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IMPRESSIONS OF FRANCE THREE YEARS
AFTER THE WAR
BY THATCHER T. P. LUQUER
It stands in front of the Cathedral with the sign upon it, "This was a famous tree in the year 1400"
AST May we motored, my sister
and I, from Menton to Paris in a little French car that we bought in Menton and were fortunate enough to sell the day after we arrived in Paris. This gave us an opportunity not only to see the objects of interest along the route and the scenery, but also to observe something of the life of the people of the country away from the main routes of travel as well as in the cities. This was of special interest to me for the chance it gave of gathering an impression as to the actual conditions obtaining in those regions three years after the great war, and the trip was undertaken largely in order to revisit easily and comfortably the places in northeastern France with which I had become familiar while serving with the A. E. F. in 1918 and 1919.
Along the Riviera, through Provence and northward by the Valley of the Phone everything appeared normal. The sants were cultivating for the spring
seeding and the townspeople seemed busy, the shops doing a fair business. and superficially no evidences of the after effects of war, except for the evident scarcity of men between the ages of twenty and fifty. Prices were reasonable, particularly when translated into American money, and nowhere, even in Paris, did I encounter any disposition to profiteer at our expense because we were Americans. Bargaining is no longer as customary as it used to be, for the "prix fixe" is greatly used and goods in the shops are tagged and marked and the prices are seldom lowered. In places frequented by those of our fellowcountrymen whose one ambition seems to be to spend money and show huge rolls of bills and drink champagne for breakfast there probably is advantage taken of the opportunity to make large profits, and, of course, such persons are the ones to make a dreadful fuss when they find it out.
Lyons, one of the great industrial cen
ters of France, showed no extraordinary symptoms of unemployment or poverty, although a close investigation might have revealed conditions not apparent to us, while all through the country regions the people, and particularly the children, seemed well fed and happy.
Going north from Lyons we entered a region more affected by the war. The national highways still show the effects of the heavy truck traffic of those times, although some sections have been repaired. The site of the A. E. F. University at Beaune is still littered with débris and marred by the remains of the foundations of the buildings, but the city has resumed its old quiet aspect and the khaki-clad students no longer throng its streets.
Dijon is again normal, and we spent several days of great enjoyment there, studying the quaint bits of architecture in the old streets and visiting its interesting museum and churches. Few travelers visit the city, but it well repays a day or two spent among its treasures.
Here began the portion of our trip which was its main object, our visit to the old battle front in the Vosges, around Verdun and the Argonne, Rheims and Château Thierry to Paris. Cold, rainy weather had pursued us from almost the beginning of our trip until we left Dijon, but there the sun came out and the beautiful region of the Côte d'Or began to justify its name.
Our first objective was Chatillon-surSeine, which was the central town in the area where my Division, the 81st, had been billeted for the winter after the armistice. The town itself was in those days wholly given over to the Second Corps Army Schools, but all the surrounding villages had been occupied by the "Wildcats," as the soldiers of the 81st Division were called from the badge which every man wore on the shoulder of his blouse.
My regiment, the 306th Engineers, had been billeted during that winter in three little villages in the valley of the Seine at the extreme southeastern border of the area assigned to the Division. The valley at this point, like most of the valleys in that region, has been furrowed deeply in the general plain by long years of erosion by the river, and as one motors over the smiling, rolling landscape, along a road like a white ribbon on a green table, one comes suddenly to the crest of a hill and looks down into the fertile valley beneath with the little villages clustering beside the stream.
Aisey-sur-Seine, the village in which regimental headquarters had been located, is a quiet, pretty little village, a summer resort in quiet times for Paris
ians, with two stone bridges centuries old, and several buildings of château type. The church stands on an eminence in the middle of the village, and near it, in an open space where our band used to play every night for retreat, one sees now the monument erected by the village to the men who lost their lives in the war. The inscription on it is, as always, "Mort pour la patrie," which means so much to every French citizen. I will always remember the first time I saw the motto inscribed on the cross above the grave of a French soldier buried in the field where he fell near the highway, when we were marching into our first front line position. The simplicity combined with the deep feeling which it expressed made a lasting impression. The patriotism of the French is an ardent and abiding trait.
Arriving at the village hotel, we were greeted most warmly by the proprietor, M. Roy, and his good wife and children, and very soon others came to join in the greeting. It was a most delightful exhibition of the gratitude and affection which so many of the French retain for our soldiers. During that winter after the armistice our headquarters mess had been located in one of the rooms in the hotel, and we had made very good friends of the proprietor and his family. M. Roy invited us to lunch the next day, when we could spend more time in the village and see more of the people, and he gave us one of the most delightful lunches I have ever enjoyed. Our host had risen early and caught two fine trout in the Seine, and, he being an expert chef, they could not have been better served in Paris. Sitting down at the head of the table in his green baize apron, he entertained us delightfully, with Madame Roy waiting on us and joining in the conversation whenever the opportunity permitted. A bottle of old wine was brought out and toasts were drunk with all the good will possible.
I called on the widow of the Mayor with whom I had been billeted and who had done everything for my comfort in former days, and it was a great regret to me that I could not renew my acquaintance with the Mayor, who had died only a year ago. Madame Millerot is doubly bereaved, for her son and only child was killed in the war, but she bears her sorrows nobly.
A little incident which took place in January, 1919, always comes to mind when I think of these friends. It was New Year's Day, but I was busy at Headquarters all day and until late in the evening in preparation for my departure early the following morning, and when my adjutant, who was quartered with me, and I returned to our rooms we found a fire burning in mine and a little table daintily spread and on it cake and a bottle of delicious wine and a card from our host and hostess conveying their best wishes for the new year and
"A trestle bridge has been built across the river, replacing the pontoon bridge over which we crossed in November, 1918, but no attempt has been made to replace the fine old stone bridge which had been destroyed"
for a pleasant trip. Such thoughtful kindness from those who could so easily have considered our presence a burden was very delightful and a revelation of the depth and value of French sentiment.
I made several calls on other people in the village, and was received uniformly with enthusiasm and good wishes. They had nothing but good words to say of our soldiers and their behavior. We who knew our regiment were confident that we had an exceptionally fine personnel and we knew the discipline was good, but it was a pleasure to realize that the men had left good feeling and warm remembrances behind them. The village was very quiet, and presented quite a different appearance from my last recollection, when it was full of our boys with their energy and life.
Leaving there, we went by Montignysue-Aube and Latrecey to Langres for lunch, and spent the night at a charming old watering-place, Bourbonne-lesBains, then by Epinal to a little village called Fontenay, on the borders of the Vosges, where my regiment had spent a week reorganizing after our first experience at the front. Here, again, we had a most cordial reception. I was particularly glad to see the old Curé, for whom I had acquired a great admiration and liking during our former stay in the village. As usual when behind the lines, we had the proper ceremonies at retreat, the band playing in front of the church, which was close to Headquarters and the only available space in the village. After the first day the Curé brought the children of the village every evening to attend the ceremony, all standing at attention and the boys taking off their caps when the national anthem was played and the colors furled. Of course we always played the Marseillaise as well as our own anthem, and the Curé seized the opportunity to instruct the children in patriotism and inculcate spect for the flag and good will t
the American people, and it was an illustration of the good work he was doing in many directions in the community.
Departing from this little village late in the afternoon, we left the rolling land with groves of hard wood behind and climbed over the mountain ridge, through the beautiful pine forest, into the valley where lies the old town of St. Dié. This is celebrated as the city where the convention was held which gave the name to America, and one of the sights there is the old tilleul tree standing in front of the Cathedral with the sign upon it, "This was a famous tree in the year 1400." The town itself was our Division Headquarters for a month in September-October, 1918, and, while very close to the front line, which was only five or six kilometers to the eastward, it suffered comparatively lit. tle damage. I think this was because, being close to the old boundary line, a great deal of German money was invested in the town and its industries. and therefore it was not advantageous to subject it to any serious bombardment. Only once during the time that we were there did any shells fall in the town, and then only about twenty late one afternoon, which fortunately did very Much rebuilding has little damage. been done and there is very little evidence now of warfare, and business seems to be going on quite normally.
A few kilometers to the east, however, as one approaches the old trench lines, the conditions are quite different. The villages are still very much in ruins, and the people are living in barracks and cellars and dugouts, and devoting themselves to clearing the land and filling in the old trenches and growing crops again. All along the old battle front, as far as we traveled, we found the same conditions existing, most of the energy being concentrated on the land, leaving the rebuilding of the villages to a later period when there are time and money, although there were many evidences of increased building activity this summer. The energy and courage and cheerfulness with which the French people are doing this work is magnificent. They e working from daylight to dark, men,
CHATILLON-SOUS-LES-CÔTES, VERDUN SECTOR
women, and children. You see the whole family in the field; the littlest children that can walk doing their part, even, while the baby superintends the job from his baby-carriage.
The most impressive place we visited here was in front of what had been the northern sector of our line, a little spot in a saddle in the mountain called La Chapelotte. This had been a little chapel with a cottage near by and a small cemetery containing the graves of soldiers who had fallen in the War of 1870. It happened to be just where a strong point in the line was needed. The chapel had been broken down, the cottage was a heap of ruins converted
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into a machine-gun nest, and the whole territory was seamed with trenches and covered with entanglements. What had been a beautiful pine wood is now a forest of dead trees, looking like some of our Adirondack forests after a devastating fire. The little chapel has been partly restored, and the cemetery now has been enlarged and contains the graves of some French soldiers who died there lately, and the whole is a vivid reminder of the horrors and devastation of war.
From here we motored along the old battle front, sometimes in the old German territory, sometimes in the French, to Nancy and from there on to St. Mihiel and down the Meuse to Verdun.
St. Mihiel looks very much the same as it did on the first of November, 1918, when we marched through it on our way to Verdun. A trestle bridge has been built across the river, replacing the pontoon bridge over which we crossed then, but no attempt has been made to replace the fine old stone bridge which had been destroyed.
Verdun is slowly rebuilding, but is still a ghastly city of ruins. We spent two days here motoring over the terribly devastated region around Fort Vaux and Fort Douaumont and visiting the ruined villages along the eastern slope of the hills and out on the plain of the Woevre, which the 81st Division captured in the last fight before the armistice. Here, as before mentioned, the villages have only had the débris piled to one side and the people are living in temporary barracks and cellars. All along the roadside and the borders of the woods one sees the barbed wire heaped, and along the roadside many piles of salvaged war material, rifles, shrapnel, and cartridge cases, and various bits of soldiers' equipment. In fact, quite frequently there are unexploded shells (duds) lying along the side of the road, and one hears occasionally the sound of the explosion of some of these shells which have been found and are being destroyed.
Throughout our trip, though I do not speak French easily, I talked quite a little with the people, and I observed
them in the fields and in the villages, and I was greatly impressed with the wonderful recuperative power which they show, and, as I said before, with their courage and cheerfulness under the adverse conditions. They feel, I think very naturally, that America has not backed them up as an ally should since the armistice, and they sometimes show a little resentment, but as a rule the sentiment towards America is friendly and would easily respond to friendly action on our part. I could see
no indications of a militaristic tendency, no desire for a war in the future, but a strong feeling that in a few years France will be attacked again and that they must be ready to resist to the utmost when that time comes. I think their feeling of antagonism is stronger against England than it is against America because of England's efforts to have the amount of the reparations reduced. The French feel, and I think they are right, that Germany, as long as her taxes are not as great as the taxes
in France and England, has no excuse for refusing to pay the reparations, particularly when it is well known that so much of Germany's cash capital is held in Holland and other neutral countries and pays no tax in Germany.
My recent visit has only added to the strong admiration and affection that I feel for the French people, and I trust I was right when I told them that there were many in America who felt for them as I did and who would gladly aid them in every way they could.
UNDER FOUR PRESIDENTS
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF OSCAR S. STRAUS
CHAPTER V-DRAMATIC PHASES OF DIPLOMACY
HAD a longing to visit Jerusalem. Besides, a serious question was pending regarding the rights of Jews to settle in the Holy Land. From Russia and Rumania oppression was driving them to emigrate to other countries. Rumania was placing restrictions upon her Jewish subjects contrary to the Treaty of Berlin, which guaranteed equal political and civil rights in this newly created principality. The Ignatieff laws of 1882 were being enforced in Russia. It was the irony of persecution that Russia claimed such Jews as came to Turkey as her subjects and protested to the Porte against their being accorded Ottoman nationality. Besides, the Russian Patriarch and dignitaries of the Roman Church in Turkey objected to the settlement of foreign Jews in Palestine.
The Ottoman authorities had long been tolerant, even hospitable, to Jewish immigrants, but under outside pressure promulgated a law interdicting Jews from coming to Palestine as permanent settlers.
The subject came to the fore with our Government when the Turkish Minister at Washington, Mavroyeni Bey, communicated to Secretary Bayard the stipulation that the passports of Jewish immigrants "should expressly state that they are going to Jerusalem in performance of a pilgrimage and not for the purpose of engaging in commerce or taking up their residence there."
Secretary Bayard sent the following instructions to me for transmission:
To require of applicants for passports, which under our laws are issued to all citizens upon the sole evidence of their citizenship, any announcement of their religious faith or declaration of their personal motives in seeking such passports, would be utterly repugnant to the spirit of our institutions and to the intent of the solemn proscription forever by the Constitution of any religious test as a qualification of the relations of the citizen to the Government, and would, moreover, assume
Baron Maurice de Hirsch, to arbitrate whose controversy with the Sultan Mr. Straus was offered an honorarium
of one million francs
an inquisitorial function in respect of the personal affairs of the individual, which this Government cannot exert for its own purposes and could still less assume to exercise with the object of aiding a foreign Government in the enforcement of an objectionable and arbitrary discrimination against certain of our citizens.
Our adherence to these principles has been unwavering since the foundation of our Government, and you will be at no loss to cite pertinent examples of our consistent defense of religious liberty, which, as I said in my note to Baron Schaeffer of May 18, 1885, in relation to the Keiley episode at Vienna, "is a chief cornerstone of the American system of
Government, and provisions of its security are imbedded in the written chapter and interwoven in the moral fabric of its laws."
The Secretary also desired me to confer, with my colleagues, the British and French Ambassadors. Some of their subjects had also been deported. While they agreed with the views of my Government, they had taken no action, but now expressed a willingness to take ac tion similar to that outlined in my instructions.
On May 17, 1888, I called on Saïd Pasha, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. and left a note wherein I stated that my Government could not, under any circumstances, accede to the requirements. After having been furnished with copies of this note, my diplomatic colleagues sent notes of similar tenor.
JEWISH PRISONERS RELEASED
Upon our arrival at Jaffa the vali, or governor, of Jerusalem sent one of his aides with an official conveyance to take us to Jerusalem. There were several vexatious questions besides the restrictions upon Jewish immigrants pending between the vali and our Consul, Henry Gillman. I deemed it good policy to show my resentment against his arbitrary methods by declining the courteous offer. Thereupon we took a Cook's conveyance, stopping overnight at Ramleh at an inn kept by a naturalized American citizen, formerly a German subject. The next day we drove over the hills of Judea, reaching Jerusalem the same afternoon, where our Consul met us and conducted us to a pleasant, comfortable hotel outside the walls.
We had scarcely arrived at the hotel when a large number of Jews, some of the women carrying infants in their arms, came to plead with me to obtain the release from prison of relatives and friends who had come to the Holy City to settle there, and who were imprisoned because of the interdiction against Jewish immigrants. Of course I had not
Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, the city in which vexatious questions relating to the restrictions upon Jewish immigrants were pending on Mr. Straus's arrival in 1888
known before my arrival of these conditions. Four hundred in all were in prison awaiting deportation.
Instead of calling on the vali as would ordinarily have been proper, I declined to do so. Instead, I sent a note demanding an immediate release of these immigrants who, I claimed, were imprisoned contrary to treaties with the United States, Great Britain, France, and other Powers. Unless this request was complied with promptly, I stated further, I would appeal to the Sublime Porte for the vali's removal.
While negotiating this matter with the Grand Vizier I did not know that the Jewish immigrants who had arrived were being held in prison. I felt authorized, therefore, in view of the Vizier's promise to abrogate the regulations, to serve this drastic notice upon the vali.
The result of my firm stand was that they were all released the following day. I was informed that the vali had communicated my message to the Porte, and that the Grand Vizier had instructed him to comply with my request.
The following morning there were sev eral thousand people gathered outside my hotel. They came to express their 'itude. At the same time I received
a beautiful engrossed memorial in Hebrew signed by Rafail Meir Panisel and Samuel Salant, the chief rabbis of the Ashkenazim, Perushim, and Hasidim communities of Jerusalem.
The following day I called upon the vali, who received me with great courtesy. I thanked him for his compliance with my request, and informed him of our understanding with the Sublime Porte that no discrimination should be made against Jewish immigrants coming to Jerusalem. It seemed that he had had no knowledge of the provisions in the treaties I referred to. I expressed the hope that in the future I should not have to complain of any infringement upon this understanding.
Official calls followed. I was accompanied by the Consul and his staff and preceded by several halberdiers of the vali. These, as was the custom, preceded high officials when going through the streets of the Holy City, so as to give them distinction, protection, and a clear passage through the streets.
As my time was limited, I could remain in Jerusalem only three or four days. I had to stop at such ports as Alexandretta and Smyrna to inquire into commercial matters which our Con
suls had been unable to adjust with the local authorities, and which had caused much vexation.
My trip, which lasted six weeks, was valuable to me and gratifying in its results. My colleagues, the British and French Ambassadors, were much pleased that I succeeded in having the objectionable regulations abrogated.
DIGGING FOUR THOUSAND YEARS
The subject of Babylonian excavation received diplomatic consideration during my stay in Constantinople. In January, 1888, I received a letter from my friend the Rev. William Hayes Ward informing me of an expedition which the University of Pennsylvania was organizing for excavations in Babylonia under the direction of the Rev. John P. Peters. Dr. Ward had headed a prior expedition to Babylonia in 1884-5, known as the Wolfe Expedition and financed by Catherine L. Wolfe, of New York. Based upon the results of this preliminary expedition Dr. Peters organized the Babylonian Exploration Fund.
The subject was shortly thereafter brought officially to my attention, Assistant Secretary Adee writing me:
We find ourselves between two fires on one hand is the Philadelphia organization under the lead of Dr. Peters, which has the money, and on the other is the Johns Hopkins enterprise, which has the most solid ballasting of Assyriological talent; but unfortunately its dollars are limited. As the Johns Hopkins people deposit all their collections in the National Museum, Professor Langley feels kindly disposed towards them. We shall probably have to look to you as the deus ex machina to prescribe a solution.
Dr. Peters met me in London while I was on my way home on a short leave. He handed me a letter from President Cleveland asking my good offices in the matter. The entire subject interested me very much. I told him that when I returned to my post six weeks later Í would immediately broach the subject to the Porte.
Upon my return early in November, 1888, I had an audience with the Sultan. I explained to him the purposes of the excavations, the great interest of the universities and the societies of scholars, and also that the President of the United States in a personal letter had requested me to obtain the necessary permission. A few days later I dined with the Sultan and afterwards went with him to a play in the little theater located in the palace grounds. During a pause in the performance, the conversation touching upon some matters in the United States, I again referred to the question of excavation, stating that some of the representatives were waiting in Constanti. nople for a decision. Then he consented graciously, and permission was formally granted a few days later.
The permit was far more restricted