Official Statements of War Aims and Peace Proposals, December 1916 to November 1918

By James Brown Scott | Go to book overview

SPEECH OF PREMIER BRIAND ON THE PEACE PROPOSALS IN THE FRENCH CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES1
December 13, 1916

[TRANSLATION]

It is after proclaiming her victory on every front that Germany, feeling that she can not win, throws out to us certain phrases about which I can not refrain from making a few remarks.

You have read the speech of Mr. von Bethmann-Hollweg, the Chancellor of the German Empire. On this speech, of which I have not yet received the official text, I can not express myself officially. These so-called proposals have not yet been presented to any of the Governments, and it is rather doubtful whether, under existing conditions, those who have been asked to act as intermediaries will accept so delicate a task, which may disturb many a conscience.

On this as on all matters I can not express an official opinion until we and our allies have thoroughly considered and discussed the question, and reached a full and complete agreement. But I have the right, indeed the duty, to warn you against this possible poisoning of our country.

When I see Germany arming herself to the teeth, mobilizing her entire civil population at the risk of destroying her commerce and her industries, of breaking up her homes of which she is so proud; when I see the fires of all her factories burning red in the manufacture of war material; when I see her, in contravention of the law of nations, conscripting men in their own countries and forcing them to work for her, if I did not warn my country, I should be culpable indeed!

Observe, gentlemen, that what they are sending us from over there is an invitation to discuss peace. It is extended to us under conditions that are well known to you: Belgium invaded, Serbia invaded, Roumania invaded, ten of our Departments invaded! This invitation is in vague and obscure terms, in high-sounding words to mislead the minds, to stir the conscience, and to trouble the hearts of peoples who mourn for their countless dead. Gentlemen, this is a crucial moment. I discern in these declarations the same cry of conscience, ever striving to deceive neutrals and perhaps also to blind the eyes of those among

____________________
1
France: Journal Officiel du 14 décembre 1916, Chambre--Séance du 13 décembre, p. 3638.

-7-

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