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Replies of Central Empires to the Pope's Appeal
Speeches of Government Leaders on Both Sides President Wilson's reply to the peace proposals of Pope Benedict was printed in the October issue of CURRENT HISTORY MAGAZINE. No replies were made by the Entente Powers, but it was semi-officially announced by Great Britain, France, Italy, and Russia, that President Wilson's answer expressed in letter and spirit their attitude. The official replies of Germany and Austria-Hungary were made public on Sept. 22, 1917. The full text of the German note, as transmitted by Chancellor Michaelis to Cardinal Gasparri, Papal Secretary of State, is given below:
Text of Germany's Reply to the Pope
ERR CARDINAL: Your Eminence has been good enough, together with your
letter of Aug. 2, to transmit to the Kaiser and King, my most gracious master, the note of his Holiness the Pope, in which his Holiness, filled with grief at
the devastations of the world war, makes an emphatic peace appeal to the heads of the belligerent peoples The Kaiser-King has deigned to acquaint me with your Eminence's letter and to intrust the reply to me.
His Majesty has been following for a considerable time with high respect and sincere gratitude his Holiness' efforts, in a spirit of true impartiality, to alleviate as far as possible the sufferings of the war and to hasten the end of hostilities. The Kaiser sees in the latest step of his Holiness fresh proof of his noble and humane feelings, and cherishes a lively desire that, for the benefit of the entire world, the Papal appeal may meet with success.
The effort of Pope Benedict is to pave the way to an understanding among all peoples, and might more surely reckon on a sympathetic reception and the whole-hearted support from his Majesty, seeing that the Kaiser since taking over the Government has regarded it as his principal and most sacred task to preserve the blessings of peace for the German people and the world.
In his first speech from the throne at the opening of the German Reichstag on June 25, 1888, the Kaiser promised that his love of the German Army and his position toward it should never lead him into temptation to cut short the benefits of peace unless war were a necessity, forced upon us by an attack on the empire or its allies. The German Army should safeguard peace for us, and should peace, nevertheless, be broken, it would be in a position to win it with honor. The Kaiser has, by his acts, fulfilled the promise he then made in twenty-six years of happy rule, despite provocations and temptations.
In the crisis which led to the present world conflagration his Majesty's efforts were up to the last moment directed toward settling the conflict by peaceful means. After the war had broken out, against his wish and desire, the Kaiser, in conjunction with his high allies, was the first solemnly to declare his readiness to enter into peace negotiations. The German people support his Majesty in his keen desire for peace.
Germany sought within her national frontier the free development of her spiritual and inaterial possessions, and outside the imperial territory unhindered competition with nations enjoying equal rights and equal esteem. The free play of forces in the world in peaceable wrestling with one another would lead to the highest perfecting of the noblest human possessions. A disastrous concatenation of events in the year 1914 absolutely broke off all hopeful course of development and transformed Europe into a bloody battle
Appreciating the importance of his Holinesss' declaration, the Imperial Government has not failed to submit the suggestion contained therein to earnest and scrupulous examination. Special measures, which the Government has taken in closest contact with representatives of the German people, for discussing and answering the questions raised, prove how earnestly it desires, in accordance with his Holiness' desires, and the peace resolution of the Reichstag on July 19, to find a practical basis for a just and lasting peace.
The Imperial Government greets with special sympathy the leading idea of the peace appeal wherein his Holiness clearly expresses the conviction that in the future the material power of arms must be superseded by the moral power of right. We are also convinced that the sick body of human society can only be healed by fortifying its moral strength of right. From this would follow, according to his Holiness' view, the simultaneous
diminution of the armed forces of all States and the institution of obligatory arbitration for international disputes.
We share his Holiness' view that definite rules and a certain safeguard for a simultaneous and reciprocal limitation of armaments on land, on sea, and in the air, as well as for the true freedom of the community and high seas, are the things in treating which-the new spirit that in the future should prevail in international relationsshould find first hopeful expression. The task would then of itself arise to decide international differences of opinion, not by the use of armed forces, but by peaceful methods, especially by arbitration, whose high peace-producing effect we together with his Holiness fully recognize.
The Imperial Government will in this respect support every proposal compatible with the vital interest of the German Empire and people.
Germany, owing to her geographical situation and economic requirements, has to rely on peaceful intercourse with her neighbors and with distant countries. No people, t:2"efore, has more reason than the German people to wish that instead of universal hatred and battle, a conciliatory fraternal spirit should prevail between nations.
il the nations are guided by this spirit it will be recognized to their advantage that the important thing is to lay more stress upon what unites them in their relations. They will also succeed in settling individual points of conflict which are still undecided, in such a way that conditions of existence will be created which will be satisfactory to every nation, and thereby a repetition of this great world catastrophe would appear impossible.
Only on this condition can a lasting peace be founded which would promote an intellectual rapprochement and a return to the economic prosperity of human society.
This serious and sincere conviction encourages our confidence that our enemies also may see a suitable basis in the ideas submitted by his Holiness for approaching nearer to the preparation of future peace under conditions corresponding to a spirit of reasonableness and to the situation in Europe.
Reply of the Austrian Emperor
(Official translation.) Holy Father: With due veneration and deep emotion we take cognizance of the new representations which your Holiness, in fulfillment of the holy office intrusted to you by God, makes to us and the heads of the other belligerent States, with the noble intention of leading the heavily tried nations to a unity that will restore peace to them.
With a thankful heart we receive this fresh gift of fatherly care which you, Holy Father, always bestow on all peoples without distinction, and from the depth of our heart we greet the moving exhortation which your Holiness has addressed to the Governments of the belligerent peoples.
During this cruel war we have always looked up to your Holiness as to the highest personage, who, in virtue of his mission, which reaches beyond earthly things, and, thanks to the high conception of his duties laid upon him, stands high above the belligerent peoples, and who, inaccessible to all influence, was able to find a way which may lead to the realization of our own desire for peace, lasting and honorable for all parties.
Since ascending the thrcne of our ancestors, and fully• conscious of the responsibility which we bear before God and men for the fate of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, we have never lost sight of the high aim of restoring to our peoples, as speedily as possible, the blessings of peace. Soon after our accession to the throne it was vouchsafed to us, in common with our allies, to undertake a step which had been considered and prepared by our exalted predecessor, Francis Joseph, to pave the way for a lasting and honorable peace.
We gave expression to this desire in a speech from the throne delivered at the opening of the Austrian Reichstag, thereby showing that we are striving after a peace that shall free the future life of the nation from rancor and a thirst for revenge, and that shall secure them for generations to come from the employment of armed forces. Our joint Government has in the meantime not failed in repeated and emphatic declarations, which could be heard by all the world, to give expression to our own will and that of the Austro-Hungarian peoples to prepare an end to bloodshed by a peace such as your Holiness has in mind.
Happy in the thought that our desires from the first were directed toward the same object which your Holiness today characterizes as one we should strive for, we have taken into close consideration the concrete and practical suggestion of your Holiness and have come to the following conclusions :
With deep-rooted conviction we agree to the leading idea of your Holiness that the future arrangement of the world must be based on the elimination of armed forces and on the moral force of right and on the rule of international justice and legality.
We, too, are imbued with the hope that a strengthening of the sense of right would
morally regenerate humanity. We support, therefore, your Holiness' view that the negotiations between the belligerents should and could lead to an understanding by which, with the creation of appropriate guarantees, armaments on land and sea and in the air might be reduced simultaneously, reciprocally and gradually to a fixed limit, and whereby the high seas, which rightly belong to all the nations of the earth, may be freed from domination or paramountcy, and be opened equally for the use of all.
Fully conscious of the importance of the promotion of peace on the method propose by your Holiness, namely, to submit international disputes to compulsory arbitration, we are also prepared to enter into negotiations regarding this proposal.
If, as we most heartily desire, agreements should be arrived at between the belligerents which would realize this sublime idea and thereby give security to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy for its unhampered future development, it can then not be difficult to find a satisfactory solution of the other questions which still remain to be settled between the belligerents in a spirit of justice, and of a reasonable consideration of the conditions for existence of both parties.
If the nations of the earth were to enter, with a desirable peace, into negotiations with one another in the sense of your Holiness' proposals, then peace could blossom forth from them. The nations could attain complete freedom of movement on the high seas, heavy material burdens could be taken from them, and new sources of prosperity opened to them.
Guided by a spirit of moderation and conciliation, we see in the proposals of your Holiness a suitable basis for initiating negotiations with a view to preparing a peace, just to all and lasting, and we earnestly hope our present enemies may be animated by the same ideas. In this spirit we beg that the Almighty may bless the work of peace begun by your Holiness.
The World's Comments on Austro-German Notes
It was announced by Vatican officials that the replies of the Central Powers were disappointing in that there were no specific references to evacuation restoration. A story gained circulation later to the effect that the notes had been altered at the last moment—that the PanGermans had eliminated all references to Belgium and to disavowal of indemnities and annexations.
The comment of the newspapers in the various countries was colored by their own bias. Allied and American newspapers almost without exception treated the replies with disdain and characterized them as a further demonstration of Teutonic duplicity and hypocrisy; this was likewise the official view among the Allies. The German-Austrian press regarded the notes as further evidence of the peaceful intentions of the Central Powers, and declared that they were sufficiently specific, though some radical German newspapers spoke otherwise. The Catholic press in Holland manifested a sympathetic attitude, and asserted that the course of peace was advanced by the replies, but this view prevailed nowhere else.
The Austrian Premier, Dr. von Seydler, on the reassembling of the Reichstag,
Sept. 25, referred to the Papal note in these terms:
We believe that agreements can be attained, which under
proper guarantees might enable armaments to be graduaily and simultaneously reduced, among other things by the introduction on this basis of obligatory arbitration for international disputes.
Our readiness to arrive at an agreement with our enemies on these bases is absolutely serious and sincere and is inspired by the consciousness of our strength. But if our enemies are not prepared to take the proffered hand we will continue our defensive war to the utmost.
Believing that a strong Austria, insuring contentment of all races,
best guarantee of a lasting peace, are striving to reform the Constitution, and the Government resolutely condemns the mistaken view held by certain parties that Austria's salvation is to be hoped for from Austria's enemies.
The German Chancellor, in a speech to the Main Committee of the Reichstag Sept. 28, answered the critics of Germany's reply in these words:
The German reply to the Pope's note met with the approval of our friends and allies, while a majority of our enemies have given it an obviously embarrassed reception. It is difficult to understand how any one acquainted with international situation and international usages could believe that we ever would be in
such a position as, through a one-sided public statement on important questions which are indissolubly bound up with the entire complex of questions which must be discussed at the peace negotiations to bind ourselves to a solution to our own prejudice.
Any such public statement at the present time could only have a confusing effect and injure German interests.
We should not come a step nearer peace, but it would contribute certainly to a prolongation of the war. I must at present decline to specify our war aims and bind the hands of our negotiators.
In conclusion the Chancellor attacked President Wilson's reply to the Pope's note:
The President's attempt to sow dissension between the people and the Government of Germany has no prospects of success. His note has had the opposite effect from what he desired and has bound us more firmly together in a stern resolve to oppose resolutely and energetically all foreign interference.
Germany's Peace Ultimatum: “Break
down of Europe Dr. Richard von Kühlmann, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, also on Sept. 28 addressed the Main Committee of the Reichstag on the Pope's proposals, saying in part:
This courageous initiative of the Pope will mark an epoch in the history of this tremendous battle of nations and will appear as an unfading page in the annals of Vatican diplomacy. The Pope threw the word peace into the turmoil of battle at a time when events threatened to transform Europe into a place of bloodstained ruins.
The German people and the German Government, whose consciousness of their strength and internal security always made it easy for them to emphasize their willingness to conclude
honorable peace, have reason to welcome gratefully the initiative of the Curia, which made it possible for them to set forth again their national policy in a clear, unambiguous manner. I say intentionally “national policy," as I hope and believe the reply of the German Government, both as regards its form and contents, embodies the de
sires of an overwhelming majority of the Germans.
The principles of the reply to the Papal note as presented by the Government appear acceptable to the representatives of all the parties. Consequently I believe I can say with full right that all attempts of the enemy to drive a wedge between the German people and the German Government on the question of the basis of our foreign policy and by the propagation of the fiction that the German people do not stand behind the Kaiser and the Imperial Chancellor will be repulsed in the most crushing manner by the support given to this document.
Definite Refusal to Discuss Alsace-Lorraine
Foreign Secretary von Kühlmann on Oct. 10, at a plenary sitting of the Reichstag, became more definite in ex
Dr. von Kühlmann declared that the breakdown of European civilization would leave every nation weaker and poorer, no matter to what combination it might belong. He continued:
When the young power, Germany, nearly fifty years ago entered the circle of old powers she was greeted by nobody with great enthusiasm; but these fifty years have proved more than abundantly that the new power brought strength to the whole of Europe. If today our enemies believe that they are able to turn back the course of history and bring into existence again a weak formation of federated States alongside a Prussia which has been subjected to deadly mutilation, these aro only delusions, which are hardly pardonable in the case of political theorists, and must be ruinous in the case of responsible statesmen.
As long as our enemies base themselves on fiction-the more clever ones among them do not believe in it-the time may come in which the German Nation, doing penance in sackcloth and ashes, and beating its breast in sorrow, may grovel under the yoke of despicable demands.
We shall have to continue to speak by the sword. It may not be easy to show the truth plainly to the nations of the Entente, which have been incited by legends invented at the beginning of the war, but how otherwise is the new spirit to come into existence? This is an indispensable condition if we are to arrive at a termination of the present struggle of the nations.
The German people are firmly convinced that they are conducting a just war. From this conviction they draw strength cheerfully to meet the great sacrifices which the times demand.
pressing Germany's war aims. He said that the attitude of the Entente Powers gaven
prospect that the Pope's pro
posal would be successful, notwithstanding the agreement of the Central Powers “ to collaborate not only in the termination of the present conflict but in the reconstruction of a Europe nearly ruined.” He continued as follows:
The great question prolonging the struggle is not the future of Belgium, but that of Alsace-Lorraine. Great Britain, according to our information, has pledged herself to France that she will continue the fight for the conquest of Alsace-Lorraine both politically and with her armies so long as France desires to adhere to the program of regaining those provinces. This being the actual situation, I think it proper to give a clear and firm statement of our attitude, since, curiously enough, there still seems to be a misconception in this respect among our enemies, and even among our neutral friends.
There is but one answer to the question, “ Can Germany in any form make concessions with regard to Alsace-Lorraine ?" That answer is “ No.” So long as one German hand can hold a gun the integrity of the territory handed down to us as a glorious inheritance by our forefathers can never be the object of negotiations or concessions.
When it seemed expedient to France to accept the formula "' without annexations " the French resorted to the transparent trick of bashfully covering up with the word “disannexation" what is in reality a barefaced and forceful conquest. The trick is really too clumsy to be worthy of
repute. Now, except for France's demand for Alsace-Lorraine, there is absolutely impediment to peace, no question which could not be solved by negotiations or a settlement in such a way as to render superfluous the further sacrifice of blood.
Our enemies heretofore have been careful not to reveal their real
aims. What they have told the world is a maximum program, which can only be realized after the complete military defeat of the Central Powers.
The German Government has never answered this program because we believe in dealing with real sober facts. Our answer to our opponents' assertions that they cannot obtain a clear conception of our intentions is our reply to the Pope, and the parliamentary discussions in connection with this. They leave no doubt in the mind of any one who wishes to understand the essential principles of our peace program.
Reiterated by the Chancellor Chancellor Michaelis, in his address at the same session, Sept. 10, supported the attitude of the Foreign Secretary in these words:
The German Nation will stand together as one man unshakable, and persevere in the fight until its right and the right of our allies to existence and development are assured. In its unity the German Empire is invincible.
We must continue to persevere until the Ge nan Empire, on the Continent and overseas, establishes its position. Further, we must strive to see that the armed alliance of our enemies does not grow into an economic offensive alliance.
We can in this sense achieve a peace which guarantees the peasant the reward of his land; which gives the worker merited recompense; which creates a market for industries and supplies the foundation for social progress; which gives our ships the possibility on a free voyage of entering ports and taking on coal all over the world. A peace of the widest economic and cultural development, a real peace. This peace we can attain within these limits.
As long as our enemies confront us with demands which appear unacceptable to every single German, as long as our 01ponents wish to interfere with our frontier posts, as long as they demand that we shall yield a piece of German soil, as long as they pursue the idea of driving a wedge between the German people and its Emperor, so long shall we with folded arms refuse the hand of peace.
We can wait. Time is working for us. Until our enemies perceive that they must reduce their claims, so long must the cannon speak and the U-boats do their work. Our peace will yet come.
Lloyd George's Answer Premier Lloyd George answered Baron Kühlmann on Oct. 11 in an address at London, as follows:
I cannot think of any statement more calculated to prolong the war than the assertion of the German Foreign Secretary, von Kühlmann, that Germany would never contemplate the making of concessions to France respecting Alsace-Lorraine. However long the war lasts, England intends to stand by her gallant ally, France, until she redeems her oppressed children from the degradation of a foreign yoke. This means that the country must husband its resources, and, when demands were put forward for improvements here and there, my answer “ Concentrate upon victory."
Former Premier Asquith, the same day, referring to the same subject, said:
German diplomacy is not celebrated for deftness, but even in its annals it will be difficult to find a more clumsy or more transparent manoeuvre than this maladroit attempt to SOW discord between ourselves and our French allies. Von