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The Emperor Carl seemed sincerely anxious to make sacrifices for peace and was urged by liberal counselors, such as Förster and Lammasch, in whom the Allies had confidence, to meet many of the demands of his discontented Slav subjects by granting autonomy to the Czechs, Poles, and Jugoslavs. Negotiations were hampered by the belief of the Italians that immediate peace with · Austria would prevent them from securing the territories they coveted; by the sullen obstinacy of the Magyars, who were jealous of their mastery over the Hungarian Slavs, and above all, as Colonel House had foreseen, by Austria's fear of Germany. In fact it was a stern ultimatum sent by Ludendorff that brought the wavering Carl back to his allegiance.
In the autumn of 1917, however, talk of peace was in the air and a definite demand for its consideration was made in a noteworthy speech by Lord Landsdowne, a Conservative leader in England. Negotiations were inaugurated between Germany and the new Bolshevik Government of Russia, and for a few weeks at the beginning of the new year the war-weary world seemed close to the possibility of a general understanding. For the first time Lloyd George outlined in specific language the main terms that would be considered by the Allies. It was President Wilson's opportunity. Careless of securing an overwhelming military victory, indeed unwilling to crush Germany, anxious to pledge the Entente to his programme in this moment of their discouragement, he formulated on January 8, 1918, his Fourteen Points, upon which he declared the final peace settlement should be based. His speech was at once an appeal to the liberals and peacehungry of the Central Empires, a warning to the military clique in Germany then preparing to enforce degrading terms upon Russia, and a notification to the Allies that the United States could not be counted upon to fight for selfish national interests. He reiterated the principles which had actuated the United States when it entered the war: “What we demand in this war, therefore, is nothing peculiar to ourselves. It is that the world be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world as against force and selfish aggression. All the peoples of the world are in effect partners in this interest, and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice be done to others it will not be done to us.” 1: Of the Fourteen Points into which he then divided his peace programme, the first five were general in nature. The first insisted upon open diplomacy, to begin with the approaching Peace Conference: "Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind.” Next came “absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas ... alike in peace and in war.” Then “the removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace.” There followed a demand for the reduction of armaments “to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.” The fifth point called for an "impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon . .. the interests of the populations concerned” as well as “the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined."
These generalizations were not so much Godgiven tables which must determine the international law of the future as they were subtle inducements to cease fighting; they were idealistic in tone, but intensely practical in purpose. They
guaranteed to any Germans who wanted peace that there would be protection against British “navalism,” against the threatened Allied economic boycott, as well as a chance of the return of the conquered colonies. The force of their seductiveness was proved, when, many months later, in October, 1918, defeated Germany grasped at them as a drowning man at a straw. At the same time Wilson offered to liberals the world over the hope of ending the old-style secret diplomacy, and to business men and labor the termination of the system of competitive armaments, with their economic and moral waste. No one would suggest that Wilson did not believe in the idealism of these first five points; no one should forget, however, that they were carefully drafted with the political situation of the moment definitely in view. They might be construed as a charter for future international relations, but they were designed primarily to serve as a diplomatic weapon for the present.
Each of the succeeding eight points was more special in character, and dealt with the territorial and political problems of the warring states. They provided for the evacuation and restoration of all conquered territories in Europe, including Russia, Belgium, France, and the Balkan States. The sovereignty of Belgium should be unlimited in future; the "wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine . . . should be righted”; Italian frontiers should be readjusted “along clearly recognizable lines of nationality”; the peoples of Austria-Hungary "should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development”; the relations of the Balkan States should be determined “along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality”; nationalities under Turkish rule should receive opportunity for security of life and autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened to all nations under international guarantees; an independent Polish state should be erected to "include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea." .
Generally speaking these stipulations seemed to guarantee the moderate war aims of the Entente and corresponded closely to the demands made by Lloyd George; they certainly repudiated the extreme purposes attributed to German imperialists. And yet these eight points were so vague and capable of such diverse interpretation that, like the first five general points, they might prove not