II. The Conference and the Terms of the Treaty
I do not believe that, at the date of the Armistice, responsible authorities in the Allied countries expected any indemnity from Germany beyond the cost of reparation for the direct material damage which had resulted from the invasion of Allied territory and from the submarine campaign. At that time there were serious doubts as to whether Germany intended to accept our terms, which in other respects were inevitably very severe, and it would have been thought an unstatesmanlike act to risk a continuance of the war by demanding a money payment which Allied opinion was not then anticipating and which probably could not be secured in any case. The French, I think, never quite accepted this point of view; but it was certainly the British attitude; and in this atmosphere the pre-Armistice conditions were framed.
A month later the atmosphere had changed completely. We had discovered how hopeless the German position really was, a discovery which some, though not all, had anticipated, but which no one had dared reckon on as a certainty. It was evident that we could have secured unconditional surrender if we had determined to get it.
But there was another new factor in the situation which was of greater local importance. The British Prime Minister had perceived that the conclusion of hostilities might soon bring with it the break-up of the political bloc upon which he was depending for his personal ascendency, and that the domestic difficulties which would be attendant on demobilization, the turn-over of industry from war to peace conditions, the financial situation, and the general psychological reactions of men's minds, would provide his enemies with powerful weapons, if he were to leave them time to mature. The best chance, therefore, of consolidating his power, which was personal and exercised, as such, independently of party or principle, to an extent unusual in British politics, evidently lay in active hostilities before the prestige of victory had abated, and in an attempt to found on the emotions of the moment a new basis of power which might outlast the inevitable reactions of the near future. Within a brief period, therefore, after the Armistice, the popular victor, at the height of his influence and his authority, decreed a General Election. It was widely recognized at the time as an act of political immorality. There were no grounds of public interest which did not call for a short delay until the issues of the new age had a little defined themselves and until the country had something more specific before it on which to declare its mind and to instruct its new representatives. But the claims of private ambition determined otherwise.
For a time all went well. But before the campaign was far advanced Government candidates were finding themselves handicapped by the lack of an effective cry. The War Cabinet was demanding a further lease of authority on the ground of having won the war. But partly because the new issues had not yet defined themselves, partly out of regard for the delicate balance of a Coalition Party, the Prime Minister's future policy was the subject of silence or generalities. The campaign seemed, therefore, to fall a little flat. In the light of subsequent events it seems improbable that the Coalition Party was ever in real danger. But party managers are easily "rattled." The Prime Minister's more neurotic advisers told him that he was not safe from dangerous surprises, and the Prime Minister lent an ear to them. The party managers demanded more "ginger." The Prime Minister looked about for some.
On the assumption that the return of the Prime Minister to power was the primary consideration, the rest followed naturally. At that juncture there was a clamor from certain quarters that the Government had given by no means sufficiently clear undertakings that they were not going "to let the Hun off." Mr. Hughes was evoking a good deal of attention by his demands for a very large indemnity, and Lord Northcliffe was lending his powerful aid to the same cause. This pointed the Prime Minister to a stone for two birds. By himself adopting the policy of Mr. Hughes and Lord Northcliffe, he could at the same time silence those powerful critics and provide his party managers with an effective platform cry to drown the increasing voices of criticism from other quarters.
The progress of the General Election of 1918 affords a sad, dramatic history of the essential weakness of one who draws his chief inspiration not from his own true impulses, but from the grosser effiuxions of the atmosphere which momentarily surrounds him. The Prime Minister's natural instincts, as they so often are, were right and reasonable. He himself did not believe in hanging the Kaiser or in the wisdom or the possibility of a great indemnity. On the 22nd of November he and Mr. Bonar Law issued their Election Manifesto. It contains no allusion of any kind either to the one or to the other but, speaking, rather, of Disarmament and the League of Nations, concludes that "our first task must be to conclude a just and lasting peace, and so to establish the foundations of a new Europe that occasion for further wars may be for ever averted." In his speech at Wolverhampton on the eve of the Dissolution (November 24), there is no word of Reparation or Indemnity. On the following day at Glasgow, Mr. Bonar Law would promise nothing. "We are going to the Conference," he said, "as one of a number of allies, and you cannot expect a member of the Government, whatever he may think, to state in public before he goes into that Conference, what line he is going to take in regard to any particular question." But a few days later at Newcastle (November 29) the Prime Minister was warming to his work: "When Germany defeated France she made France pay. That is the principle which she herself has established. There is absolutely no doubt about the principle, and that is the principle we should proceed upon—that Germany must pay the costs of the war up to the limit of her capacity to do so." But he accompanied this statement of principle with many "words of warning" as to the practical difficulties of the case: "We have appointed a strong Committee of experts, representing every shade of opinion, to consider this question very carefully and to advise us. There is no doubt as to the justice of the demand. She ought to pay, she must pay as far as she can, but we are not going to allow her to pay in such a way as to wreck our industries." At this stage the Prime Minister sought to indicate that he intended great severity, without raising excessive hopes of actually getting the money, or committing himself to a particular line of action at the Conference. It was rumored that a high city authority had committed himself to the opinion that Germany could certainly pay $100,000,000,000 and that this authority for his part would not care to discredit a figure of twice that sum. The Treasury officials, as Mr. Lloyd George indicated, took a different view. He could, therefore, shelter himself behind the wide discrepancy between the opinions of his different advisers, and regard the precise figure of Germany's capacity to pay as an open question in the treatment of which he must do his best for his country's interests. As to our engagements under the Fourteen Points he was always silent.
On November 30, Mr. Barnes, a member of the War Cabinet, in which he was supposed to represent Labor, shouted from a platform, "I am for hanging the Kaiser."
On December 6, the Prime Minister issued a statement of policy and aims in which he stated, with significant emphasis on the word European, that "All the European Allies have accepted the principle that the Central Powers must pay the cost of the war up to the limit of their capacity."
But it was now little more than a week to Polling Day, and still he had not said enough to satisfy the appetites of the moment. On December 8, the Times, providing as usual a cloak of ostensible decorum for the lesser restraint of its associates, declared in a leader entitled "Making Germany Pay," that "The public mind was still bewildered by the Prime Minister's various statements." "There is too much suspicion," they added, "of influences concerned to let the Germans off lightly, whereas the only possible motive in determining their capacity to pay must be the interests of the Allies." "It is the candidate who deals with the issues of to-day," wrote their Political Correspondent, "who adopts Mr. Barnes's phrase about 'hanging the Kaiser' and plumps for the payment of the cost of the war by Germany, who rouses his audience and strikes the notes to which they are most responsive."
On December 9, at the Queen's Hall, the Prime Minister avoided the subject. But from now on, the debauchery of thought and speech progressed hour by hour. The grossest spectacle was provided by Sir Eric Geddes in the Guildhall at Cambridge. An earlier speech in which, in a moment of injudicious candor, he had cast doubts on the possibility of extracting from Germany the whole cost of the war had been the object of serious suspicion, and he had therefore a reputation to regain. "We will get out of her all you can squeeze out of a lemon and a bit more," the penitent shouted, "I will squeeze her until you can hear the pips squeak"; his policy was to take every bit of property belonging to Germans in neutral and Allied countries, and all her gold and silver and her jewels, and the contents of her picture-galleries and libraries, to sell the proceeds for the Allies' benefit. "I would strip Germany," he cried, "as she has stripped Belgium."
By December 11 the Prime Minister had capitulated. His Final Manifesto of Six Points issued on that day to the electorate furnishes a melancholy comparison with his program of three weeks earlier. I quote it in full:
" 1. Trial of the Kaiser.
2. Punishment of those responsible for atrocities.
3. Fullest Indemnities from Germany.
4. Britain for the British, socially and industrially.
5. Rehabilitation of those broken in the war.
6. A happier country for all."
Here is food for the cynic. To this concoction of greed and sentiment, prejudice and deception, three weeks of the platform had reduced the powerful governors of England, who but a little while before had spoken not ignobly of Disarmament and a League of Nations and of a just and lasting peace which should establish the foundations of a new Europe.
On the same evening the Prime Minister at Bristol withdrew in effect his previous reservations and laid down four principles to govern his Indemnity Policy, of which the chief were: First, we have an absolute right to demand the whole cost of the war; second, we propose to demand the whole cost of the war; and third, a Committee appointed by direction of the Cabinet believe that it can be done. Four days later he went to the polls.
The Prime Minister never said that he himself believed that Germany could pay the whole cost of the war. But the program became in the mouths of his supporters on the hustings a great deal more than concrete. The ordinary voter was led to believe that Germany could certainly be made to pay the greater part, if not the whole cost of the war. Those whose practical and selfish fears for the future the expenses of the war had aroused, and those whose emotions its horrors had disordered, were both provided for. A vote for a Coalition candidate meant the Crucifixion of Anti-Christ and the assumption by Germany of the British National Debt.
It proved an irresistible combination, and once more Mr. George's political instinct was not at fault. No candidate could safely denounce this program, and none did so. The old Liberal Party, having nothing comparable to offer to the electorate, was swept out of existence. A new House of Commons came into being, a majority of whose members had pledged themselves to a great deal more than the Prime Minister's guarded promises. Shortly after their arrival at Westminster I asked a Conservative friend, who had known previous Houses, what he thought of them. "They are a lot of hard-faced men," he said, "who look as if they had done very well out of the war."
This was the atmosphere in which the Prime Minister left for Paris, and these the entanglements he had made for himself. He had pledged himself and his Government to make demands of a helpless enemy inconsistent with solemn engagements on our part, on the faith of which this enemy had laid down his arms. There are few episodes in history which posterity will have less reason to condone,—a war ostensibly waged in defense of the sanctity of international engagements ending in a definite breach of one of the most sacred possible of such engagements on the part of victorious champions of these ideals.
Apart from other aspects of the transaction, I believe that the campaign for securing out of Germany the general costs of the war was one of the most serious acts of political unwisdom for which our statesmen have ever been responsible. To what a different future Europe might have looked forward if either Mr. Lloyd George or Mr. Wilson had apprehended that the most serious of the problems which claimed their attention were not political or territorial but financial and economic, and that the perils of the future lay not in frontiers or sovereignties but in food, coal, and transport. Neither of them paid adequate attention to these problems at any stage of the Conference. But in any event the atmosphere for the wise and reasonable consideration of them was hopelessly befogged by the commitments of the British delegation on the question of Indemnities. The hopes to which the Prime Minister had given rise not only compelled him to advocate an unjust and unworkable economic basis to the Treaty with Germany, but set him at variance with the President, and on the other hand with competing interests to those of France and Belgium. The clearer it became that but little could be expected from Germany, the more necessary it was to exercise patriotic greed and "sacred egotism" and snatch the bone from the juster claims and greater need of France or the well-founded expectations of Belgium. Yet the financial problems which were about to exercise Europe could not be solved by greed. The possibility of their cure lay in magnanimity.
Europe, if she is to survive her troubles, will need so much magnanimity from America, that she must herself practice it. It is useless for the Allies, hot from stripping Germany and one another, to turn for help to the United States to put the States of Europe, including Germany, on to their feet again. If the General Election of December, 1918, had been fought on lines of prudent generosity instead of imbecile greed, how much better the financial prospect of Europe might now be. I still believe that before the main Conference, or very early in its proceedings, the representatives of Great Britain should have entered deeply, with those of the United States, into the economic and financial situation as a whole, and that the former should have been authorized to make concrete proposals on the general lines (1) that all inter-allied indebtedness be canceled outright; (2) that the sum to be paid by Germany be fixed at $10,000,000,000; (3) that Great Britain renounce all claim to participation in this sum and that any share to which she proves entitled be placed at the disposal of the Conference for the purpose of aiding the finances of the New States about to be established; (4) that in order to make some basis of credit immediately available an appropriate proportion of the German obligations representing the sum to be paid by her should be guaranteed by all parties to the Treaty; and (5) that the ex-enemy Powers should also be allowed, with a view to their economic restoration, to issue a moderate amount of bonds carrying a similar guarantee. Such proposals involved an appeal to the generosity of the United States. But that was inevitable; and, in view of her far less financial sacrifices, it was an appeal which could fairly have been made to her. Such proposals would have been practicable. There is nothing in them quixotic or Utopian. And they would have opened up for Europe some prospect of financial stability and reconstruction.
The further elaboration of these ideas, however, must be left to Chapter VII., and we must return to Paris. I have described the entanglements which Mr. Lloyd George took with him. The position of the Finance Ministers of the other Allies was even worse. We in Great Britain had not based our financial arrangements on any expectations of an indemnity. Receipts from such a source would have been more or less in the nature of a windfall; and, in spite of subsequent developments, there was an expectation at that time of balancing our budget by normal methods. But this was not the case with France or Italy. Their peace budgets made no pretense of balancing and had no prospects of doing so, without some far-reaching revision of the existing policy. Indeed, the position was and remains nearly hopeless. These countries were heading for national bankruptcy. This fact could only be concealed by holding out the expectation of vast receipts from the enemy. As soon as it was admitted that it was in fact impossible to make Germany pay the expenses of both sides, and that the unloading of their liabilities upon the enemy was not practicable, the position of the Ministers of Finance of France and Italy became untenable.
Thus a scientific consideration of Germany's capacity to pay was from the outset out of court. The expectations which the exigencies of politics had made it necessary to raise were so very remote from the truth that a slight distortion of figures was no use, and it was necessary to ignore the facts entirely. The resulting unveracity was fundamental. On a basis of so much falsehood it became impossible to erect any constructive financial policy which was workable. For this reason amongst others, a magnanimous financial policy was essential. The financial position of France and Italy was so bad that it was impossible to make them listen to reason on the subject of the German Indemnity, unless one could at the same time point out to them some alternative mode of escape from their troubles. The representatives of the United States were greatly at fault, in my judgment, for having no constructive proposals whatever to offer to a suffering and distracted Europe.
It is worth while to point out in passing a further element in the situation, namely, the opposition which existed between the "crushing" policy of M. Clemenceau and the financial necessities of M. Klotz. Clemenceau's aim was to weaken and destroy Germany in every possible way, and I fancy that he was always a little contemptuous about the Indemnity; he had no intention of leaving Germany in a position to practise a vast commercial activity. But he did not trouble his head to understand either the indemnity or poor M. Klotz's overwhelming financial difficulties. If it amused the financiers to put into the Treaty some very large demands, well there was no harm in that; but the satisfaction of these demands must not be allowed to interfere with the essential requirements of a Carthaginian Peace. The combination of the "real" policy of M. Clemenceau on unreal issues, with M. Klotz's policy of pretense on what were very real issues indeed, introduced into the Treaty a whole set of incompatible provisions, over and above the inherent impracticabilities of the Reparation proposals.
I cannot here describe the endless controversy and intrigue between the Allies themselves, which at last after some months culminated in the presentation to Germany of the Reparation Chapter in its final form. There can have been few negotiations in history so contorted, so miserable, so utterly unsatisfactory to all parties. I doubt if any one who took much part in that debate can look back on it without shame. I must be content with an analysis of the elements of the final compromise which is known to all the world.
The main point to be settled was, of course, that of the items for which Germany could fairly be asked to make payment. Mr. Lloyd George's election pledge to the effect that the Allies were entitled to demand from Germany the entire costs of the war was from the outset clearly untenable; or rather, to put it more impartially, it was clear that to persuade the President of the conformity of this demand with our pro-Armistice engagements was beyond the powers of the most plausible. The actual compromise finally reached is to be read as follows in the paragraphs of the Treaty as it has been published to the world.
Article 231 reads: "The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies." This is a well and carefully drafted Article; for the President could read it as statement of admission on Germany's part of moral responsibility for bringing about the war, while the Prime Minister could explain it as an admission of financial liability for the general costs of the war. Article 232 continues: "The Allied and Associated Governments recognize that the resources of Germany are not adequate, after taking into account permanent diminutions of such resources which will result from other provisions of the present Treaty, to make complete reparation for all such loss and damage." The President could comfort himself that this was no more than a statement of undoubted fact, and that to recognize that Germany cannot pay a certain claim does not imply that she is liable to pay the claim; but the Prime Minister could point out that in the context it emphasizes to the reader the assumption of Germany's theoretic liability asserted in the preceding Article. Article 232 proceeds: "The Allied and Associated Governments, however, require, and Germany undertakes, that she will make compensation for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allied and Associated Powers and to their property during the period of the belligerency of each as an Allied or Associated Power against Germany by such aggression by land, by sea, and from the air, and in general all damage as defined in Annex I. hereto." The words italicized being practically a quotation from the pre-Armistice conditions, satisfied the scruples of the President, while the addition of the words "and in general all damage as defined in Annex I. hereto" gave the Prime Minister a chance in Annex I.
So far, however, all this is only a matter of words, of virtuosity in draftsmanship, which does no one any harm, and which probably seemed much more important at the time than it ever will again between now and Judgment Day. For substance we must turn to Annex I.
A great part of Annex I. is in strict conformity with the pre-Armistice conditions, or, at any rate, does not strain them beyond what is fairly arguable. Paragraph 1 claims damage done for injury to the persons of civilians, or, in the case of death, to their dependents, as a direct consequence of acts of war; Paragraph 2, for acts of cruelty, violence, or maltreatment on the part of the enemy towards civilian victims; Paragraph 3, for enemy acts injurious to health or capacity to work or to honor towards civilians in occupied or invaded territory; Paragraph 8, for forced labor exacted by the enemy from civilians; Paragraph 9, for damage done to property "with the exception of naval and military works or materials" as a direct consequence of hostilities; and Paragraph 10, for fines and levies imposed by the enemy upon the civilian population. All these demands are just and in conformity with the Allies' rights.
Paragraph 4, which claims for "damage caused by any kind of maltreatment of prisoners of war," is more doubtful on the strict letter, but may be justifiable under the Hague Convention and involves a very small sum.
In Paragraphs 5, 6, and 7, however, an issue of immensely greater significance is involved. These paragraphs assert a claim for the amount of the Separation and similar Allowances granted during the war by the Allied Governments to the families of mobilized persons, and for the amount of the pensions and compensations in respect of the injury or death of combatants payable by these Governments now and hereafter. Financially this adds to the Bill, as we shall see below, a very large amount, indeed about twice as much again as all the other claims added together.
The reader will readily apprehend what a plausible case can be made out for the inclusion of these items of damage, if only on sentimental grounds. It can be pointed out, first of all, that from the point of view of general fairness it is monstrous that a woman whose house is destroyed should be entitled to claim from the enemy whilst a woman whose husband is killed on the field of battle should not be so entitled; or that a farmer deprived of his farm should claim but that a woman deprived of the earning power of her husband should not claim. In fact the case for including Pensions and Separation Allowances largely depends on exploiting the rather arbitrary character of the criterion laid down in the pre-Armistice conditions. Of all the losses caused by war some bear more heavily on individuals and some are more evenly distributed over the community as a whole; but by means of compensations granted by the Government many of the former are in fact converted into the latter. The most logical criterion for a limited claim, falling short of the entire costs of the war, would have been in respect of enemy acts contrary to International engagements or the recognized practices of warfare. But this also would have been very difficult to apply and unduly unfavorable to French interests as compared with Belgium (whose neutrality Germany had guaranteed) and Great Britain (the chief sufferer from illicit acts of submarines).
In any case the appeals to sentiment and fairness outlined above are hollow; for it makes no difference to the recipient of a separation allowance or a pension whether the State which pays them receives compensation on this or on another head, and a recovery by the State out of indemnity receipts is just as much in relief of the general taxpayer as a contribution towards the general costs of the war would have been. But the main consideration is that it was too late to consider whether the pre-Armistice conditions were perfectly judicious and logical or to amend them; the only question at issue was whether these conditions were not in fact limited to such classes of direct damage to civilians and their property as are set forth in Paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, and 10 of Annex I. If words have any meaning, or engagements any force, we had no more right to claim for those war expenses of the State, which arose out of Pensions and Separation Allowances, than for any other of the general costs of the war. And who is prepared to argue in detail that we were entitled to demand the latter?
What had really happened was a compromise between the Prime Minister's pledge to the British electorate to claim the entire costs of the war and the pledge to the contrary which the Allies had given to Germany at the Armistice. The Prime Minister could claim that although he had not secured the entire costs of the war, he had nevertheless secured an important contribution towards them, that he had always qualified his promises by the limiting condition of Germany's capacity to pay, and that the bill as now presented more than exhausted this capacity as estimated by the more sober authorities. The President, on the other hand, had secured a formula, which was not too obvious a breach of faith, and had avoided a quarrel with his Associates on an issue where the appeals to sentiment and passion would all have been against him, in the event of its being made a matter of open popular controversy. In view of the Prime Minister's election pledges, the President could hardly hope to get him to abandon them in their entirety without a struggle in public; and the cry of pensions would have had an overwhelming popular appeal in all countries. Once more the Prime Minister had shown himself a political tactician of a high order.
A further point of great difficulty may be readily perceived between the lines of the Treaty It fixes no definite sum as representing Germany's liability. This feature has been the subject of very general criticism,—that it is equally inconvenient to Germany and to the Allies themselves that she should not know what she has to pay or they what they are to receive. The method, apparently contemplated by the Treaty, of arriving at the final result over a period of many months by an addition of hundreds of thousands of individual claims for damage to land, farm buildings, and chickens, is evidently impracticable; and the reasonable course would have been for both parties to compound for a round sum without examination of details. If this round sum had been named in the Treaty, the settlement would have been placed on a more business-like basis.
But this was impossible for two reasons. Two different kinds of false statements had been widely promulgated, one as to Germany's capacity to pay, the other as to the amount of the Allies' just claims in respect of the devastated areas. The fixing of either of these figures presented a dilemma. A figure for Germany's prospective capacity to pay, not too much in excess of the estimates of most candid and well-informed authorities, would have fallen hopelessly far short of popular expectations both in England and in France. On the other hand, a definitive figure for damage done which would not disastrously disappoint the expectations which had been raised in France and Belgium might have been incapable of substantiation under challenge, and open to damaging criticism on the part of the Germans, who were believed to have been prudent enough to accumulate considerable evidence as to the extent of their own misdoings.
By far the safest course for the politicians was, therefore, to mention no figure at all; and from this necessity a great deal of the complication of the Reparation Chapter essentially springs.
The reader may be interested, however, to have my estimate of the claim which can in fact be substantiated under Annex I. of the Reparation Chapter. In the first section of this chapter I have already guessed the claims other than those for Pensions and Separation Allowances at $15,000,000,000 (to take the extreme upper limit of my estimate). The claim for Pensions and Separation Allowances under Annex I. is not to be based on the actual cost of these compensations to the Governments concerned, but is to be a computed figure calculated on the basis of the scales in force in France at the date of the Treaty's coming into operation. This method avoids the invidious course of valuing an American or a British life at a higher figure than a French or an Italian. The French rate for Pensions and Allowances is at an intermediate rate, not so high as the American or British, but above the Italian, the Belgian, or the Serbian. The only data required for the calculation are the actual French rates and the numbers of men mobilized and of the casualties in each class of the various Allied Armies. None of these figures are available in detail, but enough is known of the general level of allowances, of the numbers involved, and of the casualties suffered to allow of an estimate which may not be very wide of the mark. My guess as to the amount to be added in respect of Pensions and Allowances is as follows:
British Empire $7,000,000,000 
France 12,000,000,000 
Others (Including United States) 3,500,000,000
I feel much more confidence in the approximate accuracy of the total figure than in its division between the different claimants. The reader will observe that in any case the addition of Pensions and Allowances enormously increases the aggregate claim, raising it indeed by nearly double. Adding this figure to the estimate under other heads, we have a total claim against Germany of $40,000,000,000. I believe that this figure is fully high enough, and that the actual result may fall somewhat short of it. In the next section of this chapter the relation of this figure to Germany's capacity to pay will be examined. It is only necessary here to remind the reader of certain other particulars of the Treaty which speak for themselves:
1. Out of the total amount of the claim, whatever it eventually turns out to be, a sum of $5,000,000,000 must be paid before May 1, 1921. The possibility of this will be discussed below. But the Treaty itself provides certain abatements. In the first place, this sum is to include the expenses of the Armies of Occupation since the Armistice (a large charge of the order of magnitude of $1,000,000,000 which under another Article of the Treaty—No. 249—is laid upon Germany). But further, "such supplies of food and raw materials as may be judged by the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers to be essential to enable Germany to meet her obligations for Reparation may also, with the approval of the said Governments, be paid for out of the above sum." This is a qualification of high importance. The clause, as it is drafted, allows the Finance Ministers of the Allied countries to hold out to their electorates the hope of substantial payments at an early date, while at the same time it gives to the Reparation Commission a discretion, which the force of facts will compel them to exercise, to give back to Germany what is required for the maintenance of her economic existence. This discretionary power renders the demand for an immediate payment of $5,000,000,000 less injurious than it would otherwise be, but nevertheless it does not render it innocuous. In the first place, my conclusions in the next section of this chapter indicate that this sum cannot be found within the period indicated, even if a large proportion is in practice returned to Germany for the purpose of enabling her to pay for imports. In the second place, the Reparation Commission can only exercise its discretionary power effectively by taking charge of the entire foreign trade of Germany, together with the foreign exchange arising out of it, which will be quite beyond the capacity of any such body. If the Reparation Commission makes any serious attempt to administer the collection of this sum of $5,000,000,000 and to authorize the return to Germany of a part it, the trade of Central Europe will be strangled by bureaucratic regulation in its most inefficient form.
2. In addition to the early payment in cash or kind of a sum of $5,000,000,000, Germany is required to deliver bearer bonds to a further amount of $10,000,000,000, or, in the event of the payments in cash or kind before May 1, 1921, available for Reparation, falling short of $5,000,000,000 by reason of the permitted deductions, to such further amount as shall bring the total payments by Germany in cash, kind, and bearer bonds up to May 1, 1921, to a figure of $15,000,000,000 altogether. These bearer bonds carry interest at 2-1/2 per cent per annum from 1921 to 1925, and at 5 per cent plus 1 per cent for amortization thereafter. Assuming, therefore, that Germany is not able to provide any appreciable surplus towards Reparation before 1921, she will have to find a sum of $375,000,000 annually from 1921 to 1925, and $900,000,000 annually thereafter.
3. As soon as the Reparation Commission is satisfied that Germany can do better than this, 5 per cent bearer bonds are to be issued for a further $10,000,000,000, the rate of amortization being determined by the Commission hereafter. This would bring the annual payment to $1,400,000,000 without allowing anything for the discharge of the capital of the last $10,000,000,000.
4. Germany's liability, however, is not limited to $25,000,000,000, and the Reparation Commission is to demand further instalments of bearer bonds until the total enemy liability under Annex I. has been provided for. On the basis of my estimate of $40,000,000,000 for the total liability, which is more likely to be criticized as being too low than as being too high, the amount of this balance will be $15,000,000,000. Assuming interest at 5 per cent, this will raise the annual payment to $2,150,000,000 without allowance for amortization.
5. But even this is not all. There is a further provision of devastating significance. Bonds representing payments in excess of $15,000,000,000 are not to be issued until the Commission is satisfied that Germany can meet the interest on them. But this does not mean that interest is remitted in the meantime. As from May 1, 1921, interest is to be debited to Germany on such part of her outstanding debt as has not been covered by payment in cash or kind or by the issue of bonds as above, and "the rate of interest shall be 5 per cent unless the Commission shall determine at some future time that circumstances justify a variation of this rate." That is to say, the capital sum of indebtedness is rolling up all the time at compound interest. The effect of this provision towards increasing the burden is, on the assumption that Germany cannot pay very large sums at first, enormous. At 5 per cent compound interest a capital sum doubles itself in fifteen years. On the assumption that Germany cannot pay more than $750,000,000 annually until 1936 (i.e. 5 per cent interest on $15,000,000,000) the $25,000,000,000 on which interest is deferred will have risen to $50,000,000,000, carrying an annual interest charge of $2,500,000,000. That is to say, even if Germany pays $750,000,000 annually up to 1936, she will nevertheless owe us at that date more than half as much again as she does now ($65,000,000,000 as compared with $40,000,000,000). From 1936 onwards she will have to pay to us $3,250,000,000 annually in order to keep pace with the interest alone. At the end of any year in which she pays less than this sum she will owe more than she did at the beginning of it. And if she is to discharge the capital sum in thirty years from 1930, i.e. in forty-eight years from the Armistice, she must pay an additional $650,000,000 annually, making $3,900,000,000 in all.
It is, in my judgment, as certain as anything can be, for reasons which I will elaborate in a moment, that Germany cannot pay anything approaching this sum. Until the Treaty is altered, therefore, Germany has in effect engaged herself to hand over to the Allies the whole of her surplus production in perpetuity.
6. This is not less the case because the Reparation Commission has been given discretionary powers to vary the rate of interest, and to postpone and even to cancel the capital indebtedness. In the first place, some of these powers can only be exercised if the Commission or the Governments represented on it are unanimous. But also, which is perhaps more important, it will be the duty of the Reparation Commission, until there has been a unanimous and far-reaching change of the policy which the Treaty represents, to extract from Germany year after year the maximum sum obtainable. There is a great difference between fixing a definite sum, which though large is within Germany's capacity to pay and yet to retain a little for herself, and fixing a sum far beyond her capacity, which is then to be reduced at the discretion of a foreign Commission acting with the object of obtaining each year the maximum which the circumstances of that year permit. The first still leaves her with some slight incentive for enterprise, energy, and hope. The latter skins her alive year by year in perpetuity, and however skilfully and discreetly the operation is performed, with whatever regard for not killing the patient in the process, it would represent a policy which, if it were really entertained and deliberately practised, the judgment of men would soon pronounce to be one of the most outrageous acts of a cruel victor in civilized history.
There are other functions and powers of high significance which the Treaty accords to the Reparation Commission. But these will be most conveniently dealt with in a separate section.