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formally incorporated in the AustroHungarian Armistice of November 3, 1918, as they were in the strictest sense made part of the German Armistice eight days later.
But the Pact of London remained a factor throughout the negotiations. The British and the French recognized fully the unwisdom of that treaty in the light of events, though they were naturally unwilling to deny that an agreement which they had signed was binding as to them; so that, with some hesitation, doubtless, they recognized that they could not deny their su pport to Italian claims based on that treaty. 1 But. as all the world knows, the Italians did not stand on the Pact of London alone, for they claimed Fiume, which was specifically and by name excluded from their claims by that very document.
It was with such a background, such a confusion of conflicting facts and legal theories, that the Paris negotiations between the United States and Italy regarding the Adriatic took place.
For it was between those two powers that the real Adriatic negotiations at Paris were carried on. The British and the French were entirely willing to accept in advance anything that America and Italy agreed to, and the JugoSlavs were practically committed to the same view by their offer of arbitration before President Wilson. Indeed, as the Jugo-Slavs were a new political union of peoples, it was said at Paris, perhaps with some reason, that their three representatives, Mr. Vesnich, a Serb, Mr. Pachitch, a Slovene, and Mr. Trumbitch, a Croat, would have preferred to accept, as easier to defend in their own country, an agreement announced to them rather than one that had obtained their assent. Obviously, any criticism which alleged
that one branch of the newly formed union had been sacrificed for the benefit of the others would not have been easy to meet. The difficulties of their situation were illustrated by a symbolic remark made by one of their delegates in Paris, that he was negotiating with a dagger at his back, held by his own colleagues.
If I have succeeded in my attempted outline of the geography of the Adriatic, it will be seen that there were four regions there where the Italian and Jugo-Slav views and aspirations clashed: Istria, the islands belonging partly to Istria and partly to Dalmatia, the Dalmatian mainland, and Fiume. Doubtless, if the question were asked of anyone which of these four was the cause of the final difficulty between President Wilson and the Italians, the answer would be Fiume; but that answer would be wrong. It was not Fiume that proved the finally impossible point, but another region, very closely related to that of Fiume, it is true, but still distinct: it was a little strip of territory running along the Gulf of Fiume and then down the Istrian coast, with a hinterland of small importance — a strip which a New York journalist at Paris wittily called the 'Riverside Drive of Istria'; a strip which the Italians valued highly, but only because it would bring Italian territory up to Fiume itself.
During President Wilson's first visit to Europe, little progress was made toward any settlement of the Adriatic question. Signor Orlando, the Italian Prime Minister, had, indeed, during that time, most actively and heartily worked with President Wilson in the drafting of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and the relations between the two chiefs of state were most cordial. But the Adriatic was not directly related to a peace with Germany, with which all the delegations were then more particularly occupied.
It was not until President Wilson came to Paris for the second time that the whole matter was taken up directly between him and Signor Orlando, in great detail. The Italians naturally wanted settled a question which was of more direct interest to them than the terms of the peace with Germany, even including reparations.
In the negotiations, President Wilson rested almost wholly, I think I may say wholly, on the opinions of his territorial advisers on all details of the various proposals. He was, indeed, willing to accept any agreement freely entered into between Italy and the Jugo-Slavs; but no such agreement was possible, perhaps for the reasons I have indicated, perhaps, partly, because of the very natural hostility then existing between the two countries. The Serbs had, of course, fought valiantly and devotedly on the side of the Allies; but the Croats and the Slovenes had been subjects of Austria-Hungary, and while many of them had in fact supported the Allied cause, still the Italians did not then feel very kindly toward peoples, some of whom had, a few short months before, fought against Italian troops on the Piave.
The American point of view, as I have said, necessarily was that the subject must be considered wholly independently of the Pact of London; and the opinion of Professor Douglas Johnson, the eminent geographer of Columbia University and the American territorial adviser, in this matter supported the Italian claims as to Fiume not at all, practically not at all as to the Dalmatian mainland, to a very limited extent as to the islands, and in Istria up to, but only up to, the line drawn by Professor Johnson, which became known as the Wilson line.
It is difficult to describe verbally the Wilson line, in which, indeed, important changes were made from time to time
after it was originally laid down; but it left in Jugo-Slav territory a very considerable part of eastern Istria, and specifically, and more important, perhaps, it was intentionally drawn so as to leave wholly in Jugo-Slav territory the railroad running north from Fiume to .Vienna. From the Italian point of view, one great objection to it was bound up with the matter of Fiume; for the Wilson line, in every form, left Fiume physically separated by land from Italy.
The views of the American territorial adviser were that the position taken by him really involved very great concessions to Italy: that the Wilson line was drawn so as to leave several hundred thousand Slavs in Italy and perhaps only 75,000 Italians on the other side of the frontier; that Dalmatia, with the exception of Zara, a city of 12,000 people, was almost wholly Slav; and that the Dalmatian and Istrian islands were likewise mostly Slav; and, finally, that Fiume, while possibly half-Italian in its population, was the essential economic outlet to the sea for a vast hinterland, much of which was part of Jugo-Slavia and the rest a part of Hungary and other regions toward the north.
This leads me to say something a little more in detail of Fiume, a city which for its size has certainly had more than its share of the headlines on the front pages during the last two years.
Fiume owes its commercial importance to its location at the only real break in the mountain-range running down the eastern coast of the Adriatic. Nowhere else along that shore south of Fiume can railroads easily reach the sea. While it has not a naturally fine harbor, its facilities had been well developed by Hungary, and are susceptible of further improvement; and while logically not serving the same territory as Trieste, it is a commercial rival of that city. In 1914 the trade of Hungary found its political and natural outlet at Fiume, and its surrounding country and neighboring hinterland were wholly Slav. If the suburb of Susak, a part of the port, is included as being in everything but in law a part of the city, the Italians, while the largest group in Fiume, were not a majority of the population.
These facts made the Italian claim to Fiume seem to President Wilson wholly outside of any principle of selfdetermination, and the Italian argument had no other real basis. So that, so long as the Italian demands included Fiume, any successful result of negotiations between President Wilson and the Italian representatives was impossible. So-called'compromise proposals' could mean only that one side or the other should give way. And in fact the negotiations between Orlando and President Wilson in March and April were more than unsuccessful, for they ended in President Wilson's public statement of April 23, which not only ended the discussions, but caused the temporary withdrawal of the Italian delegation from Paris.
The reasons that led President Wilson to declare publicly his position in a matter which was under discussion are still somewhat obscure. It seems that he was informed, I believe erroneously, that a public statement was about to be made by the Italian delegation. Certainly, late in the evening of the day before the issuance of President Wilson's statement, Count Macchi di Cellere, the Italian Ambassador at Washington, who was then in Paris, had no idea of such a purpose, for he then handed me a typewritten copy of the latest Italian proposal, in four brief items; and the day that President Wilson's statement appeared, the count told me that Signor
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Orlando had not succeeded in his attempt to see President Wilson that day, owing to the latter's other engagements; and that Mr. Lloyd George had sent word to the Italian delegation that three of the four items of the Italian proposal were acceptable, and had asked for information as to the fourth, which concerned Fiume.
But whatever were the reasons for President Wilson's action, certainly some of its effects were unfortunate. It stirred up much feeling about the whole matter, particularly in Italy, and tended to take the question out of the realm of discussion and argument and into the sphere of the emotions, an unsatisfactory background for any international exchanges.
Still, the negotiations were only interrupted; their first chapter was closed, but they were resumed, on the initiative of Colonel House, when Orlando and Sonnino came back to Paris. And I feel free to speak in some detail of those later negotiations of May, 1919, for their story has been largely published in Italy in the Memoirs of Count Macchi di Cellere.
Colonel House's aim was to arrive at a solution which would be satisfactory to the Italians, and which, at the same time, would not be an abandonment of the principles laid down by President Wilson. Certainly, this was a consummation devoutly to be wished, but one that seemed almost impossible on its face. However, Colonel House not only tried it, but demonstrated that it was not impossible; and while the desired goal was not reached, the failure was no fault of his.
After talking with Orlando and President Wilson, Colonel House evolved and had accepted this plan for discussions, which, indeed, was itself a proof of his extraordinary influence, both with his chief, President Wilson, and with his friend, Signor Orlando: conversations were to take place between Orlando and myself, with the view of reaching an accord between us, either temporary or final; anything that we agreed on would be supported by Colonel House, and would be carefully considered by President Wilson on Colonel House's recommendation; in other words, whatever Orlando agreed to with me would bind Italy, but not America.
My path in the matter, so far as personal relations were concerned, was made easier by my close friendship with Count Macchi di Cellere, whose death, a few months later, was a real loss to his own country and a sad blow to his many friends here. And while Signor Orlando kept the negotiations strictly in his own hands, the Count di Cellere was frequently, and Baron Sonnino occasionally, present at our talks.
These rather extraordinary conversations with Signor Orlando, which took place at the hotel of the Italian delegates, and which were necessarily carried on in French, were always entirely amicable and cordial; indeed, Signor Orlando's attractive personality, combined with his juristic attitude of mind, precluded any other course of discussion.
I often recall a few words of Signor Orlando which seemed to me to speak in part his thoughts on the meetings of the Council of Four. I was talking one evening with him and Marshal Joffre, who said to Orlando, in French, 'Do you know any English?' To which Orlando replied that he knew very little— 'Nothing,' he added, 'except these words, "eleven o'clock, I don't agree, good-bye.'"
Now, there is one sort of solution almost always possible in a diplomatic discussion, and that is a modus vivendi, an agreement to postpone final decision and to arrange a status for the intervening time- In view of the diver
gence of thought between President Wilson and the Italians, this seemed one way out of the difficulty, and it was discussed in various forms. But there were obvious objections to any such postponement, and the terms of the intermediate status, the questions of temporary occupation and of temporary government, presented new problems without solving old ones.
The real attitude of the Italians was not one of eagerness for the application of the Pact of London; they regarded it rather as a claim which they might reluctantly be forced to press. Orlando said to me that that treaty was his last line of defense; that, if no solution were possible, if no delay were obtained, he would be compelled to fall back upon the Pact of London, — for he would have nothing else, — although he did not like it and did not believe it was in accordance with the principles of President Wilson.
So the talks with Signor Orlando soon turned toward the possibility of a definitive agreement, and I proposed a formula, the most important point of which was that Fiume should be an independent city and free port under the protection of the League of Nations. This suggestion was not wholly novel, but it was the first time, I think, that it had been definitely made in that form in the negotiations. It differed from the views of the American territorial advisers, who would have preferred to give Fiume to the Jugo-Slavs; and it at the same time rejected the Italian demand, which would have made Fiume Italian, or, at least, have put it under Italian protection.
My own belief at Paris was — and despite the episode of d'Annunzio, I have never seen any reason to change it — that a fair vote by secret ballot of the inhabitants of Fiume would have shown a very large majority in favor of a free city and against either Jugo-Slav or Italian sovereignty; people usually vote according to their own ideas of self-interest; and that Fiume, which is essentially a port of through traffic both ways, would be more prosperous and more developed under its own control than under either that of Italy or that of the Jugo-Slavs, particularly in view of the Hungarian and other traffic, seems to me clear. I do not intimate that that fact, if it be a fact, is conclusive, but it is certainly entitled to some weight.
It soon appeared that President Wilson would accept this solution as to Fiume. The Italians hesitated. But in their inner feelings, the members of the Italian delegation were not at all of one mind about Fiume. After all, Fiume represented a dream of Italian sentiment rather than a reality of Italian needs. And there were not lacking Italian statesmen who thought that, by insisting on Fiume, Italy would be seeking a shadow which might well mean abandoning some real substance. And finally Orlando yielded and agreed that he would accept the solution as to Fiume. I thought for a moment that perhaps Colonel House had again achieved the seemingly impossible, and that the Adriatic question was to be solved.
But there remained Dalmatia, the islands off the coast, and Istria. The first presented comparatively little difficulty, though causing much discussion. The Italians claimed only one or two towns on the mainland, and Baron Sonnino, unyielding as he is usually pictured, said that Italy was not inflexible about the islands.
Baron Sonnino has often been painted in the black colors of a reactionary, and no one knew better than he that the indictment had been drawn. He said to me once with a smile, 'If we come to an agreement, you might add a clause to the effect that Baron Sonnino should retire from office, for that might help
to get the agreement accepted'; and 'after all,' he added, 'I am an old man, and have been in office as Foreign Minister since the war began.'
Reactionary or no, Baron Sonnino had all the charm of the old school, and his manner made me recall the remark of Lord Rosebery, who said that, while he agreed with the Liberals, he preferred to dine with the Conservatives.
All that was left was the location of the Wilson line in Istria; the Italians wanted it moved east at its southern end, over toward Fiume, so as to leave in Italy all of Istria, with a boundaryline touching Fiume itself; but here President Wilson, still resting on the recommendations of his territorial advisers, refused to yield; and the Italians were equally firm, considering that they had already given up top much, or at least enough, of their claims, and that the physical junction with Fiume was indispensable from their standpoint.
Indeed, national aspirations are so bound up with national sentiment and tradition, that it is not a matter of pure fancy to recall that the Italian claim of 1919 had been phrased six centuries before the Conference of Paris, by Dante, in one of the most famous lines of the Inferno, where he spoke of the sea east of Istria as 'the Quarnero, whose waters are the confines of Italy and bathe her farthest frontiers.'
So on this point of Istria, a comparatively minor one, if the situation is looked at as a whole, the negotiations broke down and failed to result.
Whose duty was it to yield? The answer depends on the point of view. The American territorial advisers, rightly considering the Pact of London a nullity as to the United States, considered, not only that Italy had received great concessions, but that she had