The War Effort of New Zealand
8—The Treaty of Peace
8—The Treaty of Peace.
The Allied and Associated Powers' terms for Germany were presented to the German delegates at Versailles on Wednesday, May 7th, 1919,—the fourth anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine. The historic ceremony took place in the dining-room of the Trianon Palace Hotel; and the representatives of the great Allied Powers were given proof of the unchanged spirit of Germany, whose plenipotentiaries were truculent, and deliberately insolent. Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, the head of the German delegation, remained seated, and spoke contemptuously in his native tongue, although he was able to speak perfectly either in French or English. At no time were the German delegates subjected to any form of humiliation, the Allied authorities having taken every precaution to protect them from hostile treatment.
There was a full attendance of the delegates of the Allied and Associated Powers, the Italian representatives having returned from their impulsive mission to Rome in connection with the dispute over the fate of Fiume. Mr. Massey, Prime Minister, represented New Zealand, and Sir Joseph Ward was present as a member of the British panel of plenipotentiaries. Germany was represented by six delegates.
M. Clemenceau, the veteran President of the Supreme Council of the Allied and Associated Powers, in the course of a brief dignified speech, informed the German delegates that there would be no verbal intercourse with them, and that they would be given fifteen days in which to present in writing their observations on the Peace Treaty. It was a solemn ceremony.page 216
Count Rantzau replied in terms of cold and studied insolence. He confessed the degree of German's powerlessness, but declared that to confess themselves to be the only ones guilty of the war would in his mouth be a lie. "We energetically deny," he added, "that Germany and its people, who were convinced that they were making a war of defence, were alone guilty………… In the last fifty years Imperialism of all European States has chronically poisoned the international situation…. But in the manner of making war, Germany is not the only guilty one. Every nation knows of deeds and of people which the best nationals only remember with regret. I do not want to answer by reproaches to reproaches, but I ask them to remember, when reparation is demanded, not to forget the Armistice. It took you six weeks till we got it at last, and six months till we came to know your conditions of peace. Crimes in war may not be excusable, but they are committed in the struggle for victory and in the defence of national existence, and passions are aroused which make the conscience of people blunt. The hundreds of thousands of non-combatants who have perished since the 11th of November by reason of the blockade were killed with cold deliberation, after our adversaries had conquered and victory had been assured to them. Think of that when you speak of guilt and of punishment." He also said a great deal more in the same strain of sneering contempt, and concluded by stating that the Treaty of Peace would be examined by the Germans with goodwill. Thereupon the German delegates passed out scowling into the Spring sunshine and the promise of Peace.
The main terms of the Treaty were these:—The surrender of practically all Germany's merchant fleet, the replacement of losses ton for ton, and the construction of a million tons of shipping for the Allies; disarmament on land and sea, and in the air with these limitations: an army of 100,000 men (including 4000 officers) and the immediate abolition of conscription; a navy consisting of 6 battleships, 6 light cruisers, 12 destroyers, 12 torpedo boats, no submarines, 15,000 officers and men; aircraft, nil; cession to France page 217of Alsace and Lorraine, and the coal-fields in the Saar Valley—the latter for fifteen years, the control thereafter to be determined by a plebiscite; the surrender of all Germany's oversea possessions; surrender of the Ex-Kaiser and war criminals for trial; payment of £1,000,000,000 as first instalment of the total bill, to be fixed by 1921, and to be paid in 30 years; surrender of Dantzig, also part of Silesia, East Prussia, and Schleswig; the Allied occupation of the left bank of the Rhine for 15 years as a guarantee of Germany's fulfilment of the terms of the Treaty.
The Treaty of Peace with Germany was, after the Allied and Associated Powers had agreed to modify several conditions in detail without altering the cardinal principles of the terms, signed on June 28th, in the famous Hall of Mirrors in the Chateau of Versailles. Mr. Massey attended the historic ceremony,, and in the exercise of full powers as New Zealand's plenipotentiary, affixed his signature to the Treaty, the Protocol and the Rhineland Convention. The British Empire plenipotentiaries signed in the following order:—United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland: Rt. Hon. David Lloyd George, First Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister; Rt. Hon. Andrew Bonar Law, M.P., Lord Privy Seal; Rt. Hon. Viscount Milner, Secretary of State for Colonies; Rt. Hon. Arthur James Balfour, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and Rt. Hon. George Nicoll Barnes, Minister without portfolio. Dominion of Canada: Rt. Hon. Sir George Eulas Foster, Minister of Trade and Commerce, and Rt. Hon. Charles Joseph Doherty, Minister of Justice. Commonwealth of Australia: Rt. Hon. William Morris Hughes, Attorney-General and Prime Minister, and Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Cook, Minister for Navy. Union of South Africa: General the Rt. Hon. Louis Botha, Prime Minister, and Lieutenant-General Jan Christian Smuts, K.C. Minister of Defence; Dominion of New Zealand: Rt. Hon. William Ferguson Massey, Minister of Labour and Prime Minister; India: Rt. Hon. Edwin Samuel Montagu, M.P. Secretary of State for India, and Major General His Highness Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh Bahadur, Maharaja of Bikaner.page 218 page 219
The Treaty was signed by the representatives of 27 Allied and Associated Powers and by two German delegates with full powers. China's plenipotentiaries did not attend the ceremony and reserved their signatures as a protest against the settlement respecting the Shantung Province. Owing to the necessity for gaining passage by the Mauretania, which left Southampton that evening Mr. Massey had to leave Versailles for Havre before the memorable ceremony was concluded.