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From the overwhelming mass of press comment and confusing speculation on the maneuvers for world peace we found it extremely interesting and exceedingly worth while to turn to the reading of the diplomatic documents themselves. The collection brought together here is a most remarkable exhibit of open diplomacy compared with the secret diplomacy which led to the outbreak of the war. Has there ever been such an appeal to the public opinion of the world in the history of international relations? We print only definitely authenticated State papers, excluding many news reports of various “official” or “authoritative” statements.
THE CENTRAL POWERS PROPOSE PEACE
Here is the version of the note addressed “The spiritual and material progress which by Germany and her allies to the neutral were the pride of Europe at the beginning powers for transmission to the Entente Al
of the twentieth century are threatened with
ruin. Germany and her allies, Austrialies, as cabled to American newspapers,
Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey, gave proof dated Berlin, December 12, 1916:
of their unconquerable strength in this “The most terrific war experienced in his struggle. They gained gigantic advantages tory has been raging for the last two years over adversaries superior in number and and a half over a large part of the world a war material. Our lines stand unshaken catastrophe which thousands of years of against ever-repeated attempts made by common civilization was unable to prevent
armies. and which injures the most precious achieve
“The last attack in the Balkans has been ments of humanity.
rapidly and victoriously overcome. The "Our aims are not to shatter nor anni most recent events have demonstrated that hilate our adversaries. In spite of our con further continuance of the war will not resciousness of our military and economic
sult in breaking the resistance of our forces, strength and our readiness to continue the and the whole situation with regard to our war (which has been forced upon us) to the
troops justifies our expectation of further bitter end, if necessary; at the same time, successes. prompted by the desire to avoid further “If, in spite of this offer of peace and bloodshed and make an end to the atrocities reconciliation, the struggle should go on, the of war, the four allied powers propose to four allied powers are resolved to continue enter forthwith into peace negotiations. to a victorious end, but they disclaim re
“The propositions which they bring for sponsibility for this before humanity and ward for such negotiations, and which have history. The Imperial Government, through for their object a guarantee of the existence, the good offices of your Excellency, asks the of the honor and liberty of evolution for Government of (here is inserted the name their nations, are, according to their firm of the neutral power addressed in each inbelief, an appropriate basis for the estab stance to bring this communication to the lishment of a lasting peace.
knowledge of the Government of [here are "The four allied powers have been obliged inserted the names of the belligerents.)" to take up arms to defend justice and the liberty of national evolution. The glorious Compare the following translation from deeds of our armies have in no way altered
the official text of the note in French, as their purpose. We always maintained the firm belief that our own rights and justified
received at Washington, showing the origclaims in no way control the rights of these
inal order of sentences and other interesting nations.
variations of phraseology which affect one's
impression if not the substance of the diplomatic document. A few newspapers printed it December 15.
“The most terrible war which history has known has been ravaging a large part of the world for two years and a half. This
nity, which the bonds of thousands of years of a common civilization have not been able to prevent, is injuring humanity in its most precious heritages. It threatens to plunge into its ruins the moral and material progress which was the pride of Europe at the dawn of the twentieth century.
"In this struggle Germany and her allies -Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkeyhave given proof of their unconquerable strength by achieving important successes over adversaries superior in numbers and in war material. Their unshaken lines resist the continuous attacks of the armies of their adversaries. The last diversion in the Balkans has been speedily and victoriously thwarted. Recent events have demonstrated that the prolongation of the war would not be able to break their power of resistance. On the other hand, the general situation justifies them in hoping for further successes.
"It was to defend their existence and the
freedom of their national developments that the four allied Powers were forced to take up arms. The achievements of their armies have not altered this purpose. Not for a single instant have they departed from the conviction that respect for the right of other nations is in no way incompatible with legitimate interests. They do not seek to shatter or annihilate their adversaries.
"Conscious of their military and economic power, and ready, if necessary, to continue to the very end the struggle which has been forced upon them, but inspired at the same time with the desire to stop the flow of blood and to put an end to the horrors of war, the four allied Powers propose to enter forthwith into negotiations for peace. They are convinced that the proposals which they will submit, and which aim to insure the existence, the honor, and the development of their peoples, will be appropriate to serve as a basis for the reestablishment of a permanent peace.
“If, despite this offer of peace and reconciliation, the struggle should go on, the four allied Powers are determined to continue it to the end, disclaiming solemnly before humanity and history responsibility therefor." (The Imperial Government asks the good offices, etc.)
GERMANY APPEALS ALSO TO THE POPE
Note presented by Dr. von Muhlberg, German Minister to the Vatican, to Cardinal Gasparri, Papal Secretary of State. Berlin date, December 12, 1916.
"According to instructions received I have the honor to send to your Eminence a copy of the declaration of the Imperial Government to-day, which by the good offices of the Powers intrusted with the protection of German interests in the countries with which the German Empire is in a state of War, transmits to these States, and in which the Imperial Government declares itself ready to enter into peace negotiations. The AustroHungarian, Turkish and Bulgarian Governments also have sent similar notes.
“The reasons which prompted Germany and her allies to take this step are manifest. For two years and a half a terrible war has been devastating the European Continent. Unlimited treasures of civilization have been destroyed. Extensive areas have been soaked with blood. Millions of brave soldiers have fallen in battle and millions have returned home as invalids. Grief and sorrow fill almost every house.
"Not only upon the belligerent nations but also upon neutrals the destructive conBequences of the gigantic struggle weigh
heavily. Trade and commerce, carefully built up in years of peace, have been depressed. The best forces of the nation have been withdrawn from the production of useful objects. Europe, which formerly was devoted to the propagation of religion and civilization, which was trying to find solutions for social problems and was the home of science and art and all peaceful labor, now resembles an immense war camp, in which the achievements and works of many decades are doomed to annihilation.
“Germany is carrying on a war of defense against her enemies, which aim at her destruction. She fights to assure the integrity of her frontiers and the liberty of the German nation, for the right which she claims to develop freely her intellectual and economic energies in peaceful competition and on an equal footing with other nations. All the efforts of their enemies are unable to shatter the heroic armies of the (Teutonic) allies, which protect the frontiers of their countries, strengthened by the certainty that the enemy shall never pierce the iron wall.
“Those fighting on the front know that they are supported by the whole nation, which is inspired by love for its country and is ready for the greatest sacrifices and determined to defend to the last extremity the inherited treasure of intellectual and conomic work and the social organization and sacred soil of the country.
"Certain of our own strength, but realizing Europe's sad future if the war continues; seized with pity in the face of the unspeakable misery of humanity the German Empire, in accord with her allies, solemnly repeats what the Chancellor already has declared, a year ago, that Germany is ready to give peace to the world by setting before the whole world the question whether or not it is possible to find a basis for an understanding.
"Since the first day of the Pontifical reign his Holiness the Pope has unswervingly de
monstrated, in the most genorous fashion, his solicitude for the innumerable victims of this war. He has alleviated the sufferings and ameliorated the fate of thousands of men injured by this catastrophe. Inspired by the exalted ideas of his ministry, his Holiness has seized every opportunity in the interests of humanity to end so sanguinary a war.
“The Imperial Government is firmly confident that the initiative of the four powers will find friendly welcome on the part of his Holiness, and that the work of peace can count upon the precious support of the Holy See.”
ENTENTE ALLIES REPLY TO CENTRAL POWERS PRESIDENT WILSON ADDRESSES BELLIGERENT
the character of the struggle in the past,
Note of December 30, in reply to the proposal of the Central Powers, December 12, 1916:
“The Allied Governments of Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Portugal, Rumania, Russia, and Servia, united for the defense of the liberty of their peoples and faithful to engagements taken not to lay down their arms separately, have resolved to reply collectively to the pretended propositions of peace which were addressed to them on behalf of the enemy Governments through the intermediary of the United States, Spain, Switzerland, and Holland.
"Before making any reply, the Allied Powers desire particularly to protest against the two essential assertions of the notes of the enemy Powers that pretend to throw upon the Allies responsibility for the war and proclaim the victory of the Central Powers.
“The Allied Governments cannot admit an affirmation doubly inexact and which suffices to render sterile all tentative negotiations.
"The Allied nations have sustained for thirty months a war they did everything to avoid. They have shown by their acts their attachment to peace. That attachment is as strong to-day as it was in 1914. But it is not upon the word of Germany, after the violation of its engagements, that the peace broken by her may be based.
“A mere suggestion without a statement of terms that negotiations should be opened is not an offer of peace. The putting forward by the Imperial Government of a sham proposal lacking all substance and precision would appear to be less an offer of peace than a war manœuvre. It is founded on calculated misinterpretation of
"As for the past, the German note takes no account of the facts, dates, and figures which establish that the war was desired, provoked, and declared by Germany and Austria-Hungary.
“At the Hague conference it was a German delegate who refused all proposals for disarmament. In July, 1914, it was AustriaHungary who, after having addressed to Servia an unprecedented ultimatum, declared war upon her in spite of the satisfaction which had at once been accorded.
"The Central Empires then rejected all attempts made by the Entente to bring about a pacific solution of a purely local conflict. Great Britain suggested a conference, France proposed an international commission, the Emperor of Russia asked the German Emperor to go to arbitration, and Russia and Austria-Hungary came to an understanding on the eve of the conflict. But to all these efforts Germany gave neither answer nor effect.
"Belgium was invaded by an empire which had guaranteed her neutrality, and which had the assurance to proclaim that treaties were 'scraps of paper,' and that 'necessity knows no law.'
"At the present moment these sham offers on the part of Germany rest on the war map of Europe alone, which represents nothing more than a superficial and passing phase of the situation and not the real strength of the belligerents. A peace concluded upon these terms would be only to the advantage of the aggressors, who after imagining that they would reach their goal in two months, discovered after two years that they could never attain it.
“As for the future, the disasters caused by the German declaration of war and the
innumerable outrages committed by Germany and her allies against both belligerents and neutrals demand penalties, reparation, and guarantees. Germany avoids mention of any of these,
"In reality, these overtures made by the Central Powers are nothing more than a calculated attempt to influence the future course of the war, and to end it by imposing a German peace. The object of these overtures is to create dissension in public opinion in the Allied countries. But that public opinion has in spite of all the sacrifices endured by the Allies already given its answer with admirable firmness, and has denounced the empty pretense of the declaration of the enemy Powers.
"They have the further object of stiffening public opinion in Germany and in the countries allied to her-one and all, severely tried by their losses, worn out by economic pressure, and crushed by the supreme effort which has been imposed upon their inhabitants.
"They endeavor to deceive and intimidate public opinion in neutral countries whose inhabitants have long since made up their minds where the initial responsibilities lie, and are far too enlightened to favor the designs of Germany by abandoning the defence of human freedom.
"Finally, these overtures attempt to justify in advance in the eyes of the world a new series of crimes-submarine warfare, deportations, forced labor, and forced enlistment of the inhabitants against their own countries, and violations of neutrality.
“Fully conscious of the gravity of this moment, but equally conscious of its requirements, the Allied Governments, closely united to one another and in perfect sympathy with their peoples, refuse to consider a proposal which is empty and insincere. Once again the Allies declare that no peace is possible so long as they have not secured reparation for violated rights and liberties, the recognition of the principle of nationalities, and of the free existence of small states: so long as they have not brought about a settlement calculated to end once and for all forces which have constituted a perpetual menace to the nations, and to afford the only effective
guarantee for the future security of the world.
“In conclusion, the Allied Powers think it necessary to put forward the following considerations, which show the special situation of Belgium after two and a half years of war.
"In virtue of the international treaties signed by five great European Powers, of whom Germany was one, Belgium enjoyed before, the war a special status, rendering her territory inviolable, and placing her, under the guarantee of the Powers, outside all European conflicts. She was, however, in spite of these treaties, the first to suffer the aggression of Germany. For this reason, the Belgian Government thinks it necessary to define the aims which Belgium has never ceased to pursue while fighting side by side with the Entente Powers for right and justice.
“Belgium has always scrupulously fulfilled the duties which her neutrality imposed upon her. She has taken up arms to defend her independence and her neutrality, violated by Germany, and to show that she remains faithful to her international obligations.
"On August 4, 1914, in the Reichstag the German Chancellor admitted that this aggression constituted an injustice contrary to the laws of nations, and pledged himself in the name of Germany to repair it. During two and a half years this injustice has been cruelly aggravated by the proceedings of the occupying forces, which have exhausted the resources of the country, ruined its industries, devastated its towns and villages, and have been responsible for innumerable massacres, executions, and imprisonments.
"At this very moment, while Germany is proclaiming peace and humanity to the world, she is deporting Belgian citizens by thousands, and reducing them to slavery.
"Belgium before the war asked for nothing but to live in harmony with her neighbors. Her King and her Government have but one aim-the reestablishment of peace and justice. But they only desire peace which would assure to their country legitimate reparation, guarantees and safeguards for the future."
AND NEUTRAL GOVERNMENTS On December 18, Secretary Lansing des- text, made public, December 20, ten days patched practically identical notes for the prior to the publication of the reply of the President of the United States to the capi- Entente Allies to the proposal of the Centals of all the belligerent powers. Copies tral Powers, reads: were also sent to all neutral powers. The "The President of the United States has
instructed me to suggest to the (here is inserted a designation of the Government addressed), a course of action with regard to the present war which he hopes that the Government will take under consideration as suggested in the most friendly spirit, and as coming not only from a friend, but also as coming from the representative of a neutral nation whose interests have been most seriously affected by the war and whose concern for its early conclusion arises out of a manifest necessity to determine how best to safeguard those interests if the war is to continue.
"The suggestion which I am instructed to make the President has long had it in mind to offer. He is somewhat embarrassed to offer it at this particular time, because it may now seem to have been prompted by a desire to play a part in connection with the recent overtures of the Central Powers It has in fact been in no way suggested by them in its origin, and the President would have delayed offering it until those overtures had been independently answered [In the note to the Entente Allies the wording here is: because it may now seem to have been prompted by the recent overtures of the Central Powers. It is in fact in no way associated with them in its origin, and the President would have delayed offering it until those overtures had been answered), but for the fact that it also concerns the question of peace and may best be considered in connection with other proposals which have the same end in view. The President can only beg that his suggestion be considered entirely on its own merits and as if it had been made in other circumstances.
“The President suggests that an early occasion be sought to call out from all the nations now at war such an avowal of their respective views as to the terms upon which the war might be concluded and the arrangements which would be deemed satisfactory as a guaranty against its renewal or the kindling of any similar conflict in the future as would make it possible frankly to compare them. He is indifferent as to the means taken to accomplish this. He would be happy himself to serve, or even to take the initiative in its accomplishment, in any way that might prove acceptable, but he has no desire to determine the method or the instrumentality. One way will be as acceptable to him as another, if only the great object he has in mind be attained.
“He takes the liberty of calling attention to the fact that the objects which the statesmen of the belligerents on both sides have in mind in this war are virtually the same, as stated in general terms to their own people and to the world. Each side
desires to make the rights and privileges of weak peoples and small States as secure against aggression or denial in the future as the rights and privileges of the great and powerful States now at war. Each wishes itself to be made secure in the future, along with all other nations and peoples, against the recurrence of wars like this and against aggression of selfish interference of any kind. Each would be jealous of the formation of any more rival leagues to preserve an uncertain balance of power amidst multiplying suspicions; but each is ready to consider the formation of a league of nations to insure peace and justice throughout the world. Before that final step can be taken, however, each deems it necessary first to settle the issues of the present war upon terms which will certainly safeguard the independence, the territorial integrity and the political and commercial freedom of the nations involved,
"In the measures to be taken to secure the future peace of the world, the people and Government of the United States are as vitally and as directly interested as the Governments now at war. Their interest, moreover, in the means to be adopted to relieve the smaller and weaker peoples of the world of the peril of wrong and violence is as quick and ardent as that of any other people or Government. They stand ready, and even eager, to cooperate in the accomplishment of these ends, when the war is over, with every influence and resource at their command. But the war must first be concluded. The terms upon which it is to be concluded they are not at liberty to suggest; but the President does feel that it is his right and his duty to point out their intimate interests in its conclusion, lest it should presently be too late to accomplish the greater things which liebeyond its conclusion, lest the situation of neutral nations, now exceedingly hard to endure, be rendered altogether intolerable, and lest, more than all, an injury be done civilization itself which can never be atoned for or repaired.
“The President therefore feels altogether justified in suggesting an immediate opportunity for a comparison of views as to the terms which must precede those ultimate arrangements for the peace of the world, which all desire and in which the neutral nations as well as those at war are ready to play their full responsible part. If the contest must continue to proceed towards undefined ends by slow attrition, until the one group of belligerents or the other is exhausted, if million after million of human lives must continue to be offered up until on the one side or the other there are no more to offer, if resentments must be