At the Paris Peace Conference

At the Paris Peace Conference

At the Paris Peace Conference

At the Paris Peace Conference

Excerpt

The Paris Peace Conference is now a thing of history. The action of the League of Nations at the Assembly of 1937, in taking up the thorny question of the separation of its Covenant from the peace settlement, marks a turning point away from "Versailles" to new realities and forces. The crises through which the League itself has been passing are steadily carrying it over into a new era. But, although the Peace Conference is receding into the background of politics, it is still a living influence in world affairs.

The way in which the peace settlement became a symbol and a register of conflict lies outside the field of this narrative; but the student of history may find in it an explanation of how that process began. When diplomacy succeeded to war, the unreconciled nations drew from the treaties their slogans of discord, and the settlements made by the Peace Conference imposed themselves upon the imagination of a whole generation as the cause of most of the evils from which the post-war world was suffering. That this was an oversimplification even for Germany was clear to all judicious students of contemporary Europe. The war was chiefly responsible for much that was attributed to the treaties, and pre-war Europe was responsible for the issues of the war. But the war was over and the treaties were still operative. Moreover, the war was too vast, too long and varied, for anyone anywhere to appreciate to the full its impact upon the normal or established routine of Europe and the world generally. The treaties, on the other hand, lengthy and involved as they were, expressed in words and figures the cost of defeat--and of victory. Therefore it was but natural that the treaties should be charged with much for which they were not to blame. The post-war years witnessed the creation of a myth in which the Peace Conference figured as a sinister thing, sowing dragons' teeth, vindictively, subtly, while high-minded idealists looked on confused and frustrated. Myths like this do not die readily, especially while the attitude of mind which produced them still persist. In time, however, they cease to dominate the springs of action, as new situations crowd to the forefront of . . .

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