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Page:Collier's New Encyclopedia v. 10.djvu/147

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bombardment was begun that cut the Mézières-Sedan railway line, the chief German artery of supplies for their army. By the 6th of November, the Americans had reached a point on the Meuse opposite Sedan. From that moment the German cause was doomed. The enemy's line of communications had been cut, and only an armistice or abject surrender remained. In this gigantic offensive, the Americans had captured 468 guns and 26,059 prisoners.

Taking no more time than to give his soldiers a breathing spell the American commander was preparing an advance toward Longwy and the Briey coal fields and had already commenced the attack on the morning of Nov. 11 when the order came to suspend hostilities at 11 A. M. The armistice had been signed and the greatest war in history came to an end.

The series of disasters to German arms and the impending collapse of their allies were reflected in the changed tone of German statesmen at the beginning of autumn. Hindenburg, the military idol of the German people, issued a manifesto on Sept. 6, in which he acknowledged the severity of the struggle and exhorted the army to be on its guard against enemy propaganda. The Kaiser, speaking to the municipality of Munich, a day earlier, had admitted the difficulty of the present struggle against an enemy “filled with jealousy, destruction and the will to conquer.” A week later, his agitation and apprehension were clearly marked in a halting address that he made to the workmen at Essen. The German Crown Prince supplemented his father's efforts by declaring that Germany had never wanted war and was fighting simply for her existence, ringed in as she was by a circle of foes. Von Hertling, Burian, and Czernin, in the same month, made addresses that were palpable bids for peace. There was no longer any arrogant talk about annexations and indemnities. Panic fear was beginning to spread among the statesmen of the Central Powers as they read the “handwriting on the wall.”

The first open peace proposal was made in a communication by the Austro-Hungarian Government to the governments of all neutral and belligerent powers, dated Sept. 15. While the note ostensibly came from Austria alone, it developed later that it had received the approval of Germany. The note was carefully worded, was devoid of bitterness or arrogance, and asked that a confidential and “non-binding” discussion be entered into, that might clear away misunderstandings and pave the way to peace.

But the note came too late. It was regarded on all sides as an attempt to escape an impending military defeat by causing a slackening of effort on the part of the Allies while the retreating armies of the Central Powers should have a chance to regain their poise and vanishing morale. The offer was met with rejection by all the Entente nations. The refusal of our own Government was despatched on the same day that the note was received. The President stated that the note required no extended answer for “the Government has repeatedly and with entire candor stated the terms on which the United States would consider peace, and can and will entertain no proposal for a conference upon a matter concerning which it has made its position and purpose so plain.”

Answers of a similar tenor, though in some cases more extended, were made by the members of the Entente, and the overture came to naught. Its receipt, however, was probably the moving cause of a notable address made by the President in the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, on Sept. 27, 1918. In this the President set forth what he called a “practical program” the salient points of which were as follows:

First.—The impartial justice meted out must involve no discrimination between those to whom we wish to be just and those to whom we do not wish to be just. It must be a justice that plays no favorites and knows no standard but the equal rights of the several peoples concerned;

Second.—No separate or special interest of any single nation or any group of nations can be made the basis of any part of the settlement which is not consistent with the common interest of all;

Third.—There can be no league or alliances or special covenants and understandings within the general and common family of the League of Nations;

Fourth.—And more specifically, there can be no special selfish economic combinations within the league and no employment of any form of economic boycott or exclusion, except as the power of economic penalty by exclusion from the markets of the world may be vested in the League of Nations itself as a means of discipline and control;

Fifth.—All international agreements and treaties of every kind must be made known in their entirety to the rest of the world.

This program was promptly seized upon by Austria as the basis of a new appeal which was made on Oct. 7, not to an belligerents this time, but to the President alone. It offered to conclude an immediate armistice on the basis of the fourteen points enunciated in the Presi-