Entente Reply to the Peace Note of Germany and Her Allies, December 30, 1916

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WWI Document Archive > 1916 Documents > Official Communications and Speeches Relating to Peace Proposals 1916-1917 > Entente Reply to the Peace Note of Germany and Her Allies, December 30, 1916

Entente Reply to the Peace Note of Germany and Her Allies, December 30, 19161

     The Allied Governments of Russia, France, Great Britain, Japan,
Italy, Serbia, Belgium, Montenegro, Portugal and Roumania, united
for the defence of the freedom of nations and faithful to their un-
dertakings not to lay down their arms except in common accord, have
decided to return a joint answer to the illusory peace proposals which
have been addressed to them by the Governments of the enemy
Powers through the intermediary of the United States, Spain, Switzer-
land, and the Netherlands.
     As a prelude to any reply, the Allied Powers feel bound to pro-
test strongly against the two material assertions made in the note
from the enemy Powers, the one professing to throw upon the Al-
lies the responsibility of the war, and the other proclaiming the
victory of the Central Powers.
     The Allies can not admit a claim which is thus untrue in each particular, and is sufficient alone to render sterile all attempt at
     The Allied nations have for 30 months been engaged in [subissent
— have had to endure] a war which they had done everything to avoid.
They have shown by their actions their devotion to peace. This devo-
tion is as strong to-day as it was in 1914; and after the violation by
Germany of her solemn engagements, Germany's promise is no suffi-
cient foundation on which to re-establish the peace which she broke.
A mere suggestion, without statement of terms, that negotiations
should be opened, is not an offer of peace. The putting forward
by the Imperial Government of a sham [prétendue — pretended] pro-
posal, lacking all substance and precision, would appear to be less
an offer of peace than a war manoeuvre.
     It is founded on a calculated misinterpretation of the character of
the struggle in the past, the present, and the future.
     As for the past, the German note takes no account of the facts,
dates, and figures which establish that the war was desired, pro-
voked, and declared by Germany and Austria-Hungary.
     At the Hague Conference it was the German delegate who re-
fused all proposals for disarmanent. In July, 1914, it was Austria-
Hungary who, after having addressed to Serbia an unprecedented
ultimatum, declared war upon her in spite of the satisfaction which
had at once been accorded. The Central Empires then rejected all
attempts made by the Entente to bring about a pacific solution of
a purely local conflict. Great Britain suggested a Conference, France
proposed an International Commission, the Emperor of Russia asked
the German Emperor to go to arbitration, and Russia and Austria-
Hungary came to an understanding on the eve of the conflict; but
to all these efforts Germany gave neither answer nor effect. Belgium
was invaded by an Empire which had guaranteed her neutrality
and which has had the assurance to proclaim that treaties were
"scraps of paper" and that "necessity knows no law."
     At the present moment these sham [prétendues — pretended] offers
on the part of Germany rest on a "War Map" of Europe alone,
which represents nothing more than a superficial and passing phase
of the situation, and not the real strength of the belligerents. A
peace concluded upon these terms would be only to the advantage
of the aggressors, who, after imagining that they would reach their
goal in two months, discovered after two years that they could never
attain it.
     As for the future, the disasters caused by the German declara-
tion of war and the innumerable outrages committed by Germany
and her Allies against both belligerents and neutrals demand penal-
ties [sanctions — retribution], reparation, and guarantees; Germany
avoids the mention of any of these.
     In reality these overtures made by the Central Powers are noth-
ing more than a calculated attempt to influence the future course
of the war, and to end it by imposing a German peace.
     The object of these overtures is to create dissension in public
opinion [troubler l’opinion — disturb opinion] in allied countries. But
that, public opinion has, in spite of all the sacrifices endured by the
Allies, already given its answer with admirable firmness, and has de-
nounced the empty pretence [vide — emptiness] of the declaration of
the Enemy Powers.
     They have the further object of stiffening public opinion in Ger-
many and in the countries allied to her; one and all, already severely
tried by their losses, worn out by economic pressure and crushed
by the supreme effort which has been imposed upon their inhabitants.
     They endeavour to deceive and intimidate public opinion in neu-
tral countries whose inhabitants have long since made up their minds
where the initial responsibility rests, have recognized existing responsi-
bilities, and are far too enlightened to favour the designs of Germany
by abandoning the defence of human freedom.
     Finally, these overtures attempt to justify in advance in the eyes
of the world a new series of crimes — submarine warfares, deporta-
tions, forced labour and forced enlistment of inhabitants against
their own countries, and violations of neutrality.
     Fully conscious of the gravity of this moment, but equally con-
scious of its requirements, the Allied Governments, closely united
to one another and in perfect sympathy with their peoples, refuse
to consider a proposal which is empty and insincere.
     Once again the Allies declare that no peace is possible so long
as they have not secured reparation of violated rights and liberties,
recognition of the principle of nationalities, and of the free existence
of small states; so long as they have not brought about a settlement
calculated to end, once and for all, horses [causes — causes] which
have contributed a perpetual menace to the nations [qui depuis si
longtemps out menacé les nations — which have so long threatened
the nations], and to afford the only effective guarantees for the future
security of the world.
     In conclusion, the Allied Powers think it necessary to put forward
the following considerations, which show the special situation of
Belgium after two and a half years of war.
     In virtue of international treaties, signed by five great European
Powers, of whom Germany was one, Belgium enjoyed, before the
war, a special status, rendering her territory inviolable and placing
her, under the guarantee of the Powers, outside all European con-
flicts. She was however, in spite of these treaties, the first to suffer
the aggression of Germany. For this reason the Belgian Govern-
ment think it necessary to define the aims which Belgium has never
ceased to pursue, while fighting side by side with the Entente Powers
for right and justice.
     Belgium has always scrupulously fulfilled the duties which her
neutrality imposed upon her. She has taken up arms to defend her
independence and her neutrality violated by Germany, and to show
that she remains faithful [et pour rester fidèle — and to be true] to
her international obligations. On August 4, 1914, in the Reichstag,
the German Chancellor admitted that this aggression constituted an
injustice contrary to the laws of nations and pledged himself in
the name of Germany to repair it.
     During two and a half years this injustice has been cruelly aggra-
vated by the proceedings of the occupying horses, which have
exhausted the resources of the country, ruined its industries, devas-
tated its towns and villages, and have been responsible for innumer-
able massacres, executions and imprisonments. At this very mom-
ent, while Germany is proclaiming peace and humanity to the world,
she is deporting Belgian citizens by thousands and reducing them to
     Belgium before the war asked for nothing but to live in harmony
with all her neighbours. Her King and her Government have but
one aim — the re-establishment of peace and justice [droit — right].
But they only desire [desire only] a peace which would assure to
their country legitimate reparation, guarantees, and safeguards for
the future.

1The Times, London, January 1, 1917.