PRESIDENT WILSON'S ANSWER.
OUR first feeling on reading President- Wilson's fine and eloquent answer to the Vatican Peace proposals was that this was what the Pope should have written. It is easy to understand, and up to a point to appreciate, the motives which caused the Pope to balance his arguments
in an attempt to make them attractive to both sides. He felt himself to be in the position of an arbitrator who is trying to coax the parties into court by hinting to both sides that they have a good chance of a favourable judgment. But that is not Mr. Wilson's way, and we could wish it bad not been the Pope's. Mr. Wilson's manifesto to the world, for such it is, is inspired by a splendid scorn of the brutality, the guile, and the domineering spirit of those who would make themselves the super-lords of the world. He cannot stoop to impartiality towards crime. He flagellates meanness, trickery, bad faith, and inhumanity, and he does it all the more powerfully because he never strains his language, but clothes facts in phrases of a simple austerity, though of extreme appropriateness. He has something of the righteous, yet salutary and reformative, anger of some of the Hebrew prophets—not those who pronounced nothing but woe, but those who saw salvation shining at the end of long vistas of suffering. But this is only another way of saying that Mr. Wilson's Note is in the direct succession of the pronounce- ments of American policy made by Lincoln.
We are delighted to have Mr. Wilson's invaluable support for the argument we have used during the past fortnight, that what the Germans are playing for is an armistice during which they could recover their strength and make ready to spring again. For this—an armistice—is the exact prospect in Mr. Wilson's mind, though he does not in precise language attribute what may be called "the policy of the armistice " to the German Government. M. Cheradame, the well-known French writer who has devoted his life to studying Germany, warned us early in the war that if Germany found herself in a fix she would try to coax the Allies into an armistice by fair and flattering language, and would then declare nego- tiations off as soon as the occasion served her. That the Central Powers would be able to make much better use of an armistice than the Allies is obvious. However detestable a complete central control may be for ordinary purposes of life and government, it has a very distinct value for the direction of a war. Our own Alliance, composed of much more various elements, would not be able to concentrate its purpose again so quickly, particularly after negotiations which had been designed to divide our thoughts as to our essential aims in the war.
Mr. Wilson next foresees that if negotiations with Germany
on the Vatican conditions ended in a recuperation of German strength and a renewal of German policy, it would be necessary to create a permanent hostile combination of the nations against the German people. We take this to mean that Mr. Wilson is not in favour of creating any League of Nations till Germany can be included in it. We should prefer ourselves to state the matter rather differently. It seems to us that the Allies at present form a .Leagne of Nations whose one object is the peace of the world. All the schemes for a League of Nations postulate authority for the League to use force against a nation which tries to disturb the peace. The Allies are in practice exerting that authority now, and if ever the Central Powers showed a thorough change of heart and a desire for a quiet development of civilization—a desire equal to that which certainly inspires the Allies—nothing would be more agreeable than that Germany should be welcomed into-the League. The path along which circumstances are compelling us to travel seems to offer a more promising journey than is offered by those more highly abstract schemes that depend upon the enormous assumption that good faith necessarily exists in the Governments of all nations. Surely a test of good faith should be satisfied before the candidature of any nation for member- ship of a League is considered.
All -through his Note Mr. Wilson is careful to distinguish between the German Government and the German people. It :slime that he accuses the German people of having entered with zest upon the criminal adventures dictated to them by their Government, but -his belief that there is still a very appreciable difference between the guilt of the,people and-tht, guilt of the Government is evident. It is this belief that gives to his Note its peculiar character of being at once a manifesto to the world and a-special appeal to the German people to repudiate their rulers. We cannot, he says, " take the word of the present rulers of Germany as a guarantee of anything that is to endure unless explicitly supported by such conclusive evidence of the will and purpose of the German people them- selves as the other peoples of the world would be justified in accepting." In other words, Mr. Wilson suggests that there should be no peace with the Kaiser unless the people of Germany, by some recognized means of popular expression, guarantee that the word of the Kaiser is genuine. That brings us rather nearer to the point whore the Kaiser might be eliminated altogether by the Allies. We have always felt that perhaps the simplest and safest plan would be to inform the German people that we would not make peace under any con- ditions with their present rulers, just as Bismarck, when out- side Paris, refused to treat with Gambetta, but insisted on the French people creating a special Assembly for the purpose of negotiating peace.
It is interesting to notice that Mr. Wilson seems to stand apart from the Allies in what we take to be an implicit dis- approval of the Paris resolutions. Responsible statesmen," he says, " must now everywhere see, if they never saw before, that no peace can rest securely upon political or economic re- strictions meant to benefit some nations and cripple or embarrass others." Again, on the same lines he says : " Puni- tive damages, the dismemberment of Empires, the establish- ment of selfish and exclusive Economic Leagues, we deem inexpedient and in the end worse than futile." We imagine that where the rights of distinct groups of people or races, such as the South Slays, are concerned, Mr. Wilson would consider that those rights have precedence over the right of the Austrian Empire not to be dismembered. But in a formal document like this American answer to the Pope it is not, of course, possible to insert innumerable safeguarding clauses and parenthetical reservations. It is rather a general statement of American resolution to fight on, however long the war may last, till democracy has established itself as the principle for all civilized nations, and the foreign and disturbing element of autocracy has been removed as not only a nuisance but a terrible danger. In the true manner of Lincoln, Mr. Wilson balances his hatred of war against the German people and his trust in democracy a3 being the only safeguard of the world, and he sums up fearlessly and with a clear con- science in favour of what seems to him much the greater cause. Just so did Lincoln strike a balance when he said : " Was it possible to lose the Nation and yet preserve the Constitution ? By general law life and limb must be protected ; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life r but .a life is never wisely given to save a limb."