Saturday, October 20, 2018

Today -100: October 20, 1918: We have done so much to bring about peace that we have finally made ourselves a laughing stock

NY Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alfred E. Smith claims that his campaign rallies are being banned by Republican local authorities upstate (in Syracuse and Hornell, for example) on spurious health grounds, justifying “suspicion that they want to prevent the spread of Democratic doctrine rather than the spread of Spanish influenza.” Gov. Charles Whitman pooh-poohs this, saying some of his meetings have been canceled as well.

Hungary’s former prime minister (1903-5, 1913-17), Count István Tisza, tells the Hungarian Parliament that it is no longer possible to win the war. Opposition leader Count Mihály Károlyi agrees, and blames Austrian leaders for starting the war in the first place. Current PM Sándor Wekerle rejects this, saying “We have done so much to bring about peace that we have finally made ourselves a laughing stock.”

Woodrow Wilson finally responds to Austria’s call (on the 7th) for an armistice and peace talks. That would be a no. He tells it that the proposed “autonomy” for the Czechs, Yugoslavs, Poles etc within a continuing Austro-Hungarian Empire simply isn’t good enough. Indeed, he recognizes the Czech government-in-exile as a belligerent against the A-H Empire and has decided that the Czech g-in-e has “the proper authority to direct the military and political affairs of the Czechoslovaks.” From whence this proper authority is derived, Wilson does not say. He says that the Czechoslovaks and Jugo-slavs shall be the proper judges of what actions “will satisfy their aspirations and their conception of their rights and destiny as members of the family of nations.” From the standpoint of 2018, it is clear that Wilson is redrawing the map of Europe on the basis of imagined communities of “Czechoslovak” and “Yugoslav” peoples, communities which no one today still imagines; the nation-states based on them proved to have no more natural a foundation than the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Wilson’s note only specifically mentions Czechs & Yugs, but Secretary of State Lansing reassures all the other oppressed nationalities in Austro-Hungary that he means them too.

NYC Health Commissioner (and homeopathist) Royal Copeland says the “crest of the wave” of the Spanish Flu will break on Thursday (the 24th). So that’s okay then. It has been made a misdemeanor to sneeze or cough without covering it. A Penn. State football game is called off after the State Board of Health threatens to arrest all the players if it goes ahead.

Headline of the Day -100: 

Now on the bookshelves: Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons. The NYT Sunday Book Review likes it, except for the ending.

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1 comment:

  1. I think your viewpoint about Wilson redrawing the maps based on semi-fictional groups of people is correct - but interestingly it is still taught in Highschool history textbooks that Wilson's thinking was as noble and wise and just plain splendid as it can get. Fascinating stuff.