BRAND WHITLOCK had never kept a diary until, with the German invasion of Belgium, his crowded impressions of historic events demanded a record. But his journal soon became a habit, and without important intermission he maintained it until the close of his life. Filling more than twenty fat notebooks in his small, difficult handwriting, the diary contains material for three or four printed volumes. It has been necessary to make a selection from it. But my task in doing so has been lightened by the fact that the interest and importance of the record decline in marked degree after the date of Whitlock's resignation as Ambassador. I have felt it proper, since bounds had to be set somewhere, to ignore that part of the diary which followed his departure from Brussels. What we have here, therefore, is a chronicle of the Great War and its immediate results as seen from Belgian soil. It is true that for a year and a half Whitlock was not in Belgium at all, but at Havre with the exiled civil administration. Nevertheless, he was spiritually still breathing Belgian air, as politically he was still accredited to the Belgian Government. A fairly accurate title for the volume would therefore be, "A Journal of the Great War as Seen from Belgium." Perhaps, to make it complete, a phrase should be added to show that it covers the first steps in European reconstruction.
It is a record curious and illuminating in many ways. It contains, for one thing, much the frankest account of the revictualing of Belgium and its accompanying difficulties yet put into print. The editor has no desire to present sensational matter, or injure (were it possible) any figure concerned in that great work. But surely, after the lapse of more than two decades, it is possible to present the story just as Whitlock saw it; surely it detracts nothing from the splendid achievement by Villalobar and the other "protecting Ministers," by Mr. Hoover and his devoted aides, and by M. Francqui and his associates, to show how much friction accompanied their labors. The book, again, contains one of the most vivid presentations of a nation under the heel of an invader ever published. Only a day-to-day record can admit the reader to an appreciation of what Belgium suffered, and in these pages the effect is cumulative. A third feature of
the book is its shrewd view of European politics from the Armistice to the beginning of 1922; a mordant and disillusioned view, with not a few passages positively bitter. And finally, we have in this volume an interesting record of Whitlock's own inner growth; for the Midwestern mayor, under responsibilities that made him an international figure, learned a broader and deeper philosophy than he brought to Europe.
As Belgium is always in the foreground of the book, it should be added that the book is interesting also for the development of Whitlock's attitude toward that country. In one sense he was passionately devoted to Belgium; in another he was a critical and detached observer. Readers of this volume will soon perceive the distinction. The Belgium of art, architecture, poetry, romance, and history he admired without reservation. The Belgium that was a modern industrial state, busy with moneymaking, disturbed by racial, religious, and class differences, and led by highly practical politicians, he viewed realistically and critically. The Belgian nation during the war years seemed to him heroism incarnate. In the post-war years, perceiving both the defects and the virtues of the land, he commented upon it in a more incisive and balanced tone.
It was unfortunate that Whitlock had so little time to become acquainted with Belgium before the World War burst upon it. In the first few months after his arrival he was busy familiarizing himself with the Court, the Cabinet, his diplomatic colleagues, and the city. Of the great industries, the working people, the political parties, and the hard practical workaday Belgium he had yet seen little. He had observed the aristocratic life of the capital, had been admitted to artistic circles, and had begun to study the incrustations of history; that was all.
Yet Belgium was much more than a treasure-house of the past; it was a very modern country, boiling with new forces. Its seven and a half million people, crowded into some eleven thousand square miles, showed much social discontent. Great political changes were imminent. The Clericals who, with the aid of a system of plural voting, had long ruled the nation, were being pressed hard by the Liberals and Socialists under MM. Hymans and Vandervelde. By a general strike in 1913 the Opposition groups had forced the appointment of a commission upon electoral reform. The nation was torn by the agitation of the Flemish-speaking element for larger educational and political privileges for their tongue; the census of 1910 having shown that some 3,220,000 people spoke Flemish alone against 2,833,000 who spoke French alone. Agitation against the Church, and especially against the grip which it attempted to maintain upon the schools, was continuous. The question of military preparation constituted a burning issue. When Whitlock arrived the army had just been reorganized and strengthened. Many, especially the Socialists, regarded this attempt to keep up with the military expansion of larger nations as a piece of costly jingoism; others held it vital to the nation's safety.
But the Belgium which Whitlock saw in his first months abroad was primarily the Belgium of the past. In Brussels, one of the most beautiful cities of Europe, he took an insatiable delight. He looked at it through the same eyes as William Hickling Prescott, and Prescott's description of it may be quoted as embodying the very spirit of Whitlock's admiration:
In Brussels I found myself in the very heart of the Middle Ages. Old buildings of stone, curiously carved, immense gables and fantastic architraves, and cornices of the houses; churches with antique Gothic spires. The Place Royale, in which my hotel stood, was the spot on which Charles the Fifth abandoned the crown in presence of the most royal assembly that ever met in Brussels .... I visited the Hôtel de Ville, a most glorious municipal monument of the Middle Ages, standing as it stood when, directly in front of it, those gallant nobles, Egmont and Horn, were beheaded on a public scaffold by order of Alva. I visited the house, a fine old Gothic edifice, still standing, from which the Flemish patriots walked out to the scaffold, and from the windows of which Alva witnessed the execution. What a square that is! ... Then the noble cathedral of Brussels, dedicated to Sainte Gudule; the superb organ filling its long aisles with the most heart-thrilling tones, as the voices of the priests, dressed in their rich robes of purple and gold, rose in a chant that died away in the immense vaulted distance of the cathedral .... The setting sun was streaming in through the rich colored panes of the magnificent windows, that rose from the floor to the ceiling of the cathedral, some hundred feet in height. The glass was of the time of Charles the Fifth, and I soon recognized his familiar face, the whapper-jaw of the Austrian line. As I heard the glorious anthem rise up to heaven in this time-honored cathedral, which has witnessed generation after generation melt away, and which now displayed the effigies of those, in undying colors, who had once worshipped within its walls, I was swept back to a distant period and felt I was a contemporary of the grand old times when Charles the Fifth held his Chapters of the Golden Fleece in this very building.
Whitlock, as his diary testifies, loved to go down from the Quartier Léopold to the older parts of town---to the spacious Grande Place, with the magnificent Hôtel de Ville and the old guild-houses, presenting an image of the ancient picturesqueness of the city; to Nôtre Dame du Sablon, founded in 1304 by the society of crossbowmen of which Whitlock was ultimately elected a member; to the palace of the Duc d'Arenberg, once the residence of Count Egmont, built in 1548; and other landmarks of the past. He loved the stately Palais de la Nation, where Parliament met, and the Palais Royal, where the King spent much of his time. He familiarized himself with the royal museums and library. He grew fond also of some of the environs of Brussels---the Parc du Cinquantenaire, just outside the Quartier Léopold to the east, a beautiful spot made more interesting by its industrial museum; Laeken, to the north of the city, with its cemetery and royal palace; and Tervueren, not far from the field of Waterloo.
All the world idealized Belgium from 1914 to 1918. It idealized itself; internal divisions melted away, for a time at least, in the fire of patriotism, and an unselfish heroism stamped the national character. Whitlock devoted himself wholeheartedly to the crucified land. From the moment the war broke out he was intensely on the side of the Allies, and bitterly antagonistic to the invader. What he saw of the Germans in the rôle of conquerors steadily deepened his animosity toward them. His journal for the war years is filled with detestation of all things Teutonic, and a passionate affection for the Belgian people. One of the happiest days of his life was that in which, hard on the heels of King Albert himself, he drove from France over the old battle-lines, past bivouacs of troops just released from fighting, and back into the liberated and flag-bedecked city of Brussels, his old home.
Then, in the years after the war, the inevitable occurred. For the first time he really became acquainted with that modern Belgium which, with many admirable qualities, is after all on the same mundane level as the rest of mankind. It was a Belgium eagerly interested in the resumption of industry; making passionate demands of the Peace Conference, some of them exaggerated; anxious for trading privileges and the economic absorption of Luxembourg; ready to give up its old neutrality for a dubious military alliance with France; more nationalistic than ever. It was a Belgium with less unity than before the war-the Clericals struggling to defend old privileges, the Liberals and Socialists triumphantly battling for reform; the Flamingants insisting more vehemently upon their rights; labor more determined to obtain social justice. Some of the politicians appeared as crass and unscrupulous as in America. Of this modern Belgium at last realistically perceived, Whitlock was an honest critic, his pen sometimes touching it with acid strokes. Fond as ever of the Belgium of art and history, the Belgium of 1920-22 he presented as he saw it. In this contrast of mood lies one interesting feature of the journal.
Here we have a volume very different indeed from Belgium: A Personal Record, though in the first part of it there are of course resemblances. It contains much more immediacy of emotion. It is far more candid and outspoken, for Whitlock frankly admitted that in Belgium he had omitted some controversial material. After April, 1917, the journal is entirely new, and it constitutes the only record by Whitlock of the year and a half at Havre; of the return to Brussels; of Belgium during the work of the Peace Conference; of President Wilson's visit, and of the first struggles of Europe after the war to regain solvency, a workable commercial system, and a degree of harmony. All in all, the journal may be pronounced one of the most varied, entertaining, illuminating, and at times moving of American records of the war and post-war period.
|DRAMATIS PERSONAE .|
||THE GERMAN INVASION|
||ESTABLISHING THE BELGIAN RELIEF . .|
||TROUBLES OF THE C.R.B|
||THE Lusitania AND AFTER|
||A VISIT TO THE GERMAN FRONT: NURSE CAVELL|
||HOOVER, FRANCQUI, AND VON BISSING|
||THE "SLAVE DRIVES" IN BELGIUM|
||AMERICA ENTERS THE WAR|
||WITH THE EXILED BELGIAN GOVERNMENT .|
||THE DARKEST DAYS OF THE WAR|
||VICTORY: THE RETURN TO BRUSSELS|
||THE YEAR OF THE PEACE CONFERENCE|
||POST-WAR POLITICS IN BELGIUM|
||THE LAST YEAR IN BRUSSELS|
ALBERT, KING OF THE BELGIANS
ALLARD, JOSSE. One of Whitlock's dearest friends in Brussels
BELOW-SALESKI, HERR VON. German Minister to Belgium at the outbreak of the war
BIS5SNG, BARON GENERAL VON. German Governor-General of Belgium after the departure of von der Goltz
BLANCAS, ALBERT. Argentine Minister to Belgium during the war
B0TTARO-COSTA, COUNT. Italian Minister to Belgium at the outbreak of the war
BROHN, DR. Official of the German administration in Belgium, closely concerned with relief activities
BULLE, M. Mexican Minister to Belgium in 1914, later connected with the Commission for Relief in Belgium
CAVALCANTI DE LACERDA, FELIX. Secretary of the Brazilian Legation during the war
CAVELL, EDITH. English nurse, executed by the Germans for assisting English, French, and Belgians to escape to Holland
COMITÉ NATIONAL D'ALIMENTATION ET SECOURS. Belgian organization for the relief of the destitute and starving
COMMISSION FOR RELIEF IN BELGIUM (C.R.B.). American organization (though much of the money came from the British Empire and some from other countries) for the relief of starving Belgium
CONNETT, A. N. At one time Director of the C.R.B. in Belgium
CROSBY, OSCAR T. Director of the C.R.B. in Belgium in 1915
DAVIGNON, M. Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs when the war began
DE BROQUEVILLE, BARON. Long Prime Minister of Belgium
DE LEVAL, MAITRE GASTON. Legal adviser to the American Legation in Brussels
DE MÉRODE, COMTE. Marshal of the Belgian Court and warm friend of Whitlock
DESAMBLANCX, CHARLES. Brussels bookbinder and friend of Whitlock
DE WIART, CARTON. Minister of Justice in the Belgian Cabinet during the war; later Prime Minister
DE WIART, MME. CARTON. His admirable wife, a woman of English birth, who served a term in a German prison, and there translated Whitlock's Forty Years of It (with omissions) into French
DIEDERICH, MR. American Consul-General at Antwerp, 1914-17
ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF THE BELGIANS
FRANCQUI, EMILE. Able Belgian banker, head of the Comité National during the war, later prominent politically
GAHAN, REV. H. S. English rector in Brussels
GERARD, JAMES W. American Ambassador to Germany
GIBSON, HUGH S. Secretary to the American Legation in Brussels
GOLTZ, BARON VON DER. First Governor-General of Belgium
GREGORY, WARREN. Director of the C.R.B. November, 1916-April, 1917
HARRACH, COUNT VON. German official in Belgium, in charge of the press
HAVENITH, M. Belgian Minister in Washington
HEINEMAN, DANNIE. Connected with Belgian relief from the beginning to the withdrawal; Director of the C.R.B. in Belgium October-December, 1914
HOOVER, HERBERT CLARK. Chief organizer of the C.R.B., and its able head from the beginning until after the withdrawal
HYMANS, PAUL. Liberal statesman of Belgium; long Minister of Foreign Affairs; first president (1920) of the League of Nations
JACQUEMAIN, M. Alderman of Brussels
JAROTSKY, GENERAL VON. First German military commander in Brussels, 1914
KELLOGG, VERNON. The admirable Director of the C.R.B. in Belgium and northern France in 1915 and 1916
LARNER, MISS CAROLINE. Member of the Legation staff
LEMONNIER, M. Acting-Burgomaster of Brussels after the imprisonment of M. Max
LUCEY, CAPTAIN JOHN F. Director of the C.R.B. in Belgium, December, 1914-February, 1915
LUMM, VON. German official in Belgium, charged with administering the banks
LÜTTWITZ, BARON VON. Second military commander in Brussels, succeeding von Jarotsky
MAX, M. Burgomaster of Brussels, arrested and imprisoned
MERCIER, CARDINAL. The most eminent churchman of Belgium, residing at Malines
NONCE, THE. Papal nuncio in Belgium
OMER, M. Whitlock's servant
POLAND, WILLIAM B. Director of the C.R.B. in Belgium, December, 1915-June, 1916
RUDDOCK, A. B. Secretary of the American Legation in succession to Hugh Gibson
SAUBERZWEIG, GENERAL VON. Military commander in Brussels in succession to von Lüttwitz; the man responsible for Miss Cavell's execution
SHALER, MILLARD K. One of the organizers of the C.R.B. and its honorary secretary
SOLVAY, EMILE. Leading Belgian industrialist, prominent in the Comité National
VAN DYKE, DR. HENRY. American Minister to Holland during the war
VAN VOLLENHOVEN, MYNHEER. Dutch Minister to Belgium
VILLALOBAR, MARQUIS DE. Spanish Minister in Brussels, and with Whitlock the leading protective Minister of the C.R.B.
VILLIERS, SIR FRANCIS. English Minister to Belgium during the war
WATSON, HERBERT A. GRANT. Second Secretary of the British Legation in Brussels