THE SARRE BASIN
THE problem of the Sarre Basin was one of those which the American delegates to the Peace Conference, and the United States as a whole, least understood. It is the only one that led to disagreement between the French and American representatives. It lasted ten days and at times assumed an aspect of conflict. It was the basis of the most outrageous attacks upon my country. All the more reason , therefore, for leaving nothing in the dark. I shall follow the negotiations day by day, and publish the documents, hitherto secret, but which France has no need to hide, to regret or to withdraw.
A difficult problem, indeed, for it had two aspects: an economic aspect because of the coal mines, the ownership of which was essential---in equity and in fact---to a nation systematically ruined by Germany; and a moral and historic aspect because a large part of this territory was inhabited by people French by race, by tradition and by aspiration, which the Treaties of 1814 had left to France and which violence alone had torn from her in 1815. A difficult problem also because its two elements were geographically contradictory. When, strong in our national right, we demanded the return of these French people wrested from us by the Treaty of 1815, and strong in our right to reparations, we demanded the coal mines of the basin, we were confronted on the map with an undeniable conflict between these two claims. The frontier of 1814 would have given us but a part, and the less important part, of this coal basin. On the other hand, the basin itself, while exceeding by 700 square kilometers on the north, the territory included between the frontiers of 1814 and 1815, enclosed only a part of these territories. In other words, our claim to the soil did not coincide with our claim to the sub-soil, and neither the one nor the other could be abandoned.
The conclusion was evident. Justified in claiming the mines as a whole, incapable of insuring their operation on Germany territory without serious industrial, administrative and political guarantee; morally obliged and naturally anxious on historical and sentimental grounds to recover the frontier of 1814; bound by our war aims to forego any forcible annexation, we had, of necessity, to find a mixed solution, economic and political; applicable in its first part south of the 1814 frontier , in its second part north of that line. And nothing but the combination of these two solutions could satisfy the double claim which it was our duty to press.
This statement explains the difficulties encountered. These difficulties were not underestimated by the French delegations and they were met with frankness in a Memorandum which I myself drew up. Its more salient portion I reproduce here, as it has never before been published.
MEMORANDUM PRESENTED BY THE FRENCH
The region under consideration was for many centuries united to France and was only separated from her by force.
(1) Union with France.
(a) Landau was ceded to France in 1648. Sarrelouis was built by Louis XIV. These two towns were represented, at the time of French Revolution, at the Federation Fête, and they proclaimed their union with the Republic "one and indivisible."
In 1793, Landau sustained a heroic siege, at the end of which the National Convention declared that "the town had earned the gratitude of the nation."
All the rest of the Sarre Basin became French between 1792 and 1795, amid the enthusiasm of the population so well described by Goethe, and their vote, expressed in eloquent petitions, still preserved in our National Archives, recorded their union with France, "in one and the same family."
(b) All these petitions deserve to be reproduced, but we will quote a few only.
Those of the Cantons of Queich, Blies and the Sarre express unanimously "the most earnest wish to be reunited to the French Republic."
Certain others, like Impflingen, make a special point of the fact that "this wish is not one for unlimited liberty, but prompted solely by love of their native land."
Others, like Deux-Ponts, offer the prayer to which subsequent events have given its true significance: "to be sheltered from the wars that German despots stir up in their country every twenty years, usually for reasons entirely foreign to them."
The inhabitants of Neuenkirchen hope that France will have the "magnanimity to bestow upon them the greatest possible happiness, by pronouncing their reunion with the first of Republics," and they added: "We will do our utmost to prove worthy of this signal favour."
In the Sarre the tone is very marked. The population hope that "France may deign to admit them to the rank of beloved children, and crown her work by bestowing upon them the glorious title of Frenchmen, which they have so long carried in their hearts, and of which they will never cease to show themselves worthy. "
The population of Sarrebruck phrases its feeling as follows: "May our reunion, as pure as it is inviolable, associate us with France, our Mother country. We shall have henceforth but one heart, one mind, one common welfare."
(c) This passionate desire to be united to France found, moreover, justification in the wise administration we gave to the country. Great public works drew the bonds of sentiment closer. France was the first to operate the mines. A mining school was founded by Napoleon at Geslautern on the left bank of the Sarre, south of Voelklingen, and the results achieved excited the covetousness of the Prussian metallurgists, whose agent, Boecking, in 1814 and 1815, conducted a campaign on behalf of his employers, in favour of Prussian annexation.
The system of State operation instituted by France still exists there. All the mining has moreover been conducted on the basis of studies made by our engineers, and our National Archives contain the receipt, signed by Prussia, of the "plans and registers relative to concessions of the coal mines of the Departments of the Sarre and the Ruhr."
(2) Since the Separation.
(a) It was force alone that separated these regions from France. The Treaty of Paris, May 13, 1814, had not attempted this separation, which was effected only at the request of Prussia in 1815, without reference to the wishes of the population, in order to hold France under a perpetual menace of invasion.
At the very outset several Powers, Great Britain among them, protested against the "cession of territories belonging to France, the loss of which would stir the indignation of all French hearts." Finally Prussian insistence prevailed.
Metternich condemned this operation when he wrote: "Prussia had no respect for any principle of justice or even of decency."
(b) Many of the inhabitants expatriated themselves. Others, oppressed by the Prussian administration and colonization, declared themselves to be "Prussians perforce" (Musspreussen). In 1850, during the Italian war, the feeling was the same. Violent pro-French manifestations were organized at Landau. Again, in 1865, William I traveling in this region was very coldly received.
In 1866, Prince Clovis von Hohenlohe wrote in his memoirs:
"The Bavarians of the Palatinate (i. e. the region about Landau and north of it) would very willingly accept being transferred back to France." Prussian officials in 1870 called Sarrelouis the "French Nest."
(c) German historians did not attempt to deny the feeling of "mésalliance" that persisted in the population for half a century after union with Prussia. They even found in the "faithfulness of these Rhinelanders to their memories of France" a proof of their Germanic character.
Treitschke's remarks on this subject are amusing and instructive. We gather from his description that, until 1848, the Rhinelanders had given proof of their German patriotism by vigorous defense of their French institutions against Berlin, and by the display of that invincible dislike with which their new Prussian compatriots inspired them.
(d) There exists, even to-day, in the Sarre Basin, a strong middle class and peasant element passionately attached to French tradition. In the region of Sarrelouis, it forms a large majority. This town welcomed the French troops after the Armistice and addressed a cordial telegram to the President of the Republic. The sentiment had survived.
"The sympathies of Sarrelouis for France are stronger than might have been hoped," writes a witness. "The population would declare itself without hesitation, were it not restrained by fear of Prussian retaliation, in case the frontier were not modified.. ... Many people at Sarrelouis were disposed not to take part in the last elections for the German National Assembly.
"The Municipal Council of Sarrelouis proposed a secret deliberation for the purpose of demanding its reunion with France. It would gladly send a deputation to Paris if this were desired. Even now, we may be sure that Sarrelouis would send to the Chamber a deputy of French sympathies."
To sum up, the whole of this country which was French for a long time and never had any reason to complain of French sovereignty, was wrested from France by force, without the inhabitants having been consulted. In spite of the Prussian immigration it has kept its remembrance of the past and in spite of continual divisions, recalling those of Poland, it remains at least partly French in sentiment.
(3) Possible Objections.
(a) Two objections have been offered.
The separation, though violent and unjust, dates back a century. Is it possible to blot out one hundred years of history?
Besides, must we not take into consideration the great German immigration, systematically carried on through half a century, which has profoundly modified the population?
(b) To the first objection it may be answered that in the opinion of the Conference time does not suffice to eliminate righteous claims. Poland is revived after more than a century, and Bohemia after more than four centuries.
To the second objection, the French Government can also oppose some of the most justifiable decisions of the Conference.
The systematical colonization of a country conquered by force is not an excuse for the outrage to which it has been subjected. It is rather an aggravation.
Prussian colonization in Poland, German colonization in Bohemia, Magyar colonization in Transylvania, did not prevent the Powers from heeding the wishes of peoples conquered in the past, or from restoring their rights.
France claims the same treatment.
(4) Conclusions to be drawn from the Principle of Restitution.
The minimum France claims, under this head, is the frontier of 1814. The line of this frontier is as follows:
Starting from the Rhine, south of Germersheim, it takes in Landau and, at Weissenburg, joins the 1815 frontier which it follows till it reaches the valley of Sarrelouis. From this last point it forms two salients, north of Sarrebruck and Sarrelouis, and joins the French frontier of 1815 about sixty kilometers south of Merzig.
In its details, this line shows the influence of principalities which have disappeared.
Eventual altercations would, therefore, be required in its application; but, as a whole, it represents a principle which cannot be questioned.
This principle, France has a right to invoke.
The region which, north of Alsace Lorraine, is its geographical continuation and extends beyond the frontier of 1814 is a mining and industrial region, of well marked character. This region is known as the Basin of the Sarre.
(1) Brief Description of the Region.
(a) The Sarre Basin, which is triangular in form, its base running parallel to the Sarre between Sarrebruck and Sarrelouis, and its apex being at Frankenholz (nine kilometers northwest of Homburg) has an economic unity derived from its coal.
There are three principal groups of mines; the first situated in the Valley of the Sarre, from Sarrelouis to just above Sarrebruck; the second, around Neuenkirchen; the third, in the region of St. Ingbert.
Around these mines has developed an industrial region in which the three main industries, in the order of their importance, are: metallurgy, glass making and pottery.
(b) This whole region, mining as well as industrial, is inhabited by miners and factory workers. Nearly all of them are natives of the country.
Many have small houses and cultivate a little plot of ground. In 1912, 39 per cent. of those who worked in the mines belonging to the Government were owners of real estate, 65 per cent. being married. The unmarried were nearly all sons of miners in the district and lived with their parents.
Thanks to a highly developed system of communications (including both standard and narrow gauge railways, electric tramways and motor-car services), it is possible for these workers, 72,000 in number, to live at a certain distance from the mines which are the very heart of the district. More than 40 per cent. of them avail themselves of this privilege.
In other words, the Sarre Basin forms an entity the three elements of which are: a mining zone (very incompletely developed) ; an industrial zone, which is the outgrowth of the former; and finally a workers' zone which extends beyond the other two and is connected with them by railroads, of which Homburg is the most important center.
(c) In this basin, the component parts of which are so interdependent, any artificial separation would be ruinous.
A frontier cutting in two the basin and its railroads, would place the non-French section at a disadvantage, since it would have to compete with the Westphalian factories on the German side and, at the same time, would be isolated on the French side from the Briey ore which is the necessary complement of the Sarre coal.
The financial situation would be no less disadvantageous because, the mark falling below the franc, remuneration for the same work would be different in the two sections, owing to the exchange.
Finally, the labour situation would be equally deplorable. First on account of transportation, for many of the workers would find a frontier between their place of residence and their place of work; second on account of wages, for the various reasons already enumerated; and finally on account of the cost of production; of working regulations, of social laws and the maintenance of order in times of strike.
(d) Recent facts have, moreover, revealed the unity of the region.
On the one hand several of the big Prussian manufacturers, actuated by economic consideration, have made significant approaches to the French authorities with a view to maintaining this unity.
On the other hand, since the Armistice, the French authorities charged with the supervision of the local administration have been unanimous in recognizing the impossibility of separating the mining, industrial and working men's districts. They all declared the danger which would result, even during the transitional period of the Armistice, from the establishment of barriers between the different circles (bezirks), constituting the Basin. The military organization has thus been placed, though temporarily, on the basis of the economic unity of the region. The results have been excellent.
(2) France's Special Title to Reparation in the Sarre Basin.
(a) It is notorious that the industrial destruction committed by Germany in France was especially directed against the coal and industrial zone of the departments of the Nord and the Pas-de-Calais. Two-thirds of the surface, as well as of the production of this zone, have been systematically destroyed by the invader.
This destruction was committed in the following order:
First, the flooding of the Lens Basin, resulting in an annual loss of eight million tons of coal.
Next, the destruction of the Courrières Basin and of Dourges, resulting in an annual loss of four million tons.
Finally, the general devastation of the coal district of the departments of the Nord, resulting in an annual loss of eight million tons.
(b) This destruction was not the result of chance or of war operations. It was an integral part of the economic plan of the German Staff. This plan, which was printed in Munich, by order of the German Quartermaster General, in February, 1916, and which was the work of 200 experts covering 4,031 operations, disclosed in detail the benefit anticipated by Germany from the disappearance of the French mines and industries. Premeditation is thus thoroughly established.(29)
This premeditation is explained as regards the Basin of the Nord and the Pas-de-Calais by its keen. competition with the Westphalian Basin.
(c) The results of the methodical operations conducted by Germany are as follows:
Two hundred shafts rendered useless for several years.
All plants in existence at that date entirely destroyed.
A production of over twenty million tons, or 50 per cent. of the national production, withdrawn from the country:
A production of corresponding by-products equally eliminated, viz.:
Coke 2,243,000 tons Briquettes 1,674,925 " Sulphate of Ammonia 23,200 " Benzol 13,900 " Coal Tar 61,000 "
The labour population of 100,000 workmen, thrown out of work and their families reduced to want.
In all, a material damage of at least two thousand million francs gold (price of 1912) to which should be added loss of production during the ten years required for reconstruction.
It is enough to state these facts to establish France's right to complete reparation.
(3) France after the War.
(a) If France, at the conclusion of peace, were not in possession of the Sarre Basin, her economic position would be disastrous.
France needs this basin, not only to furnish coal to Alsace and Lorraine which consume seven million tons more than they produce, but for herself also.
Before the war, France imported annually 23,000,000 tons. With the added needs of Alsace and Lorraine, she would therefore without the Sarre coal be obliged to import even after the re-establishment of her mines in the North, thirty million tons, and, until this re-establishment, fifty millions out of a total consumption of seventy-five millions.
(b) This situation is summarized in the following table which calls for no comment:
In millions of tons. France's consumption of coal (1913) 63 Consumption by Alsace-Lorraine (1913) 12
75 France's production in coal (1913) 40 Destruction of the French mines during the war 20 France's production of coal up to date 20 Production of Alsace-Lorraine 4
Total production up to date
24 Coal to be imported up to date 51
(c) In other words, France would be economically tributary to Germany, who, through coal, would control the prices of all our steel and iron in the east and thus dominate our policies.
German manufacturers themselves wrote in their Memorandum to the Chancellor on May 20, 1915: "Coal is one of the most decisive of political factors. The neutral countries are dependent upon the belligerent who can supply them with coal."
Consequently if France were left without coal Germany's domination over her would be assured.
Such a situation would mean imposing upon France defeat in peace after victory in war.
(4) The Cession of the, Sarre Basin is indispensable as a reparation from the general point of view.
(a) It is not only reparation for the special damage done to French mines that is here involved. It is the whole problem of Germany's indebtedness to France.
The amount of reparation for which Germany is indebted to France on account of devastations is a difficult financial problem, complicated by the just claims of other Allied Powers.
It is doubtful whether the means of payment which Germany has at present at her disposal, or which she will have in the course of the next few years, will enable her even approximately to meet the estimates for this reparation, the total of which amounts to 1,000,000 millions.
(b) Therefore in her own interest as well as in that of her creditors it is indispensable that Germany should avail herself of every possible means to discharge her debt.
It must be recalled that:---
Germany is one of the greatest coal-producing countries in the world, and that her production exceeds her consumption (she extracted before the war 191 million tons and consumed 137), without counting 87 million tons of lignite, which gives for 1914 a total production of 278 million tons.
The coal mines constitute a sure resource and yield a product readily convertible into money.
Coal, like all other raw materials, has an intrinsic value independent of the German exchange situation, and therefore eliminates one of the most difficult problems in the financial settlement.
In these circumstances we are led to consider the cession of the German part of the Coal Basin of the Sarre as a necessary element of the reparation due by Germany to France.
(c) The Sarre Basin produced in 1912-1913:
Prussian Mines 12,730,000 Bavarian Mines 896,000 Lorraine Mines 3,846,000 Total 17,472,000
The production of that part of the basin situated north of the frontier of Alsace-Lorraine represents therefore 13,626,000 tons.
It is difficult to calculate the value of these mines---this value depending naturally upon the net cost of production, upon the sale price and upon the duration of the mines, etc.
In any event the mineral wealth of the basin estimated, for layers worked at a depth of at least 1,000 meters, amounts to 3,660 million tons.
It is therefore wise and just to take account of so important a resource in the general account of reparations.
(5) This necessary reparation is an easy reparation.
(a) The Sarre Mines belong almost in their entirety to the Prussian and Bavarian Treasuries.
Total. Surface 116,000 Hectares Prussian Fiscal Mines 110,000 " Bavarian Fiscal Mines 4,000 "
The cession from State to State presents no difficulty; the few private mines that exist would be repurchased by the German State from their owners and ceded to the French State.
As has previously been mentioned, the Sarre Basin through its cession will revert to the country which developed its value and which after having done so was deprived of it by force.
(b) No economic break will result from this cession.
Indeed, the economic outlet of these mines is to the South for they competed in the North with Westphalian coal to which Prussia has always sacrificed them.
It suffices to recall that with this in view Germany has constantly opposed the canalization of the Sarre below Sarrebruck and of the Moselle as far as the Rhine. The only water communication which she decided to grant to the Sarre Basin, was the canal of the coal mines which at present has no outlet except on French territory at Nancy on one hand, and at Strassburg on the other. It may therefore be said that it was Germany herself who in order to protect the interests of the rival Westphalian Basin, imposed and maintained the outlet of the Sarre in the direction of France and Alsace-Lorraine.
Before becoming French citizens in 1793, several magnates of the region alleged in a Memorandum addressed to the Representatives of the People, that: "Commerce---the exchange of our iron, our timber and our coal for goods produced by French factories---has cemented and maintained the bond between the inhabitants and the French."
At present, Alsace-Lorraine, France, Italy and Switzerland are important buyers in the Sarre Basin. The return of Alsace-Lorraine to France and the orientation that Germany deliberately gave the basin can only serve to develop this situation in the near future.
(c) Finally, the prejudice to Germany will not be of a nature to compromise her economic equilibrium so far as coal is concerned. The following table so indicates:
Total production of Germany in 1913 (without counting eighty-seven million tons of lignite) 191,000,000 Production of the Sarre 13,626,000
177,374,000 Total consumption in 1913 137,000,000 Surplus after cession of the Sarre 40,374,000
(5) Conclusions drawn from the Principle of Reparation.
As special reparation for the destruction of her mines, as well as a necessary element in the total reparation, France is justified in claiming the Sarre Basin.
By the Sarre Basin must be understood:
(a) The mines operated.
(b) Layers not yet exploited.
(c) Industrial Region (factories, steel works, foundries, etc.,) which owes its existence to the basin and forms part of it.
The profound unity of this region has already been referred to.
To separate it into several sections would be ruinous and a source of innumerable vexations for the inhabitants.
This separation moreover would render the operation of the mines impossible or in any event exceedingly difficult. It should therefore not be considered.
For these reasons France's minimum claim under the head of Reparations, includes the region delimitated by the following line :
Starting from the frontier of 1815 to the point where it is crossed by the French Nied, this line includes in the Basin of the Sarre the valley and the villages of the French Nied---passes by Beckingen (excluded), Duppenweiter-Bettingen, Tholey, St. Wendel, Werschweiter, Kuselberg, (two kilometers east of Momburg) Kirrberg, Einod, (all these preceding localities included), and joins the frontier of 1814 and 1815 in following the ridge valleys of the Blies and the Bickenhall.
This Memorandum, based upon the admirable essays of Professor Gallois and his colleagues of the Comité d'Etudes,(30) was explained and interpreted to our Allies in the course of numerous conferences during the months of January and February. It offered a three-term solution imposed upon us by the circumstances: restoration to French sovereignty of the territories south of the frontier of 1814; a special political administration for the territories of the mineral and industrial basin north of this frontier; full ownership of the mines in these two zones. Our Memorandum was distributed in March to the heads of the delegations. The discussion thus prepared, opened a few days later.
On the morning of March 28, M. Loucheur and I were summoned by the Council of the Four to President Wilson's residence. We were jointly entrusted with the verbal presentation of the French case. The moment we entered the meeting our impression was formed. Mr. Lloyd George did not attribute first rate importance to this matter. President Wilson on the contrary, wore a quizzical smile that foreshadowed objections.
I will not reproduce the statement made that day by M. Loucheur and myself, the whole substance of which was borrowed from the document I have just quoted. The first interruptions showed us just where we stood. Mr. Lloyd George without hesitation expressed himself in favour of our contention so far as the ownership of the mines was concerned. He recognized that this ownership was due to us as a just compensation. With regard to the territories, he was less categorical. He admitted that an autonomous organization ought to be established for the entire coal basin; in other words that it should be detached from Germany. On the other hand, however, he did not admit our right to possess both the territories and the coal, and our claim, for the frontier of 1814 alarmed him; he repeated the formula so often heard during the discussions: "Let us not renew the mistake committed by Germany in 1871 in the name of a fictitious historical right. Do not let us create a new Alsace-Lorraine."
Mr. Wilson, who at first had said nothing, then spoke.
Mr. Lloyd George had accepted the greater part of our claims; the President, on the contrary, rejected them all. He admitted our right to take from the Sarre Basin a quantity of coal equal to the deficit from our mines, due to the war. But he refused us the ownership of the mines, the frontier of 1814, and the autonomous organization suggested by Mr. Lloyd George. His point of view, presented in the most friendly, but most emphatic manner, was as follows:
"Never has France, in any public document, claimed the frontier of 1814. The bases of peace accepted by her speak of reparation for the wrong which she suffered in 1871---and not in 1815.
"Now these bases bind the Allies. The historical argument used by Germany against France to justify her theft of Alsace and Lorraine is a dangerous one. Let us avoid using it.
"The frontier of 1814 does not correspond to any economic reality. It would ruin the basin by cutting it in two, without assuring coal to France. A cession of territory, without an immediate plebiscite, would under these conditions be inadmissible.
"There is no Nation more intelligent than the French. If I thus frankly express my point of view I do not fear her judgment I have so high an opinion of the intelligence of the French Nation that I believe she will always accept a principle based upon justice and applied fairly.
"I do not believe that this problem can be compared with that of Alsace-Lorraine. For half a century the world had its eyes turned towards Alsace-Lorraine. For half a century the world has never thought of those provinces as being German. The question of the frontier of 1814 has not quite the same character.
"I am ready to recognize that France should have the use of the mines for a period that shall be determined; but as there can be no question of depriving the local industries of coal the question of the ownership of the mines appears to me to be purely sentimental.
"I regret to make these objections and I apologize for it. It is painful to me to oppose France's wishes. But I could not act otherwise without failing in my duty."
The discussion from this time on went to the very roots of the problem. M. Clemenceau, who had allowed his colleagues to answer questions of fact and figures put by. President Wilson, felt it necessary to intervene, and did so with rare elevation of thought.
"I have," he said, "a serious reservation to make. You eliminate sentiment and memory. The world is not guided by principles alone.
"You say you are ready to render us justice from the economic point of view, and I thank you for it. But economic interests are not everything. The history of the United States is glorious, but brief. One hundred and twenty years is a very long period for you; for us it is a short one., Our conception of history cannot be quite the same as yours.
"Our ordeals have created in us a profound sentiment of the reparation due us. The point at issue is not material reparation only; the need for moral reparation is no less great.
"I know all that you have done for victory but I believe that you will lose nothing by recognizing in this question a sentiment which is something different from your principles, but no less profound.
"When Lafayette and Rochambeau---two youths---went to the aid of America struggling for her independence, it was not cold reason or deeds of valour, common enough after all, which sowed the seed of affectionate gratitude which has sprung from their action; but an impression, a deep fellow-feeling that has linked our two nations forever.
"I am old. In a few months I shall have left politics forever. My disinterestedness is complete. I will defend before Parliament the conclusions that we shall reach here together; but if you do not listen to me to-day, you will lose an opportunity of riveting yet another link in the chain of affection binding France to America.
"There are, in this region, 150,000 Frenchmen. These men who in 1918 sent addresses to President Poincaré have also a right to justice. You wish to respect the rights of the Germans. So do I. But bear in mind the rights of these Frenchmen as you will have to bear in mind later the historic rights of Bohemia and of Poland.
"We shall soon resume this discussion. For the moment I merely ask you, when you are alone, to think over all I have just said to you and ask your conscience whether it does not contain a great deal of truth."
Thus, two principles confront each other. On one side, economic arguments which can be shown in figures; on the other side, moral arguments which can be weighed. On both sides a lively and honest desire for agreement, but the impossibility of reaching this agreement. Mr. Lloyd George favours a compromise. But the historical argument so dear to the French heart has no weight with any of our Allies. Our entire contention is disputed. We are far from the goal and the road is long and hard.
This dramatic meeting ended at twelve-thirty. At two o'clock M. Clemenceau, M. Loucheur and I met again at the War Office and went over the situation which was not promising. Frontier of 1814---we were alone, therefore without hope of success. Ownership of the mines and creation of an autonomous state---we had Great Britain's support without, however, adequate guarantees either for the operation of the mines or above all for the liberation of the French inhabitants of the Sarre. Long experience had taught us that reasoning borrowed from the past had but little appeal for Mr. Wilson: there he feared to find the germ of new wars. The one point on which we felt a lesser resistance was the economic problem. Mr. Wilson contested our ownership of the mines: but already he recognized our right to work them. It was upon that point, therefore, that M. Clemenceau, M. Loucheur and I agreed unanimously to make our first effort. We would assert simultaneously two principles, distinct in their character but one in their consequence. The first was that operation of the mines required a special political organization of the territory. The second, that if our Allies believe there are too many Germans in the Sarre Basin to justify an immediate reunion with France, we on the other hand deem that there are in this same basin too many people of French origin and aspirations for France to consent to leave them under Prussian domination. The assertion of these three principles---ownership, complete guarantee of operation through a special political administration, safeguards for the rights of the inhabitants---became the bulwark of our defense. We dealt with them in three Notes, dated respectively March 29, and April 1 and 5. I publish the first below:
NOTE ON THE SARRE QUESTION
France demands first that the preliminaries of peace should permanently guarantee:
(a) Full ownership of all the mines of the Sarre.
(b) An economic régime which, on the soil, would permit the development of the sub-soil.
If the Sarre coal were found under the soil of the Ruhr, France would ask nothing more.
We ask more because the soil of the Sarre was formerly French soil:
---in part for nearly two centuries
---in part for more than twenty years and during the Revolution, when the right of self-determination for all nations was applied for the first time, this country was entirely incorporated with France "one and indivisible" by the free vote of its people.
It was wrested from France against the will of its inhabitants. This was the first manifestation of the military and economic imperialism of Prussia from the moment she became our neighbor---an imperialism whose traces it is the first object of the Treaty of Peace to obliterate.
It is true that, on this soil germanized for one hundred years, the majority of the population is German owing to immigration.
We recognize this fact by not claiming annexation. On the other hand we insist on a solution which would recognize in part at least France's unquestionable claim on a country consecrated French by the will of its inhabitants.
This country has been French. The fact creates the presumption that it will become so again gladly. The example of Alsace-Lorraine is there to prove it. We already know that the majority of the inhabitants living in the circle of Sarrelouis are ready to demand their reunion with France.
In order to allow time in all fairness to undo what was done a century ago by force, it is just that the question of the sovereignty of this region should not be settled immediately.
For the time being it will not be placed under the sovereignty either of Germany or of France, but under the protection of the League of Nations.
The Germans in this region will retain their nationality.
But, like Germans living in a foreign country they will take no part in the elections for the German Assemblies.
They will vote for the local Assemblies (District Council and Municipalities).
The German officials, appointed by the Central Administration, will be withdrawn.
All facilities for the liquidation of their possessions will be given Germans who desire to leave the country.
France will receive from the League of Nations a double mandate:
(1) Military occupation.
(2) Right of visa or veto on the local administration (including the schools), the nomination of Mayors and deputy Mayors.
French nationality will be conferred individually and after investigation upon those who ask for it.
When in each of the principal administrative sections the majority of the electors shall have adopted French nationality, or rather when the district council shall ask for annexation to France, this annexation will occur de jure upon its acceptance by the League of Nations.
At the end of fifteen years the inhabitants who have not already manifested their choice must be given an opportunity to do so. No demand for reunion with Germany would be considered before that date as this term of fifteen years is fixed precisely with a view to allowing events to shape themselves and the population to decide justly and freely as to its sovereignty. Prussia had one hundred years to consolidate her work of violence.
The solution outlined above enables us to meet the two objections formulated against the French demands:
First objection: It is a new claim advanced by France, who had hitherto spoken only of Alsace-Lorraine.
Here also is a question of Alsace and of Lorraine for it is a question of their frontier. French Lorraine mutilated in 1871 had already been mutilated in 1815. Time without doubt has placed these two frontiers on different planes. But the proposed solution respects them.
The Lorraine of Metz and Thionville will be immediately detached from Germany. The Lorraine of Sarrebruck will be given time to decide to which of the two countries, having already been governed by them both, she wishes to be attached definitely in view of the fact that her re-attachment to Prussia one hundred years ago was entirely due to violence.
Second objection: It is a breach in the principle of the right of self-determination of peoples.
No. Nothing definite or irreparable is decided. On the contrary homage is rendered to this principle in giving the population the opportunity under the protection of the League of Nations to decide upon a matter concerning which Germany---as opposed to France---has never consulted them, i. e. the sovereignty under which they desire to live in the future, in view of the possible hesitation created by the double historic title of the two countries.
To sum up, if on the one hand our Allies deem France's right to the region of the Sarre insufficient to justify immediate reannexation, on the other hand, France deems these rights too important for her to accept the definite adjudication of the Sarre Basin to Germany by the Treaty. An intermediate régime should therefore be considered.
We now went at once to the heart of the discussion. The Note just read establishes the fact that if, in order to reach an agreement we eventually decide to give up the frontier of 1814, we yield neither on the question of the liberation of. the French population of the Sarre, the ownership of the mines, nor on the special political régime necessary for their operation. After this triple assertion which defines the limits of the debate, we take up, to deal with the problems one by one, the long chapter of the mining clauses.
The question of ownership is settled on March 31, when Mr. Wilson agrees to the transfer of the mines to France with certain guarantees of an economic order but on the condition that there should be no question either of displacing the frontier or of creating an independent State. His proposal which did not give us satisfaction but from which a week later we are to evolve the solution is as follows:
It is agreed in principle:
1. That full ownership of the coal mines of the Sarre Basin should pass to France to be credited on her claims against Germany for reparation.
2. That for the exploitation of these mines the fullest economic facilities shall be accorded to France, including particularly:
(a) Exemption from taxation on the part of Germany, including important export dues.
(b) Full mobility of labour, foreign and native.
(c) Freedom for the development of adequate means of communication by rail and water.
3. That the political and administrative arrangements necessary to secure the foregoing results be inquired into.
We are still far from the goal. Nevertheless on one important item, the points of view begin to harmonize. M. Clemenceau seizes the occasion. He takes the paper handed to him by the President. He reads and re-reads it---saying neither yes nor no. He states that before answering he must consult his advisers. So a committee of three is formed. I represent France, and I have the assistance of M. Louis Aubert, who for two years had most successfully directed the Press and Information Service of the French High Commission in America, and of M. Deflinne, Director of Mines. Professor Charles H. Haskins is the American delegate; Mr. Headlam Morley the British. France should remember the names of these two men; their uprightness and sympathetic understanding of our rights played a most important part in the results obtained. After ten meetings of several hours each, the demands of our engineers are accepted and on certain points completed. We agree on the technical conditions of the operation of the mines in German territory by the French State which was to own them. But that does not satisfy me. No technical clauses can avail if, on all sides, political and administrative pressure is to distort and warp them. I appeal to the good faith of my British and American colleagues with whom I was convinced in these circumstances, as in all others, I should not plead in vain and I obtain from them their signatures at the end of our report to the following declaration, the importance of which I need not emphasize:
The undersigned are agreed in the opinion that if the above articles which appear to be necessary from the social and economic point of view were to be applied without the establishment of a special administrative and political régime, serious difficulties and conflicts would inevitably arise.
Charles H. Haskins
Thus the second part of the problem rejected on March 31 by President Wilson and no less important for us than the first, is put forward by those who, up to that time, had not been entrusted with its discussion. From then on the negotiation is solidly established and if we finally have to give up our claim to the frontier of 1814, we shall at least obtain liberal and essential compensations; but not without another effort.
On the morning of April 8, Mr. Lloyd George, after reading Mr. Headlam Morley's report, frankly sides with us. We offer either the establishment of an independent State linked to France by a Customs Union, or the sovereignty of the League of Nations with a mandate given to France, and a plebiscite at the end of fifteen years. Mr. Lloyd George presents at the same time two propositions similar to ours, and in a few words states his opinion:
"I would give the Sarre Basin its independence under the authority of the League of Nations.
"A Customs Union would attach it to France. There does not exist, it is true, any natural economic link between this region and Germany. All its relations are with Alsace and Lorraine.
"We must also not forget that this country was French in its greater part until the beginning of the nineteenth century; that it was taken away from France by force in spite of the opposition of English statesmen.
"We are opposed to all annexation. But we do not believe that it is possible for this region to live if we do not make it a political unit.
"I am convinced that, if in a few years a plebiscite takes place, this population will not ask to belong again to Germany."
Mr. House that day represented President Wilson who was ill. He admits that these solutions are "very interesting and worthy of close examination." It seems that a step forward has been made.
But on the same day, the eighth in the afternoon, President Wilson, who has returned to his place, again voices his hesitations. He approves our plan of economic clauses. On the other hand he approves neither change nor suspension of sovereignty. He also rejects the suggestion of a mandate and to meet the danger pointed out by us of incidents and conflicts, hands us a Note which merely proposes, instead of an independent political unit, the setting up of a Commission of Arbitration to settle the differences between the French mines and the German Government.
M. Clemenceau refuses. A short and lively debate ensues with a brisk volley of questions and answers. The President implores us not to make the peace of the world depend upon the question of the Sarre. M. Clemenceau replies that the peace of the world demands, first of all, that justice be established among the Allies. No conclusion is reached. The atmosphere is tense. Since March 27, the minor officials at the Hotel Crillon are nervous. The Chief of the Press Service, Mr. Ray Stannard Baker, is particularly active in spreading pessimistic reports. On April 6, he accuses M. Clemenceau of "claiming annexations." The following day, the seventh, the rumour spreads that the President, discouraged, has ordered the George Washington to Brest. The hour is critical.
Once again, M. Clemenceau, M. Loucheur and I meet on April 8 at the War Office at seven o 'clock in the evening. We weigh the consequence of an adverse decision. Nevertheless we decide not to yield. A Note, which I write during the night, states the reasons for our resistance. This Note distributed very early the next morning to the heads of Governments asserts both our spirit of conciliation and the impossibility of our making any further concessions. This is the text:
ANSWER TO PRESIDENT WILSON'S NOTE OF APRIL 8.
I. Preliminary observations:
The Note presented by President Wilson to M. Clemenceau on March 31 was worded as follows:
"It is agreed in principle:
"(1) That full ownership of the coal mines of the Sarre Basin should pass to France to be credited on her claims against Germany for reparation.
"(2) That for the exploitation of these mines the fullest economic facilities shall be accorded to France, including particularly:
"(a) Exemption from taxation on the part of Germany including import and export dues.
"(b) Full, mobility of labour, foreign and native.
"(c) Freedom for the development of adequate means of communication by rail and water.
"(3) That the political and administrative arrangements necessary to secure the foregoing results should be inquired into."
With reference to this Note the three designated experts drew up a set of economic clauses which they recognized as just and necessary, both in the interest of the working of the basin as well as for its general prosperity and the welfare of the population.
The experts at the same time gave as their opinion that certain of these clauses would, in application, cause inevitable friction and conflict unless a special political and administrative régime were established.
The Note presented by President Wilson on April 8 accepts, save for certain amendments, the economic clauses, but carries no political or administrative clauses.
In effect, it creates a Court of Arbitration for settling conflicts, but does nothing to prevent the said conflicts.
In other words the Note of April 8 recognizes that conflicts will be inevitable, and confines itself to establishing a jurisdiction which, in every case, will decide between France and Germany.
Thus the Sarre Basin will in final analysis be under the administration of a court.
Such a régime of perpetual lawsuits seems inacceptable not only for France and for Germany but also in the interests of the populations of the Sarre and of world peace.
II. Proofs that conflicts would arise.
Examination of the articles proves that conflicts would be sure to arise. For example.
Article 9. If German sovereignty and administration remain intact, how will it be possible to apply French law in the matter of labour, recruiting, wages, etc., for only a part of the workmen of the basin?
Article 12. How can the powers of police inspectors, appointed by the French State, be conciliated with the application of German justice and police?
Article 13. How will France be able to exercise her visa on the mining, industrial and social regulations if she has no official or administrative standing? Let us suppose that Weimar were to pass laws reducing working hours to six for an electric station supplying the mines. How in such a case would the miners be able to work eight hours under the French régime?
Article 16. How can the territory of the Sarre be submitted to a French Customs Administration if France has no administrative personnel there or any other title than ownership of the mines? A Customs House cannot exist without Customs officers.
All these articles are necessary and economically just, but require an administrative and political complement which the experts have demanded and which the Note of April 8 does not provide. Many similar examples could be quoted.
III. General consequences of the proposed system.
According to the terms suggested by President Wilson the solution would be as follows:
(1) The inhabitants would be represented in the Reichstag where incidents could be artificially provoked.
(2) The whole German and Prussian administrative system that has oppressed the region for one hundred years would be continued.
(3) Every economic measure however indispensable taken by the French Government would be indefinitely held up by the German authorities who, to this end, would have only to bring an action before the Court of Arbitration.
(4) If the 72,000 workmen placed under French labour laws started a strike, what legislation could be applied in the basin?
Franco-German friction would thus be multiplied in this region and would be reflected in all the relations between the two countries. No special and local Tribunal would be able to repair the damage done in this way.
The Sarre Basin, under such a régime, would become a European Morocco with all and more than all the defects of the Algeciras Act. It would be a hot-bed and forcing ground for continual Franco-German conflicts.
IV. France's two essential interests are defeated.
Moreover, the arrangement suggested satisfies neither of the two essential interests which the French Government must safeguard.
(1) As regards the sub-soil.
The ownership of the mines as a perpetual right was agreed to by President Wilson's Note to M. Clemenceau on March 31. France claimed that this coal to which she had a right of reparation was indispensable to her and to Alsace-Lorraine. Now the Note of April 8 considers the simple cession of this right of ownership after fifteen years. France cannot agree to such an arrangement.
(2) As regards the soil.
The President of the United States objected to France's first claim that there are on this territory---formerly French in its greater part---too many German elements due to German immigration for an immediate union with France to be acceptable. The French Government agreed on March 28 to examine another solution but it constantly declared that there are on this same territory too many French elements henceforth turned towards her for France to renounce safeguarding for the future their right to be reunited to her.
Moreover, in order to ensure this reunion in fifteen years by the free vote of the population, the minimum condition is that the territory until then be withdrawn from the pressure of Prussian administration to which it has been subjected for one hundred years.
This administration (elections, functionaries, etc.) which the Note of April 8 leaves in force would give the Germans the weapon for that terrorism whereby they have always ruled, and would deprive the inhabitants of that "fair chance" of liberation which France wishes to procure for them.
France agrees that all guarantees, even that of nationality, be given to the inhabitants as individuals. But she cannot admit that the economic and social mandate which will be entrusted to her be mortgaged at every turn by the exercise of Prussian sovereignty and administration.
To sum up, the French Government, after having carefully studied President Wilson's Note of April 8, believes that this Note:
(1) Does not contain the administrative and political clauses which the experts' report of April 5 deems indispensable in order to avoid conflicts.
(2) Involves, by reason of this fact, great risk of stirring up local and general complications.
(3) Supplies Germany with a permanent means of obstructing French operation of the mines of the basin.
(4) Entirely re-opens the question at the expiration of fifteen years of France's right of ownership over the mines which was sanctioned by President Wilson's Note of March 31.
(5) Does not insure to the population in view of the proposed plebiscite the indispensable guarantees necessary after one hundred years of Prussian oppression.
The French Government wishes therefore to adhere to one of Mr. Lloyd George's proposals in harmony with those which it has itself formulated.
It is ready to complete them in conformity with President Wilson's suggestions:
(a) By a plebiscite after fifteen years;
(b) By a Court of Arbitration appointed to settle possible conflicts in the application of one or the other of these three solutions.
Henceforth the positions could hardly be modified or the solution much delayed. April 9 would in fact be decisive. At the morning meeting Mr. Lloyd George gave his full approval to our Note of the previous day and drew attention to the fact that the plebiscite at the end of fifteen years answered President Wilson's objections. The latter still holds out. But he and his counsellors waver under the force of our arguments.
The afternoon of the ninth he presents a new text which, without conferring the mandate upon France transformed into an administrative commission the Commission of Arbitration which he had suggested the previous day. I ask the President three essential questions:
1°---Will German sovereignty be suspended?
2°---Will the Commission have full rights, including that of dismissing officials?
3°---Will the elections to the Reichstag be suppressed?
President Wilson answers: "Yes."
On hearing this affirmative answer M. Clemenceau agrees to leave to the Committee, composed of Mr. Haskins, Mr. Morley and myself, the task of drafting a clause.
Working from five o'clock in the afternoon until three o'clock in the morning, our Committee, assisted by technical and legal experts, completes this task and on the morning of the tenth the draft is submitted to the Council of Four who accept it: it will become Section 4 of Part III of the Treaty. It sets forth in forty-six articles the principles which since March 28 France had defended before the Conference. The mines are yielded to us in full ownership with the most minute guarantees for their operation. In order to assure the rights and welfare of the population the Government is transferred for fifteen years to the League of Nations which delegates it to a Commission of five members. This Commission will have all the powers hitherto belonging to the German Empire, Prussia and Bavaria. A Customs Union will be established between France and the territory of the Sarre. At the end of fifteen years the population will vote by districts on the following questions: reunion with Germany: union with France: continuance of autonomy. If a mining district voted for Germany the latter would have the right to repurchase the mines of that district but with the obligation to supply France with the corresponding quantity of coal called for by her industrial and domestic needs. In all other cases the total ownership of the mines goes to France.
These provisions, like the rest of the Treaty, have been subjected to contradictory criticisms, some people finding them insufficient, others excessive. The latter criticisms have been keener than the former and have furnished anti-French propaganda with valuable material.
What can be said in reply to the first of these two criticisms which is not already clear from what precedes? We have not obtained the frontier of 1814. The complete silence on this point in the Allies' declarations on December 21, 1916, and January 10, 1917, as well as in the parliamentary resolutions in the month of June following did not, it must be confessed, render the task of the French delegation any easier. Besides who could deny that this frontier would have given us but a small part of the coal; that it would have ruined the economic unity of the basin; and that it would have involved the risk of having protesting German deputies in our parliamentary bodies? It was to these arguments continually put forward by our Allies, which were by no means devoid of force, that we had finally to sacrifice our initial contention. At last we won both our right to full ownership of the mines and self-determination for the population. Henceforth the French of the Sarre are liberated from Prussian oppression and the future is theirs.
This solution is bad, was the criticism of some, not because insufficient, but because abusive, vexatious, hypocritical, injurious to the liberty of peoples. It has hurt France deeply to see an English writer parrot the arguments put forward on this subject by Count Brockdorff-Rantzau in his Note of May 29, 1919. But to such evil reasoning facts give answer. An imperialist solution of the problem of the Sarre? This would have perhaps meant re-annexation pure and simple to France. Instead of this re-annexation the Treaty provides for the plebiscite which will respect the rights of the inhabitants. Without it two things were possible: either annexation to France, thus depriving the German population of the right to choose its sovereignty; or the maintenance of the statu quo whereby nearly 150,000 people of the Sarre, as French in their hearts and their aspirations as the Alsatians and Lorrainers, would remain forever under the German heel. The Peace Conference would have neither the first nor the second of these solutions; determined to have neither the one nor the other it was led by its very scruples to the solution embodied in the Treaty. And let it not be said that in order to avoid this difficulty it was sufficient to organize the plebiscite immediately: for beneath the weight of a century of Prussian oppression an immediate plebiscite would have been a vitiated plebiscite and the French of the Sarre would have been sacrificed. In their answer of June 16, 1919, to Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, the heads of the Allied Governments moreover rejected his pretensions in memorable terms:
"For the first time," they said,---since the annexation of this district to Prussia and to Bavaria, the people will live under a local Government which will have no other interest or concern than the protection of their welfare. The Allied and Associated Powers have full confidence that the inhabitants will have no reason to regard the new administration as more remote than that of Berlin or Munich. Moreover, the system is temporary and at the end of fifteen years the inhabitants will have full and free right to choose the sovereignty under which they wish to live."
Such the solution furnished by the Treaty. Complex assuredly because the problem was complex---because France had to deal with Allies restrained by well-meaning hesitations and often incapable of grasping things from the same point of view as France, but just also because taking into account in this very complexity all the interests involved. At the beginning of July, 1919, the mayor of Sarrelouis accompanied by a delegation came to express to M. Clemenceau the gratitude of his fellow citizens. January 10, 1920, our mining engineers took possession of the coal basin. Some days later, the Government Commission presided over by a Frenchman, was installed at Sarrebruck and in several months did good and useful work for the inhabitants. It is this that should be retained by the opinion of our Allies who, to inform themselves, will attach more weight to the documents of which this chapter submits the testimony than to the captious protests of men who, so long as they believed themselves conquerors, intended to annex Belgium and five French Departments.
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