Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tales from the First Century Part II: Postcard from Paris

Loring Christie wrote several letters to his parents from the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. In this excerpt, Loring focuses on what he perceives to be a bad attitude from the Germans.  However, the allies were clearly setting out to humiliate the Germans, so there was plenty of bad attitude all around.  Loring’s triumphalist words foreshadow the way things unfolded in the next twenty years.  Everybody was spoiling for another fight, and that’s what they got.
Loring uses a derogatory term for the Germans.  I made the editorial decision to replace it.

“The Preliminary Treaty was handed to the Germans in the grand dining room of the Trianon Palace Hotel at Versaille. (They will not be allowed in the wonderful Versailles Palace itself until the day of signature). I had the fortune to be "among those present". It was an arresting moment when the German delegates were brought in. Clemenceau did his part with splendid courtesy; so did everyone else except the Germans. Broekdorff-Rautzan {?} remained sitting while making his speech; some say he is ill, but he did not begin by saying so & asking to be excused if he sat down. Possibly all this sounds petty, but combined with the tone & substance of his speech, it was significant. The [German] remains the same old thing.  And after all, one couldn’t expect anything else in so short a time.”

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Guest Blogger: Tales from the First Century

My great uncle Loring Christie  was a Canadian delegate to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.  In those days, Canada’s presence was as part of the entity of the British Empire, rather than as its own country.  When Loring says “our people”, he’s really talking about that entity.  The Peace Conference was the beginning of a change in that status.  This is an excerpt from a February 1919 letter that Loring wrote to his parents:

 “The Preliminary Peace Conference -- that is the proper name of what is going on now -- is getting some things done, but very slowly -- too slowly to suit my feelings about the matter. The world outside is in too precarious a condition to trifle with. Of course the task is almost staggering.  And if the time seems long, one has to remember the great difficulties of reaching agreement among so many Governments, so many peoples, with differences of language, custom, outlook and fundamental beliefs.   Even when one statesman has reached a definite conclusion as to exactly what he thinks on a given question, and that is hard enough in itself, the simple business of making his view point understood to the others is incredibly difficult. Multiply that by dozens of statesmen and dozens of questions and you see the result.

Wilson has gone back home for a while trailing clouds of glory. They are largely American newspaper clouds. It was useful having him here, but he has not been running the show by any means. British statesmanship has unquestionably taken & held the lead. The famous League of Nations Covenant was, for instance, really put in shape by our people.  And this is so in almost every other case.”

Coming soon… excerpts from Loring Christie’s 1920 letters to his parents from Geneva: The League of Nations.