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The Failure of Peace by Negotiation in 1917*

  • David Stevenson (a1)
Extract

The First World War was launched in the belief that force could be an effective instrument of policy. Underlying the decisions of July and August 1914 was a hard core of calculation, based on the advice to governments that the fighting would be fierce but short, and that its political and economic repercussions could be contained. In addition, because the two sides were closer to military equivalence than in previous crises, both could believe that they had a reasonable prospect of victory. But such equivalence, given the weapons technology of the day, might also deny either coalition a speedy, surgical triumph. And it is from the prolongation of the war as well as its inception – from its not being over by Christmas – that its historical importance derives. Among the consequences were eight million dead, and the dislocation of the Western economic system. Without the war it is unlikely that either Lenin, or Mussolini, or even Hitler, would have come to office. As far as such things can be said with certainty, the First World War was a precondition of the Second. A four-month rather than a four-year conflagration would have had other, now unknowable, consequences. It would not, presumably, have had these.

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1 Many of the points referred to in this article are discussed more fully in my book The First World War and international politics (Oxford, 1988) and my earlier French war aims against Germany, 1914–1919 (Oxford, 1982). In the notes I have used the following abbreviations. AMAE: Archives of the Ministère des affaires étrangères, Paris. B & K: Browder, R. P. and Kerensky, A. F. (eds.), The Russian provisional government, 1917 (3 vols., Stanford, 1961). CAB: British cabinet papers on microfilm in the Seeley historical library, Cambridge. CAEC.AC: Commission des affaires extérieures of the French Chamber of Deputies, hearings on L' Affaire Czernin, April–May 1918, Box C. 7491, Archives nationales, Paris. CAES: minutes of the Commission des affaires étrangères of the French Senate, Senate archives, Paris. FO: Foreign Office papers, Public Record Office. FRUS: Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States. JO: Journal officiel de la République française: Débats parlementaires: Chambre des députés/Sénat; Compte-rendu in extenso. S & G: Scherer, A. and Grüinewald, J. (eds.), L'Allemagne et les problèmes de la paix pendant la Première Guerre Mondiale (4 vols., Paris, 19661978).

2 Cf. Farrar, L. L. Jr, The short-war illusion: German policy, strategy, and domestic affairs, August–December 1914 (Santa Barbara, 1973).

3 Becker, J.-J., The Great War and the French people (Leamington Spa, 1985), p. 195.

4 Cf. Weber, E., Peasants into Frenchmen: the modernization of rural France, 1870–1914 (London, 1977).

5 Ritter, G., The sword and the sceptre: the problem of militarism in Germany (4 vols., London, 19691973), III, 385.

6 de Bourbon, Prince Sixte, L' Offre de paix séparée de l' Autriche, 5 déc. 1916–12 oct. 1917 (Paris, 1920), pp. 96–8.

7 For this declaration, Scott, J. B. (ed.), Official statements of war aims and peace proposals, December 1916 – November 1918 (Washington, 1921), pp. 35–8.

8 Page to Lansing, 11, 20, 21 Feb. 1917, FRUS 1917 Supplement I (Washington, 1931), pp. 41–4, 55–6.

9 CAEC:AC, Hearing of Cambon, Jules, 7 05 1918; Sixte, , L'Offre, pp. 67–8.

10 Sixte-Karl, conversation, 8 May 1917, ‘La Mission secrète du prince Sixte de Bourbon’, L' Opinion, XIII (3 01 1920), p. 22.

11 Ribot, A., Journal d'Alexandre Ribot et correspondances inédites, 1914–1922 (Paris, 1936), pp. 6770, 125; Lowe, C. J. and Dockrill, M. L., The mirage of power: British foreign policy, 1914–1922 (3 vols., London, 1972), II, 225; Sixte, , L' Offre, p. 262.

12 Ribot, , Journal, p. 67.

13 Rothwell, V. H., British war aims and peace diplomacy, 1914–1918 (Oxford, 1971), pp. 66, 80.

14 ‘La mission secrète’, pp. 7, 11, 12, 20 (see note 10 above).

15 Ritter, , Sword, III, 377. See also Kann, R. A., Die Sixtusaffäre und die gehtimen Friedensverhandlungen Österreich-Ungams im ersten Weltkrieg (Vienna, 1966), pp. 31–6.

16 For a discussion of ‘paradiplomacy’, Hopwood, R. F., ‘Czernin and the fall of Bethmann Hollweg’, Canadian Journal of History, II, 2 (1967), 4961. See also Epstein, K., ‘The development of German–Austrian war aims in the spring of 1917’, Journal of Central European Affairs, XVII, 1 (1957), 2447.

17 Minutes on conferences of 16 and 26 Mar. 1917, S & G, II, docs. 20, 33. Ritter, , Sword, III, 386–97.

18 Hindenburg to Bethmann, 5 Apr. 1917, Bethmann to Hindenburg, 16 Apr. 1917, Bethmann to Grünau, 18 Apr. 1917, Grünau to Zimmerman, 20 Apr. 1917, S & G, II, docs. 49, 71, 76, 82.

19 Grünau to Bethmann, 24 Apr. 1917, ibid. doc. 87.

20 Grünau to Auswärtiges Amt, 13 May 1917, ibid. doc. 115.

21 Bethmann minute, 25 Apr. 1917, ibid. doc. 87. Bethmann written statement, 1 May 1917, Feldman, G. D. (ed.), German imperialism, 1914–1918: the development of a historical debate (New York, 1972), doc. 10.

22 Hopwood, , ‘Czernin’, pp. 51–3; Grünau to Bethmann (enclosing Karl letter and Czernin report), 14 Apr. 1917, S & G, II, doc. 68.

23 Bethmann to Wilhelm II, 4 May 1917, ibid. doc. 104.

24 Note by Bethmann and Czernin, 18 May 1917, ibid. doc. 123.

25 Epstein, K., Matthias Erzberger and the dilemma of German democracy (Princeton, 1959), pp. 173–4 and ch. VIII.

26 Text of the resolution in Feldman(ed), German imperialism, doc. 12.

27 Erzberger to Michaelis, 18 July 1917, S & G, II, doc. 169. Epstein, , Erzberger, pp. 203–4.

28 Ibid. p. 206.

29 Minutes of Austro-German conference of 1 Aug. 1917; Lersner to kühlmann, 15 Aug. 1917; Michaelis to Czernin, 17 Aug. 1917, S & G, II docs. 181, 207, 211.

30 B & K, II, doc. 948.

31 Wade, R. A., ‘Iraki Tsereteli and Siberian Zimmerwaldianism’, Journal of Modem History, XXXIX, 4 (1967), 425–31, and the same author's ‘Why October? The search for peace in 1917’, Soviet Studies, XX, 1 (1968), 3645.

32 Miliukov press interview, 23 Mar. 1917, B & K, II, doc. 908. Buchanan, G., My mission to Russia and other diplomatic memories (2 vols., London, 1923), II, 117–18.

33 Ibid. p. 116. Daily Chronicle interview with Kerensky, , 22 03 1917. B & K, 11, doc. 922.

34 Epstein, , Erzberger, pp. 166–78, for a general account. See also Erzberger to Zimmermann, 31 Mar. 1917; Erzberger to Langwerth, 21 Apr. 1917; Grünau to Zimmermann, 25 Apr. 1917; Zimmerman to Grünau, 26 Apr. 1917, S & G, II, docs. 40, 85, 88, 90.

35 Lersner to Zimmermann, 29 Apr. 1917; Leopold of Bavaria to Dragomirow, 12 May 1917, ibid. docs. 98, 114.

36 Fischer, F., Germany's aims in the First World War (London, 1967), p. 238.

37 Bethmann, to Hertling, , 26 01 1918, Feldman, (ed.), German imperialism, doc. 28.

38 Dallin, A. et al. , Russian diplomacy and Eastern Europe,1914–1917 (New York, 1963), ch. 1.

39 Komarnicki, T., Rebirth of the Polish Republic: a study in the diplomatic history of Europe, 1914–1920 (London, 1957), p. 156.

40 For the declaration (forwarded on 18 Apr.) and the British, French and Italian replies (26–27 Apr.), B & K, II, docs. 909, 964, 972–4.

41 Tereshchenko note of 13 June 1917; Tereshchenko to Bakhmetev, 28 July 1917, ibid. docs. 986, 989.

42 Sevastopoulo to Jules Cambon, 5 July 1917; Ribot to Noulens, 13 Aug. 1917; Noulens to Ribot, 17 Aug. 1917, AMAE A ‘Paix’ (164). Tereshchenko to Sevastopoulo, 24 Sept. 1917, FRUS 1917 Supplement II, II, i. pp. 506–7.

43 Generally on Stockholm see Kirby, D., ‘International socialism and the question of peace: the Stockholm conferenceof 1917Historical Journal, XXV, 3 (1982), 709–16; Meynell, H., ‘The Stockholm conference of 1917’, International Review ofSocial History, v (1960), 125, 202–25; Mayer, A. J., Political origins of the New Diplomacy, 1917–1918 (New Haven, 1959).

44 FRUS, The Lansing papers 1914–1920 (2 vols., Washington, 1940), II, 17. M. Fainsod, International socialism and the World War (repr., New York, 1973), pp. 113, 140.

45 War cabinet, 21 May 1917, CAB 23/2.

46 War cabinet, 8, 10 Aug. 1917, CAB 23/3. George, D. Lloyd, War memoirs (6 vols., London, 19331936), IV, 18811924.

47 Ribot, , Journal, p. 138.

48 Paléologue, M., La Russie des tsars pendant la Grande Guerre (3 vols., Paris, 19211922), III, 313–18. Ribot, A., Lettres à un ami: souvenirs de ma vie politique (Paris, 1924), pp. 234–5.

49 Minutes of Anglo-French conference, 28–9 May 1917, CAB 28/2.

50 Paul Cambon to de Fleuriau, 2 June 1917, Cambon, P., Correspondance, 1870–1924 (ed. Cambon, H.) (3 vols., Paris, 19401946), III, 171–2. Ribot, . Journal, p. 138. Poincaré, R., Au service de la France. Neuf années de souvenirs (10 vols., Paris, 19261933), IX, 149.

51 Printed in Bonnefous, G., La Grande Guerre (1914–1918) (2nd edn, Paris, 1967), p. 265.

52 Ribot speech, 6 June 1917. Appended to JO (Sénat), 1968, pp. 764–7.

53 Grünau to Bethmann, 3 July 1917; Zimmermann note, 24 July 1917, ibid. docs. 157, 175. Hollweg, T. von Bethmann, Betrachtungen zum Weltkriege (2 vols., Berlin, 1919), II, 210–14.

54 Text of the note in Scott, (ed.), War aims, pp. 129–31.

55 Michaelis to Grünau, 21 Aug. 1917; Kühlmann to Wedel, 27 Aug. 1917, ibid. docs. 216, 225.

56 See articles on the conversations in L' Opinion, XIII, 10, 24, 31 07 1920.

57 Undated report by Col. Goubet, , L' Opinion, XIII, 24 07 1920, p. 87.

58 CAEC:AC Hearings of Ribot and Painlevé, 30 Apr. 1918.

59 Kessler to Zimmermann, 14 Mar. and 17 Apr. 1917. S & G, II, docs. 18, 72. CF. Szeps, B., My life and history (London, 1938), pp. 177–92.

60 Kühlmann to Michaelis, 30 Aug. 1917, Kühlmann notes, 2 and 3 Sept. 1917, S & G, II, docs. 231. 233. 235.

61 War cabinet, 20 Aug. 1917, CAB 23/3. Balfour to de Salis, 21 Aug. 1917, with note by ‘C.H.S.’, 22 Aug. 1917, FO 371/3083. Ribot, , Journal, p. 188.

62 Pacelli to Michaelis, 30 Aug. 1917, S & G, II, doc. 230.

63 See generally Farrar, L. L. Jr, ‘Opening to the west: German efforts to conclude a separate peace with England, July 1917 – March 1918‘, Canadian Journal of History, X, 1 (1975), 7390. George, Lloyd, War memoirs, iv, 2083 ff.

64 Balfour, , ‘Peace negotiations’, 20 09 1917, ibid. pp. 2093–7. War cabinet, 24 Sept. 1917, Lowe, and Dockrill, , Mirage, III, doc. 121.

65 Wakenitz, O Freiherr von der Lancken, Meine dreissig Dienstjahre, 1888–1918 (Berlin, 1931), p. 258. Lancken to Zimmermann, 28 Apr. 1917, S & G, II, doc. 97.

66 Suarez, G., Briand: sa vie – son oeuvre (6 vols., Paris, 19381952), IV, 226–62. Lancken to Zimmermann, 4 July 1917, S & G, II, doc. 160.

67 Briand to Ribot, 20 Sept, 1917, Suarez, , Briand, IV, 272–4. Ribot circular telegram, 20 Sept. 1917, read by Ribot in JO (Chambre), Comité secret of 16 Oct. 1917, appended to JO (Chambre) 2 Apr. 1933, pp. 547–8.

68 Paul Cambon and Barrère to Ribot, 21 Sept. 1917; Ribot, , Journal, pp. 212–14. Jusserand to Ribot, 26 Sept. 1917, AMAE Jusserand MSS (48). Minute by Col. Helbronner on Boulogne conference, 25 Sept. 1917, Pedroncini, G., Les Négotiations secrètes pendant la Grande Guerre (Paris, 1969), p. 114.

69 War cabinet, 27 Sept. 1917, Lowe and Dockrill, Mirage, III, doc. 122.

70 Ribot, , Journal, p. 95, and see above, note 52.

71 This was the proposal in the Armand-Revertera conversation of 22 Aug. 1917.

72 Minutes of Prussian crown council, 4 Sept.: 1917; Ludendorff memorandum, 14 Sept. 1917; Kühlmann memorandum, 3 Sept. 1917, S & G, II, docs. 236, 251, 235.

73 Kühlmann in Reichstag, Scott, (ed.), War aims, p. 159. Ribot, in Chamber of Deputies, 12 Oct. 1917, JO (Chambre), 1917, pp. 2695–7. Lloyd George statement, II Oct. 1917, Scott, (ed.), War aims, p. 161.

74 George, Lloyd, War memoirs, IV, 2100–1.

75 Kühlmann memorandum, 8 Sept. 1917, in Michaelis, W., ‘Der Reichskanzler Michaelis und die päpstliche Friedensaktion von 1917: Neue Dokumente’, Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unlerricht, XII, 7 (1961), pp. 418–34, doc. 2.

76 Louis, W. R., Great Britain and Germany's lost colonies, 1914–1919 (Oxford, 1967), esp. ch. III.

77 Rothwell, , War aims, pp. 32, 51–2, 262.

78 Ritter, , Sword, IV, 52–4.

79 Ludendorff memorandum, 14 Sept. 1917, S & G, II, doc. 251.

80 For Wilhelm, , Michaelis, , ‘Neue Dokumente’, doc. 3; and the same author's Der Reichskanzler Michaelis und die päpstliche Friedensaktion’, Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, VII, 1 (1956), p. 19.

81 Michaelis to Hindenburg, 12 Sept. 1917, S & G, II, doc. 247.

82 Hindenburg to Michaelis, 15 Sept. 1917, ibid. doc. 251.

83 See note 74 above.

84 Suarez, , Briand, IV, 270–1. Ribot, testimony in CAES, 14 11 1917.

85 Kühlmann note for Lancken's conversation, 20 Sept. 1917; Kühlmann memorandum, 3 Sept. 1917: Rosen to Michaelis, 7 Aug. 1917, S & G, 11, docs. 259, 235, 189.

86 Balfour to Bertie, 2 July 1917, F.O. 371/2937; Paul Cambon to Ribot, 10 07 1917, AMAE Pichon MSS (4).

87 Poincaré, , Au service, IX, 208. Bertie to Lloyd George, 24 Sept. 1917, F.O. 800/169.

88 War cabinet, 24 and 27 Sept. 1917, Lowe and Dockrill, Mirage, III, docs. 121 and 122. Woodward, D. R., ‘David Lloyd George, a negotiated peace with Germany, and the Kühlmann peace kite of September 1917’, Canadian Journal of History, VI, 1 (1971), 7593.

89 Burk, K., ‘Great Britain in the United States, 1917–1918:the turning point’, International History Review, I, 2 (1979), 233.

90 Kaspi, A., Le temps des ameŕicains: le concours américain à la France en 1917–1918 (Paris, 1976), p. 75.Fowler, W. B., British-American relations, 1917–1918: the role of Sir William Wiseman (Princeton, 1969). P. 37.

91 Michaelis to Czernin, 17 Aug. 1917; Ludendorff memorandum, 14 Sept. 1917, S & G, II, Docs. 211, 251.

92 George, Lloyd, War memoirs, iv, 2104; Ribot, to Jusserand, , 30 09 1917, AMAE Jusserand MSS (32).

93 Fowler, , Wiseman, pp. 43–4.

94 Martin, L. W., Peace without victory: Woodrow Wilson end the British Liberals (New Haven, 1958), p. 141. My emphasis.

95 Wilson to Benedict, XV, 17 Aug. 1917, Scott, (ed.), War aims, pp. 133–5.

96 Fischer, , Aims, p. 414. Clemenceau in chamber of deputies, 8 Mar. 1918, JO (Chambre), 1918, P. 857.

97 Kissinger, H. A., A world restored: Metternich, Castlereagh, and the problem of peace, 1812–1812 (London, 1957), p. 2.

98 George, Lloyd, War memoirs, IV, 2107–9.

99 Speech at Baltimore, 6 Apr. 1918, Scott, (ed.), War aims, pp. 309–12.

* I should like to thank Karen Partridge for typing this article.

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