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Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him
Chapter XXXVIII - Japan--Shantung
by Tumulty, Joseph P.

One of the settlements embodied in the Versailles Treaty upon which the enemies of the President in this country concentrated their fires of wrath and hatred against the President was the so-called Shantung settlement. The partisan enemies of the President, realizing the irreconcilable antagonism of certain of our people to the Japanese, did everything they could to intensify this antagonism, picturing the President as one who had conceded something to Japan at the expense of helpless China.

Not love of China, but hatred of Woodrow Wilson led partisan Republicans, without careful investigation of the actual situation, to seize on the Shantung affair as an opportunity to embarrass the President. The ignorances and prejudices of many of our people on the subject of China played into the hands of those Republicans, whose main object was to injure the President and defeat the Treaty. Very few sought to understand the settlement or to ascertain the facts that formed the historic background of it.

These facts were clearly set forth by the President himself in a speech delivered at Los Angeles, California, on September 20, 1919. The President said:
Let me recall some circumstances which probably most of you have forgotten. I have to go back to the year 1898, for it was in March of that year that these cessions which formerly belonged to Germany were transferred to her by the Government of China. What had happened was that two German missionaries in China had been murdered. The Central Government at Peking had done everything that was in its power to do to quiet the local disturbances, to allay the local prejudice against foreigners which led to the murders, but had been unable to do so, and the German Government held them responsible, nevertheless, for the murder of the missionaries. It was not the missionaries that the German Government was interested in. That was a pretext. Germany insisted that, because this thing had happened for which the Peking Government could not really with justice be held responsible, a very large and important part of one of the richest provinces of China should be ceded to her for sovereign control, for a period of 99 years, that she should have the right to penetrate the interior of that province with a railway, and that she should have the right to exploit any ores that lay within 30 miles either side of that railway. She forced the Peking Government to say that they did it in gratitude to the German Government for certain services which she was supposed to have rendered but never did render. That was the beginning. I do not know whether any of the gentlemen who are criticizing the present Shantung settlement were in public affairs at that time or not, but I will tell you what happened, so far as this Government was concerned.

One of the most enlightened and humane presidents we have ever had was at the head of the Government--William McKinley, a man who loved his fellow men and believed in justice--and associated with him was one of our ablest secretaries of state--Mr. John Hay. The state of international law was such then that they did not feel at liberty to make even a protest against these concessions to Germany. Neither did they make any protest when, immediately following that, similar concessions were made to Russia, to Great Britain, and to France. It was almost immediately after that that China granted to Russia the right of the possession and control of Port Arthur and a portion of the region of Talienwan. Then England, not wishing to be outdone, although she had similar rights elsewhere in China, insisted upon a similar concession and got Weihaiwei. Then France insisted that she must have a port, and got it for 99 years. Not against one of those did the Government of the United States make any protest whatever. They only insisted that the door should not be shut in any of these regions against the trade of the United States. You have heard of Mr. Hay's policy of the open door. That was his policy of the open door-- not the open door to the rights of China, but the open door to the goods of America. I want you to understand, my fellow countrymen, I am not criticizing this because, until we adopt the Covenant of the League of Nations, it is an unfriendly act for any government to interfere in the affairs of any other unless its own interests are immediately concerned. The only thing Mr. McKinley and Mr. Hay were at liberty to do was to call attention to the fact that the trade of the United States might be unfavourably affected and insist that in no circumstances it should be. They got from all of these powers the promise that it should not be a promise which was more or less kept. Following that came the war between Russia and Japan, and at the close of that war Japan got Port Arthur and all the rights which Russia enjoyed in China, just as she is now getting Shantung and the rights her recently defeated enemy had in China--an exactly similar operation. That peace that gave her Port Arthur was concluded, as you know, on the territory of the United States--at Portsmouth, N.H. Nobody dreamed of protesting against that. Japan had beaten Russia. Port Arthur did not at that time belong to China; it belonged for the period of the lease to Russia, and Japan was ceded what Japan had taken by the well-recognized processes of war.

Very well, at the opening of this war, Japan went and took Kiauchow and supplanted Germany in Shantung Province. The whole process is repeated, but repeated with a new sanction. In the meantime, after this present war began, England and France, not at the same time, but successively, feeling that it was essential that they should have the assistance of Japan on the Pacific, agreed that if Japan would go into this war and take whatever Germany had in the Pacific she should retain everything north of the equator which had belonged to Germany. That treaty now stands. That treaty absolutely binds Great Britain and France. Great Britain and France can not in honour, having offered Japan this inducement to enter the war and continue her operations, consent to an elimination of the Shantung provision from the present treaty. Very well, let us put these gentlemen who are objecting to the Shantung settlement to the test. Are they ready to fight Great Britain and France and Japan, who will have to stand together, in order to get this province back for China? I know they are not, and their interest in China is not the interest of assisting China, but of defeating the Treaty. They know beforehand that a modification of the Treaty in that respect cannot be obtained, and they are insisting upon what they know is impossible; but if they ratify the Treaty and accept the Covenant of the League of Nations they do put themselves in a position to assist China. They put themselves in that position for the very first time in the history of international engagements. They change the whole faith of international affairs, because after you have read the much-debated Article 10 of the Covenant, I advise you to read Article 11. Article 11 says that it shall be the friendly right of any member of the League to call attention at any time to anything, anywhere, that threatens to disturb the peace of the world or the good understanding between nations upon which the peace of the world depends. That in itself constitutes a revolution in international relationships. Anything that affects the peace of any part of the world is the business of every nation. It does not have simply to insist that its trade shall not be interfered with; it has the right to insist that the rights of mankind shall not be interfered with. Not only that, but back of this provision with regard to Shantung lies, as everybody knows or ought to know, a very honourable promise which was made by the Government of Japan in my presence in Paris, namely, that just as soon as possible after the ratification of this treaty they will return to China all sovereign rights in the Province of Shantung. Great Britain has not promised to return Weihaiwei; France has not promised to return her part. Japan has promised to relinquish all the sovereign rights which were acquired by Germany for the remaining 78 of the 99 years of the lease, and to retain only what other governments have in many other parts of China, namely, the right to build and operate the railway under a corporation and to exploit the mines in the immediate neighbourhood of that railway. In other words, she retains only the rights of economic concessionaries. Personally, I am frank to say that I think all of these nations have invaded some of the essential rights of China by going too far in the concessions which they have demanded, but that is an old story now, and we are beginning a new story. In the new story we all have the right to balk about what they have been doing and to convince them, by the pressure of the public opinion of the world, that a different course of action would be just and right. I am for helping China and not turning away from the only way in which I can help her. Those are the facts about Shantung.
Of all the important decisions of the Peace Conference, none worried the President so much as that relating to the Shantung settlement, and in a speech at Des Moines, on September 6, 1919, he expressed his dissatisfaction in the following words:
There is the settlement, which you have heard so much discussed, about that rich and ancient province of Shantung in China. I do not like that settlement any better than you do, but these were the circumstances: In order to induce Japan to cooperate in the war and clear the Pacific of the German power, England, and subsequently France, bound themselves without any qualifications to see to it that Japan got anything in China that Germany had and that Japan would take it away from her, upon the strength of which promise Japan proceeded to take away Kiauchow and occupy the portions of Shantung Province which had been ceded by China for a term of years to Germany. The most that could be got out of it was that in view of the fact that America had nothing to do with it, the Japanese were ready to promise that they would give up every item of sovereignty which Germany would otherwise have enjoyed in Shantung Province and return it without restriction to China, and that they would retain in the province only the economic concessions such as other nations already had elsewhere in China--though you do not hear anything about that--concessions in the railway and the mines which had become attached to the railway for operative purposes. But suppose that you say that is not enough. Very well, then, stay out of the Treaty, and how will that accomplish anything? England and France are bound and cannot escape their obligation. Are you going to institute a war against Japan and France and England to get Shantung back for China? That is an operation which does not commend itself to the present generation.
Mr. Ray Stannard Baker, in his book "What Wilson Did in Paris," says:
Of all the important decisions at the Peace Conference none worried the President so much as that relating to the disposition of the Shantung peninsula--and none, finally, satisfied him less. Not one of the problems he had to meet at Paris, serious as they all were, did he take more personally to heart than this. He told me on one occasion that he had been unable to sleep on the previous night for thinking of it.

Those last days before the Treaty was finished were among the hardest of the entire Conference. As I have said before, the most difficult and dangerous problems had inevitably been left to the last, and had all to be finally settled in those crowded days of late April.

Consider, for a moment, the exact situation at Paris on April 29th, when the Japanese-Chinese crises reached the explosive point.

It was on that very day that the German delegates were coming morosely into Versailles, ready for a treaty that was not yet finished. The Three--for Orlando had then withdrawn from the Conference--had been gradually lengthening their sessions, the discussions were longer and more acrimonious. They were tired out. Only six days before, on April 23rd, the High Council had been hopelessly deadlocked on the Italian question. The President had issued his bold message to the world regarding the disposition of Fiume and the Italian delegation departed from Paris with the expectation that their withdrawal would either force the hands of the Conference, or break it up.

While this crisis was at its height the Belgian delegation, which had long been restive over the non-settlement of Belgian claims for reparations, became insistent. They had no place in the Supreme Council and they were worried lest the French and British--neither of whom could begin to get enough money out of Germany to pay for its losses--would take the lion's share and leave Belgium unrestored. The little nations were always worried at Paris lest the big ones take everything and leave them nothing! Very little appeared in the news at the time concerning the Belgian demands, but they reached practically an ultimatum: if Belgium were not satisfied she also would withdraw from the Conference and refuse to sign the Treaty.

It was at this critical moment that the Chinese-Japanese question had to be settled. It had to be settled because the disposition of German rights in China (unlike Italian claims in the Adriatic) had to go into the German Treaty before it was presented to Brockdorff Rantzau and his delegates at Versailles; and because the Japanese would not sign the Treaty unless it was settled. The defection of Japan, added to that of Italy and the possible withdrawal of Belgium, would have made the situation desperate.

The two principal things that Japan wanted at the Peace Conference were: first, a recognition in the Covenant of the League of Nations of the "equality of the nations and the just treatment of their nationals"; and, second, the recognition of certain rights over the former German concessions in China (Shantung.)

After a struggle lasting all through the Conference, Japan had finally lost out, in the meeting of the League of Nations Commission on April 11th, in her first great contention. She was refused the recognition of racial or even national equality which she demanded although a majority of the nations represented on the League of Nations Commission agreed with her that her desire for such recognition was just and should find a place in the Covenant....

Few people realize how sharply the Japanese felt this hurt to their pride: and few people realize the meaning of this struggle, as a forerunner of one of the great coming struggles of civilization--the race struggle....

Having lost out in their first great contention the Japanese came to the settlement of their second demand with a feeling of irritation but with added determination. The Japanese delegates were the least expressive of any at the Conference: they said the least: but they were the firmest of any in hewing to the line of their interests and their agreements. It must not be forgotten also, in all fairness, that the Japanese delegates, not less than the British, French, and American, had their own domestic political problems, and opposition, and that there was a powerful demand in Japan that, while all the other nations were securing some return for their losses and sacrifices in the war, Japan should also get some return.

At the same time Japan was in a stronger position than any other of the Allied and Associated Powers except the United States. She had been little hurt, and much strengthened by the war. She was far distant from danger; she did not need the League of Nations as much as did the countries of Europe; and, more than anything else, she occupied a strong legal status, for her claims were supported by treaties both with China and the Allies; and she was, moreover, in a position, if she were rendered desperate, to take by force what she considered to be her rights if the Allies refused to accord them.

At a dark moment of the war, the spring of 1917, the British and French, in order to sharpen Japanese support of the allied cause, made private agreements to sustain the claims of Japan at the Peace Conference to German rights in Shantung. It thus happened, in the Council of Three, for Orlando had then gone home, that two of the powers, Great Britain and France, were bound by their pledged word to Japan. Indeed, the British argued that they felt themselves indebted to the Japanese not only as a long-friendly ally but for helping to keep the Pacific free of the enemy while Australian troops were being transported to Europe and thus relieving a great burden for the British fleet. It must not be forgotten that China was also bound by the Treaty and Notes of 1915 and the Notes of 1918 with Japan-- although China vigorously asserted that all of these agreements were entered into upon her part under coercion by Japan. In fact, one of the Chinese delegates at Paris had actually signed one of the agreements which he was now asking the Conference to overthrow.

It was not only this wire entanglement of treaties which Mr. Wilson found in his advance, but it must be said, in all frankness, that, in opposing Japan's demands for economic privileges and a "sphere of influence" in China, he was also opposing a principle which every other strong nation at the Conference believed in and acted upon, if not in China, then elsewhere in the world. Japan asserted that she was only asking for the rights already conceded to other nations. Japan was thus in a very strong position in insisting upon her claims, and China in a very weak position.

In this crisis Mr. Wilson was face to face with difficult alternatives. If he stood stiffly for immediate justice to China, he would have to force Great Britain and France to break their pledged word with Japan. Even if he succeeded in doing this, he still would have had to face the probability, practically the certainty, that Japan would withdraw from the Conference and go home. This would not only keep Japan out of the League, but it would go far toward eventually disrupting the Peace Conference, already shaken by the withdrawal of Italy and the dangerous defection of Belgium. Such a weakening of the Peace Conference and of the Alliance of the Great Powers would have the immediate effect of encouraging the Germans not to sign the Treaty and of holding off in the hope that the forces of industrial unrest then spreading all over Europe might overwhelm France or Italy. It would also have a highly irritating effect upon all the bolshevist elements in Europe--increasing uncertainty, and the spread of anarchical conditions. With Japan out of the association of western nations there was also the possibility, voiced just at this time in both French and British newspapers, that she would begin building up alliances of her own in the East--possibly with Germany and Russia. Indeed, if the truth were told, this was probably the most important consideration of all in shaping the final decision. It was the plain issue between the recrudescence, in a new and more dangerous form, of the old system of military alliances and balances of power, and the new system of world organization in a league of nations. It was the militaristic Prussian idea against the American Wilsonian idea.

No statesman probably ever had a more difficult problem presented to him than did Mr. Wilson upon the momentous 29th of April, 1919. At that moment three things seemed of extreme importance if anything was to be saved out of the wreckage of the world. The first was a speedy peace, so that men everywhere might return to the work of production and reconstruction and the avenues of trade everywhere be opened. Peace and work! The second was of supreme importance--keeping the great Allies firmly welded together to steady a world which was threatened with anarchy. It was absolutely necessary to keep a going concern in the world! The third was to perpetuate this world organization in a league of nations: this the most important of all, for it had reference to the avalanche of new problems which were just ahead.

If the Conference were broken up, or even if Italy remained out, and Japan went out, these things would be impossible. On the other hand, if the Allies could be kept firmly together, peace established, and a league of nations brought into being, there was a chance of going forward with world reconstruction on the broadest lines, and of the full realization of the principles of justice laid down in the Armistice terms and accepted by all nations. The Treaty, after all, is no final settlement; it is only one step in the great process of world reconstruction.

It was with all these considerations in view that the Shantung settlement was made by the Council of Three sitting in the President's house in the Place des États-Unis--with the Japanese in full agreement.

This settlement was in two parts, the first set forth in the Treaty itself, and the second a special agreement of the three Great Powers with Japan. I find that this fact is not clear to many people, who look for the entire settlement in the Treaty itself.

Under sections 156, 157, and 158 of the Treaty all the rights at Kiauchow and in Shantung Province formerly belonging to Germany are transferred without reservation to Japan. This conforms broadly with the various treaties, and gives a proud nation what it considered its full rights.

On the other hand, the Japanese delegates at the Conference, on behalf of their government, made a voluntary agreement "to hand back the Shantung peninsula in full sovereignty to China, retaining only the economic privileges granted to Germany and the right to establish a settlement under the usual conditions at Tsingtao."

Under this agreement, by which Japan makes an unqualified recession of the sovereign rights in Shantung to China, she also agrees to remove all Japanese troops remaining on the peninsula "at the earliest possible time."

Japan thus gets only such rights as an economic concessionaire as are already possessed by one or two great powers and the whole future relationship between the two countries falls at once under the guarantee of the League of Nations, by the provisions of which the territorial integrity and political independence of China will be insured.

If the President had risked everything in standing for the immediate and complete realization of the Chinese demands, and had broken up the Conference upon that issue, it would not have put Japan either politically or economically out of China. Neither our people nor the British would go to war with Japan solely to keep her out of Shantung. The only hope of China in the future--and Wilson looks not only to the removal of the sphere of influence which Japan controls but to the removal of all other spheres of foreign influence in China--is through a firm world organization, a league of nations in which these problems can be brought up for peaceful settlement.... "The settlement, of course, was a compromise: a balance of considerations. It was the problem of the President, all through the Conference, when to 'accommodate' and when to use decided policies. 'The wisdom of the statesman,' said Cavour (quoted by Thayer in his admirable 'Life'), 'consists in discerning when the time has come for the one or the other.'"

"The Shantung decision is about as good a settlement as could be had out of a dirty past."
Even I felt bitterly critical of what seemed to me to be the President's surrender to Japan in the matter of Shantung. But when he returned and told me the whole story and explained the complicated and delicate world situation which confronted him, I agreed with him that he had obtained out of a bad mess the best possible settlement.

In addition to the various cabled messages which passed between the President and myself, which will be found in Appendix "C," was the following:
Received at The White House, Washington,
April 30, 1919.

TUMULTY, White House,

The Japanese-Chinese matter has been settled in a way which seems to me as satisfactory as could be got out of the tangle of treaties in which China herself was involved, and it is important that the exact facts should be known. I therefore send you the following for public use at such time as the matter may come under public discussion. In the Treaty all the rights at Kiao-Chau and in Shantung Province belonging to Germany are to be transferred without opposition to Japan, but Japan voluntarily engages, in answer to the questions put in Conference, that it will be her immediate policy to Quote hand back the surveyed peninsula in full sovereignty to China, retaining only the economic privileges granted to Germany and the right to establish a settlement under the usual conditions at Tsingtau. Owners of the railway will use special police only to insure security for traffic. They will be used for no other purpose. The police force will be composed of Chinese and such Japanese instructors as the directors of the railway may select will be appointed by the Chinese government End quote.

It was understood in addition that inasmuch as the sovereign rights receded to China were to be unqualified, all Japanese troops remaining on the peninsula should be withdrawn at the earliest possible time. Japan thus gets only such rights as an economic concessionaire as are possessed by one or two other great powers and are only too common in China, and the future relationship between the two countries falls at once under the guarantee of the League of Nations of territorial integrity and political independence. I find a general disposition to look with favour upon the proposal that at an early date throughout the mediation of the League of Nations all extraordinary foreign rights in China and all spheres of influence should be abrogated by the common consent of all the nations concerned. I regard the assurances given by Japan as very satisfactory in view of the complicated circumstances. Please do not give out any of the above as a quotation from me, but use it in some other form for public information at the right time.



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