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SETTLING WITH AMERICA1

BY FRANÇOIS COTY

THROUGHOUT the passionate discussion of our debt problem which has agonized and angered so many Frenchmen, we have followed a consistent policy. In the first place, we have opposed ratifying agreements which the country could not fulfill. In the second place, we have thrown a glare of light upon the acts and incidents that justify France in refusing to consent to impositions due entirely to a disastrous situation for which the United States is wholly responsible. But having thus cleared the ground, we believe we have another task to perform, equally important but less agreeable, a task enjoined upon us by the immediate interest of our country and by regard for her future. We must always keep in mind the France of to-morrow. We must not permit her to be diminished either materially or morally. There are times when we must rise above mere questions of money and think only of the peace of the world and the welfare of humanity. We say this because we believe that a ratification of our debt accord with the United States under certain conditions is preferable to the present situation.

Why? Because the good will of America is now, and will always be, a most valuable asset for France; because America's support is to-day, and will be for a long time to come, necessary. In what manner? Under the comfortable wing of the Dawes Plan, which was devised by Americans and is being

From Le Figaro (Paris Radical Party daily), November 29, 30, December 1

administered and directed by American experts. This plan is the safeguard, the protection, of all the European nations who are indebted to America. Since it is a going thing, and is running with the coöperation of Germany, we must associate ourselves with it. Either it will succeed, and the Allied Powers will pay the United States proportionally to what they respectively collect from Germany, or it will fail, and Europe will be relieved of all her obligations abroad. There are only these alternatives; there is no third possibility. If we were seeking cheap popularity, we should range ourselves with those who oppose ratification. But it is our habit to look facts in the face, and we venture to assert, with a conviction that grows stronger every day, that we are no longer in a position to speak and act as we might have done in 1919 at the time of the signing of the Peace Treaty, or shortly afterward at the Washington Conference.

If we had spoken firmly and clearly seven years ago, before high diplomacy and high finance were as closely interlocked as they are at present, and when the American people were still thrilled by the memory of our fraternity of arms and shocked by the horrors and the sacrifices they had seen, we no doubt might have obtained all the reductions, all the concessions, that were fair under the circumstances.

But to-day the atmosphere is entirely different. We have listened too long to the insidious voices of those who preached delay, who told us that time

was working for us. We have wasted seven years in hesitation, in empty talk and futile overtures, and, as was sure to happen after M. Caillaux's failure at Washington, our Government appointed a commission to settle our debts to the United States on the best terms possible. Our Cabinet was privy to all these negotiations; it kept in touch with every step. M. Henri Bérenger, our Ambassador, would never have signed the accord then reached if he had not been expressly instructed to do so.

The Americans, who had long since finished their own house-cleaning, and had set their national affairs to rights immediately after the war, were happy to have the question out of the way. They were justified in thinking that it was out of the way. But hardly had M. Bérenger got back to France before they discovered, to their surprise and disgust, that our Parliament would not ratify the agreement that the Government was powerless to make it do so.

Now this raises an embarrassing question: Why did the men who protest so vehemently to-day against this accord let a government which they had put in office commit itself to such terms? Why did n't they object at the time to our accepting them? They knew that the accord was about to be signed; they were kept informed from day to day of the progress of the negotiations. Why did they not protest then and there? Why did they not insist on having the whole question aired? Did they think that they could play fast and loose with their creditor, and then resume negotiations on a different basis whenever they so desired? That would have been puerile.

If we meant business, and still wanted to control the negotiations, we should have set up a parliamentary commission whose duty it should have been to

keep accurately informed of the progress and results of the conferences at Washington; and we should not have allowed our signature to be affixed to any agreement until that body had consented.

We personally believe that the game is up, that the American Constitution does not contemplate the reconsideration of an accord after it has once been signed and sealed. That is why we advocated at the time attaching certain reservations to our signature. After you once have added a codicil to a will, a reservation to an insurance policy, an addendum to a private contract, or an amendment to a constitution, you may go on doing so indefinitely.

Assuming that Parliament ratifies the accord with certain reservations, the American Government will have three courses before it: it may formally accept the reservations; or it may take no notice of them thus implicitly accepting them; or it may reject them. Were it to reject them outright the French Treasury could simply place at the disposal of the American Government each year the amount it received under the Dawes Plan, either in money or in kind. We do not believe, however, that America would force us to this extreme measure. We believe that the Americans, different as they are from our own people in their ways of thinking and acting, would realize that we were doing only what we were by necessity forced to do.

Now let us consider certain puzzling factors in the situation. How does it happen that prominent American financiers and public men who constantly urge their Government to play the stern creditor to France privately encourage us, when they come over to our country, to refuse to ratify the debt accord? How does it happen, moreover, that some of our own public men who loudly advocated ratifying the accord

at the time of M. Bérenger's return from America are now trying, through underground channels, to prevent its ratification? Are there not troublemakers abroad who would like to sow enmity between France and the United States, either for the advantage of other debtor Powers or in order to hamper our financial recovery? Is it not possible that such men imagine that they can thus keep us dependent upon a certain great insular Power, which has extended and maintained its world supremacy for centuries by sowing discord among other nations? Is there not a school of insular diplomats who would be glad to see the Old World and the New World at swords' points? Or would they not like to make France bear all the odium of the struggle to emancipate Europe from the burden of its debt settlements? They would make it our rôle once more to fight the battle of other nations. They would have us assume all the political, financial, and moral risks, from which they would reap easy profits. We should sacrifice for others our diplomatic honor, our traditional friendships, our hopes, just as we have already sacrificed the best of our blood.

Let us delve into this question a little deeper. While we were lured on with a thousand delusive promises, while France was cradled in chimerical hopes and encouraged to put off as long as possible her debt settlement with America, first England, then Italy, and finally Belgium, seized favorable opportunities to arrange for their debt payments on the best possible terms.

We may say with assurance that this was merely a political manœuvre shrewdly conceived by one of those three Powers, and that none of them ever dreams for a moment of actually paying to the United States for tens and tens of years to come the huge sums which it engaged to pay when it signed

its settlement. Last May France drafted a similar simulacrum of a contract with her creditor; but when she asked Parliament to approve it, the factions that so often in the past have defeated the best interests of the country started a campaign of unexampled demagogy and perilous propaganda to keep the Deputies from ratifying the accord to which the Government had already placed its name.

Provocative agents, reënforced unfortunately by some well-meaning but misguided patriots, raised the cry: 'Do not ratify! We do not owe that money! We are being duped! We are being robbed!' They talked of unfair discrimination among America's debtors. Only now, in 1926, after the question has been before the country seven years, do they suddenly discover that the bill presented to our nation contains items that we do not owe!

Such conduct was a grave blunder, which only invited unpleasant surprises. We discovered that the discriminations of which we complained were not as important as we imagined. There was no material difference between our legitimate debt and the sums fixed in the agreement. But America was placed in a position to demand the fulfillment of our engagement with a rigor that will not make our future relations with her easier, and will not help our economic recovery. In a word, our politicians have forced France to reopen the whole question, against her will and against her interest. There is nothing that pleases some of the Great Powers better those who find it embarrassing to continue the payments to which they have consented with such politic good grace and disingenuous docility.

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Germany is only too happy to see us thus entangled. For she is no better able than the other three Powers to meet her obligations; and were she able,

she would be strong enough to appeal to the precedent we are setting her and bluntly refuse to pay her Dawes installments.

We have given the impression to the world that all other debtor nations, including Germany, have honestly done their best to pay and that only France quibbles and shirks. Those four Powers may some day point to us to justify breaking their engagements. They will say: 'Since France is not paying her debts, why should we pay ours? We have shown that it is from no lack of good will.' If that should happen, and it will happen, and the Allies and their principal enemy are equally in default, the whole blame for Europe's repudiation of its debts to the United States will be placed on France alone. A hostile press, organized and disciplined with diabolical skill, will din daily into the ears of the Americans who loaned their money to carry on the war

to the humble citizens, the manufacturers, the farmers, the workingmen of all kinds who own Liberty Bonds: 'Just look at France, to whose defense you so nobly sprang the France that

you admired, and that made such a display of her scrupulous honor. She shows no gratitude for your sacrifice. When she was able to meet her debts out of her receipts under the Dawes Plan, which we all knew Germany was able to pay, she refused to do so. Now her dishonesty has proved contagious and the other countries are following her example.'

That is an unworthy rôle for France to play. Harsh and unjust as may be America's demands, we should O. K. the bill. Germany is responsible for the war. It is for her to ask mercy, to solicit reductions, and eventually the general annulment of war debts she no doubt plans in the bottom of her heart. Germany is the only country that can secure a reduction or annulment, for a reason we should constantly keep in mind. There are twenty or twenty-five million people of German descent in the United States, many of the more powerful financiers there are of German stock, and an influential press is controlled by men of German blood and connections. Let Germany, then, be the first one to default.

THE BUS PROBLEM IN ENGLAND1

BY LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU

[THE author is one of the leading authorities on motor traffic in Great Britain.

WHATEVER may be the merits of other kinds of transport in towns, there can

1 From the Sunday Times (London Pro-French Sunday paper), December 5

be little doubt that the public use of the motor bus, which carries the major portion of the passenger traffic in London and in most provincial towns, will continue to increase. Not only does the motor bus take up and set down its passengers on the pavement and not in the middle of the street,

but it threads its way through traffic more quickly and more easily than any other public-service vehicle, and is the least obstructive.

The relative increase also in the number of passengers using motor buses, compared with other types of transport, in the large cities and towns of this and other countries proves that it is the favorite form of transport. I will quote one set of figures only, which will be sufficient for this purpose. The London Traffic Combine alone carried in its omnibuses 736 million passengers in 1913, and 1671 million in 1925. In this year, 1926, probably there has been an increase of a thousand million compared with thirteen years ago.

Assuming, therefore, the popularity of the motor bus, the problem to solve is how more passengers can be carried. More vehicles on most routes are now prohibited. Therefore, either we must widen our streets or build new streets above, or we must make new streets on or below the surface.

Alternatively, however, we could use vehicles which carry more passengers, and thus refrain from increasing the congestion which is already a serious detriment to traffic and a loss of valuable time and money to the busier persons in the community. If, for example, every public vehicle carrying fifty passengers could carry twentyfive more passengers, fifty per cent more passenger accommodation would be available without adding in any serious degree to traffic congestion. Buses or chars-à-bancs carrying seventy-five passengers are already in existence, and I have seen recently also the designs for a bus carrying one hundred passengers double the av

erage maximum now carried. Could we thus double the capacity of the present vehicles, a number of buses could be removed eventually from our streets,

and yet the same passenger space would remain.

Of course, such a change would take time; but we must look ahead, or hopeless congestion on most of our main thoroughfares is certain to take place in a few years. The hundredpassenger bus could carry its passengers either in two or three tiers. The three-tiered vehicle could be built to stand but little higher than the height of a double-decked tramcar, and the extreme length of either the double- or treble-tiered vehicle would not exceed thirty-five feet; in other words, such a bus would not be much larger in dimensions than many of the heavier type of motor goods-lorry to-day, and shorter than a lorry or tramcar with trailer.

But there are other improvements in the design of motor buses which should take place shortly in accordance with the natural evolution of the vehicle. First of all, the motor bus of the future will run on giant pneumatic tires; indeed, already many provincial companies owning chars-à-bancs have been using these for some time past with advantage to their machinery and to the comfort of their passengers. And as to weight, allowing fifteen passengers to the ton, the existing motor bus when loaded weighs in the neighborhood of from eight to nine tons, of which approximately from five to six tons is borne on the hind axle. Road makers know, as do engineers, that it is uneconomical to put on one axle and one pair of wheels more than a certain weight. And when one considers the speed at which the motor bus runs nowadays (the twelve-mile-an-hour limit is observed habitually more in the breach than in the observance), it is clear that the hammering which roads and streets receive from the hind wheels bearing such a weight is such that few systems of road surfacing are able to withstand it.

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