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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 1919.
United States Senate,
Washington, I). ■ C. The committee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10 o'clock a. m., in room 426, Senate Office Building, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge presiding.
Present: Senators Lodge (chairman), Knox, Harding, Moses, and Swanson.
The Chairman. As our time is short, we will begin. Representative LaGuardia has an engagement which requires his going away, and as he desires to speak for only a few minutes we will hear him.
STATEMENT OF HON. FIORELLO H. LaGTJARDIA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FEOM THE STATE OF NEW YORK.
Mr. Laguardia. Mr. Chairman, I want to give the committee and the Senate the benefit of any information which I may have with reference to Fiume. I lived there for a period of three years, when 1 was American consular agent at that port.
Senator Moses. When was that?
Mr. Laguardia. That was from 1904 to 1906. I served as acting consular agent for a year before that. I was there three years.
The Chairman. Were you born in this country?
Mr. Laguardia. Certainly. I was born in my own congressional district, and raised in Arizona.
The Chairman. That is what I thought.
Mr. Laguardia. I am personally acquainted with the majority of the men who now form the National Council of Fiume. I was intimately associated with Mr. Zanella, who was a refugee living in Italy during the war. while I was there in the American Army.
I want to point out to the committee that the people of Fiume are Italian in spirit, blood, language, and in every way. They were an independent body, known as a corpus separatum, and annexed to Hungary. They made their own laws. Their municipal government consisted of two legislative bodies and a mayor, and they sent one deputy to the Hungarian Government.
The Chairman. They sent one deputy to the Hungarian Parliament?
Mr. Laguardia. They sent one deputy to the Hungarian Parliament.
The Chairman. And he was an Italian?
Mr. Laguardia. He was an Italian during my stay there. Zanella was the deputy during my time, and he was followed by Vio. I think the. present deputy is Ossoinack. and I think Zanella's predecessor was a man by the name of Meylander.
The language of the municipality of Fiume is Italian. The two chambers of the municipal government conduct all their proceedings in Italian. The language of the port is Italian. The language of tl.c mr.ni ipal court is Italian. The city of Fiume maintains its own schools, which are entirely Italian, and the same is true with the academy for the merchant marine. It is true that in the suburb of Fiume, called Sussak, the greater portion of the population are Croatians. I believe that the President is of the belief that the Fiume question can be settled by taking in Sussak with it as one port.. Even to that there is no objection, because the spirit of the port of Fiume, including Sussak, would be Italian.
I do not know what claims the Croatians may set forth as to Fiume. I want to testify to the very fine fighting qualities of the Croatians. They fought hard to the last hour of the last day of the war. I know that, because I fought against them.
When we were in Paris with the Committee on Military Affairs of the House of Representatives we called on the President. It was just at the time of the Italian break, and he expressed his views on Fiume. I know lie fears that if Fiume should be annexed to Italy the Italians would sacrifice the port of Fiume to the interests of Trieste. I do not believe any such fears are justified, because the existence of Fiume depends upon its commerce. It is connected with Hungary by one line of railway and all of its business is a port business exclusively. There are no industries there, or there is very little industry. There is no room for building industries of any kind, so that its very existence depends upon its Dusiness as a port.
Senator Moses. As a matter of fact the development of the port of Fiume at present depends upon the activities of the Cunard Steamship Co. very largely, does it not? Unless the Cunard Steamship Co. transfer their terminus to Trieste, Fiume will go right on as the great port that it has been?
Mr. Laguardia. The Cunard Steamship Co. during my time and ever since have run a line from Fiume to New York; but the bulk of the Fiume traffic was maintained by the Adria Steamship Co., which ran to the west.
Senator Moses. The Austrian line took the eastbound traffic?
Mr. Laguardia. The Austrian line took the eastbound traffic and the Adria line took the traffic to the west.
Senator Moses Then there is also a line which runs to Cattaro— the Croatian line?
Mr. Laguardia. Yes. That is the coast line. Fiume is the natural port to the near east, and the traffic of Fiume will be maintained.
Now I want to point out that I do not believe that the SerboCroatian-Slovene kingdom can last. They are not in harmony. The Serbians are divided among themselves. A large portion of the Serbian people do not want to continue to cast their destiny with the Karajeorovic dynasty. The Serbians are fighting with the Montenegrins. The Croatians want a republican form of government and not a kingdom, so that to turn Fiume over to the Jugo-Slavs would be only adding more territory to the continuous strife and struggle which is bound to occur in the Balkans until that situation is fully cleared up.
Another thing I want to point out is this, that it is not so much the claims of Italy to Fiume. as it is the desire and will of the natives of Fiume to be liberated from the Hapsburgs; to get away from Hungary and Croatia and Austria: to establish their own independent form of government and to be annexed to Italy. It is their claim which appeals to me more than anything else.
In February, 1918, while we were down in Italy training, I had occasion to endeavor to interpret point nine of the fourteen points. In wartime one tries to do anything. The morale in Italy was somewhat low. and they did not have much confidence in just what the point nine meant. That was the point which promised to readjust the boundaries of Italy according to easily recognizable lines of nationality.
Senator Moses. Were you able to interpret that point satisfactorily?
Mr. Lagtjardia. As I said before, Senator, in war time you will do almost anything, you just have to do it; and so in order to keep up the morale of the people I embraced everything that really was Italian in the Adriatic, and told them that that took it in. So I am somewhat concerned personally in this, to that extent.
Senator Moses. You now want your word made good.
Mr. Lagttardia. I want my word made good. I feel somewhat embarrassed.
I have here a telegram which I would like to put into the record. It is from Chevalier Barsotti. of the Progresso, in which he quotes a telegram just received from Paris which purports to say that the Fiume situation is solved, depending upon the approval of the President, and I will put this into the record.
(The telegram referred to is here printed in the record as follows:)
[Western Union telegram.]
New York, N. Y., June 12. Congressman Lagi'ardia.
ffoimr of Reprexentatirra, Washington. T). C.
I quote from our Paris correspondent the following points of one of to-day's cables. "Tittonl returned from I.teauville where met George to discuss Fiume problem. From reliable source, I learn Tittoni is satistied attitude George who promised solicit Wilson take definite decision about Fiume. In fact, Tittoni returned without any concrete solution problem and that disocurnges Italian circles Paris where they realize because of the mechanism of the conference Italian aspirations must depend on Wilson discretion whose ideas and decisions are well known. They despair the solution Italian problem is near and foresee serious consequences. Best regards."
Cav Barsotti. Editor II Proffrc**o Ftnlo Americano.
The Chairman. What is the nature of that solution?
Mr. Lagtjardia. I do not know what it is, Senator. When I was in Paris—I believe I can tell this—you recall at the time the Italian delegation had gone away, they had left Minister Crespi, whom I knew very well. He was food controller when I was at the Italian front. I called on him and asked him if there was anything I could do, and I also called on Col. House. Col. House was very sympathetic toward the Fiume question, and when I left there— I think it was the 9th of May, I was of the belief that the question of Fiume would be satisfactory settled in this way: Fiume and Sussuk would be considered as the port of Fiume. that would constitute an independent government and be annexed to Italy, with guaranties of free passage for traffic from the Hinterland to and from the port, a free port in every sense of the word. Then Italy wotdd give up certain of the Greek Islands, I understand, and the cities of Zara and Sebeonico would be free cities. I think that is what the Tardeau compromise provided, and that, as you know, after having been agreed upon was again bluepenciled by the President, which offended the Italians again, so that the matter remained unsettled. Now it seems they have arrived at another compromise, which is subject to approval here in Washington.
The Chairman. Anything more?
Mr. Laguardia. No. I want to give the committee the rest of the time.
Senator Harding. Just what do you mean by "approval here in Washington?"
Mr. Laguardia. From press dispatches, I gather, and from the telegram which I read into the record, it seems that France. Italy, and England have agreed on this solution and it has been submitted to President Wilson for approval.
Senator Harding. Not to our American commissioners over there?
Mr. Laguardia. No. That is what I gather from the press and from this telegram.
Mr. Cotillo. I wish to introduce Prof. Alexander Oldrini, an American citizen, representing the Italo-Irredentist Society.
The Chairman. What is your name?
Mr. Cotillo. S. A. Cotillo, State Senator from New York, representing the Eighteenth district.
The Chairman. In the Senate?
Mr. Cotillo. In the Senate.
STATEMENT OF PROF. ALEXANDER OLDRINI, PRESIDENT OF THE ITALIAN IRREDENTIST ASSOCIATIONS OF AMERICA.
Mr. Oldrini. Mr. Chairman, for myself, as an American citizen of Italian descent, my colleagues also American citizens, and the Federazione of the Italian Irredentists Association of the United States, I beg to thank you for the honor and the privilege afforded us to state at this hearing before your committee the main reasons, facts, and rights for which Fiume and Dalmatia, a part of Italy's national aspirations, should be defended by the United States Senate of America with regard to that part of the treaty with Austria which governs the subject. That is. why should Fiume and Dalmatia become a part of the Italian hody politic?
The name of the city of Fiume. a little speck on the map of Europe is an advance sentinel of democratic civilization in contact with the influences of central, eastern, and southern Europe: it assumes a transcendent importance with legard to Italians and to the democratic Latin and Anglo-Saxon rations in the conflict now going on. and extending, of the Bolshevik leveling program of Slav-Russia and associates.
For a basical understanding of the Fiume self-determination in its relation with the Italian aspirations in the Adriatic it is paramount to call first your attention to the physical lines of the defense of democratic civilization in Europe itself.
The line of defense of Roman civilization has been for 500 years along the Rhine and the Danube. When that immense dam broke. LAtin civilization foundered with the jus gentium proclaimed by
Rome, almost to its disappearance for centuries, until a new scientific and Italian civilizing: power spread over Europe and the world, in the splendors of the renaissance of arts and the discoveries of science. Never more so humanly perfect collective expressions of it, as in the name of Gallileus. Leonald. Raphael. Michael Angelo. and Columbus, the giants of "Renaissance."
Now, passing from the fifteenth century to the twentieth, during which this second Latin civilization spread all over Europe, reaching America, we have arrived at the necessity of a new form of civilization, international in character, over and above conflicting social theories. Honorable Senators, it is still in Europe that this new form of civilization must be defended by Latin and Anglo-Saxon democracy against militarism and Bolshevism theories and might. And this time no more behind the Rhine and the Danube, but from the Northern Sea to the Rhine, and from the Rhine along the watershed of the Alps from Switzerland to Retia, Carnic. Julian. Yelebit, and Dinaric Alps until you reach Albania. Should the United States of America allow it to be pierced at any point, should you allow the Adriatic line from Fiuine. the apex of the defense—that is, the eastern pillar of the new dam—to be undermined by visionary conceptions of an instant or future possible Wilsonian European Arcadia, it is my opinion that democratic civilization would suffer at the hands of turbulent eastern and southern Slav elements right now. viz, before they could polarize into orderly democratic States.
Fiume and Dalmatia in the vast reorganization and rejuvenation of political Europe assume, therefore, a position of immediate consistency of paramount value. Not only for the city itself or even for Italy but in the broadest sense for civilization.
Coming to Fiume herself these facts are already known to you, first, that in the first fortnight of October, 1918, upon a proclamation of the then Austrian Emperor, every one of the Crown lands of the empire was admitted to self-determination. Fiume, a separate political body in the dual monarchy, declared then before the Hungarian Parliament, through her deputy, the Hon. Andrea Oissnack, her independence. And October 29. that is before the final victory of the Italian armies and the foundering of the dual monarchy as such, the city of Fiume by popular vote proclaimed through the organization of its present national council not only political independence but also her self-determination to join the Italian motherland, putting herself temporarily under the protection of the American democracy.
The cablegram addressed to your committee by the National Council of Fiume, the only authority elected and recognized by the Fiumeans, and read by you, Mr. Chairman, on the floor of the Senate, is a document that we American citizens beg to submit to the Senate under its rules that this and other documents which will lje submitted may properly come under the consideration of the Senate in the discussion of that part of the treaty with Austria which will affect Fiume and Dalmatia.
I purposely avoid any reference to the first part of the treaty to Austria and to anything that may have happened or shall happen at the peace conference in Paris, only aiming capitally to furnish