Monday, March 04, 2019

Today -100: March 4, 1919: A most fatal error for any people

British Prime Minister Lloyd George warns small nations (he doesn’t specify which small nations, but he has to have at least Belgium and Yugoslavia in mind) not to emulate the faults of large empires by annexing lands not their own: “This is a most fatal error for any people, great or small.”

Ignoring that advice, of course, is France. The current version of the Peace Conference’s map of the proposed French-German border is interesting. France will re-annex Alsace-Lorraine without the complication of asking its inhabitants their wishes. The Rhineland and the northern Saar region of Germany, important for coal and steel and, consequently, for providing raw material for the German military machine, are inconveniently too German in population for France to get away with annexing them, so it’s been suggested that they be made sort of neutral – “sterilized” is the word they’re using – with France taking their coal and steel while the inhabitants would be neither French nor German and would be represented in neither parliament but would also not be conscripted into either army.

37 Republican senators from the incoming Senate sign a resolution against the US joining the League of Nations unless certain changes are made. Signers include Henry Cabot Lodge, William Borah, Warren Harding, Hiram Johnson, and Reed Smoot. They didn’t ask Democratic senators to sign and indeed actively refused one or two who wanted to, so this is clearly more about the 1920 elections than the League. They also want a peace treaty signed before there is any consideration of the League. Considering the widespread belief that the continuance of the wartime blockade of Germany is starving that country into Bolshevism, this doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable.

British Secretary of War Winston Churchill asks Parliament to maintain an army of 2.5 million, since they might wind up having to occupy Germany if it doesn’t agree to the terms handed it.

The Supreme Court upholds (in Schenck v. United States) the convictions of socialists Charles Schenck and Elizabeth Baer under the Espionage Act for calling for resistance to conscription. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes writes that during wartime things that people might be permitted to speak “are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and no court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.” The NYT misses the famous line in the ruling that “the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre... The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger”.

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1 comment:

  1. My God that was a bad decision and yet all anyone ever does concerning that is to quote the fire in the theater line approvingly.