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THE EUROPEAN WAR
Period July 1919—October 1920
THE Treaty of Versailles that formally ended the World War was an imperfect instrument. None would have admitted this more readily than its framers. Few of its decisions were unchallenged. Many were the targets of bitter criticism. Most were the result of compromise. With all its defects, however, the treaty represented the best thought and effort of the allied statesmen. The world's long agony was over and the nations turned from the destructive energies of war to the constructive processes of peace.
The treaty was ratified by Great Britain, July 31; by Italy, Oct. 7; by France, Oct. 13, and by Japan, Oct. 27. It was submitted to the United States Senate by President Wilson July 10, and after a long and exhaustive debate, which will be referred to later, was rejected by that body, Nov. 19. The German National Assembly ratified the treaty July 9 by a vote of 208 to 115; 99 Deputies refraining from voting. As only the ratification of three of the major allied and associated nations was required in addition to that of Germany, the treaty became a valid instrument, though many months were to elapse before the formal exchange of ratification should put all its clauses into effect.
Signed on the same day as the Treaty of Versailles, but only made public four days later, were treaties between the United States and France, and between
France and Great Britain, by the terms of which the two powers agreed to come to the aid of France if any unprovokci*. act of aggression were committed against her by Germany. It was provided that the treaties should be submitted to the council of the League of Nations, which would decide whether to recognize them as engagements in conformity with the League covenant; it was also agreed that the Franco-American Treaty should be submitted to the United States Senate and the French Parliament for approval. The alliance had been suggested by France, who felt that adequate protection against a revived and revengeful Germany had not been accorded her by the main treaty. The supplementary pact referred to Articles 42 and 43 of the Versailles Treaty, which forbade Germany to establish any fortification or maintain any military forces on the left bank of the Rhine or on the right bank to the west of a line drawn fifty kilometres to the east of the same river; and the binding clause was as follows:
"In case these stipulations should not assure immediately to Franco appropriate security and protection, the United States of America shall be bound to come immediately to her aid in case of any unprovoked act of aggression directed against her by Germany."
The agreement between England and France was the same in tenor, with tho additional provision that the treaty imposed no obligation upon any dominion of the British Empire, unless and until the Parliament of such dominion should approve it.
In England the pact met with little criticism. Nor was any pronounced opposition evoked in the United States. The President formally presented it to the Senate July 29, 1919, and the Judiciary Committee, to whom it was referred, reported later that there was nothing in the pact which was in conflict with the Constitution. The controversy over the League of Nations, however, prevented any action being taken upon the French treaty.
Following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles came the problem of its enforcement. To carry out this successfully it was necessary that there should be good faith on the part of the vanquished and unity of will and purpose on the part of the victors. Neither of these conditions existed to the extent required.
Germany had signed under duress. She had sought the hegemony of Europe, and, having failed, was not willing to pay the price. Her "punic faith" had been demonstrated many times during the war; it was to be evidenced again in the period that followed. Nullification of the treaty was her first aim; modification her second. When everything else failed she sought refuge in a sullen non possumus.
On the other hand, the members of the Entente had lost something of the unity that had been forged in the heat and stress of war. The pressure of a common danger had been removed, and diverging national aims began again to clamor for recognition. England was intent on recovering her lost trade, and tended insensibly toward resuming her "splendid isolation." France was concerned with indemnity and security.
Italy felt deeply the non-recognition of her claim to Fiume, and was engrossed with grave domestic problems. Japan was bent upon strengthening her primacy in the Orient. The United States, by its failure to ratify the treaty, was debarred from taking part in its enforcement. The task that lay before the allied nations was calculated to test their wisdom and statesmanship to the utmost.
GERMAN DEVELOPMENTS The gloom and bitterness in Germany that had prevailed since the armistice were accentuated by the signing of the treaty. The papers that announced the news were bordered with black, and had such headlines as "Germany's Fate Sealed " and "Peace with Annihilation." Fierce diatribes were launched against all concerned in framing the treaty, and attacks upon President Wilson were especially venomous. It was freely predicted that the Versailles pact would prove a mere scrap of paper. Revenge was hinted at, and in some quarters advocated. Sunday, July 6, was set aside as a day of national mourinjr. Germany's cup of humiliation was being drained to the dregs.
After the first outburst had subsided the Government faced the inevitable, and ratified the treaty July 9. The new Constitution, the full text of which will be found in this volume, was finally approved by the National Assembly at Weimar on July 31, and was promulgated by President Ebcit Aug. 13. The preamble declared that "the German people, united in its branches and inspired by the will to renew and strengthen its realm in freedom and justice, to further inner and outer peace and social advance, has voted this Constitution." The document is divided into two parts— "The Composition and Ties of the Empire " and " The Basic Rights and Duties