This text is copied from ‘The Book of a Million Facts’, seemingly published in 1933. (Author unknown).
I will give more precise details of the reference book I am copying from in future parts of this series of posts. And I will try to discover who was responsible for compiling the book.
The Treaty of Versailles, 1919. –
As in 1815 at Vienna, so in 1919 at Versailles, the victors of the Great War met to reconstruct the map of Europe, and to exact what was possible by the way of reparation for the ruin brought about by the Germanic powers. Unlike the Vienna Conference, the vast assembly at Versailles was representative not merely of European powers and interest, but all the twenty-seven states which had declared war of Germany. It was a World Conference, although the ultimate decision of all important business lay in the hands of five powers -Great Britain, France, the United States, Italy and Japan. The enemy states were not represented. Broadly speaking, the treaty with Germany, as drafted at the Conference, agrees in principle with the Fourteen Points enunciated by President Wilson in January, 1918.
In his speech President Wilson has outlined what he declared to be “a programme of the world’s peace.” Perhaps the most important of his Fourteen Points were:
(I) Open covenants of peace openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind, but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in public view.
(IV) Adequate guarantees given and taken that national arguments will be reduced to the lowest point compatible with domestic safety.
(VIII) All French territory should be freed, and the invaded portions restored, and all the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all.
(XI) Rumania, Serbia and Montenegro should be evacuated, occupied territories restored, Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea, and the relations of the several Balkan States to one another be determined by friendly counsel along historically-established lines of allegiance and nationality, and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan States should be entered into.
(XIII) An independent Polish State should be created, which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free access to the sea. .
(XIV) A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.
What, then, was the general result of the Treaty and its subsequent modifications? Territorially the treaties attempted, so far as was practicable and reasonable, to redivide Europe on the basis of self-determination, of allowing peoples with a different culture, language or historical tradition to compose independent states. In the south-east the territory of Turkey in Europe was reduced to Constantinople and a small strip of land outside it, whilst the League of Nations was given control of the Straits and the land on either side. On the other hand the territory of Rumania was more than doubled and that of Greece greatly increased. The kingdom of Jugo-Slavia was created to include Serbia, Montenegro and the Slav provinces that belonged, before the war, to Austria-Hungary.
Germany, besides giving up part of Poland which the Hohenzollerns had seized in the eighteenth century. gave up Alsace-Lorraine and the northern half of Schlesvig, which she had taken from Denmark in 1864. She had to allow the Saar Valley coalfield area to be worked by the French for fifteen years in reparation for the wanton destruction which she had inflicted on the French coal-mining area. Her colonies were disposed of to the Allies while she had also to pay a huge indemnity, the left bank of the Rhine being put in Allied occupation by way of security. A study of an atlas will give a very good impression of the territorial alterations achieved by the post-war settlements. The twin claims of nationality and democracy which the Congress of Vienna had failed to satisfy, were not ignored in the New Settlement.
The Rise of Fascism in Italy.
The troubles of Italy at the close of the Great War became greatly aggravated by the demand of the Socialists for the formation of a Bolshevist State on the lines of Russia. To combat the menace, the Fascist movement was founded in 1919 by Benito Mussolini, now “Il Duce,” then merely the editor of the newspaper “Il Popolo d’Italia” and himself an ex-socialist.
Industrial troubles vexed the country, and there were frequent disturbances between the “Red” Communists and the black-shirted ever-growing Fascist party. Gradually the riots of the discontented masses, and the shadow of National bankruptcy, together with extraordinary devotion to the national cause shown by its members, directed the sympathy of public opinion towards the Fascist party. In 1922 matters came to a head. The Fascists marched on Rome and took possession of the city. This Coup d’etat was accomplished with the greatest of ease. The king sent for Mussolini, their avowed leader, and he arrived bearing a list of his chosen Cabinet, which was at once accepted. The “implicit Republican tendency” was shed once and for all by Mussolini’s expression of his adherence to the Monarchy.
For more than ten years Mussolini has directed the government of the country, and instituted reforms of all description. Various attempts upon his life has failed to shake his nerve, nor have they deflected his purpose; he is the greatest dictator in the World, and has been hailed as a second Napoleon.
An important rapprochement took place in February 1929 between the Pope and the Fascist state. A political treaty was signed, by which Italy recognized the Papal sovereignty. The Vatican now forms a tiny state, negligible territorially, but with its own wireless station, postal arrangement and railway station. His Holiness has accepted the gift of a special Papal train . This treaty marks the end of an unsatisfactory phase which had lasted since “Risorgimento,” when Pias IX (1846-1878) had lost touch with the Italian nation, and the young nation had thrust him into a position detrimental alike to his dignity and his authority.
Italy has been raised from the slough of despond to the position of a first-class power. It has not been accomplished without a struggle. Freedom of the press has been abolished, and the curtailment of the liberty of the subject has been necessary for the success of the movement. The dreams of Mussolini pointing to a vast colonial empire and Mediterranean supremacy may yet prove a serious menace to the peace of Europe. The fact remains that he has done more for his country than any man for centuries. His building has been for the future; whether it survives the present epoch remains for future historians to record.
The League of Nations.-
Reference has been made to the League of Nations, which was briefly outlined in the last of President Wilson’s Points. There is nothing new in the idea of a League to preserve peace. Such a league was the Holy Alliance (1814), that “loud sounding nothing” that expressed the will of the princes but not the will of the people. Groups of nations have been leagued together against one another to preserve a balance of power. Those who believe in the process of moral ideals look for a League of Nations which shall ensure the the “will to peace” shall replace the “will to power.” It is difficult to believe such a league will prove impossible of attainment.
The problems of peace were many and a solution once and for all time honestly aimed at. Yet it is not surprising that the jealousy of nations should persist. The treaty of Trianon (1920), which gave Transylvania to Rumania, was bound to cause bitterness in the mind of Hungary. Although the territory ceded was largely Rumanian in population and language, there was a very large proportion of Hungarians. The race of the central plains of Europe are so intermingled that segregation is almost impossible. Relations with Rumania will always be strained until logical settlement of the problem can be evolved.
The greatest problem still rests in Eastern Europe, where Poland was given access to the sea. “The Polish Corridor,” as it is loosely referred to, cuts off East Prussia from Germany. It is natural that the Germans should agitate for the resettlement of territory on their eastern frontier. Their claims are heard with a sympathetic ear by many in this country who consider that, because many place-names in the corridor are German and have only been recently changed, the population must be principally Teuton. But it must be borne in mind that for centuries this vexed belt of land was traditionally Polish in language, custom, and allegiance, and that the change to Germanic appellations was only effected a century ago after the red-handed thefts brought about by the Partitions.
The problem of disarmament looms large. The old doctrine that preparations for war will ensure peace has been finally and irrevocably exploded. A race for armaments can only lead to hostility and rivalry. But whereas the British have consistently reduced the armaments to “the lowest point compatible with domestic safety,” the French and Italians continue to increase the size of their peace establishments. Small wonder that the Germans claim for equality. They were forced to abandon every vestige of security on the understanding that the other Powers of the world would gradually reduce to the lowest point. They have seen their neighbours continually increasing and they fear for the safety of their long land frontiers. Until a settlement can be arrived at peace will remain insecure and lasting friendship amongst the peoples of the world unattainable.
Finally the mechanization of the world and the consequent surplus of production over consumption has led to a new problem- the right use of leisure. Unemployment is rife the world over and idleness leads to disorder unless enforced leisure can be turned to good account. It is essential that the use of leisure be turned into profitable and enlightening channels. While peace and content among the nations is being striven for, happiness must be attained among the vast mass of the population of the nations. A new angle of perspective has been reached and it bodes ill for those peoples who do not adjust their outlook to the newly-formed conditions.
The Treaty of Versailles was an attempt to settle territorial distribution of the World and to set up a central body strong enough to deal with every dispute that might arise. It remains for the people to create a new standard of international fellowship and good-will.