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“All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all."
- From President Wilson's address to the Congress, January 8, 1918. MERICA, who a year mense conflict in the first hour with all ago entered the world their armies, all their energies, all their war to defend human material and moral resources.
France liberty, shows herself and Germany will not come out of the determined to push the conflict until the last moment, one vicstruggle to the end. torious and the other vanquished,
Her intervention will through a victory that will decide their swing the balance on the side of justice, future for long centuries. but to-day she is making only her first There exists between these two chief sacrifice of human lives. England is combatants who until now have led the fighting on land and sea with the power marshaled forces of the two halves of and the will that always mark her ac the world a question which dominates tions, and Germany is feeling it on the their quarrel, and which, therefore, is plains of Flanders, as Turkey is feeling vital to the entire world—the future of it on the Euphrates and in Palestine; but Alsace-Lorraine. she required two years to organize Our American friends will permit a armies fit for the gigantic struggle. Frenchman to present to them frankly Italy combats and suffers. In the effort and simply what he believes to be the against Austria and Germany she has clear and decisive aspect of the question. the sympathy, as she has the co-opera In joining the fight for the deliverance of tion, of the Allies; but it took her two Alsace-Lorraine, they defend the prinyears to see her path and to make up ciple of democratic rights, they insist her mind. Russia fought from the first that the manifest will of a people to dehour. It was she who called the universe cide its own destiny be respected. When to arms by refusing to look on while I say manifest will, I mean manifest Serbia was crushed; but she has since will. The will of Alsace-Lorraine to be deserted the cause of her friends, the French and to remain French has been cause also of her own interest and of her constantly manifest. The consultation own honor. Among the great nations demanded in certain quarters has been there are only two who entered the im- made over and over again, under such
Copyright, 1918, by Harper & Brothers. All Rights Reserved.
conditions that nothing remains to be it is the more convincing because it was done but to register it and proceed to produced in the past under the heavy enjoy its logical consequences.
oppression of the tyrant. It must be A few hold that before conditions of made known to our friends of America. peace are established a plebiscite must They must realize its conditions and devoice the preference of Alsace-Lorraine. cisive character. This is not discussion It would be easy to show that a plebiscite —it is history. We bid our hearts be would have no appeal to the Govern silent and let facts speak. Listen to ment or to public opinion in Germany. what the Deputies of Alsace-Lorraine Both have declared that the wishes of said to the Parliament of France at Alsatians and Lorrainers matter little, the moment of annexation, listen to and that it is enough that German public what they said later to the Parliaopinion considers the annexed country ment of Germany. Examine their atindispensable to German interest and to titude through nearly fifty years of German security. We could show just foreign domination. On this testimony, as easily the material impossibility of friends of liberty, pronounce your judgproceeding to an open and general refer- ment! endum while the French Army or the The armistice signed at Versailles, German Army was occupying the coun January 29, 1871, after six months of war try; while a part of the voters could (and they found it too long!) stipulated fear reprisals at the hands of the con the rapid convocation of an assembly querors; while the majority of the elec- that should decide on peace or war. tors were still under arms and in camps Under conditions of full liberty the elecon both sides of the combat; while an tion took place at Paris on February 5th, enormous proportion of those dispos- and in the rest of France on February sessed in 1870 were in the foreign lands 8th, even in the departments occupied to which they fled; or while there re by the German Army. Among the latter mained in Alsace-Lorraine a large num were the departments of Alsace and Lorber of Germans who have no right to raine, and already German newspapers speak out on the legitimacy or injustice were declaring that their cession was the of an act that occurred before they ar first condition of peace. Alsatians and rived, no right to express themselves in Lorrainers voted then with full knowlthe name of a country or race that is not edge of the case and on a question clearly theirs and never has been theirs. posed. Differing among themselves in
Do not believe that if we Frenchmen their opinions on other subjects, the men feel like this it is because we have any- they elected experienced no difficulty thing to fear from the verdict of Alsace in coming to an agreement on the quesLorraine, or doubt the fidelity of her tion of allegiance, and on February 17th, people. After a half-century of oppres
before the preliminaries of peace were sion and persecution, after losing by signed, this unanimous declaration was emigration several hundred thousand in- read in their name by Deputy Keller habitants, after witnessing her invasion before the National Assembly: by as many undesirable foreigners, Alsace-Lorraine has remained French at
We, the undersigned, French citizens, cha
sen by the departments of the Lower-Rhine, heart. All who visited her before the
of the Upper-Rhine, of Moselle and of Great War have testified to this, and we Meurthe, to bring to the National Assembly are so sure of her that after her return
of France the expression of the unanimous to the mother country we shall immedi will of the populations of Alsace and of ately give her absolutely free elections. Lorraine, after having met and deliberated, That will be no very meritorious act of have resolved to expose, in a solemn declarafaith on our part. For Alsace-Lorraine tion, their sacred and inviolable rights, in expressed her sentiments many times order that the National Assembly, France before the war. Whenever she was
and Europe, having under their eyes the
vows and the resolutions of our constituents, obliged to pronounce between France
may not consummate nor allow to be conand Germany, she replied without hesi
summated any act of a nature to imperil the tation, “I want to be French."
rights which a firm mandate has confided to The real plebiscite? Here it is, and us to guard and defend.
events have justified only too well, the 1. Alsace and Lorraine do not wish to be Deputies added: alienated from France. Associated for more than two centuries with France, in good
Modern Europe cannot allow a people to
be seized like a flock of sheep; she cannot be fortune and in bad, these two provinces, ceaselessly exposed to the blows of the
deaf to the repeated protests of threatened
populations; she owes it to her own conservaenemy, have constantly sacrificed themselves
tion to forbid such an abuse of force. She to national greatness; they have sealed with
knows, moreover, that the unity of France their blood the indissoluble pact which at
is to-day, as in the past, a guarantee. taches them to the French unity. Threatened
eral order in the world, a barrier against the to-day by foreign pretensions, they affirm in
spirit of conquest and invasion. the midst of obstacles and dangers, under
Peace made at the price of a cession of terthe very yoke of the invader, their fidelity.
ritory would only be a ruinous truce and not All unanimously, citizens who remained in
a definite peace. It would be for all contheir homes as well as the soldiers who
cerned a cause of intestinal agitation, a legitihastened to take their places under the fag,
mate and permanent provocation to war. some by voting, others by fighting, have sig We take our fellow-citizens of France, nified to Germany and to the world the un
and the governments and peoples of the changeable will of Alsace and of Lorraine to
whole world, to witness that we consider in remain French.
advance as null and void all acts and treaties,
votes and plebiscites, that consent to the The second point of the declaration abandonment to the foreigner of all or a part urged that France did not have the of our provinces of Alsace 'and Lorraine. right to sign the cession of Alsace We proclaim by these presents forever inLorraine, and the third, that civilized
violable the right of Alsatians and Lorrainers nations could neither permit it nor ratify and we swear as much for ourselves as for
to remain members of the French nation; it under pain of becoming in their turn
our constituents, our children and their devictims of the attempts that they had scendants, to avenge it eternally and in every tolerated. With a clairvoyance which manner against all usurpers.
The National Assembly heard this abuse of force, we have a last duty to pereloquent declaration with a sympathy form before we are delivered over to foreign that was unanimous; but a few days domination. afterward, March 17th, when the time
Once again we declare null and void a pact came to decide upon the acceptance or
which disposes of us without our consent.
The vindication of our rights rests forever the rejection of the preliminaries of a
open to us and to every one, in the form and peace which ceded to the enemy the half
in the measure that our conscience will dicof Lorraine and all of Alsace excepting Belfort, five hundred and forty-six Now as we leave this place where our digDeputies against a hundred and seven nity does not permit us longer to remain, consented, with death in their souls, to
and in spite of the bitterness of our sorrow, the sacrifice that had to be. What could the supreme thought that we find in the the elected representatives of the ceded
bottom of our hearts is gratitude to those departments do against necessity? They unchangeable affection to the Motherland
who for six months have defended us and signed a protest, read in their name, and
from which we are violently torn away. immediately afterward left the Assembly
We shall follow you with our good wishes in poignant silence. The text of this and we shall wait with complete confidence protest has passed into history. More in the future until regenerated France takes than ever in the present hour we must again the course of her great destiny. proclaim it before the conscience of hu Your brothers of Alsace and of Lorraine, manity:
separated now from the common family,
will preserve for France, far away from Before any peace negotiations, the repre their homes, a filial affection until the day sentatives of Alsace and Lorraine placed be when she will come back to take her place fore the National Assembly a declaration there. affirming in the name of these provinces their will and their right to remain French.
The fidelity so solemnly proclaimed In spite of all justice and by an odious was to manifest itself from this day
forth, not by words, but by acts that cant than these elections. The Treaty of were still more eloquent. Alsace-Lor- Frankfort had stipulated for the inhabraine, although encircled by a silence full itants of the annexed territories the libof dignity, did not neglect any occasion erty to emigrate before October 1, 1872, to show her real sentiments. The first if they did not want to be Germans. vote that took place after the annexa Sad alternative—submission to a citizention, that of July 30, 1871, had as its ship imposed by force, or abandonment object the renewal of the Municipal of their possessions, their friends, their Councils. This election took place with family, the land of their birth. Many out noise and without enthusiasm, even who were not among the least courawithout profession of faith; but it nom geous or the least enlightened, in order inated none the less mayors that were to conserve intact the culture of the patriots. Those of the four largest cities, Motherland, the hope of deliverance and Strasbourg, Metz, Colmar, and Mul of better days, chose to live on the soil house, were men well known for their that had been violated by the enemy. love of France. A second election took Thus the Bishop of Metz, Monseigneur place June 22, 1873, this time for the Dupont des Loges, enjoined upon his Conseils-Généraux and for the Conseils priests to remain
at their posts with their d'Arrondissements. Although they ex sorely tried parishioners. cited no interest and the number of others could not resign themselves to absentees was much greater than the daily contact with their conquerors, and, voters, the result was such that when above all, to the idea that their sons the men elected were asked to pledge
pledge would one day be liable to mobilization their allegiance to the Emperor, the ma in the German Army and obliged to jority refused.
fight against France. Driven by this The movement to which has been at thought, some sixty thousand persons tached the name Exode is more signifi- left the country. Metz, which had