations. Their Eastern and Southern frontiers to be fixed by the Peace Treaty. Germany undertakes to do nothing which could hinder the aforesaid State or States in the fulfillment of the duties or the exercise of the rights devolving upon them from the causes or the conditions of their creation.
4. Within one month after the signature of the present preliminaries of peace, the general conditions of evacuation of the higher German and Prussian civil officials at present on duty on the left bank of the Rhine, to be settled by a special agreement between the signatory Powers and the German Government.
5. Within two months from the signature of the present preliminaries of peace, a special agreement between the signatory Powers and the German Government to determine, under the guarantee of the League of Nations, the general conditions of liquidation of the German economic interests on the left bank of the Rhine.
6. The German Government undertakes to furnish every year to the independent State or States, which may be created on the left bank of the Rhine, the amount of coal necessary for their industries. This amount shall be credited to Germany in the general reparations account.
This was on March 12. On the morning of the fourteenth President Wilson arrives in Paris. After an interview with Mr. Lloyd George, he meets the same afternoon M. Clemenceau and the British Prime Minister at a private talk of two hours, without secretary or interpreter at the Hotel de Crillon. M. Clemenceau explains once more the French proposals. He tells our needs, our dangers of yesterday and of to-morrow. Alone against Germany, invaded and bleeding, we ask not for territory, but for guarantees. Those offered to us---disarmament, demilitarization, League of Nations---are inadequate in their present form. Occupation is indispensable. It is essential that this occupation be inter-allied. It is essential that the left bank be closed to the political and military schemes of Germany., Its independence is at once the condition and the consequence of the foregoing.
At first the same objections are made to the same arguments. But to the great Frenchman who holds his ground and sticks to his original demands, an entirely different and most capital proposal is soon made. Great Britain, with her century-old pride in her splendid isolation, the United States,---too proud to fight," separated from the rest of the world by Washington's Farewell Address and the Monroe Doctrine, offer France a formal pledge of alliance:---their immediate military guarantee against any unprovoked aggression on the part of Germany; an unprecedented and immensely significant proposal which will assure us in peace the same unity of power which enabled us to win the war.
M. Clemenceau, "who asked nothing"---he will recall it with pride before the Senate later---immediately states the very great value he attaches to this offer. But he expresses at the same time his formal desire not to give an immediate answer. He intends before so doing to reflect and to take counsel. The next two days, March 15 and 16, three meetings are held at the Ministry of War between MM. Clemenceau, Pichon, Loucheur and myself, when verbally and in three successive Notes the various aspects of the problem are analyzed and discussed. From this study two conclusions appear, both equally illuminating, and for the moment at least mutually contradictory.
The first is that a French Government which, receiving such an offer under such conditions, would allow it to escape would be guilty of a crime. The second, that a French Government satisfied with only this and nothing more would be equally guilty. A grave contradiction indeed. For, in the conversation of March 14, Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Wilson have clearly indicated that they offered the military guarantee in lieu of occupation and the independence of the left bank. It is to avoid the latter which they do not wish, that they propose the former which to these two countries so justly proud of their strength seems of equal, if not of greater, value. They recognize as indisputable France's right to the guarantee, demanded by her in the Notes of January 8 and February 19 and 25 and in the conversations of February 6, 19 and 23, and March 11, 12 and 14. But rejecting the method proposed by us---and because they reject it--they propose another. The left bank of the Rhine to remain German. The left bank of the Rhine to be occupied neither by an inter-allied nor by a French force. In return, Great Britain and the United States to give France their solemn pledge of immediate military aid in case of danger.
M. Clemenceau's mind is made up on the evening of the sixteenth and his decision expressed in a Note handed to the heads of the Allied Governments on the morning of the seventeenth. A proposal is made to us, which substitutes one guarantee for another. We refuse this substitution We gratefully note, with the fullest appreciation of its value, the pledge offered and desire to accept it but only on the express condition that it be supplemented by most of the other guarantees demanded by us, first of all, by occupation. This is the text of the Note of March 17, 1919.
NOTE ON THE SUGGESTION MADE MARCH 14
RESUMÉ OF THE FRENCH PROPOSAL OF FEBRUARY 25, 1919.
(1) The military occupation of the Rhine by an inter-allied force (with this immediate and lasting result, separation of the left bank from the German Reich and Zollverein) is, in the present state of international relations, a vital necessity for France and of common interest to the Allies. A detailed memorandum has proved this assertion.
The object is to prevent the renewal of that which we have undergone twice in fifty years and for that to deprive Germany of her essential means of attack (the left bank, the railroads and the bridges of the Rhine).
As a guarantee of this the military occupation of the Rhine border is indispensable to France, with a far smaller population than Germany, deprived of Russia's alliance, and without good natural frontiers.
On the other hand the Overseas Democracies cannot fight in Europe if the French ports and railroads are not substantially protected. The last war demonstrated how serious for them is this danger which might completely deprive them of a European battlefield.
(2) The limitation of the military forces of Germany is not a sufficient guarantee against this danger until experience has proved the method efficacious, and especially so long as Germany has at her disposal more than three million men who are trained to war, because they fought in war. The total suppression of the German fleet was not sufficient reason for the naval countries to disarm their own fleets. On land, France, too, has need of physical guarantee.
The League of Nations is also not a sufficient guarantee. The present draft of its clauses makes final victory almost certain. But the League is too slow moving a mechanism to prevent territorial invasion at the beginning of a war. Here also, therefore, a physical guarantee is necessary.
This physical guarantee is the military occupation of the Rhine and the control of its bridge traffic.
(3) The objections presented do not modify this conclusion.
It is feared on the left bank that there may be a movement for union with Germany. But the left bank is different from the rest of Germany. It fears Bolshevism and war-taxes. It is conscious of its economic independence. It has no liking for Prussian officials forced upon it by the Empire. Separatist tendencies are already making themselves felt despite the strict reserve we have maintained.
A nationalist irritation in Germany is foreseen. Defeat has aroused this sentiment. The question resolves itself into protecting ourselves against its possible consequences.
It is thought that the proposed solution may be suspected of imperialism. But it is not a question of annexation, it is a question of creating under the safeguard of the League of Nations, an independent State in accordance with the interests of the inhabitants and with the aspirations of a very large number of them. This is not a Bismarckian solution.
Anxiety is expressed concerning the effect upon British and American opinion. But the whole lesson of the war is that the Rhine is the military frontier not only of France and Belgium, but of the Overseas Democracies as well, "The Frontier of Freedom," as President Wilson expressed it. These Democracies will understand this as they understood the necessity of conscription during the war, as British democracy understands to-day the channel tunnel.
The danger is pointed out of the indefinite duration of the occupation. But as the entire organization of the left bank is to be in the hands of the League of Nations, the latter will always have the right to alter it.
Therefore, the physical guarantee which will make impossible a renewal of the 1914 situation, remains of vital necessity to France in the present state of international relations.
EXAMINATION OF THE SUGGESTION PRESENTED BY OUR ALLIES
(1) The suggestion presented on March 14, that Great Britain and the United States should pledge themselves in case of aggression by Germany to bring their military forces to the aid of France without delay is a recognition that France needs a special guarantee; but in place of the physical guarantee demanded by France it substitutes a political guarantee designed to curtail by a definite pledge the time which would elapse between the menace of war and the joint action of the Allied forces.
The French Government fully appreciates the great value of such a guarantee, which would profoundly change the international situation, but this guarantee to be effective must be supplemented and defined.
(2) In the first place there will always be, on account of distance, a period in which France attacked will have to defend herself single-handed without her overseas Allies; she must be able to do this under fairer conditions than in the past.
On the other hand, it is important there should be no doubt about the substance and scope of the pledge---that is as to the obligations imposed upon Germany, the methods of their enforcements, the nature of the act which shall constitute a menace of war, the right of France to defend herself against it, and the importance of the military aid to be furnished by 'Great Britain and the United States.
(3) In other words, before we can consider giving up the first guarantee (a material guarantee founded on space) it is essential that the second guarantee (founded on time, that is on the speedy aid of our Allies) lend itself to no uncertainty and that it be supplemented by some of the other safeguards contained in the first guarantee.
It is really not possible for France to give up a certain safeguard for the sake of expectations.
POSSIBLE BASES OF AGREEMENT
Wishing to respond to the suggestion which has been made to it, the French Government thinks it its duty to set out in detail the general bases upon which agreement might be reached, these bases being the minimum guarantees indispensable to France.
It should be agreed, in the first place, that:
In case Germany, in violation of the peace conditions imposed upon her by the Allied and Associated Governments, should commit an act of aggression against France, Great Britain and the United States would bring to France the aid of their military forces.
(1) The date and the conditions of evacuation of the bridgeheads on the right bank, and of the territories on the left bank of the Rhine, to be fixed by the Peace Treaty (as one of the guarantees to be taken for the execution of the financial clauses).(18)
(2) Germany to maintain neither military force nor military organization on the left bank of the Rhine nor within fifty kilometers east of the river. The German Army to be forbidden to manoeuvre there. Recruiting to be forbidden there---even appeals for volunteers. Fortifications to be demolished there. No new fortifications to be erected there. No war material to be manufactured there. (Certain of these clauses already figure in the preliminary peace proposals: but in the present hypothesis it would be necessary to strengthen them.)
(3) Great Britain, the United States and France to have the right to satisfy themselves by means of a permanent Commission of Inspection that the conditions imposed upon Germany are complied with. (For without this right the preceding clause would be worthless.)
(4) Great Britain, the United States and France to agree to consider as an act of aggression any entry or attempted entry of all or any part of the German Army into the zone fixed in paragraph 2.
(5) Furthermore, Great Britain and France to recognize the right of France to occupy the line of the Rhine with five bridgeheads of a radius of twenty kilometers in case Germany, in the opinion of the Commission of Inspection, should violate the terms of paragraph 2 or any one of the military, aerial, and naval clauses of the peace preliminaries. (In fact, if France gives up after thirty years' permanent occupation she must at least in case of danger of war resulting from Germany's violation of her pledges, be able to advance her troops to the only good defensive position, that is to the Rhine.)
(6) Great Britain and the United States to recognize to France her frontier of 1814 and by way of reparation the right of occupation without annexation of that part of the coal basin of the Sarre not included within this frontier.
P. S. It goes without saying that by act of aggression against France, the French Government also means any aggression against Belgium.
The French Note of March 17 marks the beginning of negotiations in which twice a day up to April 22, we kept up our efforts. Our object? To obtain the proffered guarantee but with the addition of occupation---and a few other safeguards which to the minds of our Allies were to be replaced purely and simply by their military guarantee.
The difficulty which had revealed itself to us on March 14, gained substance in every conference held and in every Note exchanged---English Notes of March 26 and April 2; American Notes of March 28 and April 12, and daily and uninterrupted conferences. On many points we make progress from day to day. For the first plan of disarmament, another and distinctly better one is substituted which does away with conscription and reduces the German Army to 100,000 men serving twelve years. The demilitarization of the left bank is extended to a zone of fifty kilometers on the right bank. The violation of this zone by Germany is to be considered a hostile act. Better still the right of verifying the execution of the military clauses of the Treaty by investigations in Germany is entrusted to the Council of the League of Nations acting by a majority. Finally the Treaties of Guarantee are drafted. But of occupation, no word agreeing to our initial demand, repeated and maintained in our Note of March 17.
It appears that Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Wilson are now in complete agreement against any occupation. On the twenty-sixth, the British Prime Minister hands his colleagues a General Note on the Peace, in which after insisting on the danger of too drastic a peace he sums up his point of view regarding the left bank of the Rhine as follows:
No attempt to be made to separate the Rhenish provinces from the rest of Germany.
These provinces to be demilitarized, that is, the inhabitants of this territory will not be permitted to bear arms or receive any military training or to be incorporated in a military organization either on a voluntary or a compulsory basis; and no fortifications, dépots, establishments, railway construction, or works of any kind adapted to military purposes will be permitted to exist within this area. No troops to be sent into this area for any purpose whatsoever, without previous notification to the League of Nations.
As France is naturally anxious about a neighbor who has, twice within living memory, invaded and devastated her land with surprising rapidity, the British Empire and the United States undertake to come to the assistance of France with their whole strength in the event of Germany moving her troops across the Rhine without the consent of the Council of the League of Nations. This guarantee to last until the League of Nations has proved itself to be an adequate security.
Mr. Wilson also in a Note of April 12 forcefully recalls the scope and importance of his proposals of March 14 and 27, which were identical with those of Mr. Lloyd George, and he adds with great gravity:
It will be recalled that these proposals were made jointly with Mr. Lloyd George who made practically identical proposals with regard to the action of Great Britain.
Both Mr. Lloyd George's proposals and my own, were made after repeated consideration of all other plans suggested, and they represent the maximum of what I myself deem necessary for the safety of France, or possible on the part of the United States.
Every day, often twice a day, M.. Clemenceau renewed his efforts:
"I beg to point out," he said, "that on the seas this guarantee has already been provided. Germany no longer has a Navy. We must have an equivalent guarantee on land. America is far away, protected by the ocean. Even Napoleon could not reach England. You are both under cover. We are not. No man has less of the militaristic spirit than I. But we want safety."
Mr. Lloyd George kept to his invariable formula.
"You must fully understand the state of mind of the British public. It is afraid to do anything whatsoever which might repeat the mistake Germany committed in annexing Alsace-Lorraine."
We repeat our arguments, ever more urgent and direct. We recall the fact that the English put Prussia in; or allowed Prussia to put herself, on the left bank of the Rhine in 1815. They know what it has cost them. We show how they have continued to assure their own safety by a Navy superior to that of all other powers combined. Can they be astonished then that France desires a physical guarantee on the Rhine? England has asked France not to question her naval policy which enabled the war to be won, but which restricted the liberty of neutrals. France whose Army saved the world on land, as the English Fleet saved it on the seas, thinks it just that for her safety on which the safety of all is dependent, a similar guarantee and restriction should be acceded to. On March 31, M. Clemenceau, summoned Marshal Foch and the Commanders-in-Chief of the Allied Armies before the Council of the Four. The Marshal of France once more presents the argument of his Notes of November 27, and January 10. He then reads a new report summarizing the others. This is its conclusion:
To sum up, unless we hold the Rhine permanently, no neutrality, no disarmament, no written clause of any kind, can prevent Germany from seizing the Rhine and debauching from it at an advantage.
The Rhine remains to-day the barrier essential to the safety of the peoples of Western Europe, and therefore, of civilization.
In the circumstances, it seems difficult to refuse to the nations in the forefront of battle---France and Belgium---the protection they deem indispensable to enable them to live and fight until their Allies arrive ..........
Whether the inhabitants of the left bank of the Rhine remain German or not, the political frontier between the Western European nations and Germany is the Rhine.
I urge with all my strength upon the Allied and Associated Governments , which in the most critical hours of the war entrusted to me the conduct of their armies and the future of our common cause, to consider that the future can only be permanently assured---to-morrow as it was yesterday---by the military frontier of the Rhine and its occupation by the Allies. This essential position must therefore be held.
Everyone listens attentively. But not one of the Allied Generals supports the Commander-in-Chief. On April 4, the King of the Belgians joins the Conference of the heads of the Governments but he too does not express himself in favour of an extended occupation. We are alone. The atmosphere is tense. Overseas newspapers grow aggressive. Some French papers are no less so. In two days, Mr. Lloyd George gives out two soothing interviews, the effect of which does not last. Subordinates are nervous, and make blunders. In spite of Mr. House, the mendacious news is published that the George Washington has been hurriedly summoned to Brest.
M. Clemenceau holds his ground unmoved. We send Note upon Note (March 19, 20, 22, 28 and 31, and April 4, 5, 15, 16 and 19). We show that no matter how important the results attained it remains indispensable to give the Treaty a guarantee of execution, to give to France a material safeguard. against a Germany which because of the war will have millions of trained soldiers for years to come. We show that occupation alone meets this double need. Days pass.
At last M. Clemenceau's indomitable will wins its end. Light begins to break. Slowly, prudently and patiently, he widens the opening and on April 20 at six o'clock in the evening he secures---first of all---from President Wilson his approval of the provisions of Chapter 14. On the morning of April 22, Mr. Lloyd George gives his approval also, but not without again renewing his objections. M. Clemenceau, who for two days has been in agreement with President Wilson, maintains all his points---duration of the occupation, its possible extension; participation by the Allies. Mr. Lloyd George ends the discussion:
"Very well, I accept."
The long debate is over. Despite divergencies of opinion, the personal relations between the three men during those forty days have never ceased to be sincere, calm and affectionate. May their fellow countrymen never forget it!
The inter-allied occupation of the left bank and the bridgeheads of the Rhine are fixed at fifteen years. Evacuation is to be by zones, every five years, but only on condition that Germany faithfully complies with the Peace Treaty. If faithful compliance is lacking, there is to be no evacuations at five-year intervals. Even at the end of fifteen years, we retain in any event, a safeguard; if the guarantees against an unprovoked German aggression are deemed insufficient, there is to be no evacuation.(19) Finally, if, after evacuation, Germany fails in her obligations to pay, there is to be re-occupation by all the Allies,---not by France alone. Remember that, from the beginning of January to the end of April, the participation of the Allies in the occupation and even occupation itself had been refused us; that as a substitute we had been offered the two Treaties of Guarantee and that at the end of the discussion we had both the treaties and the occupation. We had gone a long way.
But such was, notwithstanding the advantages won by M. Clemenceau, the attachment of some great men to our original proposal that, even before the agreement was made public, strong opposition broke out. Hardly was the discussion between the Allies closed than it began between the French. Marshal Foch, whose views the French Government had so strongly defended, feels that the time limits accepted by M. Clemenceau destroy the value of the guarantee. He does not hide his way of thinking, even from, the Press. On April 17, he refuses to transmit to General Nudant, President of the Armistice Commission and representative of the Allied and Associated Governments in their dealings with the German Government, the convocation which the Council of Four has decided to address to the enemy plenipotentiaries for April 25. On the eighteenth Le Matin publishes an article (inspired by him and the proofs of which had been corrected by one of his officers) against the conditions of peace. Then it is an interview in the Daily Mail, the reproduction of which is forbidden in the French Press by the Censorship, but which none the less has its echo in the lobbies of Parliament where a resolution is prepared to be presented in the Senate.
These incidents, and others as well, create a certain amount of friction in Allied circles. They oblige M. Clemenceau to defend the Commander-in-Chief with some warmth against the criticisms of some heads of Governments who blame his recent interventions. M. Clemenceau regrets them as much as they do. But he makes it plain---with generous foresight---that the men of victory must stick together and "that the image they hold in the nation's mind be not broken." The discussion is somewhat sharp. Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Wilson take the view that the Commander-in-Chief has no right to adopt the attitude he has assumed in the past two days. They say:
"We very willingly placed our Armies under the supreme command of a French General for whom we have the highest admiration and the deepest gratitude. But this General, no matter how great his glory, is an obstacle to the decisions of the Governments. We cannot accept this situation and permit the authority we have conferred to be turned against us. It is a fundamental question of constitutional responsibility.,"
"We are to-day as yesterday, ready to accept a French General as Commander-in-Chief. But we must have a General who obeys the Governments."
M. Clemenceau, to gain time, himself sends to General Nudant the message which Marshal Foch had declined to transmit and on the eighteenth in the evening asks M. Poincaré to summon Marshal Foch. On the nineteenth the heads of the Allied Governments asked M. Clemenceau what he had done in the matter. M. Clemenceau replies that he is going to see the Marshal immediately after the Council, and that the next day he will be able to inform them. As we were leaving the Hotel Bischoffsheim M. Clemenceau says to me:
"Foch is coming presently. Although he has unquestionably put himself in the wrong, I want to get him out of it. I don't want the Chief of Victory to be touched."
I ask him if he expects to succeed. He answers:
"I think so."
Marshal Foch arrives at a quarter past six at the Ministry of War. M. Clemenceau explains the situation to him. The Marshal, somewhat embarrassed, says that he has been misunderstood; that he made objections but that he does not refuse to send the convocation to the Germans; that he knows nothing of the newspaper articles. M. Clemenceau reminds him that he wrote a letter of refusal on receipt of the order to transmit the convocation. He cites the name of the officer of his staff who went to correct the proofs. The Marshal remains silent. M. Clemenceau says to the Marshal:
"Come, you are sorry for all that, aren't you?"
The Marshal answers:
"I regret it with all my heart."
M. Clemenceau, full of cordiality, begs him not to allow himself to be used by papers and politicians and as he shows him out, he pats him on the shoulder with friendly bruskness:
"Look here," he says, "they are pulling your leg. Don't let 'em."
And the Marshal smiling answers:
"All right. I will call off my dogs of war."
A frank avowal by the great soldier of the pressure that his over-wrought entourage has brought to bear upon him. M. Clemenceau is now sure of adjusting the matter which, from the very first, he had been anxious to do. He telephones the result of his interview to M. Poincaré and the next morning, April 20, at ten o'clock, he informs Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Wilson that the matter is settled, that there has been a misunderstanding, that Marshal Foch is sorry and that all is well. The two heads of Governments let the matter drop. Thus, thanks to M. Clemenceau, thanks to his firm and prudent stand, thanks to the great moral influence with his colleagues, the incident was closed.
But the conflict reappears on April 25, at the Cabinet meeting, in the final sitting when the whole French Government is to pass upon the Treaty. Marshal Foch, specially invited to be present by M. Clemenceau, renews his criticisms. He is listened to with attention. He withdraws. The Cabinet deliberates and after two hours of discussion unanimously approves the Treaty. But even that is not all, and on May 6, at the plenary session of the Conference twenty-four hours before the Treaty is handed to the Germans, the illustrious leader of the victorious Armies once more makes heard his protest:
"Chapter XIV," he says, "provides as guarantee for reparations, the occupation of the country on the left bank of the Rhine for a period of five, ten, or fifteen years. Could we discuss the question at length, it would be easy to prove that, from the military point of view, this guarantee amounts to nothing and that it will become an increasing burden upon the Allied Armies. Before going any further, therefore, I wish to state that the guarantee represented by Chapter XIV or Section XIV---I do not remember which---is in my judgment equal to zero, all the while involves us in increasing military expenses. This is the first reservation that I make!
"Moreover, according to my understanding, we shall hold the Rhine for five years as a military guarantee and as a means of assuring our indemnities. After five years, and by the tenth year, we would abandon the Rhine, from the Dutch frontier to below Cologne---that is a space of more than two hundred kilometers out of the five hundred held by us.
"Right now I would call attention that from the point of indemnities, this means giving up the greatest industrial area in the occupied territory and the bridgeheads which furnish access to the basin of the Ruhr, the principal source of Germany's wealth, which we no longer menace and whose seizure we renounce.
"After ten years, we give up eighty additional kilometers of the Rhine line, from Cologne to beyond Coblenz. Eventually, after fifteen years, the Rhine barrier will be abandoned along the whole length of the occupied territory, and France will find herself with her frontier of 1870---that is with no military guarantee, whatsoever. After fifteen years, as you see, we shall have no further guarantee for the indemnities. Therefore, I state that, in this respect, Section XIV is completely ineffectual. As payments and indemnities are to continue for thirty years, we shall find ourselves for fifteen years with guarantees more or less restricted and, after those fifteen years, with none at all.
"I call your attention to this lack of military guarantees. On the other hand, reoccupation of the occupied territory, during or after this fifteen-year period, is contemplated, in case Germany should fail to execute part or all of the Treaty which she signed. Who is to decide upon the advisability of this reoccupation? The Reparation Commission. For all violations of the Treaty clauses---even those which have no connection with indemnities, whether they be of a military or of an administrative nature---the Commission on Indemnities will be the one to intervene and say 'Clause so-and-so has been violated. Therefore, reoccupation of the occupied territory is in order.' Is the Commission alone qualified to do this? Furthermore, in the question of indemnities, it will be the part of the Commission to establish any violation of clauses that do not figure in the Treaty, since they are not to be established until a period following the signing of the Treaty. This jurisdiction is not sufficient.
"To sum up, the Treaty assures complete guarantees for a period of five years, during which Germany will doubtless be in a position to do no harm. But, from that time on, as German power returns and our danger increases, our guarantees decrease, until, at the end of fifteen years, they disappear altogether. After this period, there will be no further means of enforcing payment from an enemy which has thirty years in which to pay, while all the time the Allied expenses will be mounting up.
"In short, it is an indisputable fact that, in order to occupy a line other than the Rhine line and establish a strong barrier on this side of the river, more troops will be necessary. Our expense, therefore, will increase as our guarantees decrease, until they reach zero. At the same time, during the fifteen years, we shall have other losses to make good.
"There is only one way to hold the enemy to his engagements, and that is to maintain the occupation of the Rhine. With only a few forces on the Rhine, we can in fact prevent all action on the part of Germany, and reserve all action for ourselves.
"These are the observations I have to present on Section XIV. I ask that all these provisions be re-examined, especially by the military experts of the Allied Nations.
"If I were asked what solution I have to suggest, I should answer as follows: 'The question of the Rhine bank is absolutely conditional upon the Rhine. Everything is regulated by this river. Master of the Rhine, means master of the whole country.' Not to be on the Rhine means losing everything. We have a comparison close at hand. If we wished to defend ourselves in this room, we should need only to hold the doors to keep the enemy from entering. Inversely if we lose the doors, the enemy can enter. And so, as long as we hold the barriers of the Rhine, we shall be complete masters on the left bank, at little expense. If, on the contrary, we give up the Rhine, we shall need a large force to hold a land where, in any case, our position will be weak, since the enemy will be free to come and attack us when he will.
"From a military point of view, therefore, the Rhine alone is important. Nothing else counts. Occupation of the Rhine bank is valueless unless we seize the Rhine. If we fall back, we will, as I have said, give up our pledges, we will open the doors, and place ourselves in a position of inferiority, because we shall be obliged to occupy a country that has no obstacles, to keep in it a much larger Army---in a word to occupy it in a much more expensive manner.
"The most economical and the surest way is to maintain the occupation of the Rhine. It may be that I am mistaken. That is why I ask the other military experts to join me in going over this chapter again. How long should the Rhine be held? Just as long as we wish to keep our guarantee, since there are no others. When we find we have been paid, and that we have sufficient guarantees, we shall only have to retire our troops and leave.
"Take note that I ask for the occupation of the Rhine, and not for that of the Rhine land. It is on this point that our opinions disagree. I have been criticized for wishing to occupy a country. That is quite inexact. I wish to occupy the passage of the Rhine,---an occupation which will require a very small military force.
"When the execution of the Treaty shall have been carried forward, when the German countries have given evidence of unmistakable good faith, and disarmament has gone into effect, the expenses of everybody---Allies and Germans---can be lightened by reducing the Army of Occupation. This will be accomplished, as you see, not by giving up ground, but by reducing the actual numbers of the occupying Army.
"To sum up, from the military point of view, I state absolutely that we must stay on the Rhine, and that we must not abandon this line, or even part of it, unless we wish to assume a burden of expense, weaken our position, and stand without guarantees at the end of a certain time. These observations apply to the whole line of the Rhine, from Cologne to Coblenz and Mayence.
"These are the chief observations I wished to make. I ask that they be given consideration, and that some action be taken with regard to my statement, for I cannot allow these provisions to pass unchallenged. I have not seen the text of the Treaty. I may be mistaken, but I ask, again, that, if the text be thus, it be given for examination to military experts, who will see to what extent it may be modified."
The Government heads held a meeting immediately. This statement created more surprise than emotion. On the one hand, the Marshal placed himself on financial grounds which escaped his competence and propounded a theory of guarantees which figures reduced to absurdity.(20) On the other hand, from the military point of view, he arbitrarily ignored a certain number of facts which had to be taken into account in any case: first the unswerving opposition of the Anglo-Saxon countries to indefinite occupation; then the offer made by them to France to bring her their armed assistance in case of German aggression; finally the right obtained by M. Clemenceau not to evacuate in five-year periods if Germany violated her financial undertakings, and not to evacuate at the end of fifteen years if at that time the guarantees, that is to say, the British and American Treaties, seemed insufficient(21) and to reoccupy after evacuation if any violation by Germany was proved. All these provisions together gave satisfaction to the demands of the Commander-in-Chief. Besides, his demands had varied. In his Note of November 27, 1918, the Marshal had asked that the German inhabitants of the left bank of the Rhine be "included in the French military establishment." This was an extreme proposal amounting to annexation in disguise which had never been endorsed by the French Government. But the Marshal himself had quickly abandoned it. In his Note of January 10, the Commander-in-Chief confined himself to demanding the occupation of the Rhine and of its strategic points while seeking a suitable political status for its inhabitants. On March 31 he had read a Note of similar tenor and in the course of the discussion which had followed he had said:
"Peace can only be guaranteed by the possession of the Rhine till further orders, that is to say till Germany has a change of heart."
On May 6, he had insisted in his premises upon the execution of the financial clauses of the peace, in his conclusion upon the limited object of his demand---occupation not of the left bank but of the Rhine; occupation limited in time and scope, "when we find we have been paid and have sufficient safeguards, we shall only have to retire our troops and leave." If this is compared with the clauses of the Treaty itself, what difference is there? Very little, for, as on one hand, the faculty of prolonging the occupation after fifteen years is assured to France; and on the other, because the suggestion of the Marshal to occupy the river without the left bank would plainly have been in case of conflict a grave imprudence to the troops thus thrust forward.
Such was, on the evening of May 6, the unanimous feeling of the heads of Governments who at once meet in M. Pichon's room. After a brief exchange of news it is clear that Marshal Foch had advanced no argument that had not already been discussed. It was therefore decided to maintain the clauses of the Treaty. But on the other hand, the matter adjusted with such difficulty by M. Clemenceau twenty days before, was revived. One of the British delegates, Mr. Bonar Law, known for his habitual restraint, declares:
"If a British General adopted such an attitude towards his Government, he would not retain his post for five minutes."
M. Clemenceau. answered:
"You know my opinion. No matter how much I regret the attitude of the Marshal, we cannot forget that he led our soldiers to Victory."
The matter rested there. The next day the Treaty was handed to the Germans.
We had gone a long way, as I said above, but we still had a long way to go. On May 29, the German delegation presented over the signature of Count Brockdorff its "remarks on the conditions of peace." Chapter XIV was more especially denounced as an odious abuse of power. There was great uneasiness everywhere: in the Conference, in the Parliaments, even among the public. "Will they sign?" was the question on everyone's lips, and on how to make them sign there was wide divergence of opinion. M. Clemenceau, a few days later, summed up the disagreement as follows:
"There are two ways. Some wish to make concessions. We favour decisive action."
No question showed this divergence of views more clearly than that of occupation. At the end of May, Mr. Lloyd George expressed his regret at having allowed himself to be convinced too quickly by the arguments of his French colleague. In the stormy atmosphere of the beginning of June, the concession made to our urgent demand seemed to him to be the greatest mistake that had been made, one which might perhaps lead to-morrow to a renewal of the war. A new discussion was beginning. On four, six, ten occasions the question of occupation was opened up in earnest. The Treaty leaves the Germans only 100,000 men---is it against that that an Army is to be kept on the Rhine? Germany has damages and pensions to pay. Is a great part of her resources to be used to pay for Armies of Occupation? The Germans are at the highest pitch of national excitement. There is no telling what incidents may arise from this system employed in 1815 and 1871. The Treaties of Guarantee henceforth bind the overseas nations to come to the aid of France. If danger arises from such an incident, those nations will be reluctant to recognize their obligations and their moral strength will not be back of their material strength, as in the late war. Protests are already pouring in from other sources. Labor and democratic circles condemned the occupation as unjust, moderates as absurd and useless. It is a matter of sentiment, not of logic, they say. It should never have been accepted. At least it must be greatly restricted.
"I fear," said Mr. Lloyd George, "that we rallied too quickly to the idea of a prolonged occupation. In my opinion, the whole scheme should be reconsidered.
"I accepted the occupation, it is true. But since then I have held four meetings of Imperial War Cabinet and our delegates to the Peace Conference. They are unanimous in their belief that I did wrong, and that I should have given you the choice between the occupation and the Treaty of Guarantee.
"Occupation is useless since Germany will have only 100,000 men and Great Britain and the United States also will be on the side of France in case of aggression. It is illogical because it is only much later in fifty or sixty years that Germany will become dangerous. It is unjust because it amounts to making Germany pay for the cost and upkeep of the French Army. It is ruinous because it will absorb to the detriment of the indemnity fund the best part of the German resources. It is dangerous because unpopular, inspired by the methods of 1815 and 1871, and of a nature to give rise to local incidents which will arouse Anglo-Saxon sympathy for Germany.
"That is the conclusion I draw from my recent interviews. I reproach you with nothing. I accuse myself only of having yielded too quickly last April to your arguments. If you persist, I shall be forced to leave Paris and go to London to submit the question to Parliament."
For three long weeks, from May 23 to June 13, M. Clemenceau, unmoved and unflinching, continued to answer:
"I cannot accept a reversal of the decision already made.
"You know my policy. It is wholly based upon the close union of France with Great Britain and the United States. On that account 1 am attacked on every side as weak and inadequate. I am sure that in persisting I am serving my country well and so 1 persist. But in this question of occupation you do not understand the French point of view. You are in your island, behind the rampart of the sea. We are on the continent, with a worthless frontier. My country suffered more than any other from the Germans. We know them better than you do.
"What we fear in the years to come is not a German attack, but systematic failure to execute the Treaty. No treaty ever contained so many clauses; and no treaty, therefore ever involved so many risks of non-execution. Against these risks, we want the material guarantee of an occupation and we intend to retain it as long as may be necessary to form our opinion as to Germany's good faith. In exchange for the two treaties of immediate assistance, I shortened the duration of occupation I had originally demanded. But as I wished to provide for everything, I also asked---and you agreed---that occupation might in certain events be prolonged beyond the fifteen years. All that has been accepted. I cannot consent to having the question reopened again.
"So much for the guarantee. But we also need in the coming years a barrier behind which our people can work in security and rebuild their ruins. That barrier is the Rhine. I must reckon with national feeling. I do not mean that I am afraid of being overthrown, that does not matter. But I cannot by giving up occupation do something that would take the very backbone out of our people's life.
"Besides it is your interest as well as ours. For in the union of our three countries, France also is indispensable.
"There are now two methods under consideration. We are all anxious to settle the matter. But in England it is believed that the way to succeed is by making concessions. In France we believe that it is by taking decisive action. I will have none of a policy begging Germany's pardon for our victory. I know them too well. I have known them too long. The whole world was told of our principles, in war and in peace. We have remained faithful to them. It is our duty to make them triumph. If the Germans feel that peace is imposed by the strong, who have justice on their side, upon the weak, who were the aggressors, they will resign themselves to it.
"I know that you and your colleagues are perfectly sincere, and this is what makes the situation so serious. Weighing my words, I say to you: If you go before your Parliament, I will go before mine and, if need be, resign. But I will not accept what you propose, it is impossible.
"And now I say that I will not even think of such an hypothesis, nor admit that after five years of war, we can be incapable of giving the German a united answer."
Never I believe has the voice of a citizen speaking for his country had greater force or a more persuasive power, On June 13, with the discreet support of Mr. Wilson, M, Clemenceau obtained satisfaction and secured the unreserved agreement of all his colleagues. Chapter XIV was kept in its entirety, without the change of a single word.
To inform Germany of this---three days later---the Allies forward a phrase from the President of the United States: "The peace must be guaranteed because, among the contracting parties, are those whose promises have proved unworthy of our faith."
It is the interest of France, the common interest of the Allies that I hope to serve in showing---by the detail of an important discussion---how difficult it is for men---even the most earnest and the most sincere---to reach agreement when these men represent different nations and centuries of opposite traditions. May those who make light of this difficulty never be called upon to face it. In this great discussion the responsible heads of Governments put forward their arguments without the slightest reserve, They passed through difficult hours of total disagreement. They defended their views to the very limit. But they did it in mutual esteem and---it is M. Clemenceau who speaks---"in a conversational and friendly tone, even when having cruel things to say to one another." They felt to the full the iron hand of the conflicting past which weighed upon them. They found themselves---again I quote M. Clemenceau---"more French, more English, more American than they could have believed." But the will to agree was strongest. Agreement was reached, and upon this agreement---now signed and sealed---depends the safety of the world. Without it there would have been neither Victory in War, nor Treaty in Peace, nor Security in the Future.
The French Government has been violently attacked over these very clauses. Its difference of opinion with Marshal Foch---from which M. Clemenceau in his personal feelings suffered very keenly---was unrelentingly employed against it. I have shown that if one looks closely at the Treaty and at the facts, the variation between the clauses of the Treaty and the proposals of the Commander-in-Chief is not very considerable. Occupation for fifteen years it is true. For fifteen years? Yes,---but with possibility of prolonging it and of reoccupying either should Germany prove unfaithful to her undertakings, or should the guarantees contained in the British and American Treaties be inadequate or, a fortiori, absent. There is one difference and only one, it is a political not a military difference. The left bank remains German instead of becoming independent. One may regret it. But if we had stuck to the original proposal it would have meant a break with the Allies; the hostile outbreaks of a mixed population, the necessity for intervention with all its risks, the imposition of independence with all its drawbacks. "It is not," as M. Clemenceau told the Senate, "the fault of the Armies of the First Republic if we did not stay on the Rhine. But it is not our fault if to-day when I want to go to the Rhine I find German lands between the Rhine and me,---and if I am obliged to take that into account." Could M. Clemenceau, having obtained satisfaction on all essentials, break with Great Britain on this special point? He did not think so. Who would have proposed it?
Parliament, when, in turn, the question was placed before it, confirmed the decision of the Chief of the Government and of the Cabinet,---the Chamber by 372 votes to 53, and the Senate unanimously. Mr. Barthou, one of M. Clemenceau's opponents, who made the General Report on the Treaty, passed upon this matter with great fairness when he wrote:
No matter how great the authority of the illustrious General in question, a problem such as this can only be treated by military men from a special, isolated, and very exclusive point of view. To a Government this same problem presents itself as a whole with all its components, which agree or disagree, but none of which is unimportant or negligible.
Between so many reasons it is necessary to make a choice and making this choice means adopting a definite policy.
Mr. Barthou added:
The French Government, and it is not likely that in its place another government would have acted differently, has secured for France strong guarantees. Can anyone deny their imposing strength? They complete and strengthen each other.
On the vital point---the closing to Germany's Army of the Rhine regions and joint occupation by all the Allies---the French proposals prevailed. It was just that they should prevail. The Germans and their friends---for they know how to have friends in every country---have made this an excuse for attacking France. They forget that France never demanded annexation. All that France sought was to avert the risk of invasion, which she has known twice in fifty years. We were determined that that should not be renewed. Nothing more, nothing less. Our proposals were as frankly made as they were steadfastly upheld. We modified them on certain secondary points to secure full agreement with our Allies, and to obtain the Treaties of Guarantee. But we did not consent to give up occupation any more than the right to prolong it. We followed this policy in the face of weighty and conflicting opposition---sometimes French, sometimes Allied---because we thought that it was our duty to France. I am still waiting to hear what others would have done in our place.
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