Belgian Note supplementary to the Entente Reply to President Wilson's Peace Note, January 10, 1917

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WWI Document Archive > 1916 Documents > Official Communications and Speeches Relating to Peace Proposals 1916-1917 > Belgian Note supplementary to the Entente Reply to President Wilson's Peace Note, January 10, 1917

Belgian Note supplementary to the Entente Reply to President Wilson's Peace Note, January 10, 19171

                    Ambassador Sharp to the Secretary of State


                                                            AMERICAN EMBASSY,
                                                            Paris, January 10, 1917.
     Copy of Belgian note as follows:
     "The Government of the King, which has associated itself with
the answer handed by the President of the French Council to the
American Ambassador on behalf of all, is particularly desirous of
paying tribute to the sentiment of humanity which prompted the
President of the United States to send his note to the belligerent
powers and it highly esteems the friendship expressed for Belgium
through his kindly intermediation. It desires as much as Mr. Wood-
row Wilson to see the present war ended as early as possible.
     "But the President seems to believe that the statesmen of the two
opposing camps pursue the same objects of war. The example of
Belgium unfortunately demonstrates that this is in no wise the fact.
Belgium has never, like the Central Powers, aimed at conquests. The
barbarous fashion in which the German Government has treated, and
is still treating, the Belgium nation, does not permit the supposition
that Germany will preoccupy herself with guaranteeing in the future
the rights of the weak nations which she has not ceased to trample
under foot since the war, let loose by her, began to desolate Europe.
On the other hand, the Government of the King has noted with pleas-
ure and with confidence the assurances that the United States is im-
patient to cooperate in the measures which will be taken after the
conclusion of peace, to protect and guarantee the small nations against
violence and oppression.
     "Previous to the German ultimatum, Belgium only aspired to live
upon good terms with all her neighbors ; she practiced with scrupulous
loyalty towards each one of them the duties imposed by her neutrality.
In the same manner she has been rewarded by Germany, for the confi-
dence she placed in her, through which, from one day to the other,
without any plausible reason, her neutrality was violated, and the
Chancellor of the Empire when announcing to the Reichstag this viola-
tion of right and of treaties, was obliged to recognize the iniquity of
such an act and predetermine that it would be repaired. But the Ger-
mans, after the occupation of Belgian territory, have displayed no
better observance of the rules of international law or the stipulations
of the Hague Convention. They have, by taxation, as heavy as it
is arbitrary, drained the resources of the country; they have inten-
tionally ruined its industries, destroyed whole cities, put to death and
imprisoned a considerable number of inhabitants. Even now, while
they are loudly proclaiming their desire to put an end to the horrors of
war, they increase the rigors of the occupation by deporting into
servitude Belgian workers by the thousands.
     “If there is a country which has the right to say that it has taken
up arms to defend its existence, it is assuredly Belgium. Compelled
to fight or to submit to shame, she passionately desires that an end
be brought to the unprecedented sufferings of her population. But
she could only accept a peace which would assure her, as well as
equitable reparation, security and guarantees for the future.
"The American people, since the beginning of the war, has mani-
fested for the oppressed Belgian nation, its most ardent sympathy.
It is an American committee, the Commission for Relief in Belgium
which, in close union with the Government of the King and the Na-
tional Committee, displays an untiring devotion and marvelous activ-
ity in re-victualling Belgium. The Government of the King is happy
to avail itself of this opportunity to express its profound gratitude to
the Commission for Relief as well as to the generous Americans
eager to relieve the misery of the Belgian population. Finally, no-
where more than in the United .States have the abductions and de-
portations of Belgian civilians provoked such a spontaneous move-
ment of protestation and indignant reproof.
     "These facts, entirely to the honor of the American nation, allow
the Government of the King to entertain the legitimate hope that at
the time of the definitive settlement of this long war, the voice of the
Entente Powers will find in the United States a unanimous echo to
claim in favor of the Belgian nation, innocent victim of German
ambition and covetousness, the rank and the place which its irre-
proachable past, the valor of its soldiers, its fidelity to honor and its
remarkable faculties for work assign to it among the civilized nations."

1Official print of the Department of State.