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STATEMENT OF MR. S. A. COTILLO, STATE SENATOR, NEW YORK,
Mr. Cotillo. Mr. Chairman, I come here representing practically 1.000,000 Italian-Americans in the State of New York: I represent here the Italian press of New York; I represent here the Loyal Labor Legion of New York, consisting of over 20,000 members; I represent here the Order of the Sons of Italy, which is an order throughout the country having a membership in the State of New York of over 50,000; I also represent the Independent Order of the Sons of Italy; and I represent various other organizations which have forwarded to me resolutions adopted at their conventions. I represent, also, that famous Italian review, II Carroccio, which has been very active during the war for the maintenance and support of civilization.
I tried to treat this question, judging from what I saw here at the hearing yesterday and from an American point of view, I tried to be practical and present to the committee some evidence that I have been able to obtain, inasmuch as some of the members who have been experts on this question are not able to speak because they are citizens of a foreign country: and if there are any points that any members of the committee desire to be enlightened on, or if there are any matters that the committee has not received information in regard to, we will be able, through those men, to throw some light on those questions. I want to say also that we are glad to be given this opportunity to present to you Italy's just claims.
Those of us who were privileged to be in Italy during the conflict saw marked evidences of her great sacrifices, the force which she instilled in the war, and the great part which she continually contributed. Well do I remember during the time I was in Italy, when I toured from north to south for over four months, being sent there by the American Bureau of Public Information, and as I went from town to town the marked sufferings of the people and the unusual contribution which was given so freely by both the civilian and the military population.
Now, in reference to Fiume. permit me to quote what an Italian, who fought for 20 years for the redemption of Fiume, says:
Fiume is Italian by the blood that flows in her veins, by the words of her month, and the burning desire of her heart.
Fiume has always fought against foreign oppression.
Austria-Hungary, with whom the United States went to war, is composed of three parts—Austria, Hungary, and a political and separate body of Fiume. It is undisputed that Fiume, historically and geographically, was a separate corporate body, and was even recognized by its Government, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, which authorized Fiume to declare her own national government and to constitute herself an autonomous body by virtue of the Austrian Hungarian Deputy Ossoinack, who, on October 18, declared FiumeV self-determination, by virtue of the proclamation of Charles I on October 18, 1918, the same day. The proclamation issued by Charles I, Emperor of the Austrian Empire, of which this is part, states as follows:
Austria, according to the wishes of its people, must become a federal State, in which every race will constitute a self-state governing body within its territory * * *.
This new form of Government proposed by Charles I guaranteed each national State that composed the Empire its autonomy.
Permit me, at this time, to show why Fiume is entitled to selfdetermination, and why this committee should adopt proper measures in order to pay heed to her request.
On January 8, 1918, the President declared before Congress his famous 14 points, thereby giving notice to the world of America's stand. In order to comply with this requirement issued by our President, Charles I, Emperor of the Austrian Empire, issued the proclamation that I have hereinbefore stated.
Soon after the proclamation by Charles I, Fiume, through its representative, the Hon. Andrea Ossoinack, in the Hungarian Parliament, declared Fiume's self-determination.
If I may be permitted, at this time I would like to offer a correct copy of the transcript of what transpired in the Hungarian Parliament on October 18, 1918, containing what was said by the deputy of Fiume, the Hon. Andrea Ossoinack. He said, in part, as follows:
Austria-Hungary having admitted the principle of self-determination in her peace proposals, Fiume as a corpus separatum claims that right for itself. In accordance with this right, it wishes to exercise, without any kind of hindrance, the right of self-determination of the people. I shall make before this exalted House the following clear and concise statement: Flume stands for the right of self-determination for her people.
The Chairman. You may insert that in the record if you want to. Eead it, if you desire to do so.
Mr. CoTiLiiO. It is not very long. I will read it. This shows what Deputy Ossoinack said, and I will read this transcript. [Beading:]
STENOGRAPHIC REPORT OK THE SPEECH DELIVERED 1IY THE DEPUTY OF FIUJtE, THE HON. ANDREA OSSOINACK, IN THE HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT ON OCTOBER 18, 1918.
Kxalted House, the war has upset the world, and it seems now that peace will upset it even more. While within our borders the Croatlans claim Fiume for themselves, foreign dispatches bring us the news that Fiume will be sacrificed to the Jugo-Slavs. In view of these tendencies, I feel it my duty to protest in this exalted House and before the whole world against anybody who may intend to hand Fiume over to the Croats. [General applause.]
Because Fiume has not only never been Croat, but has on the contrary always been Italian in the past and must remain Italian in the future.
The Hon. Jumca (Slovene) (addressing the deputies of the Labor Party). Applaud now.
The Hon. Ossoisack (continuing). For these reasons, and on account of the fact that Fiume for its position in International law constitutes a "corpus separatum," and because such an arbitrary decision of the fate of Fiume would be absolutely inconsistent with the right of the peoples for self-determination fslgns of approval from the left], I beg to make the following declaration [from the benches of the Labor Party: "On whose behalf? "1
The Hon. Ossoisack (continuing). I will tell you that also, but it is ridiculous. We have not yet reached the point when such questions can be put.
Referring to that above, I, as the deputy of Fiume, elected by a unanimous vote [addressing the Labor Party, " Do you understand? "1. beg to make the following declaralon [reads]:
"Austria-Hungary having admitted the principle of self-determination ill her peace proposals, Fiume, as a "corpus separatum," claims that right for itself. In accordance with this right it wishes to exercise, without any kind of hindrance, the right of self-determination of the people.
"I wish to make before this exalted House the following clear and precise statement: Fiume stands for the right of self-determination of the people." [Applause and signs of approval from the left, protests from the right.1
A few days following Fiume's declaration in the Hungarian Parliament and following the proclamation of Charles I the several nationalities that composed the Austria-Hungary Empire also made a declaration of self-determination, and they were immediately recognized by the United States as Jugo-Slavia, Polish Eepublics, and the Republic of Czechoslovakia, but until this day Fiume has yet to be recognized by America.
Another assurance was given Fiume when Bonar Law, in the House of Commons, on October 24.1918, promised to the nationalities oppressed by Austria-Hungary that they would be admitted to participate directly in all their deliberations at the peace conference concerning all their varied interests.
But the people of Fiume did not cease in their efforts to accomplish their will, and on October 30, four days before the armistice was signed, the people of Fiume gathered and adopted the following resolutions:
The Italian National Council of Flume, assembled to-day in full session, declares that by reason of that right whereby nil the nations have attained independence and liberty the city of Flume, which up to now was a " separate body" constituting an Italian National Commune, also claims for itself the right of selfdetermination. Taking its stand on this right the national council proclaims Fiume united to its motherland, Italy. The Italian national council considers as provisional the state of things that commenced on October 29, 1918. and It places its right under the protection of America, the mother of liberty and of universal democracy. And it awaits the sanction of this right at the hands of the peace congress.
With all the previous assurances given to Fiume, the National Council of the city of Fiume sent a delegate to the peace conference, but was not admitted, which was a clear violation of her national standing, and she was not even placed on the same equality as the other oppressed delivered nationalities. The peace conference, regardless of the effect of the proclamation of Charles I for the. right of self-determination, and in violation of the promises of the House of Commons, refused recognition to Fiume's representative, but the delegate Deputy Ossoinack was allowed the privilege of a private conference with members of the conference and President Wilson, to explain and make his claims for the rights of the people he represented. This total disregard of Fiume's rights did not discourage the National Council of the city of Fiume, and they presented to the peace conference briefs in support of their claims, receipts of which were acknowledged by the conference, under date of March 28, 1919. and the said briefs asked that the decision by said council on October 30, 1918, should be sanctioned by the peace conference.
Fiume again, by virtue of its undisputed right of self-government, on April 18, 1919, voted a second time by plebiscite to be united to the Kingdom of Italy, and all the commercial bodies and civic clubs were unanimously in support of said decision to be annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
The city of Fiume sent 70 or more telegrams to the peace conference, asking unconditional annexation to Italy, and the municipality and national council sent the following dispatch, which is signed by President Grossich:
The national council, which on October 30, 1918, solemnly claimed the union of Fiume to Italy and placed its plebiscite under the protection of America, expects from the conference the vindication of its right, justice, and liberty, that they be made inviolable according to the unanimous wish of the people of Flume. In these hours, when the fate of Flume is being decided, the national council appeals to the sense of justice of the conference, expressing its firm faith that the plebiscite, based upon the cardinal principles of President Wilson, will be ratified by the conference. Flume, which in 1720, 1779, in 1867, and in 1918, decided its own fate of itself, reaffirms by a plebiscite vote its indestructible right to self-determination and its unalterable will to belong to Italy.
It was not long after the previous telegram was sent that the people of Fiume again made themselves heard, and on May 31, following a conference, to internationalize the part of Fiume, between Premier Orlando and the representative of Fiume, the national council of Fiume, on learning of the subject of the conference, adopted a resolution, as follows:
To a council who refuses the right of men we answer " No." We are Italian and not a savage tribe, and, above all, we are men who can not believe that nations of a Washington, of a Victor Hugo, of a Gladstone dare to shoot their cannons against a little indefensible town, and we are now and forever more proud of our liberty and our Italianity.
Thy sent this appeal to the chairman of this committee, Senator Lodge, and he referred it to the Senate on June 6, 1919. At the same time it told the peace conference to not consider further the rights of the people of Fiume. as they would be perfectly satisfied to entrust their fate and their liberty to America.
You have before you now, Mr. Chairman, the covenant of the league of nations under discussion, and we think it is just and proper to discuss the Fiume question, because we Americans believe that in determining the disposition of Fiume the will of its people has been totally disregarded, and that peace in the Adriatic has also been ignored. If peace does not prevail in the Adriatic, would not America be, in duty bound, either by legal or by moral obligation, to intercede with its soldiers and its wealth?
By virtue of the evidence heretofore given, the American Government has all the power to negotiate and must negotiate directly with the national council of the city of Fiume. If the American nation disregards entirely the status of Fiume, a peculiar situation arises, namely, that America, being at war with all the Austrian Empire, she would be making peace with Austria, with Croatia, with Jugoslavia, with Czechoslovakia and would remain at war with the separate corpus free city of Fiume.
We can not discuss nor dispute Fiume's right to self-determination. The national council that proclaimed her self-determination counts on the sympathetic encouragement of America and its power emanated by a plebiscite. All the accusations that questioned or contested the right of the National Council of Fiume to govern them have proven false, and there is not a scintilla of evidence to substantiate these accusations.
The United States Senate, in considering the treaty of peace, must consider the position of Fiume, and must necessarily request that the treaties that will be entered into with the enemies, that all these treaties must respect the right of nationality and must heed the voice of the oppressed people of the world who long for liberty and self-determination and the pursuit of happiness such as is thi case of the free people of Fiume.
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Fhime sent, as I have stated, to the peace conference at Versailles her own delegates, who Mere heard and made their wishes known, consistent with the 14 points laid down by President Wilson.
Our President has interested himself in this question, and on April 23, referring to the Fiume situation in Paris he said in part:
The interests are not now in question, but the rights of peoples of suites, new and old, of liberated peoples, and peoples whose rulers have never accounted them worthy of a right, above all the right of the world to peace and to such settlement of interest as shall make peace secure. Has not Fiuine asked to be annexed to her mother Italy? Would not peace be more secure were terms given to a friendly ally such as Italy than to a Jugoslav nation that does not exist and who were our enemies? Shall we doubt Italy?
Permit me here to quote what Senator Owen said on July 31. 101S. before the Senate:
Shall we doubt Italy? The Italian people have shown themselves to be glorious In war and magnificent in peace. When Paris was about to be struck down by the advancing tield-gray troops of Germany, coming like swarms of locusts down upon the Marne, it was Italy that told the French statesman. "You need not guard the borders between France and Italy. Italy will not stand by Germany in a war of aggression." Italy made a treaty with Germany and Austria, a defensive alliance, against aggression on Germany and Austria, but not by Germany and Austria on undefended borders of others, or any unprovoked assault upon their neighbors. Shall we question Italy when the Italians by tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands died for a common cause with us?
If the peace conference at Versailles has ignored this important question of Fiume, I think it is just and fair that the Senate of the United States should pay heed to the virtues of these oppressed people of Fiume, who long for liberty and turn to our shores for a sympathetic encouragement.
The people of this country, Mr. Chairman, can not let go unnoticed the appeal of Fiume on October 30, 1918, by proclaiming their right and long desire to be annexed to Italy, because if we did we would betray our own traditions of liberty and humanity that the American Nation so well typifies. I could conclude here and stand on Fiume's inalienable right, but we may consider further this question in relation to actual conditions of to-day.
Fiume enters in the war program as it does with the Italian peace terms. Fiume is by population Italian, by language, geographically and historically, and by all that makes up a nation. Its Italian character was even recognized by the Austrian-Hungarian empire. In Fiume, all the mayors, all the deputies, the members of the municipal council, members of the chamber of commerce and of the courts have always been Italian. Therefore, it is self-evident that they can think for themselves; they can dispose of their own fate, and who can deny them the right to join their mother country?
Italy entered the war to aid the cause of civilization: she possessed the same ideals as our boys who fought and shed their blood at Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry. Italy at the same time fought to safeguard her national existence, and the safety of the world depends upon the proper rectification of her natural boundaries. The annexation of the provinces of Venetia, Julia, Fiume. and part of Dalmatia is the completion of the Italian national and geographical unit, that unit which the Italians have been struggling for for long years with perfect faith in the justice of their cause.