Statement of Francesco Ruffini, Italian Minister of Public Instruction, Rome, January 14, 1917

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WWI Document Archive > 1916 Documents > Official Communications and Speeches Relating to Peace Proposals 1916-1917 > Statement of Francesco Ruffini, Italian Minister of Public Instruction, Rome, January 14, 1917

Statement of Francesco Ruffini, Italian Minister of Public Instruction, Rome, January 14, 19171

     In the note of the Allies to President Wilson, they make a point
which is understandable to neutrals, and particularly to America. Italy,
no less than her allies, awaits with calm confidence the realization of
the aims set forth in that passage of the note which refers to the re-
demption of Italians subject to Austria. The German press seeks
to depict Italy as desirous of conquests, but American public opinion,
so far-seeing, so well educated to freedom and to a deep spirit of
national unity, can not confound brutal lust of conquest with a justified
claim to territories with populations like those of the Trentino, Istria
and Dalmatia.
     These territories have had only one civilization in their history, that
of Italy, and only one great humiliation — which must cease — that of
foreign domination which attempted to destroy the principle of na-
tionality. America knows well that Italy, notwithstanding these just
claims, abstained from any provocation before the European conflagra-
tion, being occupied only with her peaceful development. Austria was
responsible for the outbreak of the conflict, having willed war with
Serbia after provoking Italy one hundred times with violent persecu-
tion of Italians of Trent, Trieste, Fiume and Zara, whom she denied
even the right to educate themselves in their own language.
     Once the conflagration was ignited, Italy felt that fate called her to
complete her national unity and resume her just and holy work and her
wars of independence, which have been studied with such enthusiasm
by your illustrious American historians. Only those who are ignorant
of the history of Austria's violent usurpations were surprised by Italy's
action, initiated by her victorious armies, or considered her just claims
to be ambition for conquest. Italy faced the terrible sacrifices of blood
and riches imposed by the war with that same religious spirit which
animated all the deeds of her national resurrection, of which America's
attainment of independence was so full.
     Italy counts on the considered and tranquil judgment of American
public opinion which, while justly desiring the return of peace, can not,
if it examines the origin of the conflict and the problem raised thereby,
wish that the European equilibrium, broken by violence in 1914, be
replaced to-day by a premature and unfruitful peace containing the
germs of graver conflicts in the future.

1The New York Times, January 16, 1917