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Page:Collier's New Encyclopedia v. 10.djvu/148

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UNITED STATES

120

UNITED STATES

dent's address to Congress on Jan. 8, the four points emphasized in his Feb. 1 speech and the program stated in the address in New York, Sept. 27. The substance of these three notable utterances have been given in the preceding pages.

This proposition was again refused. Events in the interim between the setting forth of these several points of view had changed the situation so that one at least of the fourteen points was no longer applicable. This was the tenth point, which had demanded the fullest possible autonomy for the peoples of Austria-Hungary. But by this time the independence, not autonomy alone, of Czecho-Slovakia had been recognized. Jugoslavia's claim also to a separate national existence had been approved by this Government.

One more attempt was made by Austria, now frantic and distracted, to secure terms. She willingly admitted the right of Czecho-Slovakia and Jugoslavia to independence and urged that immediate negotiations be initiated. She asked further that this might be done, irrespective of any correspondence that might be proceeding with any other power, the reference of course being to Germany.

By this time the fate of Austria had been sealed by the arbitrament of arms on the Italian front. There was no need of further correspondence with the doomed nation. Her note was transmitted to the Inter-Allied Conference at Versailles, and Austria was instructed to deal directly with the commander of the Italian forces.

Much more important than the Austrian peace overtures were those begun by Germany. That empire had at last abandoned all hope of military success. Her Macedonian front had crumbled, by the Kaiser's own admission; Turkey was threatened with absolute overthrow by the whirlwind campaign of Allenby; Austria-Hungary alone of all her allies was left, and could not maintain her own line, let alone render help to the hard-pressed German forces. The end was at hand, and it only remained for Germany to save as much as she could from the wreck of her military fortunes.

On Sept. 12, Vice-Chancellor von Payer had expressed the willingness of his Government to give back Belgium. Two days following the delivery of President Wilson's address of Sept. 27, the German Government began to set its official house in order, so that it might more fully conform to the President's views on popular government. The more conservative and war-insistent members of the Government were dismissed, and men of a more liberal character took their places. Changes were also made in the direction of ballot reform, looking for a more general participation by the people in the Government. The Constitution itself was changed, and the Cabinet Ministers were given the right to demand to be heard by the Reichstag. But the greatest change was made in the Chancellorship. Von Hertling, who was supposed to be persona non grata to the Allies because of his previous committals on questions connected with the war, was replaced on Oct. 2 by Prince Maximilian of Baden, who had no antagonisms to overcome and who was reputed to be of Liberal tendencies.

The first act of the new Chancellor after assuming office was to send to President Wilson through the Swiss Government as intermediary the following note:

The German Government requests the President of the United States to take in hand the restoration of peace, acquaint all the belligerent states with this request and invite them to send plenipotentiaries for the purpose of opening negotiations.

It accepts the program set forth by the President of the United States in his message to Congress on January 8, and in his later pronouncements, especially his speech of Sept. 27, as a basis for peace negotiations.

With a view to avoiding further bloodshed, the German Government requests the immediate conclusion of an armistice on land and water and in the air.

On the same day, the Chancellor outlined in a speech to the Reichstag the changes that had been made in the German administration and constitution. This was done evidently to convince the American Government that in any dealings it might henceforth have with Germany it would be dealing with a government of the German people, instead of a militaristic clique. The speech hinted also that Germany might be willing to pay an indemnity, and promised the complete restoration and rehabilitation of Belgium.

The reply of the President was despatched Oct 8. It neither accepted nor rejected the German offer, but rather deferred a positive statement pending the receipt of further information. The President declared that he would not feel at liberty to propose a cessation of arms to his associate powers until their soil had been evacuated by the German armies. He asked also whether the German note meant that the German Government actually accepted the terms that the President had set forth in his Jan. 8 address, and whether its object in entering into discussions would be only to agree upon the practical application