A New Europe
All the old pre-war maps of Europe now became as "scraps of paper." By the terms of the Peace Treaty old boundaries disappeared, and new countries with strange names sprang into being; familiar landmarks were swallowed up; some provinces grew to double their former size; others shrank to a shadow of their former selves. Nothing but a close study of Europe in 1914 and Europe in 1919 can clear away the chaotic conditions which existed then, and indeed still exist to-day.
Kings and Emperors were in exile. Germany was a Republic; her ally, Austria-Hungary, was independent, both of one another and of those to whom they owed their ruin; Turkey in Europe practically existed no longer; Bulgaria's King Ferdinand had left his son, Boris, a shrunken kingdom, a reduced army, and a great war indemnity.
Such were the defeated nations. The Allies fared better. France had enlarged her boundaries by the return of her two lost provinces, Alsace and Lorraine, from Germany. What these meant to France, the whole world knew on that day, toward the end of November, when triumphant troops entered Strassburg, led by Marshal Foch. "The day of glory has arrived," he proclaimed to enthusiastic crowds. "After forty-eight years of separation, after fifty-one months of war, the sons of Great France, our brothers, are united once more. France comes to you as a mother to her dearest child, lost and found again. Vive la France! Vive l'armee! Vive la République!"
All through the long years when the provinces had been held by Germany, the Strassburg statue in Paris had been swathed in crape; this was now replaced by masses of flowers. The Allies were in possession, too, of the right bank of Germany's boundary—the Rhine. Belgians were in control of the northern section to Dusseldorf; British troops occupied the bridge-heads of Cologne and Bonn; the Americans were at Coblenz; and the southern part from Mainz to Basle was under France. Of Germany's eastern possessions, large slices went to Poland, including most of Posen and the corridor to the sea; East Prussia and Bohemia changed hands, and millions of Germans were transferred to alien rule. On her borders rose the new State of Czecho-Slovakia, with Prague as its capital. Austria had become the weakest of all the States of Central Europe, for large slices of her had already been annexed by the other large new State of the Jugo-Slavs—the greater Serbia of old King Peter's dreams, including Bosnia and Herzegovina and the once famous lands of King Nicholas's Montenegro. Rumania had been compensated for her sufferings on behalf of the Allies by great additions of territory, and, with Queen Marie, King Ferdinand at last returned to Bucharest to build the ruins of their fallen country.
Greece remained a kingdom for a few years after the Peace, but after the final abdication and death in exile of King Constantine, a Republic was established.
Thus, freed from the domination of Russia and Germany, the Balkan States, with their history as old as Europe itself, were at last free to work out their own destinies.
Russia had no part in the Peace Treaty—she yet remained in the iron grip of Bolshevism. Thus was the face of Europe changed. "France was supreme on land and Great Britain on the seas." Familiar landmarks had been swept away. What would the future bring? The whole world yearned for peace. Would the League of Nations safeguard nations against future war?
President Wilson had sailed back to America as soon as the Peace Treaty was signed in Paris, only to discover that the idea of the League of Nations to which he had pinned his faith was not acceptable to his fellow-countrymen. The strain of the last months now made itself felt. Wilson was already a stricken man. He had failed, not because his ideals were not lofty and sincere, but because he had compromised those ideals. Now he could do no more. Sick in body, sick in mind, lonely and disappointed, he died in 1924. But the League, for which he had fought so hard, did not die. It stands for Universal Peace among the nations. The Hague Conference, too, stood for Universal Peace and the disarmament of nations. It belonged to an old world ruled by Romanoffs, Hohenzollerns, and Hapsburgs, who had made possible a World at War.
"Never again!" was the cry in every country of the men who had fought, the young manhood of the old world. Of these it had been said before the war broke out, that they were not as their fathers had been. They were seekers after money and luxury, even as were the sons of Hussein at Constantinople. The lofty ideals of past ages were gone. "The wheels of life were skidding on the greasy ways of wealth and ease."
War proved this untrue. The call came—a call demanding courage and endurance, for exposure, discomfort and weariness, for days and nights of cold and wet and misery—always in the presence of death, and gladly the youth of the world rose up and obeyed the call. The world had never seen the like before.
The spirit which inspired the war "when down the ancient highways your fathers passed to fight," must be applied to the attainment of peace.
A Peace Treaty—material and hard—changed the face of Europe. The League of Nations—part of that Treaty—was charged with a mission to end war.
"Never again!" was the resolute cry of those who fought in the Great War. But only a loftier conception of peace can make this possible. It's still a "long long way to Tipperary," the El Dorado of all our hopes, but the road thither has been made possible by a wondrous comradeship born in the War. Slowly, but surely, it was inspired by the great cause which united every fighting unit, by the spirit of sacrifice which bound them together.
This spirit of glad and happy comradeship of those "who went with songs to the battle" has survived the War. It is this very sacrament of brotherhood that must make the new peace.