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WOODROW WILSON AND THE WORLD SETTLEMENT. BY RAY STANNARD BAKER. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1922, three volumes.
THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE. BY BURTON J. HENDRICK. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1922, two volumes.
THE LETTERS OF FRANKLIN K. LANE. EDITED BY ANNE WINTERMUTE LANE AND LOUISE HERRICK WALL. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1922.
SELECTED ADDRESSES AND PUBLIC PAPERS OF WOODROW WILSON. EDITED BY ALBERT BUSHNELL HART. New York: Boni, 1920.
ON MARCH 22, 1918, Ambassador Page wrote from London to Frank L. Polk at Washington:
"The most interesting thing going on in the world today--a thing that in history will transcend the war and be reckoned its greatest gain--is the high leadership of the President in formulating the struggle, in putting its aims high, and in taking the democratic lead in the world, a lead that will make the world over--and in taking the democratic lead of the English-speaking folk."
Ambassador Page, it is true, was writing only the day after Ludendorff had delivered his smashing blow against the British line in Picardy. Even an approximate understanding of what had happened could scarcely have reached London. Yet the blow had long been foreseen, and its possible consequences had not been minimized in Allied quarters. There is sufficient proof on that point in the prolonged, confused, and unsuccessful efforts to establish Allied unity of command. People were aware in the last days of March, 1918, that the crisis of the war was at hand. Nevertheless Walter H. Page felt justified in saying that the most important thing going on in the world at that moment was not going on behind the battle-fronts in France, but in the mind and heart of Woodrow Wilson at Washington.
This was the same Walter Hines Page who for nearly two years after the Lusitania had expressed increasing outrage and shame over the pusillanimity and criminal shortsightedness of Woodrow Wilson's foreign policy. Even after Bernstorff was handed his passports and our entrance into the war became certain Page was not sure that Woodrow Wilson would rise to his full duty. Only six days before Congress declared war, he drafted for his own use and satisfaction the now famous diagnosis of Woodrow Wilson and of the soul of America since August 1, 1914.
Page noted that Wilson began by refusing to understand the meaning of the war. The President visualized the war as a conflict between rival economic interests. He showed excessive toleration for Germany. He made neutrality a "positive quality of mind." He soothed the American people into a similar state of misunderstanding and of indifference to vital human issues. Isolating himself with his own conception of the war and with his ambitions to play the peacemaker, Wilson would not permit "the air currents of the world to ventilate his mind." He encouraged the people to supineness, until the people brushed aside his leadership and imposed their will upon him. "He is not a leader, but rather a stubborn phrasemaker."
Ambassador Page's fears on April 1, 1917, were not altogether baseless. The President did go into the war with the sense of engaging in an enterprise of limited liability. Page's protests and appeals to Washington against our Navy Department's leisurely approach to cooperation might be called frantic if the facts of the U-boat war and of military events following on Russia's collapse were not there to justify him. As late as March 8, 1918, the Ambassador wrote to Arthur W. Page on the menace of the philosophical pacifist. There is no mention of the President as belonging in that category. We do find an allusion to the kind of man "who does not clearly understand the nature of the war and the enemy," but it could not have been directed against Wilson. By this time we must assume that the President was putting enough heart into the war to satisfy Mr. Page, since it is only a fortnight later that Wilson's activity is described as the most important and heartening feature of the situation. What Page thought about Woodrow Wilson during the first six months after we entered the war will stand the test of criticism much better than what Page thought of him up to the time we entered.
That neutrality of phrase as well as of action which Page accused Wilson of practicing to the point of really suppressing freedom of thought and speech among the American people was not the vice or error of a stubborn phrasemaker and of a man isolated from the air currents of the world. It was the reflection of a prevalent state of mind among the American people. Page, it is true, might say that for this state of the popular mind Woodrow Wilson was responsible. But if that were the case, we must assume that among the victims of the Woodrow Wilson error was one Charles E. Hughes, who as late as the autumn of 1916 seemed as blind as Woodrow Wilson himself to the real nature of the war and the enemy.
Repeatedly Page wrote that if Woodrow Wilson were "here," in London, the President would better understand the meaning of the war. If the President were to feel as the English people felt, that life would not be worth living with a victorious Germany, there would be no chance of Wilson's losing himself in the philosophical ultimates of the war. Certainly there would then be no question of a policy of nag and nuisance carried on by our State Department against the British navy and the British blockade. But the simple answer, and the sufficient answer, is that America and Woodrow Wilson were not "there" in England, but here on our own side of the Atlantic.
One excellent test of Page's accusation of supineness against Woodrow Wilson is at hand in the letters of Franklin K. Lane. No one will discern in Lane's letters, as no one discerned in the life and personal and public utterances of that robust and courageous Californian, any traits of isolation from the fresh currents of the world. Lane was not a stubborn phrasemaker, and he certainly had no hungering sympathies with the principles of the pacifist Daughters of the Dove over whom Page was so bitter. Even before we entered the war, Lane showed in his work as member of the Council of National Defense none of that academic restraint which Ambassador Page detected in Secretary Daniels' conduct of our naval policy.
Yet the simple fact is at hand that this red-blooded Franklin K. Lane, who late in February, 1917, declared in Cabinet meeting that there was sufficient cause for going to war in Germany's treatment of the wives of American consuls, this Franklin K. Lane was converted to war only a few weeks ahead of Woodrow Wilson. And during the preceding two years and a half Lane's feelings and opinions traveled along with his chief--always supposing, of course, that Lane was not the victim of his chief's hypnotic supineness.
On March 3, 1915, Lane writes to John Crawford Burns, who in Italy held very much the same opinion about the Germans as Ambassador Page did at London:
"We are being generously damned by the Germans and the aggressive Irish for being pro-British, and the English press, people, and sympathizers in this country are generously damning us as the grossest of commercialists who are willing to sell them into the eternal slavery of Germany for the sake of selling a few bushels of wheat. Neither side being pleased, the inference is reasonable that we are being loyal to our central position." Ten days later Lane writes to Burns that he had been referred, the other day, to the episode of England's surprise attack on neutral Copenhagen in 1807 as a parallel to Germany's leap into Belgium, and that on looking the thing up in volume 10 of Corbett's Parliamentary Reports, he had found the parallel to be exact, with the British Government talking like Bethmann-Hollweg and the Opposition in Parliament talking like England to Germany today. On May 29, three weeks after the Lusitania, Lane writes to Burns: "England is playing a rather high game, violating international law every day."
In November Lane is more than impatient with "the idealists afflicted with an exaggerated ego, including Bryan, Ford, and women generally." But in May, 1916, he is still far from revealing himself as a fire-eater. "I favor telling Germany we will make no trade with her, and if she fails to make good her word we will stop talking to her altogether." In a pacifist that might almost have been interpreted as threatening Germany with a vehement slap on the wrist. It is only in February, 1917, early in the month, that we find Lane's mind parting company with the President's. With implied disapproval, but no more than that, he quotes Woodrow Wilson's statement in the Cabinet meeting of February 2: "The President said that he didn't wish to see either side win, for both had been equally indifferent to the rights of neutrals, though Germany had been brutal in taking life, and England only in taking property."
It is a possible interpretation of Woodrow Wilson's policies that he did feel the rights and wrongs of the war more definitely than Page imagined, and that Woodrow Wilson's patience was his own method of educating the country to participation on the right side. Did it ever occur to Ambassador Page that Wilson's nagging protests against Britain's blockade methods, that those "lawyer's notes" with which Lansing bombarded the British Government while Britain was fighting for her life, might have been only a strategic concession to that section of American sentiment which was against Great Britain ? Let us suppose that Woodrow Wilson had set out to play a policy of Machiavellianism in favor of Great Britain, as he was, in fact, accused of doing. Would not his tactics be the very ones he followed?
To send notes to London without pressing unduly for an answer, but to send notes to Germany and insist, ultimately, upon an answer--what more would you ask of the head of a nation finding itself geographically, historically, and sentimentally, as Franklin K. Lane put it, in a "central position?" From this standpoint one should not lay undue stress on the President's remark in Cabinet that he did not wish to see either side win. The stress would rather fall on the distinction Wilson went on to make between Germany, which was brutal in taking life, and England, which was brutal in taking property.
But here a question arises. It concerns Wilson, the literary stylist.
Why should an acknowledged master of the English tongue, if my interpretation of the Wilson remark as above is correct, be guilty of framing a sentence in which the subordinate thought is headlined while the real point is relegated to a dependent clause, almost to an afterthought clause? Wilson was stating the basic truth; we did go to war because Germany took life while England only took property. Why then did Wilson phrase it so ineptly? The answer is twofold. In the first place, it would be good tactics for him, in accordance with the strategic theory I have outlined, to put the sting of his message in the tail. But in the second place, and reaching far beyond the specific instance, stands the simple fact that Woodrow Wilson is not the master stylist which even his critics concede him to be. The gift of perfect expression is not infallibly his.
I say this with full acknowledgment of Woodrow Wilson's high eloquence, in speech and in writing. He exercises a mastery over the music of words which is much more than the music of sound; it is the harmony of profound feeling and deep understanding voicing itself almost in reverie. It was my good fortune to hear him speak at the Guildhall in the early days of January, 1919, when it seemed to me that he was as one inspired. I heard him again at the plenary session of the Peace Conference when he made his plea for the League of Nations, and again he seemed to me to have reached the heights. And yet, in my opinion, Woodrow Wilson has repeatedly sinned against the supreme canon of style, if by that we mean the embodiment of a speaker's thought in a verbal form so perfect as to lift his message above the slightest chance of misunderstanding. For Woodrow Wilson has been frequently and tragically misunderstood.
"He is not a leader, but a stubborn phrasemaker," wrote Walter H. Page. If by a stubborn phrasemaker, Page meant a man who delights in fashioning verbal formulas and accepting them as a substitute for reality, then Wilson was not a stubborn phrasemaker. His phrases, on the contrary, too often gave evidence of having been wrenched forward by the pull of a passionately felt central reality in disregard of special circumstances of time and place. Sometimes it must have been sheer carelessness. There were times again and again when Woodrow Wilson's best friends could have cried out for some kindly revisionary hand to go over the message conveyed by the President's personal typewriting machine.
James Bryce was sad when he spoke to Walter Page on July 31, 1916, concerning the President's declaration that he was not concerned with the causes or objects of the war. Bryce said that British opinion was exasperated by the statement because it misunderstood. "He meant, I take it, only that he did not propose at that time to discuss the causes and objects of the war; and it is a pity that his sentence was capable of being interpreted to mean something else; and the sentence was published and discussed here apart from its context." Walter Page observed that "the body of the speech in which this remark occurred might have been written in Downing Street, so friendly was it to the Allies." "Quite, quite," said Lord Bryce. So here you have a case of the entire context of a Presidential utterance exposed to popular misunderstanding because of a few words of careless writing. If only Mr. Wilson had said: "I do not think it necessary, at this time, to go into the causes or consequences of the war!"
Careless authorship is responsible for Wilson's two most famous--and violently irritating--phrases: the "too proud to fight," and the "peace without victory." Mr. Wilson asserted that "there is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight," in the course of an address to a meeting of naturalized citizens at Philadelphia. That sentence was the climax in a speech of fervid exaltation of America as destined by its origins and its situation to rise above the jealousies and suspicions and narrowness of an unmitigated "nationalism." But it is unfortunate that the speech should have been delivered three days after the sinking of the Lusitania. I regard it as more than probable--to my mind it is certain--that Woodrow Wilson, when he drafted his speech, was not thinking of the Lusitania. But, nevertheless, he exposed himself to Don Marquis' bitter rejoinder that most Americans at that time found it difficult to think of anything else. It was dangerous phrase-making but not stubborn phrase-making. It was quite the opposite of stubborn. It was excessively spontaneous. The fact that three days after the "too proud to fight" he wrote to the German Government that we should hold it "to a strict accountability" did not save Mr. Wilson from his enemies.
Carelessness, plus unfair interpretation, enters into the "peace without victory" of January 22, 1917. Here is what he said:
"It must be a peace without victory. It is not pleasant to say this. I beg that I may be permitted to put my own interpretation upon it and that it may be understood that no other interpretation was in my thought. I am seeking only to face realities and to face them without soft concealments. Victory would mean peace forced upon the loser, a victor's terms imposed upon the vanquished."
Now, "victory would mean a peace imposed upon the loser" can signify two things. It can mean that the war ought to end without victor and loser, so that the resultant peace should be a negotiation between two equals in strength. But the phrase may also mean that the war ought not to end with the kind of peace that the victor usually imposes upon the vanquished. Wilson may have been urging the belligerent nations to call the war a stalemate and to make peace accordingly.
And finally it occurs to me that a master stylist might have drafted the famous Article X so as not to lend a handle to the Lodges and the Johnsons. Article X might have stated, in so many words, that the United States could not go to war without the consent of Congress and that America retained complete power to decide what were its moral obligations in every circumstance as it arose.
I have dwelt with what may seem excessive length upon Woodrow Wilson the phrase-maker and stylist, because the question enters so intimately into the popular conception of Mr. Wilson's character and of the nature of his services to the nation and to the world. It is the common statement--not always from hostile sources--that Woodrow Wilson was a master of words and a tyro at realities. It is my belief that history will reverse the popular verdict.
Wilson's conception of the right and necessary peace, even as it was translated into the imperfect form of the Treaty of Versailles, was true to realities because it related itself to the great antecedent reality, the war. He did not forget that there had been a war, which is more than can be said for a great many of his critics and his enemies. It is not too extreme to say that when Wilson bargained away certain of his principles at Paris or accepted defeat on certain of his principles, he was only the more faithful to his basic principle--the passionate conviction that out of the war there must be born an instrumentality to safeguard the world against a repetition of the great horror. He bought his League of Nations with a great price--at Paris. The pity of it is that he did not see fit to pay the comparatively trifling additional price which was demanded of him at Washington. It is a pity that Mr. Wilson would not yield to Henry Cabot Lodge on a matter of form when he had yielded so much in substance to Clemenceau and Lloyd George.
Wilson remembered that there had been a war. Too many of his opponents chose to forget that fact, and very soon after the armistice. These easy forgetters fall into two classes. One class would comprise those who, during the long period of our neutrality, had been bitterly vocal concerning Wilson's supineness; who were outraged by his "too proud to fight" and his "peace without victory;" who felt that there was no need of grubbing in search of the ultimate causes of the war, because it was plainly a war of Allied self-defense against a robber Germany, as Walter H. Page felt. To such critics of Wilson the war was, in kind, no different from other wars waged against aggression, and it was puerile to assume that any other problem was involved than the immediate task of beating down the aggressor. That achieved, a peace would be signed, the aggressor would be adequately punished, and the world would set itself to heal its wounds as it has done after other great wars, after the Thirty Years' War, after the Napoleonic wars. Justice having been vindicated, the world would proceed to get well with the aid of that eminent general practitioner, Time.
Now, the odd thing is this: Of the people who believed that Germany was only another case of that normal historic phenomenon--an outlaw run amuck, to be dealt with by the police--of these very people a great many hastened to be among the first to protest when the normal sentence in such instances was pronounced at Versailles. If German iniquity in the war was what they had described it to be--and the consequences were visible in a white-bled Europe--then no sentence pronounced at Versailles should have been too severe. Yet you found too many people speaking of the "crime of Versailles" who only a year before were savage in speaking of the crime against Belgium. They had rejected Wilson's supine idealism. They had called for force and punishment. But when punishment came they were beset with an extraordinary tenderness for the criminal. And the reason? Well, we need not go so far as to say that most of these good people discovered iniquities in the Versailles treaty because Wilson signed it. Let us say that they had forgotten the war.
Another class of forgetters came from the opposite pole. They were the people who passionately rejected the doctrine that war has been and will be, and that this war was only a rather big-sized episode in an always-to-be-continued serial. They insisted that this must be a war to end war; that it must be made the prelude to the reconstruction of the entire scheme of international life. But when it came to the test--at Versailles--these men, too, forgot. They wanted their ideal omelette without the breaking of real eggs. And often they were not sure whether they wanted the omelette. They wanted national self-determination and ethnic frontiers. But when ethnology plainly indicated that part of Upper Silesia should go to Poland they discovered that the economic life of Germany and of Europe would be crippled by the loss of Silesian coal. Very well, then. Let us admit that the ethnic principle must be modified by the economic principle and that, in the fashioning of frontiers, here and there population blocks must reconcile themselves to foreign rule. But oh, no, said these objectors, not in the case of Poland. For Germany's economic life the coal of Silesia is essential. For the economic life of twenty-five million Poles, not even a single port--Danzig--is essential. Danzig is a crime. Very well, then. Let us say that a port is not an absolute necessity for a big new nation. Oh, no, said the objectors, there is Jugoslavia. If fifteen million Jugoslavs are deprived of Fiume, then the people will perish.
And so it went, until the suspicion became inescapable that among the idealist critics of Woodrow Wilson's behavior at Paris there was no lack of prejudice and of partisanship and of axes to grind. They had forgotten the war that was to end all wars. They were unwilling to pay the price that Wilson consented to pay, because he had not forgotten the war. And I suspect that one reason may be that they had smaller faith in their ideals than Woodrow Wilson had in his.
Woodrow Wilson made two kinds of concessions at Paris. He made concessions to the technical difficulties of shaping a new Europe and he made concessions to the spirit of greed. He yielded when his experts told him that you could not do justice to Poland without including some Germans in the new Poland, or justice to Rumania without including Magyars in the new Rumania. He yielded to greed when it came in the form of an argument--on strategic grounds--for giving 200,000 Germans in the Tyrol to Italy. He yielded in the matter of excessive reparations from Germany. But Wilson believed--and rightly--that he got compensation in the League.
Ray Stannard Baker's "Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement" is the apologia for the ex-President's record at Paris. Of the outstanding merits of the book as an admirably ordered narrative of the making of the peace and as a collection of illustrative documents, there is no need to speak at this late day. Mr. Baker's volumes are, of course, of the first value for a study of this critical and tragic period in world history. But what concerns me at the present moment is not the matter of Mr. Baker's book, but its manner. The dominant impression I have carried away from it is less of apologia than of apology. The author is excessively on the defensive in behalf of Mr. Wilson. There is too much deprecation and not enough proud-lipped justification. In the seventeenth century style the Baker story might have had for its sub-title "A Candid Statement of the Compelling Reasons Wherefore President Wilson Failed at Paris." But I do not see why Wilson's historian should adopt that tone. Between failing to achieve all that you set out to accomplish and Failure there is a difference. Mr. Baker does not stress this point sufficiently.
And the reason would be, as I see it, that Mr. Baker too frequently lends himself to classification in that second category of Wilson critics I have mentioned--the idealists who in their own way have forgotten that there was a war. Take the liberation of oppressed nationalities. The principle of self-determination for which generous minds were aflame during the last eighteen months of the war--say, after the first Russian revolution--suffered an extraordinary cooling off in these same minds immediately after the armistice. From the manner in which liberals these last five years have spoken of the "Balkanization" of Europe and of the French "satrapies" in Central Europe, you would never imagine that once upon a time they were ardent for the restoration of Poland, for the liberation of the Hapsburgs' northern and southern Slavs, for--well, self-determination.
How to make omelettes without recovering the stolen eggs, how to salvage the oppressed without hurting the oppressor, how to vindicate nationalism in Europe without "Balkanizing" it--is a question which I have not seen very frequently answered. The zeal with which liberals will stress those of the Fourteen Points which fell by the wayside is only equalled by their assiduity in forgetting the larger number that were vindicated.
Into this state of mind, forgetful of the realities for which the war was fought and forgetful of realities with which the settlement had to deal, Mr. Baker falls too often. He harps on "Balkanized" Europe until one almost imagines he regrets the large number of noisy new nationalites in Central and Eastern Europe in place of the three, nice, large, smooth-working empires with which it was equipped before the war. He writes (Vol. II, page 14): "Of cessions there were to be many--to France herself (as Alsace-Lorraine); to her allies, Belgium, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, and even to neutral but friendly Denmark."
Cessions, says Mr. Baker in a tone and in a context that make cessions synonymous with spoils. Did, then, Mr. Baker have the vision of a conceivably possible settlement in which France should not get Alsace-Lorraine, Poland should not get her lost territories, and Czechoslovakia should not be established as an independent nation? If he did, then in the language of George M. Cohan, what was all the shooting for? And what were the Fourteen Points for--those of the Fourteen Points which a good many people seem to have found it so easy to forget?
Mr. Wilson did not forget, and the Balkanization of Europe, to which his principles committed him, he courageously carried through. Mistakes were made. Concessions were made to greed, to fear, to revenge, though not in the degree implied by Mr. Baker when he speaks repeatedly of the triumph of the Dark Forces over Mr. Wilson, of the triumph of the Old Order over the New. More than once in the earlier part of his narrative Mr. Baker speaks of the ideal repartitioning of Europe as one that should be carried out by the experts instead of the greedy diplomats; and in the later portion of his story he leaves you with the general impression that the experts had much less to do with the definition of boundaries than they actually did.
I say "general impression," because in the details of his narrative Mr. Baker has shown how closely Wilson followed the advice of his experts and how valiantly he fought for their recommendations in the lair of the Big Four. Yet now and then Mr. Baker succumbs to his idealist prejudices and takes issue with the experts when their recommendations fail to please him. (See Vol. II, pp. 73, 81.) Mr. Baker repeatedly succumbs to the habit of speaking of Poland in the tone in which the New Republic of New York is accustomed to refer to the new republic on the Vistula, which it dislikes.
Errors of omission and commission there were. But for these Woodrow Wilson has a better explanation than Mr. Baker has supplied him with. Mr. Baker emphasizes the strength and resourcefulness of the Dark Forces with which Mr. Wilson had to contend, the ancient hatreds and the new war-born hatreds, the fears and the exasperations and the nervous collapses among the victors. And the conclusion, which is reasonable enough as far as it goes, is that Mr. Wilson did as well as might be expected under the circumstances. But Wilson might claim more than that. He could claim that not only did he get the best settlement he could under the circumstances, but that this immediate best might be bettered in time through the instrumentalities of a better international understanding. Wilson thought of the League. But it might have been other agencies as well. It might be, for instance, an Arms Conference summoned to Washington by President Harding, as a result of which Shantung was restored to China.
Shantung, at Paris, may be taken as a fair test of the Wilson outlook and the Wilson method. The President could not secure from Japan a formal promise embodied in the treaty of the restoration of the Chinese province, though he did get the verbal promise to that effect. As a result the Chinese signed the treaty under protest, and in our own election campaign of 1920 "the shame of Shantung" burned hot on the lips of Senators Johnson and Borah; not, I suspect, because they loved the Chinese more, but because they loved Woodrow Wilson and the Japanese less. And yet in this matter Woodrow Wilson was right every inch of the way. Was he to let the Japanese break up the Peace Conference with all that meant rather than let China wait a year or two more for Shantung--this China which, as I see it, has known how to wait for thousands of years, which did get back Shantung in less than three years after the signing of the treaty, and which, now that she has Shantung back, is not at all certain what to do with it or how to rule it?
If the "crime" of Shantung was repaired in three years by a world conference in which the United States played its proper, manly part, how many of the other "crimes" at Paris might not have been undone, or be in the way of being undone, if the United States had not proved recreant to its duty on the world settlement as a whole? We come back to the commonplace which is the heart of the problem--that Woodrow Wilson took the best peace he could get, not because he was satisfied to let it go at that, but because he looked to time to make specific reparation, and looked to a world safeguarded for peace to make more than full compensation for the rest. Mr. Baker emphasizes what Mr. Wilson failed to get. He under-emphasizes what he succeeded in getting--until the United States Senate took it away from him.
This error in emphasis runs throughout Mr. Baker's book and to the prejudice of Woodrow Wilson; of emphasis, mind you, and not of actual omission in the record. It is all there: How Lloyd George asked for $120,000,000,000 of indemnity at first, and how Foch asked for the left bank of the Rhine, and how pretty nearly everybody asked for large chunks of Asiatic Turkey. Mr. Baker speaks of all these things in detail, but somehow does not succeed in leaving us with the thought that if the final damages assessed against Germany were too large, they were immeasurably more reasonable than what Lloyd George wanted; that if the Saar settlement and the fifteen years' occupation of the Rhineland was wrong, it was a much better treaty than if Foch had had his left bank of the Rhine, and Wilson had not bought Clemenceau off with the promise of a treaty of guarantee; that if greed ran riot in Asiatic Turkey, the Wilson principle of leaving something to the corrective influence of time has been amply justified by what time has already done to Allied greed in Turkey.
To justify Mr. Wilson his apologist thinks it necessary to use a great deal of Rembrandt black on the European background, though that scene in all conscience was cheerless enough. It was the Dark Forces of the Continent against the Idealism of America. It was the Old Order of Europe against the New Order of America. If Wilson failed in Europe it was, according to Mr. Baker, because of a slump in European idealism. Very well. The Dark Forces were there, if you insist on the point, only it was not altogether the darkness of perversity. The darkness was largely the result of wounds and pain and fear; the result, largely, of necessity, in the sense that Europe's state of mind was largely the result of what Europe had been through.
But there was another area of darkness, there was another slump of idealism, that contributed much more to Wilson's "failure" at Paris, and this was on our own side of the Atlantic; and for us there was not the excuse that we had been through a harrowing experience. The slump of the American people into weariness the moment after the armistice was signed--"get the boys back home"--the slump of American leaders into partisanship--this will account for much that was written into the treaty which should not have been written, and for the failure of so much that could have come out of the settlement which has not come out. Woodrow Wilson did not have behind him a serried army of light to combat the forces of darkness led by Field-Marshals Lloyd George and Clemenceau. These generals derived a great deal of aid and comfort from our side of the water. As events showed, the number of Americans who were for the New Order as against the Old was less than fifty per cent.
Wilson's failure, to the extent that he failed, was not staged in Paris but at home. He was not defeated by Clemenceau and Lloyd George, but by Senator Lodge. When one thinks, at this moment of writing, that Germany and Great Britain are both seeking a reparation settlement in accordance with the ideas suggested by an American Secretary of State named Hughes, one understands what an evil stroke against world peace was delivered when the United States seceded from its duty in the councils of the nations. Towards that duty events are plainly compelling our return. Time is vindicating Woodrow Wilson, the "visionary" and "phrasemaker," against the Lodge and Johnson brand of realism.
But not Lodge and Johnson alone. Among the tragic ifs which cannot in fairness be omitted is the question what would have happened if Woodrow Wilson had consented to barter with Lodge as he bartered with Lloyd George and Clemenceau. The great realist in the settlement at Paris sinned against the realities at home.