Imágenes de páginas

man opinion of Mr. Wilson has suffered from sheer exaggeration. The chief mistake lay in separating Wilson's personality from public opinion in the United States. In spite of his strong will and his autocratic leanings, Mr. Wilson is still, in the first place, a perfect type of the American politician. In his speeches he always tries to voice public opinion, and in his policy to follow its wishes.

He certainly tries to direct and influence public opinion. But he changes his front at once if he notices that he has strayed from the way that the aura popularis would have him follow. In order to form a correct judgment of Mr. Wilson's actions and speeches it is always necessary to ask oneself, in the first place, what end he has in view for his own political position and that of his party in America. He proclaims in a most dazzling way the ideals of the American people. But their realization always depends on his own actual political interests and those of the Democratic party. Mr. Wilson's attitude has always been synonymous with that of his party, because the latter can produce no other personality capable of competing with the President. Therefore, Mr. Wilson always met with little or no opposition within the Democratic party, and he was able to follow for a long time his own inclination to adopt a quite independent policy.

Socially the President is very congenial when once he has made up his mind to emerge from his narrow circle. He has not the reputation of being a loyal friend, and is accused of ingratitude by many of his former colleagues and enthusiastic adherents. In any case, however, Mr. Wilson is an implacable enemy when once he feels himself personally attacked or slighted. As a result of his sensitiveness he has a strong tendency to make the mistake of regarding political differences of opinion as personal antipathy. The President has never forgiven the German Government for having caused the failure of his peace-policy of 1916-17, which was supported by public opinion in America. In Germany his later speeches, in which he drew a distinction between the German people and the Imperial Government, were regarded as hypocrisy. Such a differentiation was at that time based on American public feeling, which held autocracy and militarism responsible for the disasters which had been brought upon the world. The question has, however, never been answered why this distinction was abandoned by Mr. Wilson at Versailles. Without wishing in any way either to accuse or defend him I consider the answer to this riddle to be that the President allowed himself to be convinced of the complicity of the German people by the statesmen of the Entente. He was at the time in a mood with regard to us which predisposed him to such influences. Mr. Wilson was by origin, up-bringing and training a pacifist. When it is remembered that with us and in neutral countries it was the pacifists themselves who were the most indignant at the Peace of Versailles, that they were the very people who for the most part advised against the signature of this peace, one can imagine the feelings aroused in a disillusioned pacifist like Wilson by those whom he regards as responsible for having thwarted the possibility of an ideal pacifist peace.

Apart from this, Mr. Wilson at Versailles no longer dominated American public opinion, and his political power consequently collapsed. In the United States the old indifference to European affairs regained the upper hand. Men were satisfied with having brought about a victory over autocracy and militarism. They wanted nothing further. The American troops were crowding home, and, finally, feeling in the United States was still so strongly against us that no one would have understood the President if he had caused a rupture with his Allies on our behalf.

At Versailles, too, an outstanding peculiarity of Mr. Wilson's may have played a part which even during the earlier negotiations had been of great importance. He is a man who is slow to make up his mind, and likes to postpone decisions until they are inevitable. He is always ready to wait and see whether the situation may not improve or some unexpected event occur. How often during the Washington negotiations did, first I and then our enemies, believe that we had set President Wilson on a definite course. But again and again the requisite decision would be postponed. In Washington it was

. generally taken under the strong pressure of public opinion. In Versailles the Entente statesmen may well have forced a decision by displaying a stronger will and a wider knowledge of European affairs. Mr. Wilson was at Versailles in the position of the giant Antæus, who drew his strength from his native soil. Once away from American ground Hercules (Clemenceau) was able to crush him.

At the time I am now describing the circumstances were quite different, because at that time Mr. Wilson had a reliable support for his policy in American public opinion. In Germany, at the very beginning of the war, great resentment was felt against Mr. Wilson for the cold negative in his reply to the Emperor's telegram in which Mr. Wilson was asked to condemn the atrocities perpetrated by the Belgian population and francs-tireurs. It was not, however, noticed in Germany that the President at the same time likewise refused to receive a Belgian deputation which came to America to beg for his help.

During my conversation with the President already

mentioned, he made a statement on the lines of his proclamation of neutrality of which I have already given the substance. My reply that the American neutrality seemed to us to be tinged with sympathy for our enemies Mr. Wilson contradicted emphatically. He thought that this appearance was the result of England's naval power, which he could do nothing to alter. In this connection the President made the following remark, which struck me very forcibly at the time:

“The United States must remain neutral, because otherwise the fact that her population is drawn from so many European countries would give rise to serious domestic difficulties."

My remark about the benevolence of the United States' neutrality towards our enemies was at the time chiefly prompted by the differences that had arisen with regard to the wireless stations.

The fact that this question arose gives yet another proof of how little we were prepared for war. By German enterprise two wireless stations had been erected on the east coast of the United States as a means of direct communication with Europe, one at Sayville (Long Island, the other at Tuckerton (New Jersey). Both were partly financed by American and French capital. As at the beginning of the war the cable fell entirely into English hands and was destroyed by them, we had no telegraphic communication with home at our disposal. We had to fall back exclusively on the wireless stations, when, as frequently happened, we were unable to make use of the circuitous routes via neutral countries. Unfortunately it appeared that the legal position with regard to the proprietorship of the two stations was not clear. Actions were immediately brought on the French side, and the closing of the stations by decree of the courts demanded. Under these circumstances it was fortunate for us that the American Government, after tedious negotiations with me, took over possession of both stations. Otherwise they would have been closed and we should have been unable to use them.

Our satisfaction at this decision was modified by the establishment of a censorship of radio-telegrams on the part of the American Government on the strength of the Hague Convention, which prohibits the communication by wireless from a neutral country with the military or naval forces of a combatant. If the stations had been publicly used before the war we should have stood on firm legal ground, for such cases are excepted by the Hague Convention. Unfortunately the stations were in 1914 only partially completed, and the application of the clauses in question was therefore doubtful. It is true that the stations were ready for immediate use, but as a result of the French protest the American Government held strictly to the legal standpoint. In these negotiations we had to content ourselves with pointing out that whereas our enemies could pass on military information to their Governments by means of coded cablegrams, we should be confined to the use of the wireless stations. Finally we came to an agreement with the American Government that they should have a copy of the code which we used for the wireless telegrams. In this way their contents were kept secret from the enemy, but not from the Washington Government. This course we only agreed to as a last resource as it was not suitable for handling negotiations in which the American Government was concerned.

The course of this controversy was typical of the fate of German interests in America throughout the whole period of American neutrality. Unfortunately we had absolutely no means at hand for putting any pressure on

« AnteriorContinuar »