Sunday, May 20, 2018

Statements of Lawrence Yates Sherman on the Treaty of London

Here we have the statements of Senator Lawrence Yates Sherman, who spoke before the United States Congress on August 4, 1919, on the Treaty of London and how the Entente Powers failed to honor the treaty and uphold their promises to Italy after World War I:
When Italy cast her strength into the war against the Central Powers it was a vital decision. Five million Italian soldiers created a battle line from the Alps to the sea; 500,000 dead and 1,000,000 wounded with $13,000,000,000 expenditure testify to the greatness of the Italian sacrifice. ... Germany was compelled to withdraw soldiers, artillery, and war supplies to strengthen Austria in her struggle against the new enemy on her southern flank. A neutral Italy would have left the dual empire free to send its military forces to strengthen Germany and enable the latter power to concentrate instead of compelled to divide her forces in the drive toward Paris and the channel ports. Italy's casting her lot, therefore, with the allied powers marks a decisive event in the fortunes of war. It ranks with the entry of the United States in the Great War against the Central Powers. Italy sat at the peace table knowing that she merited recognition commensurate with her sacrifice. Prior to her entering the war in 1915 a treaty was concluded, dated April 26 of that year, with Great Britain, France, and Russia. Under its terms the peace treaty entitled Italy to receive the district of Trentino, the entire southern Tyrol to its natural geographic boundary, the River Brenner, the city and suburbs of Trieste, Goritzia, and Gradisca, all of Istria to Quarnero, including: Volosca and the Istrian islands of Cherso and Lussino, and also the smaller islands of Plavnik [Plauno], Unia, Canidole, Palazzuolo, San Pietro dei Nembi, Azinello, and Grutzo, together with the neighboring islands.
... Our President had denounced and still denounces secret treaties. That denunciation is continued in the league of nations. I share in the dislike of such diplomacy in the future relations of civilized powers; but I can not reach that ultra level of morality that condemns a secret treaty, after having received its benefits and permitting the beneficiary to retain all the advantages and repudiate the promise... It [the London Treaty of 1915] gained for the Allies the Italian Nation. It was not merely Italy's military and naval strength she cast into the scale against Germany. I repeat, it was the creation of a battle line on Austria's southern flank, which drew from the eastern front in France strength then vital to German success. The morale of the Allies was strengthened beyond the estimate. In the foregoing situation President Wilson condemned the London Pact and denied the duty of Great Britain and France under its provisions to give Italy her frontiers guaranteed in that treaty
... If our President had not injected himself and the United States Government into the conference against the treaty, Italy would have received the guaranteed boundaries and territories for which she has performed a full service. There is no moral turpitude nor essential wrong in giving Italy the entire benefit promised in the treaty.
The ninth of President Wilson's points in his address to Congress on January 8, 1918, declares: A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
It is possible that when the President delivered this message he did not know of the London treaty of 1915, affecting Italy's frontier. Let that be assumed, although I doubt whether he lacked such knowledge. It was generally understood as early as 1916 that such a treaty existed and was the prevailing motive that carried Italy into the war for the Allies. This one of the 14 points is lamentably executed. Another idealism wrecked. I am in accord with the invalidity of secret treaties applied to future transactions, but I can not arouse my indignation over secret treaties which were vital steps in overcoming a treacherous public enemy, whose methods were without restraint either by common humanity or by any known rule of diplomacy or civilized warfare. I find it impossible to attain the sublime moral frenzy into which our President works himself when entranced by his ethereal phrases adapted only to the high altitude of the politically sanctified. I believe Italy is entitled to the full measure promised her in the 1915 treaty.
In the absence of such benefits Italy's claims at the hands of her allies have not been equitably met. Disappointment and ingratitude are the lot of Italy at Paris in return for her great sacrifice. President Wilson is responsible for Italy's exclusion from the fruits of victory. She lies on the tidewater of the Mediterranean, with the Adriatic Sea extending along her eastern and northern border. Within her boundaries and beyond in other countries are the Alps. In that mighty chain of mountains to her east and northeast are the ancient and historic passes through which Asiatic and eastern invaders have for thousands of years poured their warlike hordes on the frontiers of western Europe. The Alps are nature's defenses. The passes are the natural gateways and are supremely vital to the defenses of Italy. Through these passes came the great Slavic invasions in the fourth and fifth centuries. Their silent walls, if their stony lips could speak, would tell when Attila, the scourge of God, marched with his legions to subjugate western Europe and destroy Christendom. They would record the invasion of the Ostrogoths under Theodoric, when the flood of Asiatic barbarism again poured over western Europe. These silent witnesses saw the great Hun invasion in 943 A.D. Italy's defenses can not be safe by merely making the shore line of the Adriatic her northeastern and Southeastern boundaries. It would compel her to maintain a navy at tremendous expense far beyond what ought to be imposed upon her.
All the great Alpine basin, whose waters flow into the Adriatic Sea, is Italian territory. Those mountain heights and valleys, reared by the Omnipotent in imperishable majesty and beauty, are Italy's. The hand of God traced her everlasting boundary lines in the snow-crowned peaks and sunlit swiftly-flowing rivers that fall into the great Italian sea.
Along the eastern shore of the Adriatic is a narrow belt of coast land about 210 miles long and from 1 mile to 35 miles wide. This zone of fairly level plain is bounded on the east by the Dinaric Alps, an almost continuous precipitous wall of rugged mountains, rising in places in cliffs 6,000 feet above the sea level. This mountain chain is Italy's eastern defense. The Adriatic, unless fortified and manned by a formidable navy, is the facile highway for attack. The nation that owns or controls the plain between the Alps and the Adriatic commands, when fortified, Italy's Adriatic boundary. It is a perpetual menace. Dalmatia is of consequence in the future of Italy.
... President Wilson turned a deaf ear to Italy, and Great Britain and France, somewhat relieved to have our Government assume responsibility, silently acquiesced. I should like to have seen Lloyd-George's face when he acquiesced or allowed it to pass unchallenged. I believe if he could have been observed, the honest Welshman would have been seen to blush.
Therefore Italy is told she can not profit by secret treaties for which she has paid the price in blood and a supreme good faith in keeping Italian national honor. She loses a commercial port and a naval base by a single stroke of the Wilson pen. Her northeastern defenses against future enemies are untenable under the settlement made by the Paris conference. A few days ago Croatia rebelled against her status in the new government. She demanded independence. The revolt was quelled, it is true, but its population is restless. There is no guaranty to Italy of stable conditions on her northeastern Adriatic shore, with Fiume in other hands.
... The new Jugo-Slav Republic is an experiment. More than the ordinary uncertainty attending the launching of a new State inheres in the undertaking. The population included in the limits of this new State are not homogeneous. They are of diverse racial origin, language, religion, and ideals. While generally of the Caucasian race, there is a decided strain of Turkish blood in some of the people of this newly created State. There is another equally perceptible strain of Mongolian origin. Nowhere in all Europe can there be found such mingled strains of blood or such a hybrid population as here is sought to be welded into this new State. Their language is not alike; many dialects, of the same language are spoken, and more strains of blood can be found in the population of the proposed new State than in any other population sought to be united under the flag of a single government.
The attempt to fuse such a polyglot people into a self-governing State is characteristic of the indifference exhibited in the league of nations for actual as against idealistic conditions. It is a magazine charged with all the elements of potential explosion. A large portion of its people are accustomed to an unsettled life consequent upon unstable surroundings in the frequent local wars which have prevailed there and devastated their country for many years. That element is not disposed to the tranquillity of private occupation. They are more or less inured to violence, and are of nomadic habits. The foundation for stable government is not there, and the prospects are not reassuring. Italy can not be criticized for wishing a strong frontier against such a restless neighbor, whose presence upon the Adriatic border of Italy practically constitutes another Mexico—and we all know what Mexico on our own border means.
... Shantung is given Japan pursuant to a secret treaty exacted by the latter power in 1917 and notes of 1915 and 1918. It was the price of Japan's permission to China to declare war with the Allies and a part also of the price of Japan's nominal participation in the war. Japan's sacrifices are unworthy of mention with those of Italy. She watched the progress of the great war with an eye somewhat single to her own advantage. Her military forces fought the German in Shantung to seize the proceeds of Germany's robbery of China. Neither international law nor the new code of international morals based on the condemnation of secret treaties can justify the plunder of China. The league of nations and the peace treaty will be condemned by the impartial historian for the sanction of this flagrant crime. President Wilson brands his denunciation of secret treaties with insincerity when he refuses Fiume to Italy, after her heroic sacrifices, and in obedience to secret treaties delivers Shantung to Japan, despite her course of studied selfishness in the Great War.
I fail to understand, Mr. President, why in the case of Japan a secret treaty is sanctified, while in the case of Italy it is condemned. I can explain it in no other way than by saying that Japan has become the Prussian of the Orient, and it was desired to placate her at the peace conference.
Italy is awakening to new life. She begins to show a resurrection of her mighty powers manifested through the centuries. Her Mediterranean and Adriatic ports are adapted to be gateways for an extensive commerce. With the danger of the dual empire and restless provinces on the east removed, she can again develop into a large factor in Europe. With the common peril to the Allies removed, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that Great Britain watches with jealous eye the chance of every European nation to divide her supremacy in foreign trade and merchant shipping. When the piping days of peace return, Great Britain, as of old, will look after her own affairs to the exclusion of all other countries.
... Italy is practically ignored in the material benefits apportioned to the Allies in the treaty. The reparation commission is controlled by those who inflict upon her this humiliation. England and France are the large beneficiaries of German indemnities. Italy is excluded.
... Not by my vote will I so requite our loyal associate in a common peril for her faith and her sacrifice. This great nation must be dealt with in terms of justice. Her men died amid Alpine snows, on the Piave, and in Macedonia. They fought in Siberia, in Lybia, within sight of Jerusalem's holy memories, and where Nineveh's crumbling walls tell of the unspeakable vanity of all human things. With one-thirty-second of the area of continental United States and one-third of our population, she sent 5,000,000 soldiers to bear arms under the colors of Italy and prove, not alone their allegiance to Victor Emanuel III and their country but their supreme faith in us and our associated nations. The epic of Italian heroism is written in blood from eastern France to the Holy Land, from the Baltic to the Sea of Galilee. Her unrequited faith and service cry from the Paris conference to this Senate Chamber for American justice. A league of nations born of repudiation of Italy's claims and the spoliation of China is cursed from birth with an irredeemable outrage on the rights of two ancient and friendly powers.
—Senator Lawrence Yates Sherman, Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 66th Congress of the United States of America, August 4, 1919