ONE of the earliest prophets of political independence for the South Slavs was Mazzini. Immediately after the Italian wars against Austria in 1848-49 a bitter feeling naturally existed among the Italian masses against the Croats; for along with the Germans these had been the best Hapsburg soldiers on the battlefields of Lombardy. Mazzini was able to rise above this feeling, and with rare generosity and breadth of vision wrote as follows: "The movement of the South Slavs is, after that of the Italians, the most important in the Europe of the future." While not minimizing the obstacles in the path of Jugoslav unity, he nevertheless firmly believed that in time they would be overcome. "And," he continued, "if Italy were now to rise on behalf of all the peoples which are seeking freedom, and if, after each victory, she were to grant treaties of peace and liberty even to those who, though our enemies on this side of the Alps,[i] might, beyond those mountains, become our brothers . . . then all difficulties would disappear and the end of the Austrian Empire would be the reward of battle."[ii] In 1871, a year before his death, he predicted: "The Turkish Empire and the Austrian Empire are irrevocably condemned to perish. Italy must wish to hasten their death. And the sword that will kill them is in the hands of the Slavs."[iii]

Less well known than these passages from Mazzini are Cavour's clairvoyant words about the Slav movement and the Croat revolt against the Magyars, uttered October 20, 1848, in the Parliament at Turin. No other man in European public life saw realities so clearly as the young Piedmontese deputy. "Within the Empire there dwells the Slavic race," he said, "numerous, enterprising, audacious, but sorely proven for several centuries. It extends from the Danube to the mountains of Bohemia. It wishes to obtain its complete emancipation, reconquer its nationality. This cause is just and noble; it is supported by legions still rude but brave and energetic; it therefore in the distant future is destined to triumph." The current conflict between Croat and Magyar was, he held, merely the "prelude to a terrible war of race, a war between Germanism and Slavism."[iv]

When in 1914 this "war between Germanism and Slavism" actually broke out, there was no Cavour guiding Italy's policy. The Marquis di San Giuliano, Foreign Minister at that time, had neither the courage nor the vision of a Cavour. In his diplomacy down to 1914 he had relied too much on cleverness and fortuitous events. Before becoming Foreign Minister he had been Ambassador in London, where in 1910 I had been Counsellor with him; he went from London to Rome convinced of the decadence of English power vis-à-vis Germany, an idea, by the way, which had often been the subject of friendly divergence between us. "Yes, Germany is stronger than England," I used to retort when he made that statement, "but the German leaders are fools; they reckon only on their material force. . . ." When the war broke out I was Minister to China. But there I learned very soon, from San Giuliano himself,[v] that the bellicose policy of Austria and Germany and, perhaps most of all, the language which Germany used to Rome -- half menacing, half flattering -- had rapidly converted him and obliged him to admit the dangers of the "Drang nach Osten" which threatened to write finis to Italy as a Great Power. When Austria sent her ultimatum to Serbia without previous agreement with Italy, thus violating article VII of the Triple Alliance, San Giuliano not only did not hesitate an instant to declare the neutrality of Italy, but felt clearly that the most vital interest of our country was to fight on the side of the Entente. At the same time he felt that Italy must protect herself against the effects of that partiality for Austria-Hungary which he already detected in London and Paris. On August 20 he telegraphed to the Italian Ambassadors in London, Paris and Petrograd: "The Entente apparently wishes to spare Austria-Hungary; and it is in this state of mind that I see the principal obstacle to our eventually deciding to depart from neutrality." Already on the previous day he had told Sir Rennell Rodd, the British Ambassador: "Before engaging in negotiations of any sort I must be shown commitments and acts against Austria. Up to now I have seen none. It is my impression that in England they want to spare the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy."

At the same time San Giuliano preserved very cool relations with the Central Powers. His attitude toward the question of Italia Irredenta was well summarized in his dispatch of September 15 to the Marquis Imperiali, Ambassador in London, in which he said in substance that even if the Entente Powers were to promise Italy the Trentino and Trieste, she could not regard that as a real concession; that the Trentino was destined to fall to Italy on the inevitable day that the Hapsburg Monarchy disintegrated; that that was why more than one Italian statesman had never accepted the hypothesis that Italy could take the Trentino in compensation for further Austrian territorial expansion in the Balkans; that as for Trieste, if Italy were to acquire it, that would be not only to France's interest, but to England's and Russia's as well, for the Adriatic aspirations of Pan-Germanism would thereby be destroyed and a cause for future friction between Italy and Germany would have been created. "Never forget," he said in concluding his instructions to Imperiali, "that our principal adversary is Austria-Hungary and not Germany; that on the contrary the main purpose of the Triple Entente is to crush Germany; and that for the Entente the Adriatic question is only secondary. This is why we must have explicit and peremptory promises of real collaboration against Austria-Hungary."[vi]

This feeling on the part of San Giuliano that "Austria delenda est" necessarily contained the idea of a strict coöperation not only with Serbia but also with the anti-Hapsburg Slavs of the Dual Monarchy. When in mid-September 1914 Pašić, the Serbian Prime Minister, asked in Paris and Petrograd that "Slav interests in Dalmatia be not forgotten," San Giuliano took no umbrage at this démarche; he realized that it was perfectly natural, and his only action was to charge the Italian Minister in Serbia to impress upon King Peter and Pašić that "Serbian action should be in harmony with that of Italy." San Giuliano believed that, once Italy was in the war, an allied Serbia would represent an enormous moral force on the side of the anti-Austrian bloc. In fact, when writing to Squitti, Italian Minister in Serbia, he did not hesitate to say: "The extreme good will of the Triple Entente for this little country will be useful to us in our struggle to the death against Austria. The disintegrating force of the nationalities will have the greatest influence in the outcome of the conflict; it must be the weapon of our war."

A few days later the Italians who had volunteered to fight in France against German militarism asked the authorities in Rome and Nish (then the temporary capital of Serbia) to be transferred to the Serbian front; they complained of the inactivity in which they were kept on the French front. Pašić expressed his joy that Italians should wish to fight on the side of the Serbs. San Giuliano raised no objection. "So much the better," he said. "Let them go, though it is not for the Foreign Minister of a neutral country to take official notice of them." Prime Minister Salandra, however, opposed it.

In the meantime San Giuliano's health rapidly deteriorated and on October 16 he died. His death promptly revealed what he had meant to Italy and to the Entente. As we have just seen, one of his last thoughts had been: the disintegrating force of the subject nationalities of Austria-Hungary must be the weapon of our war. This intelligent conception, which might in itself have been enough to destroy the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy well before the end of 1918, unfortunately disappeared with its author.

Salandra, the Prime Minister, filled San Giuliano's place at the Consulta for a period of four weeks. They seemed to him an eternity. He was an upright man, but timid and badly informed. Each telegram which he dispatched carries the mark of his uncertainty. He gave the impression not of a statesman but of a lawyer who, unable to master the subject matter of his case, seeks to drag it out with long-winded arguments. Almost all his telegrams to the various Italian ambassadors contain this phrase: "I leave it to Your Excellency to decide whether . . ."

In Serbia, Pašić and Squitti immediately sensed that with such an air of uncertainty prevailing at Rome there was no use in continuing the conversations which San Giuliano had authorized.

In mid-November Sonnino consented to become Foreign Minister. He had been the only prominent Italian politician who at the outbreak of the war had expressed the opinion that Italy could join in on the side of her Central European allies. But this had been forgotten. After all, he was well known for his circumspect nature and an instinctive desire to move against the current, in which there was an element of moral nobility. The public therefore had concluded that his attitude in the first week of August was but a reaction against what he regarded as an excess of popular sympathy for Belgium, Serbia and the democratic Powers. The entire country placed its trust in Sonnino. He had yet to prove himself in the domain of foreign affairs, but his undoubted gifts, especially his faculty for silence, were not such as to displease Italians. "Nobody will put anything over on him," was the widespread sentiment.

With Sonnino at the Foreign Ministry, the Germans picked up hope. Von Jagow, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Sonnino's personal friend, sent his congratulations and expressed the hope that Italy would soon range herself with her allies. The Germans sought to tempt Sonnino with Savoy, Nice, Corsica and Tunisia, as well as with promises to bring pressure at Vienna in regard to an eventual cession of the Trentino. Sonnino's only reply was that Italian public opinion was already utterly opposed to participating in the war on the side of the Central Powers. At the same time he was much annoyed by British queries concerning the Italian occupation of the Dodecanese; he therefore adopted a policy of silence toward London, where a resumption of the conversations begun by San Giuliano was anxiously awaited.

Meanwhile, the Serbs were being pushed farther and farther south by the Austrian armies. The Serbian Government complained bitterly that it had been left without munitions by the French. In spite of his natural reserve, Pašić spoke about it with Squitti. A man like San Giuliano, who had understood that the struggle was in reality a new War of the Austrian Succession, would probably have seized this opportunity for negotiating with Pašić. Sonnino merely buried himself all the deeper in his silence.

Being unable to send a sufficient quantity of munitions to Serbia, France and Britain considered the advisability of offering her the northern part of Albania and of offering the southern part to Greece. This would permit the Serbian Government to cede Macedonia to Bulgaria and, it was hoped, would bring Greece into the war on the side of the Entente. As soon as Sonnino got wind of the scheme he protested vigorously to the Entente governments. Italy's vital interests, he declared, would not permit a violation of the decisions concerning Albania which had been made at the Conference of London in 1913.

Thus, with Paris and London there had been created an atmosphere of distrust; and towards Serbia there was an attitude of silence. This continued as long as Sonnino remained in office. It endured even when Bissolati, the leader of the Reformist Socialist Party, entered the Cabinet. Bissolati was the only Italian statesman with whom I had the feeling of speaking the same language during my brief returns to Rome from Corfu, where I had gone from China in 1915 as the Italian representative at the temporary seat of the Serbian Government. Little attention was paid to Bissolati's advice because, so they said, "he is an idealist." In reality he was so little the idealist that he was almost the only one (with San Guiliano) to fathom the true character of the war. Unlike the "realists" whose prophecies were never realized, practically all of Bissolati's predictions about the war and the peace turned out to be correct. Distressed by Sonnino's lack of understanding, I would visit Bissolati in his modest apartment on the Tiber and say to him: "Things seem to be going badly on all the European fronts. If only Italy would save the world by bringing about the decomposition of Austria-Hungary with the help of the Jugoslavs and the Czechs!" To which Bissolati one day replied: "Perhaps, but I am not so sure that I would be able to accomplish that even if I were Prime Minister. You have seen how even the most intelligent of all those gentlemen, Lloyd George, understood the point of view which you and I hold. He even became enthusiastic about it -- for a week. Then his attention turned to other things."

Bissolati represented, in antithesis to the pseudo-real-politik of Sonnino, the best and truest traditions of Italian political thought. But there were other Italians, many of them prominent, who also were preaching the necessity of a benevolent policy towards the Jugoslav idea -- Senator Ruffini, the greatest Italian authority on ecclesiastical history; Senator Albertini, the creator of what before Fascism was the most important Italian newspaper, the Corriere della Sera; the historian Ferrero; the conservative leader Amendola, killed ten years ago by the Fascists; the historian Salvemini and the poet and critic Borgese (both these latter now exiles in the United States, the first at Harvard University, the second at the University of Chicago); and others of minor fame.

Some of the leading Italians who during the war proclaimed the necessity of coöperation with the Slavs had been partly influenced by personal contacts with the most dynamic Jugoslav leader produced during those fateful years, Frano Supilo. Supilo was a self-educated man, the son of a poor Ragusan mason. In spite of having been excluded from Hapsburg schools at the age of fourteen for having trampled upon the Austrian flag, Supilo had managed to learn German and Hungarian as well as a smattering of French and English. Italian he had come to know as a boy in the streets of Ragusa, and long nights of toil had made him familiar with the works and doctrine of Mazzini and the other great Italian writers of the Risorgimento. Upon becoming the editor of a Croatian paper at Fiume, he campaigned in favor of an understanding between the Italians and the Slavs as a counter-agent to the offensive of their common enemies, the Germans and the Magyars. Soon the young and unknown Ragusan became one of the most important leaders of his people and for many years he was the mainstay of the Croatian agitation.

Supilo was one of the Slavs who were accused of being in the pay of Serbia in the forged documents produced at the famous Friedjung trial. The affair gave Supilo European notoriety, though it also won him the hate of the governing class in Austria. On the eve of the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr. Lueger, the famous burgomaster of Vienna and head of the Austrian Christian Socialist Party, sought to win Supilo over to the annexationist policy. Instead, Supilo warned the Russians of the coup that was being prepared. If Isvolsky had paid attention to the young Croatian the Bosnian affair might not have been so simple for Austria.

At the outbreak of the war, Supilo managed to escape from Austrian territory into Italy, where he already possessed several friends of long-standing, the most intimate of them being Guglielmo Ferrero, the historian of the Roman Empire, and his wife, Gina, daughter of the famous criminologist Lombroso. Ferrero has related to me the circumstances of their first encounter. One day in September 1902 a young man entered his study in Turin. He had a gigantic figure, a poorly proportioned body, and an enormous head and face. He entered with an embarrassed and timid air, and introduced himself by saying: "Sono un Croato" ("I am a Croatian"). At that time in Northern Italy one still called a person a Croat when one wished to say something disagreeable to him, a reminder of the days when the Austrians had held Lombardy-Venetia with Slav troops. Somewhat surprised, Ferrero asked him what he wanted. Supilo replied that with Ferrero's permission he would like to talk about the situation of the Slavs in Austria, and without more ado commenced speaking rapidly in picturesque and colorful Italian. Such was the beginning of an intimate friendship that lasted until Supilo's death fifteen years later.

Supilo's letters to Ferrero cannot be read by farsighted Italians without deep emotion. If Sonnino had understood and adopted his ideas, the Battle of the Piave -- the first of the Entente's great victories in 1918 -- might perhaps have taken place two years earlier: in accordance with the ideas held by San Giuliano as far back as August 1914, Austria might have been dismantled from within at the same time that it was being attacked by the Italians from without. But Supilo had none of the secondary qualities useful to the professional diplomat. Fired by his inner passion, by his vision of the future, he could not tolerate the doubts of ordinary men or the objections of the fearful. He fell on them with violence. The Pan-Slavist prejudices which he had seen on his visit to Petrograd in December 1914 had increased the distrust which he as a Croatian felt for the Russia of the Holy Synod. He confided to Bissolati that Sazonov had appeared hostile to the idea of a Jugoslav union in which there would be as many people professing Roman Catholicism as Greek Orthodoxy.

In view of the pro-Russian legend that had grown up around Nikola Pašić, the Serbian Prime Minister, it was not surprising that the latter's first contacts with Supilo were difficult. Nevertheless, in spite of his natural reserve, Pašić recognized the power that the other represented. At their last meeting, which took place at London in August 1917, they talked furiously for three hours. In the end Supilo was conquered. On the following day he wrote to Gina Ferrero: "I was serene, but in a state of extraordinary tension. I spoke, I accused him, I defended my political conduct . . . but I thanked him for the immense sacrifices which Orthodox Serbism had made in consenting to drown all its old mentality in the new spirit. . . . I felt as if I were transformed, so strong, so happy. . . ." Even the impassive Pašić was raised to heights: his eyes filled with tears, he took Supilo's head in his hands and kissed him several times on the brow.

A month later, on September 25, Supilo died at London in the fullness of his moral and intellectual powers. With him disappeared something more than a man -- he was a sort of natural force. If he had lived, above all after reaching his understanding with Pašić, and if in Sonnino's place there had been someone with a mind like Bissolati's, the war on the Carso and in the Alps would have finished a year sooner, and with it the World War.

Alas, Sonnino never understood. Cadorna, the head of the Italian army, had realized the necessity of a strict coöperation with Serbia. In 1921 he wrote in his book "La Guerra alla Fronte Italiana": "Since the war was not a localized one between Italy and Austria-Hungary, but a general conflict in which Russia and Serbia had common objectives with us on the territory of the enemy, the three armies should have given each other their support in pursuance of these common ends; . . . namely, the defeat of Austria, which in turn would have led to the fall of Germany." But Cadorna failed to convince Sonnino.

Sonnino's conduct in 1914 and 1915 would seem inexplicable were it not for the fact that he believed the war would be short. He thought that peace would be made in the autumn of 1915 and that Italy would be able to dictate its will on the other countries that had been exhausted by war. Bissolati, the "idealist," had said in the summer of 1914: "The Italian people must realize that this is going to be a very long war, strewn with defeats. . . ." Giolitti had been the first, in August 1914, to talk of a war of three years: he erred on the side of optimism.

Several times during the Corfu years Pašić took up with me the problems of a real Italian-Jugoslav entente. His prudence was extreme. He had quickly understood how deep and sincere was my feeling about the necessity of an Italo-Slav entente; but, at the same time, with a tact and finesse which in another country and another social sphere everyone would have called aristocratic, he never tried to get from me an implicit judgment on my chief, Sonnino. Only once did we touch this subject; it was when he learned from others that I had offered Sonnino to resign or to be recalled, since I felt myself unable properly to represent his policy vis-à-vis the Serbs. To which Sonnino had replied by asking me to come to Rome as soon as possible. On my arrival he said: "You must stay there; it is your duty. Continue to speak and act according to your conscience. You know that I have never disapproved of your actions in the past and I am sure I can count on you in the future." That was Sonnino: stubborn, devoid of imagination, enclosed in the clauses of his Treaty of London as in a besieged city; yet, at the same time, a man completely lacking in personal vanity -- whence his respect for those who held firmly to conceptions radically different from his own. On the occasion when he learned of my offer of resignation Pašić asked me: "Don't you think that you could arrange a meeting between M. Sonnino and me at which we could exchange our views? It is not," he added with his customary courtesy, "that I imagine that I can plead the cause of an entente between us better than you. But it might be well for M. Sonnino to see personally how sincerely I desire an entente that could hasten the end of the war."

The encounter took place at Rome on September 10, 1917. Though I was not present [vii] the reports of the meeting given to me by the two participants were in essentials identical -- an uncommon event in conversations of this sort, where generally each party goes away convinced of having heard things which in reality the other had not the slightest intention of saying. Sonnino was favorably impressed with the spontaneous admission by Pašić that, "as between Italy and Jugoslavia a strictly ethnographic frontier was not to be thought of, and that instead it would be necessary to take account of geographic and strategic factors." Above all, Pašić emphasized the new security which Italy would find in the fact that the eastern shore of the Adriatic would no longer belong to a Great Power but to a nation that was much less powerful than Italy. Furthermore, asked Pašić, with Pola, Trieste and several of the islands in her possession, was it not evident that Italy would have the uncontested mastery of the Adriatic? This part of the conversation impressed Sonnino very favorably, for he had perhaps expected professorial statements such as were then being published in the Bulletin Yougoslave, the directing spirit of which was the Croat leader Trumbić. But Sonnino was far from pleased by allusions to "a half of Istria" and the partition of Albania. In view of the manner in which the conversation took place, it could hardly have had positive results. Perhaps it was unwise for Pašić to have broached formulas that to Sonnino meant the dismantling of his Treaty of London, on which he counted so much. I had advised Pašić also to see Prime Minister Orlando, for he was more likely to appreciate the necessities of the war along our front. When I asked Pašić why he had not done so he replied: "I had the feeling that it would not please M. Sonnino and I wish to be able to converse with him freely in future." Which shows that though the two had not understood each other, there was mutual respect between them.

Unfortunately, a month later, Sonnino publicly uttered a sentence which demonstrated the impossibility of an Italo-Jugoslav entente: "Among our war aims is neither the dismemberment of the enemy states nor changes in their internal systems." All of Sonnino's errors sprang from the same cause: it did not dawn on him that the war in which Italy had already lost hundreds of thousands of men was nothing more nor less than the War of the Austrian Succession. With his lack of imagination he believed that the Austria of the Hapsburgs could issue alive from the tempest.

Certainly even Sonnino must sometimes have recognized the truth; but that truth was too revolutionary, it was too uncomfortable to an honest but narrow mind, and he always finished by setting it aside. A case in point occurred when Wilson on January 8, 1918, proclaimed his Fourteen Points. I then deemed it my duty to repeat my ideas and predictions to my chief. I did so in a long private letter of which it is enough, here, to reproduce the following phrases: ". . . and at the Peace Conference everyone will find a way of paying homage verbally to Wilson's principles while thinking only of how to save their own material interests; we alone, bound by too antithetic a formula, risk being in disagreement with Wilson and with the whole world; and in fighting hopelessly for the Treaty of London risk compromising all our interests. European hypocrisy will gain face (as the Chinese say) by denouncing our sacro egoismo, which runs the risk of being the least effective and the least realistic of all the Allied egoisms." Some days later an Italian torpedo boat brought me Sonnino's answer. He gave himself the pleasure of pretending not to be replying directly. But he wrote: "It must be granted that President Wilson's formulas can complicate the field of discussion; I authorize you, then, to reopen with Pašić the conversations that you had with him before his last visit to Rome." Unfortunately Pašić was not in Corfu; he only came back three weeks later. Just before his arrival Sonnino sent me another message annulling the previous instructions and telling me to await new ones. They never arrived; his doubts had again overcome him.

Only one new event interrupted the status quo psychology, and this only as a brief interlude -- the meeting in Rome in April 1918 of the conference of representatives of the oppressed nationalities of Austria-Hungary. The main Italian members were Ruffini, Borgese and Amendola. The Jugoslavs were represented by Ante Trumbić, President of the Jugoslav Committee in London, and by several other Slavs from Austria, among them the famous sculptor Meštrović. There was a delegation of eight members of the Serbian Skupstina, for whose voyage to Rome I made all the arrangements. In addition there were present representatives of all the other oppressed nationalities of Austria-Hungary. The discussions between the Italians and Jugoslavs were sincere but difficult, and this not so much on account of any divergence of view as of a different method of reasoning. The leader of the Austrian Jugoslavs, M. Trumbić, was a perfect gentleman and an ardent Slav patriot; but -- and this made him irritate both Italians and Serbs -- he discussed everything, as was traditional in Austrian politics, from the viewpoint of "diritti storici," from the viewpoint of theoretical jurisprudence. Through his long participation in various Austrian assemblies, Trumbić had acquired the Austrian habit of first of all declaring a theory intangible, and then abandoning it through endless bargains in order at last to arrive at some new juridical formula.

Thanks to the patience of the Italians and to the helpful collaboration of Beneš and Wickham Steed, an accord was at last reached -- to the honest joy, incidentally, of Trumbić, whose juridical conscience was salved by all the objections with which he had sowed the road to understanding. The accord proclaimed that "the unity and independence of the Jugoslav nation are a vital interest for Italy." But despite the adoption of this thesis, which Prime Minister Orlando solemnly confirmed at the end of the Conference, Sonnino's lack of comprehension continued. I need give only one example. In accord with Prince Alexander and with Pašić, I wrote from Corfu to Sonnino and suggested the creation of a Jugoslav legion on the Italian front. It would have shown the Croats who still were faithful to the Hapsburgs that the colors of their nation were flying alongside of the Italian flags. "We waste" -- I quote from one of my dispatches -- "our Croat and Slovene prisoners when we use them in the rear on agricultural work; their usefulness would be infinitely greater if it were known in Austria that we were treating them as brothers delivered from the Hapsburg yoke, as allies; a Jugoslav legion fighting on our side with Serbian uniforms and Serbian flags might help to break the morale of the Croat divisions still valiantly fighting against us under the orders of the Austrian Emperor." In the end the question was referred to the Council of Ministers. Orlando was favorable to the plan; but it fell through before Sonnino's categorical refusal, who went as far as threatening to resign.

A few days later the Austro-Hungarians launched the battle of the Piave. It was more formidable than any which they had either begun or endured in four years of fighting. All their forces -- 60 divisions -- were concentrated on the destruction of the Italian army. It was the Monarchy's last card. After nine days of violent struggle the Austrians were beaten. They lost 200,000 men, 200 cannon, 2,000 machine guns; but they lost something much more important -- all hope of ever conquering the Italians.

The fighting spirit of the Croat troops of Emperor Charles at the Piave was not noticeably below that of the Germans and the Hungarians. That proved one thing in particular -- that in politics, and above all in foreign policy, one must avoid blunders from the very beginning. When one is dealing with national souls and consciences one must avoid the first misunderstandings, the first wounds. Later remedies and explanations seldom succeed in wiping out impressions made by early mistakes.

Three months after the battle of the Piave, the armistice took place on all the fronts: on the Italian front on November 4, 1918. The course of the Peace Conference is too well known to need description here. Sonnino's law at Paris was the written law, the law of his Treaty of London of 1915. In vain did eminent Italians say to him: "Your treaty was conceived in order to protect us against a neighboring Austria-Hungary and against a distant Russia which might establish naval bases in the Adriatic. These two countries no longer exist in the same form. The problem is changed. Is it not better for us to make friends of these Jugoslavs, whose liberty was desired as long ago as by Mazzini, and thus leave ourselves energy to secure other advantages in the world?" To all such pressure Sonnino replied by a simple repetition of his demand for the application of his treaty. And those, Italians or foreigners, who called his attention to the necessity of taking steps at Paris to ensure the colonial expansion of Italy were considered by him almost as agents provocateurs, come to torpedo his precious diplomatic instrument. In the poisoned atmosphere of the Paris Conference he hardly put up a fight. Shocked by the appetites which his British and French colleagues cloaked under generous phrases, irritated to find that they nevertheless spoke to him of his egoism, he shut himself up in his silence and refused all negotiation. One almost admires him, when one thinks of the transactions in which Clemenceau and Lloyd George were indulging. But though one is free to take up that sort of attitude with regard to one's own affairs, one cannot deal so with the fate of a nation.

When in June 1920, on the fall of the Nitti-Tittoni cabinet which had succeeded the Orlando-Sonnino cabinet after the armistice, I myself became Foreign Minister under Giolitti,[viii] I met Trumbić, then Jugoslav Foreign Minister, at the Spa Conference. The frankness with which we were able to talk encouraged me to hope for good results from direct negotiations. At the beginning of November 1920 the Jugoslav plenipotentiaries came to Rapallo to solve at last the Adriatic question. I have related elsewhere [ix] the vicissitudes of this negotiation and do not need to retrace them here. But I might emphasize that the Rapallo Treaty was the first postwar peace pact freely accepted by both sides.

In January 1924 Pašić came to Rome accompanied by his Foreign Minister Ninčić. They signed with Mussolini, who had then been in power for fourteen months, a new treaty engaging the two countries " à se prêter leur appui mutuel et leur collaboration cordiale pour le maintien de l'ordre établi par les traités de paix."[x] This treaty was in fact nothing more than a repetition of the anti-Hapsburg Convention which I had offered Belgrade at the end of 1920. Unfortunately both for Italy and for Jugoslavia the 1924 treaty remained a dead letter. The fact is enough to explain the skepticism with which people everywhere have received the renewed assurances of friendship and collaboration which the Fascist Government on one side and the Stoyadinović cabinet on the other exchanged in a new treaty signed at Belgrade in March 1937.

For a treaty of that sort to be lasting and fruitful it is necessary that both sides really feel and understand that the prosperity and independence of all the "Succession States" of Austria-Hungary are of mutual interest. This is true of Italy no less than of Jugoslavia. At Rapallo I was able to obtain frank and free recognition from the Belgrade government of the fact that half a million Slavs were destined to become Italians since they lived on our side of the Alps. I succeeded in this because the Jugoslav plenipotentiaries were struck by my statement that some day, perhaps, we should find ourselves together defending Trieste and Pola, and Ljubljana and Zagreb, against the menace of a new Teutonic push towards the south.

A treaty of friendship with Jugoslavia can have meaning in the eyes of those who direct Italian policy only if -- like Mazzini and Cavour -- they feel in their hearts that the free and prosperous existence of all the national states that issued out of the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy are equally necessary to the cause of general peace and to the security and international influence of Italy. For an Italian government to forget this supreme truth is equivalent to forgetting that six hundred thousand sons of Italy perished in the World War for the destruction of that European anachronism -- the Austro-Hungarian state. On the Jugoslav side, a policy of friendship and collaboration with Italy cannot aid in creating a new and fruitful atmosphere if it originates merely in tactical considerations and reasons of expediency. Of course, loving my country and desiring European peace, I do hope that even that sort of a policy will continue -- faute de mieux -- between the two governments. But it must be frankly admitted, precisely for the sake of the future relations of two free peoples, that the limited understanding involved is not to be identified with the ideal political, moral and economic collaboration between Italy and the Succession States hoped for and foreseen by the prophetic genius of Mazzini and Cavour.

I based the policy which emerged as a living reality in the Treaty of Rapallo and the Anti-Hapsburg Convention on the principle that the prosperity and independence of the Succession States of Austria-Hungary are an element essential to the force and progress of Italy as a Great Power. That is why, giving answer in the Italian Parliament to those who kept on repeating their antiquated grievances against the Jugoslavs, I said: "The two peoples must agree. If they do not agree out of love they shall one day agree out of necessity." But in my mind this formula was -- and still is -- just as essential for all the Succession States of Austria-Hungary in their relations with each other as in their relations with Italy. (Contrary to the actions of my predecessor, Tittoni, I had kept my negotiations with Belgrade quite independent from those with other Little Entente cabinets, though the understanding with Belgrade implied in my eyes an equal degree of intimacy with Prague and, I hoped, with Bucharest.)

An agreement between Rome and Belgrade that fails to take account of the past common struggles and ideals of the two nations may be useful; it may even be desirable; but it will be only a piece of diplomacy, it will not be living history.

Unfortunately, the historians have not yet pointed out what the Great War really was: the War of the Austrian Succession. But the Drang nach Osten which was halted in 1918 was less menacing than is the new racial Germanism naively convinced of the right and might of its "mission." Diplomatic pacts -- even those concluded with the best of intentions -- will be of little avail against this potential danger if the new states which drew their life out of the dying Pan-Germanism in 1918 are not aware of the duty of a common solidarity and if those who rule Italy do not realize the risk of unconsciously preparing the way for the erection of new and far worse hegemonies.

[i] An allusion to the Croats. The main reason for the loyalty of the Croats to the Austrian Emperor in 1848-49 was their hope that he would protect them against Magyar predominance. Francis Joseph repaid the Croats for their services against Italy by leaving them completely in the hands of the Magyar aristocracy when he made terms with Budapest and accepted the new formula of "Austria-Hungary."

[ii] In "Lettere Slave," reproduced in my "Mazzini" (Milan: Treves, 1925).

[iii] A newspaper article, reproduced in my "Mazzini."

[iv] "Atti del Parlamento," 1848.

[v] "How right you were, in London, with your comparison of the powerful car and the stupid driver" -- so he wrote to me in Peking, approving the views which I had submitted to him in a private letter about the way we should shape our neutrality in the Far East.

[vi] These documents have never been published, a thing which as an Italian I regret, since they constitute the best demonstration of Italian loyalty and foresight during the San Giuliano administration after the outbreak of the war. When I was Foreign Minister I ordered that a Green Book on that period should be published, for Sonnino, San Giuliano's successor, had published only the documents concerning his own period. It was a fault of mine not to remember that Ministers must never say: "Next year I'll do so-and-so." Needless to say, the Fascist régime did not use the materials which had been collected. Dictators must maintain the bluff that everything begins with them.

[vii] According to diplomatic tradition I should have been present as the Italian Plenipotentiary to Serbia; but Sonnino was not anxious to accentuate the official character of the visit and I had no reason to wish to take part in a useless conversation. My wife's impending confinement was the reason which I cabled to Sonnino from Corfu for not coming to Rome. And, as I felt sure would be the case, Sonnino gladly agreed.

[viii] I have told in my "Makers of Modern Europe" of my conversation with Giolitti before accepting the post; he agreed completely with my views concerning our relations with Jugoslavia.

[ix] "Makers of Modern Europe" (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1930) and "Europe and Europeans" (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1936).

[x] The treaty of Rapallo was written in Italian, though I never indulged in nationalistic boasting. All the subsequent Fascist treaties with Jugoslavia were written in French.

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  • COUNT CARLO SFORZA, Former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy, former Ambassador to France, author of "Europe and Europeans" and several other volumes
  • More By Count Carlo Sforza