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

By James Brown Scott | Go to book overview

SPEECH OF FOREIGN MINISTER BALFOUR ON THE SECRET TREATIES AND THE UNITY OF ALLIED AIMS AND THE PEACE OFFENSIVE1
June 20, 1918

The honorable member threw out a challenge earlier in his speech and asked me to define what was meant by a peace offensive. I will tell him what I mean by a peace offensive. I mean any effort by speech or otherwise, under the guise of asking for an honorable termination of the present unhappy war, to divide the Allies who, as I believe, are now fighting for the great cause of liberty and to discourage the individual members of the Alliance. If anyone asks me to give an example of what is indicated by that definition, I should say that the speech we have just listened to is one of the most perfect examples of a peace offensive that has ever been made in or out of this House.

. . . . . . . . . . .

The honorable member has made his usual survey of the suggestions of peace which have from time to time been made by the Central Powers. Is there one of those cases in which the sober historian would ever see the basis of a possible peace? Is there any likelihood that these suggestions, such as the Emperor of Austria's letter and the other transactions to which the honorable member referred were made with a view to obtaining that sort of peace which even the honorable gentleman himself could regard as a reasonable peace carrying with it some prospect of security for the future liberties of the world. We have never rejected any proposals which we thought had the slightest probability of producing the sort of peace which most of us, and I hope all of us, desire. There is no evidence whatever that the German Government has ever been serious in making such offers of peace. I have more than once referred to Belgium, though I always do so with some hesitation, lest the honorable gentlemen run away with the idea that in my judgment the restoration of Belgium would by itself give all that we ought properly to ask for as a result of the war. The case for Belgium is merely an example. It is a good example of German methods. The treatment of Belgium is and remains the greatest blot upon German honor and German humanity.

____________________
1
Text in The Times, London, June 21, 1918, p. 11.

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