The United States' Role in the Shaping of the Peace Treaty of Trianon

By Pastor, Peter | The Historian, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

The United States' Role in the Shaping of the Peace Treaty of Trianon

Pastor, Peter, The Historian

The First World War was a turning point in twentieth-century history. The United States became a European power when it entered the conflict against Germany on 7 April 1917. This step tipped the balance on the western front in favor of the Allies and brought about their victory over the Central Powers. The consequence of the triumph, among others, was the collapse and dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Among the successor states, Hungary found itself on the side of the defeated, which was confirmed by the Peace Treaty of Trianon, signed by the victor powers on 4 June 1920. Although the American peacemakers displayed sympathy toward Hungary during the preliminaries leading up to Trianon, they put up no major obstacles to the making of the punitive treaty. President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), the major figure at the Paris Peace Conference, was as responsible for the shaping of the treaty as were the other members of the so-called Big Four. Due to the Senate's refusal to ratify the Trianon Treaty, the US also signed a separate peace treaty with the Hungarians in Budapest on 29 August 1921. This bilateral settlement was as onerous for Hungary as the original signed at the Grand Trianon Palace.

On 2 April 1917, when President Wilson called on Congress to declare war on Germany in response to Germany's unrestricted submarine warfare, he abstained from recommending war against Austria-Hungary. He did so because, as he pointed out, Austria-Hungary "has not actually engaged in warfare against the citizens of the United States on the seas." (1)

It was only on 4 December 1917 that President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war on Austria-Hungary, claiming that its government was "not acting upon its own initiative or in response to the wishes and feelings of her own peoples, but as the instrument of another nation [and w]e must meet its force with our own and regard the Central Powers as but one." (2) The next day Congress passed a joint resolution declaring war on the government of Austria-Hungary, which was signed by the president on 7 December 1917. (3) American war aims were spelled out in the famous Fourteen Points in the president's address to Congress on 8 January 1918. (4) Point ten dealt with Wilson's "wish" that the peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy be given autonomy upon Allied victory. Wilson's prescription amounted to the reorganization of the Dual Monarchy, but no dismemberment. This mild requisite reflected Wilson's hope that the Habsburg Monarchy could be enticed away from the German alliance, which, in turn, would also hasten Germany's willingness to come to the peace table. (5)

The Austro-Hungarian establishment, however, rejected autonomy for its national minorities. On 2 April 1918, the Austro-Hungarian minister of foreign affairs, Count Ottokar Czernin (1872-1932), declared his government's unconditional support of Germany. (6) Since the Allies had hoped that by shifting its alliance Austria-Hungary would bridle German expansion, Czernin's words quashed their hopes. (7) The response to Vienna's intransigence was the promulgation of France's new war aim, which sought to undermine the home front of the Habsburg Monarchy by promising its disgruntled nationalities that their multinational state would be dismantled upon Allied victory. (8) This commitment contradicted point ten of the Fourteen Points, which by then had become the Allied war aim. The US position, however, soon changed in the direction of the French position.

On 24 June 1918, US Secretary of State Robert Lansing (1864-1928) proposed to Wilson a declaration "without reservation for an independent Poland, an independent Bohemia and an independent South Slav State, and a return of the Rumanians and Italians to their natural allegiance." (9) Lansing saw this as a "dismemberment of the present Austro-Hungarian Empire into its original elements, leaving these nationalities to form separate states as they might decide to form, especially if the severance of Austria and Hungary resulted...." (10) On 26 June, Wilson replied: "I agree that we can no longer respect or regard the integrity of the artificial Austrian Empire.... I doubt that even Hungary is any more an integral part of it than Bohemia." (11) The Lansing-Wilson exchange foreshadowed the contours of the Trianon Peace Treaty, which officially sanctioned the dismantling of historic Hungary. On 3 September, the US followed in the footsteps of France and Britain and recognized the Czecho-Slovak National Council as a belligerent government, further indicating the end of Hungary's historic borders. (12)

On 29 September 1918, Germany and Austria-Hungary agreed to appeal to Washington, expressing their interest in starting armistice negotiations on the basis of the Fourteen Points. Austria-Hungary's appeal arrived to the US capital on 7 October, and on 16 October Emperor Charles I (1887-1922) announced the reorganization of the Austrian part of his realm into a federation with the aid of national councils. This step seemed to have satisfied in part Wilson's point ten. On October 18, however, Wilson's reply to Vienna's call came via Secretary of State Lansing's message that "the President is ... no longer at liberty to accept the mere autonomy of these peoples as basis for peace." (13) By the time this death knell for the Dual Monarchy was communicated to Vienna, The Inquiry, the US peace preparatory organization of experts whose proposals followed closely the changing policy of Wilson toward the Dual Monarchy, had already prepared a map for the peace negotiations. (14) It depicted its dismemberment.

The approaching armistice and the specter of defeat that was the subtext of Charles's manifesto had an impact on Hungary as well. On 25 October, the National Council, headed by the Wilsonian parliamentary politician Count Mihaly Karolyi (1875-1955), was formed in Budapest. It called for an independent Hungary, immediate peace, and the repudiation of the German alliance. In its proclamation, however, it did not give up the principle of Hungary's integrity, voicing the hope that in a new democratic Hungary "the country would change into a brotherly alliance of equal peoples who would support territorial unity based on common geographic and economic interests." (15) The National Council, which came to power on 31 October in a bloodless revolution, was in a Wilsonian time-warp. It embraced a policy that Wilson had already abandoned in June 1918. On 3 November, the Austro-Hungarian representatives signed an armistice in Padua.

On 15 November 1918, Hungary formally became a republic. Count Karolyi was its first prime minister and foreign minister. His peace conference strategy was built solely on Wilsonianism. However, President Wilson, who bore no animosity towards Hungary, did not see Hungary on an equal footing with the other successor states that had sided with the victors and wished to treat it with caution. (16) In a broader sense, he also favored a hands-off US policy toward eastern Europe. (17)

The American proposals for the boundary of Hungary within the framework of a general territorial settlement in the region were first proposed to the American delegates by the Intelligence Section of the Delegation on 21 January 1919, just three days after the ceremonial opening of the Peace Conference. The frontiers with Czechoslovakia and Romania were essentially the same as the ones laid down later in the Trianon treaty. The frontier with Yugoslavia appeared more favorable to Hungary, given that some areas with a solid Hungarian population, which in the final draft of the treaty ended up in Yugoslavia, would have remained with Hungary. Even more favorable for Hungary was the frontier with Austria, as the plan proposed the preservation of the historic boundary, through which a large ethnic German population would have remained in Hungary. (18)

At the Paris Conference, territorial committees tasked with shaping the frontiers of the neighbor states decided Hungary's new borders. There were two committees on the "new states": one on Yugoslavia and Romania, and the other on Czecho-Slovakia. The American specialists on the commissions recognized that there was a lack of an overarching perspective on the Hungarian boundary question, yet there was no vigorous objection to the kind of peacemaking that rewarded friends and penalized those who were perceived as enemies. (19) The outlines of Hungary's new frontiers by the committees or their subcommittees became visible by March 1919. The "Committee on the Czecho-Slovak Questions" submitted its recommendations to the Supreme Council on 12 March 1919. On 6 April, the "Committee for the Study of Territorial Questions Relating to Rumania and Yugoslavia" did the same. (20) The frontiers designed for Hungary's three neighbors were not based on ethnic principles, the minimum goal of the Hungarians. Rather, whereas historic Hungary included non-Hungarians, the frontiers being drawn promised to create a considerable number of cross-border Hungarians.

The decisions of the committees were not communicated to the Hungarian government, which was reduced to guessing the outcome through the visits of various commissions of the Allies. The American visitors exhibited the kind of sympathy and understanding that presented some room for optimism in Budapest; it was expected that the Wilsonian principles of self-determination would prevail even for the defeated states in Paris. These expectations were unrealistic and Charles Seymour (1885-1963), the head of the Austro-Hungarian Division of the American Commission, favored having a Hungarian delegation invited to Paris for consultation so that Budapest would be made aware of the new realities. It was assumed by Seymour that Hungary could thus avoid a shock that could lead to the collapse of the government and ultimately to anarchy and communism. (21) For whatever reason, Wilson never formulated such a proposal. (22)

Seymour's concern about communism (and anarchism, which was equated with it) was not unique. The specter of it hung over the conference. The potential of its spread to Hungary was used by its northern and southeastern neighbors (i.e. Czecho-Slovakia and Romania) as a pretext to chip off territories and reduce Hungary's imperium. For the United States the continuing Allied blockade was seen as the harbinger of communism, as it was creating unemployment and preventing economic recovery. President Wilson believed that the "real thing to stop Bolshevism is food," and that it ought to be supplied "not only to our friends but also to those parts of the world where it was our interest to maintain a stable government." (23)

Seymour's fears materialized on 20 March when the Hungarian government received the 26 February decision of the Supreme Council--made in the absence of the Allied leaders--ordering the Hungarians to accept a neutral zone that was intended to stop military clashes between the Hungarians and Romanians. The way it was drawn, however, allowed further Romanian expansion into southeastern Hungary. Rather than accepting these demands, the Hungarian government resigned. The following day, the Hungarian Soviet Republic was declared and the communist-socialist fusion government's leading figure, Bela Kun (1886-1938), became its commissar of foreign affairs. The previous regime's Wilsonian peace policies were exchanged for a rejectionist stance, for which the new leaders were seeking support from Soviet Russia.

This "Hungarian jolt" (24) catapulted the Hungarian settlement from the territorial committees and the Council of Foreign Ministers to the Council of Four, the major decision-making body of the conference, where President Wilson played the key role. (25) When the Council of Four discussed the new developments in Hungary on 25 March, President Wilson expressed his confusion about dealing with the "Bolsheviks" in Hungary. He claimed, much to the unhappiness of French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), that "nominally we are friends of the Hungarians" and attributed the communist takeover to the "conflict between the Rumanians and Hungarians." (26) Six days later, when the foreign ministers also participated in the deliberations, Wilson assigned some responsibility to the Supreme Council for driving Hungary to Bolshevism "by having too harsh an attitude." (27) He noted that, "The government of Budapest is not laden with the crimes with which we reproach the Russian Bolsheviks [for i]t is probably nationalistic." (28) During the month of April, the Romanian advances into eastern Hungary were a serious concern. At a Council of Four meeting on 26 April 1919, Wilson proposed that Romania stop its "aggressive action towards Hungary" as "it might constitute a danger to Peace." (29)

The German peace delegation's appearance in Versailles had an important impact on the finalization of the Hungarian peace terms. The Germans, led by Foreign Minister Count Ulrich Brockdorff-Rantzau (1869-1928), received the terms from the victors at the Grand Trianon Palace in the afternoon of 7 May. Since the outline of the treaty was an open secret, Brockdorf-Rantzau came with a prepared statement. While accepting Germany's responsibility for the invasion of neutral Belgium, he rejected Germany's sole guilt for the war. He called for the establishment of a "special Commission of experts, for discussion on the basis of the draft presented by you." (30) He also argued that the war crimes Germany was accused of were also committed by other belligerents in the heat of the conflict. He also pointed to the German situation since the armistice and claimed that because of the famine exacerbated by the ongoing Allied blockade, hundreds of thousands of German civilians "were killed with cold deliberation, after victory had been won and assured to our adversaries ... [t]hink of that when you speak of guilt and atonement." (31)

The following morning's meeting of the Council of Four indicated that Brockdorff's speech had made a deep impression on President Wilson, as well as on David Lloyd George (1863-1945). The British prime minister called for a speedy conclusion of peace with Austria and Hungary because both were starving. He called for this because the German foreign minister's reference to mass starvation since the armistice "made him feel uncomfortable." (32) Premier Clemenceau dismissed Lloyd George's concern by stating that Brockdorff's claim had to be proven. President Wilson riposted by telling Clemenceau that just because they were annoyed with Brockdorf-Rantzau, "There was no doubt people had been starved because through no one's fault it had not been possible to get the Treaty of Peace ready earlier." (33)

A renewed feeling of urgency made President Wilson propose that the Council of Foreign Ministers make a recommendation about the frontiers of the "former Austro-Hungarian territory, except those specially concerning Italy." (34) The council accepted Wilson's proposal and called for a Council of Foreign Ministers meeting for the very same afternoon. Thus, the German foreign minister's speech hastened Hungary's travel to Trianon and President Wilson took a lead in this process.

The Council of Foreign Ministers began its meeting at four in the same afternoon and accepted the proposals of the territorial commissions. Secretary of State Robert Lansing rejected British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour (1848-930)'s suggestion about the need to define the territory of Hungary on its own merit. Lansing stressed that the council's responsibility was to prepare the frontiers of the new states and Hungary's frontiers would be shaped accordingly. This approach was accepted by his peers. As the Romanian frontiers with Hungary were presented, however, Lansing objected to the disregarding of ethnic lines, which he did not consider to be just. He questioned the practice that every decision regarding the disputed areas "seemed to have been given against the Hungarians." (35) Yet when Andre Tardieu (1876-1945), the chairman of the Committee for the Study of Territorial Questions Relating to Romania and Yugoslavia, stressed that his committee had done the best it could and had achieved unanimous agreement on the issue, Lansing withdrew his objections to the draft of the Romanian-Hungarian frontier. (36) It was a fateful decision and it served as a further indication that for the sake of expediency the Americans went along with the majority, approving the frontier that was to become part of the Trianon territorial settlement. The Yugoslav frontiers with Hungary were disposed of very quickly. The territorial committee was not as generous with the Yugoslavs as it was with the Romanians, though here too the ethnic boundary was disregarded. The Council of Foreign Ministers approved the frontier with "no criticism." (37) The frontiers between the two defeated states, Austria and Hungary, were left undisturbed by the council for the time being. (38)

In the proposal of the frontiers of Czechoslovakia with Hungary, drawn on 12 March by the territorial committee of the Commission on Czecho-Slovak Affairs, large chunks of ethnic Hungarian territories contiguous to Hungary, including the Grosse Schutt (Zitni Ostrov or Csallokoz), were awarded to Czechoslovakia. When Lansing noted that "as a result of the findings of the two Committees, some two million Hungarians were to be placed under alien rule in Roumania and Czecho-slovakia (sic)," Jules Laroche (1872-1961), a French member of the Romanian-Yugoslav territorial committee, allayed the concerns of the American secretary of state by a most ingenuous rationalization. (39) He argued that a large number of Hungarians in Czechoslovakia would be "a guarantee for the good treatment of the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia." (40) Lansing was apparently won over, since he presented no further objections to the committee's frontier proposal, which became the northern frontier of Trianon Hungary. The Council of Foreign Ministers also engaged in a lively discussion about autonomy for the Ruthenians (Rusyns) within Czechoslovakia. Lansing was an enthusiastic supporter of the idea, although it apparently never occurred to him that he should have demanded the same kind of autonomy for the Hungarians, who were about to be included in Romania or Czechoslovakia. (41) The council meeting ended with the conclusion that the resolutions accepted at the meeting were to define the frontiers of Hungary. (42)

When the Supreme Council (Council of Ten), which included the heads of government and foreign ministers of the Big Five (the US, UK, France, Italy, and Japan), met four days later on 12 May, the southern and northern frontiers were accepted with no discussion. These new borders were to be included in the peace treaty with Hungary. President Wilson at this point was only concerned with Hungary's frontier with Austria as he believed that Austria would contest its frontier with Hungary. As a final result, the delegates decided to have Austria accept the 1867 frontier with the proviso that the victors would conduct arbitration should it become necessary.

The specter of a speedy peace, however, was being undermined by continued Romanian expansion into Hungary for the sake of territorial gains by force. The Council of Four appeared to be helpless in forcing the Romanians to stop their aggression against the Hungarians. (43) At the 9 June meeting of the Council of Four, when the military situation in Hungary was examined, Lloyd George blamed the survival of Bela Kun's Bolshevik regime on the ongoing Romanian military advances, which precipitated an attack by the Czechoslovaks. He reported that this brought about victory of the Hungarians on the northern front. (44) President Wilson suggested that they call for a meeting with the Czechoslovak and Romanian leaders attending the Peace Conference and present them with the final settlement, which was expected to put an end to the jockeying for Hungarian territories. (45) Budapest was warned two days earlier to retreat and to stop the military campaign against the Czechoslovaks. The order was sweetened by the promise that the Hungarians might then be invited to Paris to receive new frontiers. (46)

The next day the Council of Four met with the Czechoslovaks Karel Kramar (1860-1937) and Edvard Benes (1884-1948) and the Romanians Ion I.C. Bratianu (1864-1927) and Nicolae Mi[section]u (1858-1924). Wilson opened the meeting and charged that "the Romanian forces had brought the Bela Kun Government into existence, and the Czecho-Slovak forces had prolonged its existence." (47) Bratianu replied that Bolshevism was initiated by the Karolyi government. His contention was received with disbelief by Lloyd George, and the frustrated Wilson declared that as long as the Romanian forces were deep in Hungarian territory, they "were helping to create Bolshevism." (48) He bitterly declared that "if he himself had the misfortune to be Hungarian he would be up in arms against them and so would anyone." (49) Since the Czechoslovak and Romanian envoys claimed that the Council of Foreign Ministers had not notified them of the frontiers accepted by the Council of Ten, Wilson told them that the following morning the two delegations would have to confer with the foreign ministers about the permanent boundaries that would be communicated to the Hungarians as well. (50)

On 11 June 1919, the Council of Foreign Ministers met and, on the instructions of the Council of Four, the foreign ministers transmitted the frontier lines to the two delegations. They reported back that the Romanian delegation asked for more time, while the Czecho-Slovak delegation accepted the boundaries "agreed on by the Supreme Council," but requested two "slight" adjustments. (51) They asked for the town of Ipolysag (Sahy), the Hungarian railroad junction, for the sake of the smooth functioning of two rail lines already accorded to Czechoslovakia. They also wanted the Pressburg (Bratislava) bridgehead on the right side of the frontier river, the Danube. (52) The Big Four, with the report of the foreign ministers in hand, returned the document and asked for recommendations from the council. (53)

The council reconvened on the morning of 12 June. Lansing insisted that the boundaries of the 12 May decision "should be adhered to without alteration." (54) The proposed Romanian-Hungarian frontier remained unchanged. The bridgehead was rejected for the time being, but with regard to the railway junction of Ipolysag, the American secretary of state again accepted his colleagues' position by favoring the Czecho-Slovak request. He did this even though the council was informed that as a result of the transfer, "a large number of Magyars would have to be included in Czecho-Slovakia." (55) At the afternoon meeting, the Big Four approved the foreign ministers' report, including the transfer of the railway junction in Ipolysag to Czecho-Slovakia. President Wilson did not stand up for the right of Hungarians to self-determination. Instead, he proposed that the boundaries as adopted by the Council of Foreign Ministers "be communicated to Hungary, Czecho-Slovakia and Roumania, and that their observance should be insisted on." (56) Time was pressing and he no longer saw the need to invite the Hungarians as promised, and as Lloyd George still favored. It was enough for President Wilson if all three parties would be informed of their new borders via telegram. For Hungary, it meant that its frontiers with its neighbors were established without a single hearing with anyone acting as its representative.

The contours of the Trianon borders with Romania and Czechoslovakia were initialled by the Big Five on 13 June. (57) Three days earlier, the Austrian government, responding to the terms of the draft treaty handed to its delegation on 2 June, had proposed a plebiscite in western Hungary, which had an ethnic German majority. (58) This Austrian move was inspired by President Wilson's intimations of "fair play." (59) It sought to compensate Austria for a possible territorial loss in the Klagenfurt Basin, which was claimed by Yugoslavia. (60) It was, however, only after Wilson departed from Paris on 28 June that the Council of the Heads of Delegations of the Five Great Powers, which took up the role of the Supreme Council, assigned the Burgenland to Austria on 7 July. (61) There was no need for a plebiscite, most likely because Lansing, representing the United States, noted that it was desirable to encourage the Austrians because of the threat of Bolshevik Hungary and discourage them from joining Germany. (62) Thus, on 20 July, when the Austrian delegation received the second draft of the peace treaty, the Burgenland was ceded to Austria. (63)

On 9 July, the council received the recommendation of the Commission on Romanian and Yugoslav affairs. On the basis of Yugoslav claims, it called for some favorable territorial adjustments in the Prekmurje (Muravidek) region at the expense of Hungary. In the presence of the commission, the heads of delegations adopted the proposals without objection. (64)

The contours of the Trianon borders of Hungary had now been determined. The peace treaty, however, was not presented to the Hungarians until the following year. The collapse of the communist regime on 1 August 1919, the subsequent Romanian occupation of half of the country and the attendant political instability prevented the victors from inviting a Hungarian delegation to Paris. Meanwhile, questions arose in Washington over the further participation of the United States in additional peace negotiations and in the transmission of the peace terms to Hungary. The problem arose over the Senate's rejection on 19 November of the peace treaty with Germany that had been signed in Versailles on 28 June. The isolationist majority of the Senate refused to ratify this treaty because of the entangling obligations set down in the articles on the League of Nations. Since the Hungarian draft closely followed the German peace treaty, its support by the US also came into doubt.

On 14 November 1919, in expectation of the Senate's rejection of the terms of the Versailles treaty, Lansing sent a telegram from Washington to Undersecretary of State Frank L. Polk (1871-1943), who had been in charge of the American delegation since 28 July, expressing his doubt about the Hungarian treaty: "I think that it would be a bad policy attempt to negotiate a treaty embodying the Covenant or confiding any powers to the League of Nations." (65) Four days later, Lansing instructed Polk to close the American mission on or around 1 December, and on 27 November, he informed Polk that Wilson had ordered the head of the United States Commission to Negotiate Peace to "withdraw immediately on all commissions growing out of or dependent on either the Peace Conference or the treaty." (66) As to the Hungarian treaty, the US position was the same. (67) On 1 December, the representatives of the allied states, including Polk, met again. The drafting committee of the Hungarian treaty reported that the treaty was ready except for the reparation and financial clauses; it had been unable to get definitive answers from the various commissions dealing with the issue. Given the promised Romanian withdrawal from Hungary and the complicated political situation there, the meeting decided to call the Hungarian delegates to Neuilly "to conclude peace with the Allied and Associated Powers." (68)

Polk was much concerned about the recent instructions from Washington and on 6 December, he telegraphed to Lansing at the State Department, requesting that he reconsider the official stance. He wrote: "Inasmuch as we have been largely instrumental in the framing of the Hungarian treaty ... I am unable to see how ... anyone could have an objection to our being present when the treaty is presented." (69)

Polk's plea was forwarded to the ailing president with a suggestion that Ambassador Hugh C. Wallace (1863-1931) be allowed to sit in at the Supreme Council meetings as an observer and be empowered to sign the Hungarian treaty. (70) Two days later, on 8 December, the First Lady (Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, 1872-1961), who became the voice of Wilson during his illness, responded to Lansing's request in the affirmative. (71) On the same day, Lansing informed Polk that the president supported Wallace's presence at the Supreme Council meetings "as an observer but not as a participant." (72) The ambassador was also charged "to report the proceedings to Washington" and was given "full powers to sign ... the Hungarian treaty." (73) Polk was much relieved by Lansing's message and informed the secretary of state that the Hungarian treaty was complete. (74) On 4 June 1920, when the peace treaty was presented to the Hungarian delegation in the Grand Trianon Palace, it was Ambassador Wallace who signed for the United States. (75)

Since Ambassador Wallace signed the document of peace with the Covenant of the League included, the United States remained technically at war with Hungary. On 30 June and 1 July, the so-called Knox-Porter Resolution passed the Senate and the House; this "Joint Resolution Terminating the State of War between the Imperial German Government and the United States of America and between the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Government and the United States of America" was signed into law by President Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) on 2 July 1921. (76) This resolution made it possible for Hungary to seek a peace treaty with the United States. On 23 July, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948) telegraphed the US commissioner in Budapest, Ulysses Grant-Smith (1870-1959), that the interest of the United States "is to secure beyond question benefits of Treaty of Trianon, although not ratified by the United States, and should prefer explicit reference to that Treaty in interest of definiteness unless Hungarian Government desires to mention Peace Resolution which refers to it." (77) Hughes also informed Grant-Smith that the State Department would not accept reservations from the Hungarians.

In his 1 August message, the American envoy reported that the Hungarians wanted to draw the US, which had a "mollifying influence," into active "participation in obligations including mechanism of enforcement." (78) It was this kind of involvement that American isolationist foreign policy rejected. Hungarian public opinion that falsely pictured the US as a conciliatory power engaged in wishful thinking. It became a source for the Hungarian revisionist myth that painted the US as an opponent of the terms of the Trianon Treaty on the basis of Wilsonian principles. (79) This myth was reinforced by the story of General Harry Hill Bandholtz (1864-1925)'s firm action, when he, on 5 October 1919, as the US representative on the Allied Military Mission in Hungary, prevented the looting of the treasures of a museum in Budapest by the Romanian Army. (80) Some rumors in Budapest, as reported in the New York Times on the shaping of the treaty, indicated that the terms would be much like the Treaty of Trianon, but the territorial provisions would be excluded. (81) This news item made the Hungarians on the street believe that with no frontiers listed, the United States supported Hungary's wish to revise the Trianon frontiers. This, however, was far from the truth. (82)

The non-negotiable peace terms that were sent from Washington on 16 August 1921 and signed on 29 August by Grant-Smith and Foreign Minister Count Miklos Banffy (1873-1950) did exclude Part II of the Trianon treaty, which dealt with the boundaries of Hungary. American negotiators refused to assume any obligation for Hungary's borders. Parts III and IV of the Trianon treaty dealing with Hungary's relations with its neighbors and other European and Asian countries were also excluded for the same reason. Part XIII of the Trianon treaty dealt with Hungary's relations with the International Labor Organization, which could have presented the US with some obligation and was consequently left out. The 26 articles of Part I of the 4 June treaty were also excluded as they dealt with the League of Nations. The bilateral treaty signed in Budapest specified that the US would not "be bound by any action taken by the League of Nations, or by the Council or by the assembly thereof." (83) The Senate ratified the treaty with reservation on 18 October 1921.84 The reservations indicated that the lawmakers went along with the Trianon treaty and dropped those parts of the document that they did not deem to be in the isolationist interest of the United States. President Harding signed the treaty on 21 October and Hungary ratified it on 12 December 1921.

With the signing of the treaty the United States and Hungary were finally at peace. The conflict between the United States and Hungary that had started with the declaration of war on the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in December 1917 was officially over. The defeat of the Dual Monarchy and its break-up into the successor states placed some of these new states with the victors, while Hungary was considered as one of the defeated. The peace talks took place without the participation of the losers and the Hungarians were invited only to sign and not to negotiate. While the American negotiators expressed some sympathies towards the Hungarians during the peace parley, in critical decisions the US peacemakers joined their partners in shaping the final peace terms. Peace Commissioner Frank Polk was correct when he reached the conclusion that the US was "largely instrumental in the framing of the Hungarian treaty."85 This paper amply demonstrates his conclusions.

(1.) "Wilson's War Message to Congress," World War I Document Archive, available at: http://, accessed 9 April 2014; also in Arthur S. Link, ed., The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, vol. 41, Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1983, 525-6.

(2.) Quoted in James Brown Scott, "War between Austria-Hungary and the United States," The American Journal of International Law 1, 1918, 165-72: 167.

(3.) Ibid.

(4.) Geza Jeszenszky, "Woodrow Wilson es az Osztrak-Magyar Monarchia. A 10. Pont szuletese es kimulasa" ["Woodrow Wilson and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The birth and death of point ten"], in Tamas Magyarics and Miklos Lojko, eds, Emlekkonyv Frank Tibor 60. sztiletesnapjdra [Festschrift for the Sixtieth Birthday of Tibor Frank], Budapest: Prime Rate Kft., 2008, 103-113: 104-6.

(5.) F.R. Bridge, "The Foreign Policy of the Monarchy 1908-1918," in Mark Carnwall, ed., The Last Years of Austria-Hungary. Essays in Political and Military History 1908-1918, Exeter: U. of Exeter P., 1990, 7-30: 27; Klaus Schwabe, Woodrow Wilson, Revolutionary Germany and Peacemaking, 1918-1919. Missionary Diplomacy and the Realities of Power, Chapel Hill, NC: U. of North Carolina P., 1985, 12.

(6.) Bridge, "Foreign Policy," 27.

(7.) Guy Pedroncini, "La France et les negociations secretes de paix en 1917," Guerres Mondiales et Conflits Contemporains 170, 1993, 131-9: 136-7.

(8.) Tibor Giant, Through the Prism of the Habsburg Monarchy: Hungary in American Diplomacy and Public Opinion during World War 1, Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1998, 73; Peter Pastor, "French War Aims against Austria-Hungary and the Treaty of Trianon," in Ignac Romsics, ed., Twentieth-Century Hungary and the Great Powers, Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1995, 39-54: 44.

(9.) Robert L. Lansing, War Memoirs of Robert Lansing, Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merril Co., 1935, 269, as quoted in Victor Mamatey, The United States and East Central Europe, 1914-1918, Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1957, 243.

(10.) Ibid.

(11.) Quoted in Josef Kalvoda, The Genesis of Czechoslovakia, Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1986, 383.

(12.) Ibid., 404.

(13.) US Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States 1918, Supplement 1, The World War, vol. 1, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1933, 368.

(14.) Giant, Through the Prism, 223; Ignac Romsics, The Dismantling of Historic Hungary: The Peace Treaty of Trianon, 1920, Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs, 2002, 181.

(15.) Magyar Szocialista Munkaspart, Kozponti Bizottsag, and Partorteneti Intezete, A Magyar munkdsmozgalom tortenetenek vallogatott dokumentumai, vol. 5, Budapest: Szikra, 1956, 266.

(16.) Giant, Through the Prism, 275.

(17.) Ray Stannard Baker, ed., Woodrow Wilson, Life and Letters, vol. 8, New York: Doubleday, 1939, 542; Zsuzsa L. Nagy, "The United States and the Danubian Basin (1919-1939)," in Dezso Nemes, ed., Etudes Historiques Hongroises 1975, vol. 2, Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1975, 353-382: 357; and Giant, Through the Prism, 278.

(18.) Francis Deak, Hungary at the Peace Conference: The Diplomatic History of the Treaty of Trianon, New York: Howard Fertig, 1972, 27-9.

(19.) Arthur Walworth, Wilson and His Peacemakers. American Diplomacy at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, New York: Norton, 1986, 457.

(20.) Ibid., 45-6; Romsics, The Dismantling of Historic Hungary, 83-7.

(21.) Peter Pastor, Hungary between Wilson and Lenin, Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1976, 104.

(22.) Schwabe, Woodrow Wilson, 369.

(23.) Ibid., 97.

(24.) The term was used by Arno J. Mayer, Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking: Containment and Counterrevolution at Versailles, 1918-1919, New York: A. Knopf, 1967, 959.

(25.) Alan Sharp, The Versailles Settlement: Peacemaking in Paris, 1919, New York: St Martin's, 1919, 19.

(26.) Paul Mantoux, The Deliberations of the Council of Four (March 24-]une 28, 1919). Notes of the Official Interpreter Paul Mantoux. To the Delivery to the German Delegation of the Preliminaries of Peace, Supplementary Volume to the Papers of Woodrow Wilson, vol. 1, edited and translated by Arthur S. Link, Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1992, 12.

(27.) Ibid., 96.

(28.) Ibid.

(29.) US Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States 1919: The Paris Peace Conference, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1942-1947, 13 vols., vol. 5, 291 [hereafter cited as FRUS-PPC].

(30.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 3, 418.

(31.) Ibid.

(32.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 5, 512.

(33.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 5, 513.

(34.) Ibid.

(35.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 4, 673.

(36.) Ibid., 671-3.

(37.) Ibid., 674.

(38.) Ibid., 675.

(39.) Ibid., 676.

(40.) Ibid.

(41.) Ibid., 677.

(42.) Ibid.

(43.) Arthur S. Link, "Editor's Introduction," in Mantoux, The Deliberations of the Council of Four, xxiv-xxvi.

(44.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 6, 255-7.

(45.) Ibid., 260.

(46.) Ibid., 246-7.

(47.) Ibid., 282.

(48.) Ibid., 285.

(49.) Ibid.

(50.) Ibid., 288.

(51.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 4, 813.

(52.) Ibid., 803, 813-14.

(53.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 6, 318.

(54.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 4, 824.

(55.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 4, 823-4.

(56.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 6, 351.

(57.) Ibid., 374.

(58.) Deak, Hungary, 85.

(59.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 6, 582.

(60.) Maria Ormos, From Padua to the Trianon 1918-1920, Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1990, 282-4.

(61.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 7, 37, 95; Deak, Hungary at the Paris Peace Conference, 87.

(62.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 7, 40.

(63.) John C. Swanson, The Remnants of the Habsburg Monarchy: The Shaping of Modern Austria and Hungary, 1918-1922, Boulder, CO, East European Monographs, 2001, 106-7; and Jozsef Botlik, Nyugat-Magyarorszag sorsa, 1918-1921 [The Fate of Western Hungary, 1918-1921], Vaszsilvagy: Magyar Nyugat Kiado, 2008, 63-6.

(64.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 7, 62, 75-6.

(65.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 11, 661; Walworth, Wilson and His Peacemakers, 439.

(66.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 11, 666.

(67.) Ibid., 672-673.

(68.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 9, 404-5.

(69.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 11, 693.

(70.) Ibid., 695.

(71.) Ibid., 696.

(72.) Ibid., 697.

(73.) Ibid.

(74.) Ibid., 700.

(75.) For the terms of the treaty, see "Treaty of Trianon," World War I Document Archive, available at:, accessed 9 April 2014.

(76.) It was sponsored by Senator Philander C. Knox (1853-1921) of Pennsylvania in the Senate and Pennsylvania Representative Stephen G. Porter (1869-1930) in the House; both were members of the Republican Party.

(77.) US Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States 1921, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1934-1936, 2 vols, vol. 2, 251.

(78.) Ibid., 253.

(79.) Tibor Giant, "Amerikas konyvek es az Amerika-kea ket vilaghaboru kozti Magyarorszagon" ["Books about American and the Image of America in Interwar Hungary"], in Magyarics and Lojko, eds, Emlekkonyv Frank Tibor 60. Szuletesnapjdra, 79-86: 79.

(80.) Harry Hill Bandholtz, An Undiplomatic Diary, Safety Harbor, FL: Simon Publications, 2000, 111-2. The historian Tibor Frank writes: "This episode testified to his political fairness and sincere dedication: his success guaranteed the appreciation and sympathy of the Hungarian people in and out of Hungary proper." See Tibor Frank, "Diplomatic Images of Admiral Horthy: The American Perception of Interwar Hungary, 1919-1941," in Tibor Frank, Ethnicity, Propaganda, Myth-Making: Studies on Hungarian Connections to Britain and America, 1848-1945, Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1999, 233-51.

(81.) New York Times, 6 August, 1921 dateline, 27 August, 1919, 3.

(82.) Eva Mathey, "Attempts at the Revision of the Treaty of Trianon in the Light of American Hungarian Relations in the Interwar Period," in Huba Bruckner, ed., My Fulbright Experience, Budapest: Hungarian-American Commission for Educational Exchange, 2006, 101; and Lva Mathey, "Chasing a Mirage: Hungarian Revisionist Search for US Support to Dismantle the Trianon Peace Treaty, 1920-1938," Unpubl. PhD dissertation, Debrecen University, 2012, 86-7 and 139-40.

(83.) FRVS 1921, vol. 2, 257.

(84.) Ibid., 257.

(85.) FRUS-PPC, vol. 11, 693.

Professor Peter Pastor is professor of history at Montclair State University, New Jersey. His special interest is the history of diplomatic and military relations between Hungary and Russia/ USSR. He is the author of numerous articles, a monograph, and editor or coeditor of several books, including the 2012 publication Essays on World War I (with Gray don A. Tunstall).

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