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The Crime of Partition

1919


At the end of the eighteenth century, when the partition of Poland had
become an accomplished fact, the world qualified it at once as a crime.
This strong condemnation proceeded, of course, from the West of Europe;
the Powers of the Centre, Prussia and Austria, were not likely to admit
that this spoliation fell into the category of acts morally reprehensible
and carrying the taint of anti-social guilt. As to Russia, the third
party to the crime, and the originator of the scheme, she had no national
conscience at the time. The will of its rulers was always accepted by
the people as the expression of an omnipotence derived directly from God.
As an act of mere conquest the best excuse for the partition lay simply
in the fact that it happened to be possible; there was the plunder and
there was the opportunity to get hold of it. Catherine the Great looked
upon this extension of her dominions with a cynical satisfaction. Her
political argument that the destruction of Poland meant the repression of
revolutionary ideas and the checking of the spread of Jacobinism in
Europe was a characteristically impudent pretence. There may have been
minds here and there amongst the Russians that perceived, or perhaps only
felt, that by the annexation of the greater part of the Polish Republic,
Russia approached nearer to the comity of civilised nations and ceased,
at least territorially, to be an Asiatic Power.

It was only after the partition of Poland that Russia began to play a
great part in Europe. To such statesmen as she had then that act of
brigandage must have appeared inspired by great political wisdom. The
King of Prussia, faithful to the ruling principle of his life, wished
simply to aggrandise his dominions at a much smaller cost and at much
less risk than he could have done in any other direction; for at that
time Poland was perfectly defenceless from a material point of view, and
more than ever, perhaps, inclined to put its faith in humanitarian
illusions. Morally, the Republic was in a state of ferment and
consequent weakness, which so often accompanies the period of social
reform. The strength arrayed against her was just then overwhelming; I
mean the comparatively honest (because open) strength of armed forces.
But, probably from innate inclination towards treachery, Frederick of
Prussia selected for himself the part of falsehood and deception.
Appearing on the scene in the character of a friend he entered
deliberately into a treaty of alliance with the Republic, and then,
before the ink was dry, tore it up in brazen defiance of the commonest
decency, which must have been extremely gratifying to his natural tastes.

As to Austria, it shed diplomatic tears over the transaction. They
cannot be called crocodile tears, insomuch that they were in a measure
sincere. They arose from a vivid perception that Austria's allotted
share of the spoil could never compensate her for the accession of
strength and territory to the other two Powers. Austria did not really
want an extension of territory at the cost of Poland. She could not hope
to improve her frontier in that way, and economically she had no need of
Galicia, a province whose natural resources were undeveloped and whose
salt mines did not arouse her cupidity because she had salt mines of her
own. No doubt the democratic complexion of Polish institutions was very
distasteful to the conservative monarchy; Austrian statesmen did see at
the time that the real danger to the principle of autocracy was in the
West, in France, and that all the forces of Central Europe would be
needed for its suppression. But the movement towards a _partage_ on the
part of Russia and Prussia was too definite to be resisted, and Austria
had to follow their lead in the destruction of a State which she would
have preferred to preserve as a possible ally against Prussian and
Russian ambitions. It may be truly said that the destruction of Poland
secured the safety of the French Revolution. For when in 1795 the crime
was consummated, the Revolution had turned the corner and was in a state
to defend itself against the forces of reaction.

In the second half of the eighteenth century there were two centres of
liberal ideas on the continent of Europe: France and Poland. On an
impartial survey one may say without exaggeration that then France was
relatively every bit as weak as Poland; even, perhaps, more so. But
France's geographical position made her much less vulnerable. She had no
powerful neighbours on her frontier; a decayed Spain in the south and a
conglomeration of small German Principalities on the east were her happy
lot. The only States which dreaded the contamination of the new
principles and had enough power to combat it were Prussia, Austria, and
Russia, and they had another centre of forbidden ideas to deal with in
defenceless Poland, unprotected by nature, and offering an immediate
satisfaction to their cupidity. They made their choice, and the untold
sufferings of a nation which would not die was the price exacted by fate
for the triumph of revolutionary ideals.

Thus even a crime may become a moral agent by the lapse of time and the
course of history. Progress leaves its dead by the way, for progress is
only a great adventure as its leaders and chiefs know very well in their
hearts. It is a march into an undiscovered country; and in such an
enterprise the victims do not count. As an emotional outlet for the
oratory of freedom it was convenient enough to remember the Crime now and
then: the Crime being the murder of a State and the carving of its body
into three pieces. There was really nothing to do but to drop a few
tears and a few flowers of rhetoric upon the grave. But the spirit of
the nation refused to rest therein. It haunted the territories of the
Old Republic in the manner of a ghost haunting its ancestral mansion
where strangers are making themselves at home; a calumniated, ridiculed,
and pooh-pooh'd ghost, and yet never ceasing to inspire a sort of awe, a
strange uneasiness, in the hearts of the unlawful possessors. Poland
deprived of its independence, of its historical continuity, with its
religion and language persecuted and repressed, became a mere
geographical expression. And even that, itself, seemed strangely vague,
had lost its definite character, was rendered doubtful by the theories
and the claims of the spoliators who, by a strange effect of uneasy
conscience, while strenuously denying the moral guilt of the transaction,
were always trying to throw a veil of high rectitude over the Crime. What
was most annoying to their righteousness was the fact that the nation,
stabbed to the heart, refused to grow insensible and cold. That
persistent and almost uncanny vitality was sometimes very inconvenient to
the rest of Europe also. It would intrude its irresistible claim into
every problem of European politics, into the theory of European
equilibrium, into the question of the Near East, the Italian question,
the question of Schleswig-Holstein, and into the doctrine of
nationalities. That ghost, not content with making its ancestral halls
uncomfortable for the thieves, haunted also the Cabinets of Europe, waved
indecently its bloodstained robes in the solemn atmosphere of Council-
rooms, where congresses and conferences sit with closed windows. It
would not be exorcised by the brutal jeers of Bismarck and the fine
railleries of Gorchakov.

As a Polish friend observed to me some years ago: "Till the year '48 the
Polish problem has been to a certain extent a convenient rallying-point
for all manifestations of liberalism. Since that time we have come to be
regarded simply as a nuisance. It's very disagreeable."

I agreed that it was, and he continued: "What are we to do? We did not
create the situation by any outside action of ours. Through all the
centuries of its existence Poland has never been a menace to anybody, not
even to the Turks, to whom it has been merely an obstacle."

Nothing could be more true. The spirit of aggressiveness was absolutely
foreign to the Polish temperament, to which the preservation of its
institutions and its liberties was much more precious than any ideas of
conquest. Polish wars were defensive, and they were mostly fought within
Poland's own borders. And that those territories were often invaded was
but a misfortune arising from its geographical position. Territorial
expansion was never the master-thought of Polish statesmen. The
consolidation of the territories of the _serenissime_ Republic, which
made of it a Power of the first rank for a time, was not accomplished by
force. It was not the consequence of successful aggression, but of a
long and successful defence against the raiding neighbours from the East.
The lands of Lithuanian and Ruthenian speech were never conquered by
Poland. These peoples were not compelled by a series of exhausting wars
to seek safety in annexation. It was not the will of a prince or a
political intrigue that brought about the union. Neither was it fear.
The slowly-matured view of the economical and social necessities and,
before all, the ripening moral sense of the masses were the motives that
induced the forty three representatives of Lithuanian and Ruthenian
provinces, led by their paramount prince, to enter into a political
combination unique in the history of the world, a spontaneous and
complete union of sovereign States choosing deliberately the way of
peace. Never was strict truth better expressed in a political instrument
than in the preamble of the first Union Treaty (1413). It begins with
the words: "This Union, being the outcome not of hatred, but of
love"--words that Poles have not heard addressed to them politically by
any nation for the last hundred and fifty years.

This union being an organic, living thing capable of growth and
development was, later, modified and confirmed by two other treaties,
which guaranteed to all the parties in a just and eternal union all their
rights, liberties, and respective institutions. The Polish State offers
a singular instance of an extremely liberal administrative federalism
which, in its Parliamentary life as well as its international politics,
presented a complete unity of feeling and purpose. As an eminent French
diplomatist remarked many years ago: "It is a very remarkable fact in the
history of the Polish State, this invariable and unanimous consent of the
populations; the more so that, the King being looked upon simply as the
chief of the Republic, there was no monarchical bond, no dynastic
fidelity to control and guide the sentiment of the nations, and their
union remained as a pure affirmation of the national will." The Grand
Duchy of Lithuania and its Ruthenian Provinces retained their statutes,
their own administration, and their own political institutions. That
those institutions in the course of time tended to assimilation with the
Polish form was not the result of any pressure, but simply of the
superior character of Polish civilisation.

Even after Poland lost its independence this alliance and this union
remained firm in spirit and fidelity. All the national movements towards
liberation were initiated in the name of the whole mass of people
inhabiting the limits of the old Republic, and all the Provinces took
part in them with complete devotion. It is only in the last generation
that efforts have been made to create a tendency towards separation,
which would indeed serve no one but Poland's common enemies. And,
strangely enough, it is the internationalists, men who professedly care
nothing for race or country, who have set themselves this task of
disruption, one can easily see for what sinister purpose. The ways of
the internationalists may be dark, but they are not inscrutable.

From the same source no doubt there will flow in the future a poisoned
stream of hints of a reconstituted Poland being a danger to the races
once so closely associated within the territories of the Old Republic.
The old partners in "the Crime" are not likely to forgive their victim
its inconvenient and almost shocking obstinacy in keeping alive. They
had tried moral assassination before and with some small measure of
success, for, indeed, the Polish question, like all living reproaches,
had become a nuisance. Given the wrong, and the apparent impossibility
of righting it without running risks of a serious nature, some moral
alleviation may be found in the belief that the victim had brought its
misfortunes on its own head by its own sins. That theory, too, had been
advanced about Poland (as if other nations had known nothing of sin and
folly), and it made some way in the world at different times, simply
because good care was taken by the interested parties to stop the mouth
of the accused. But it has never carried much conviction to honest
minds. Somehow, in defiance of the cynical point of view as to the Force
of Lies and against all the power of falsified evidence, truth often
turns out to be stronger than calumny. With the course of years,
however, another danger sprang up, a danger arising naturally from the
new political alliances dividing Europe into two armed camps. It was the
danger of silence. Almost without exception the Press of Western Europe
in the twentieth century refused to touch the Polish question in any
shape or form whatever. Never was the fact of Polish vitality more
embarrassing to European diplomacy than on the eve of Poland's
resurrection.

When the war broke out there was something gruesomely comic in the
proclamations of emperors and archdukes appealing to that invincible soul
of a nation whose existence or moral worth they had been so arrogantly
denying for more than a century. Perhaps in the whole record of human
transactions there have never been performances so brazen and so vile as
the manifestoes of the German Emperor and the Grand Duke Nicholas of
Russia; and, I imagine, no more bitter insult has been offered to human
heart and intelligence than the way in which those proclamations were
flung into the face of historical truth. It was like a scene in a
cynical and sinister farce, the absurdity of which became in some sort
unfathomable by the reflection that nobody in the world could possibly be
so abjectly stupid as to be deceived for a single moment. At that time,
and for the first two months of the war, I happened to be in Poland, and
I remember perfectly well that, when those precious documents came out,
the confidence in the moral turpitude of mankind they implied did not
even raise a scornful smile on the lips of men whose most sacred feelings
and dignity they outraged. They did not deign to waste their contempt on
them. In fact, the situation was too poignant and too involved for
either hot scorn or a coldly rational discussion. For the Poles it was
like being in a burning house of which all the issues were locked. There
was nothing but sheer anguish under the strange, as if stony, calmness
which in the utter absence of all hope falls on minds that are not
constitutionally prone to despair. Yet in this time of dismay the
irrepressible vitality of the nation would not accept a neutral attitude.
I was told that even if there were no issue it was absolutely necessary
for the Poles to affirm their national existence. Passivity, which could
be regarded as a craven acceptance of all the material and moral horrors
ready to fall upon the nation, was not to be thought of for a moment.
Therefore, it was explained to me, the Poles _must_ act. Whether this
was a counsel of wisdom or not it is very difficult to say, but there are
crises of the soul which are beyond the reach of wisdom. When there is
apparently no issue visible to the eyes of reason, sentiment may yet find
a way out, either towards salvation or to utter perdition, no one can
tell--and the sentiment does not even ask the question. Being there as a
stranger in that tense atmosphere, which was yet not unfamiliar to me, I
was not very anxious to parade my wisdom, especially after it had been
pointed out in answer to my cautious arguments that, if life has its
values worth fighting for, death, too, has that in it which can make it
worthy or unworthy.

Out of the mental and moral trouble into which the grouping of the Powers
at the beginning of war had thrown the counsels of Poland there emerged
at last the decision that the Polish Legions, a peace organisation in
Galicia directed by Pilsudski (afterwards given the rank of General, and
now apparently the Chief of the Government in Warsaw), should take the
field against the Russians. In reality it did not matter against which
partner in the "Crime" Polish resentment should be directed. There was
little to choose between the methods of Russian barbarism, which were
both crude and rotten, and the cultivated brutality tinged with contempt
of Germany's superficial, grinding civilisation. There was nothing to
choose between them. Both were hateful, and the direction of the Polish
effort was naturally governed by Austria's tolerant attitude, which had
connived for years at the semi-secret organisation of the Polish Legions.
Besides, the material possibility pointed out the way. That Poland
should have turned at first against the ally of Western Powers, to whose
moral support she had been looking for so many years, is not a greater
monstrosity than that alliance with Russia which had been entered into by
England and France with rather less excuse and with a view to
eventualities which could perhaps have been avoided by a firmer policy
and by a greater resolution in the face of what plainly appeared
unavoidable.

For let the truth be spoken. The action of Germany, however cruel,
sanguinary, and faithless, was nothing in the nature of a stab in the
dark. The Germanic Tribes had told the whole world in all possible tones
carrying conviction, the gently persuasive, the coldly logical; in tones
Hegelian, Nietzschean, warlike, pious, cynical, inspired, what they were
going to do to the inferior races of the earth, so full of sin and all
unworthiness. But with a strange similarity to the prophets of old (who
were also great moralists and invokers of might) they seemed to be crying
in a desert. Whatever might have been the secret searching of hearts,
the Worthless Ones would not take heed. It must also be admitted that
the conduct of the menaced Governments carried with it no suggestion of
resistance. It was no doubt, the effect of neither courage nor fear, but
of that prudence which causes the average man to stand very still in the
presence of a savage dog. It was not a very politic attitude, and the
more reprehensible in so far that it seemed to arise from the mistrust of
their own people's fortitude. On simple matters of life and death a
people is always better than its leaders, because a people cannot argue
itself as a whole into a sophisticated state of mind out of deference for
a mere doctrine or from an exaggerated sense of its own cleverness. I am
speaking now of democracies whose chiefs resemble the tyrant of Syracuse
in this, that their power is unlimited (for who can limit the will of a
voting people?) and who always see the domestic sword hanging by a hair
above their heads.

Perhaps a different attitude would have checked German self-confidence,
and her overgrown militarism would have died from the excess of its own
strength. What would have been then the moral state of Europe it is
difficult to say. Some other excess would probably have taken its place,
excess of theory, or excess of sentiment, or an excess of the sense of
security leading to some other form of catastrophe; but it is certain
that in that case the Polish question would not have taken a concrete
form for ages. Perhaps it would never have taken form! In this world,
where everything is transient, even the most reproachful ghosts end by
vanishing out of old mansions, out of men's consciences. Progress of
enlightenment, or decay of faith? In the years before the war the Polish
ghost was becoming so thin that it was impossible to get for it the
slightest mention in the papers. A young Pole coming to me from Paris
was extremely indignant, but I, indulging in that detachment which is the
product of greater age, longer experience, and a habit of meditation,
refused to share that sentiment. He had gone begging for a word on
Poland to many influential people, and they had one and all told him that
they were going to do no such thing. They were all men of ideas and
therefore might have been called idealists, but the notion most strongly
anchored in their minds was the folly of touching a question which
certainly had no merit of actuality and would have had the appalling
effect of provoking the wrath of their old enemies and at the same time
offending the sensibilities of their new friends. It was an unanswerable
argument. I couldn't share my young friend's surprise and indignation.
My practice of reflection had also convinced me that there is nothing on
earth that turns quicker on its pivot than political idealism when
touched by the breath of practical politics.

It would be good to remember that Polish independence as embodied in a
Polish State is not the gift of any kind of journalism, neither is it the
outcome even of some particularly benevolent idea or of any clearly
apprehended sense of guilt. I am speaking of what I know when I say that
the original and only formative idea in Europe was the idea of delivering
the fate of Poland into the hands of Russian Tsarism. And, let us
remember, it was assumed then to be a victorious Tsarism at that. It was
an idea talked of openly, entertained seriously, presented as a
benevolence, with a curious blindness to its grotesque and ghastly
character. It was the idea of delivering the victim with a kindly smile
and the confident assurance that "it would be all right" to a perfectly
unrepentant assassin, who, after sawing furiously at its throat for a
hundred years or so, was expected to make friends suddenly and kiss it on
both cheeks in the mystic Russian fashion. It was a singularly
nightmarish combination of international polity, and no whisper of any
other would have been officially tolerated. Indeed, I do not think in
the whole extent of Western Europe there was anybody who had the
slightest mind to whisper on that subject. Those were the days of the
dark future, when Benckendorf put down his name on the Committee for the
Relief of Polish Populations driven by the Russian armies into the heart
of Russia, when the Grand Duke Nicholas (the gentleman who advocated a
St. Bartholomew's Night for the suppression of Russian liberalism) was
displaying his "divine" (I have read the very word in an English
newspaper of standing) strategy in the great retreat, where Mr. Iswolsky
carried himself haughtily on the banks of the Seine; and it was beginning
to dawn upon certain people there that he was a greater nuisance even
than the Polish question.

But there is no use in talking about all that. Some clever person has
said that it is always the unexpected that happens, and on a calm and
dispassionate survey the world does appear mainly to one as a scene of
miracles. Out of Germany's strength, in whose purpose so many people
refused to believe, came Poland's opportunity, in which nobody could have
been expected to believe. Out of Russia's collapse emerged that
forbidden thing, the Polish independence, not as a vengeful figure, the
retributive shadow of the crime, but as something much more solid and
more difficult to get rid of--a political necessity and a moral solution.
Directly it appeared its practical usefulness became undeniable, and also
the fact that, for better or worse, it was impossible to get rid of it
again except by the unthinkable way of another carving, of another
partition, of another crime.

Therein lie the strength and the future of the thing so strictly
forbidden no farther back than two years or so, of the Polish
independence expressed in a Polish State. It comes into the world
morally free, not in virtue of its sufferings, but in virtue of its
miraculous rebirth and of its ancient claim for services rendered to
Europe. Not a single one of the combatants of all the fronts of the
world has died consciously for Poland's freedom. That supreme
opportunity was denied even to Poland's own children. And it is just as
well! Providence in its inscrutable way had been merciful, for had it
been otherwise the load of gratitude would have been too great, the sense
of obligation too crushing, the joy of deliverance too fearful for
mortals, common sinners with the rest of mankind before the eye of the
Most High. Those who died East and West, leaving so much anguish and so
much pride behind them, died neither for the creation of States, nor for
empty words, nor yet for the salvation of general ideas. They died
neither for democracy, nor leagues, nor systems, nor yet for abstract
justice, which is an unfathomable mystery. They died for something too
deep for words, too mighty for the common standards by which reason
measures the advantages of life and death, too sacred for the vain
discourses that come and go on the lips of dreamers, fanatics,
humanitarians, and statesmen. They died . . . .

Poland's independence springs up from that great immolation, but Poland's
loyalty to Europe will not be rooted in anything so trenchant and
burdensome as the sense of an immeasurable indebtedness, of that
gratitude which in a worldly sense is sometimes called eternal, but which
lies always at the mercy of weariness and is fatally condemned by the
instability of human sentiments to end in negation. Polish loyalty will
be rooted in something much more solid and enduring, in something that
could never be called eternal, but which is, in fact, life-enduring. It
will be rooted in the national temperament, which is about the only thing
on earth that can be trusted. Men may deteriorate, they may improve too,
but they don't change. Misfortune is a hard school which may either
mature or spoil a national character, but it may be reasonably advanced
that the long course of adversity of the most cruel kind has not injured
the fundamental characteristics of the Polish nation which has proved its
vitality against the most demoralising odds. The various phases of the
Polish sense of self-preservation struggling amongst the menacing forces
and the no less threatening chaos of the neighbouring Powers should be
judged impartially. I suggest impartiality and not indulgence simply
because, when appraising the Polish question, it is not necessary to
invoke the softer emotions. A little calm reflection on the past and the
present is all that is necessary on the part of the Western world to
judge the movements of a community whose ideals are the same, but whose
situation is unique. This situation was brought vividly home to me in
the course of an argument more than eighteen months ago. "Don't forget,"
I was told, "that Poland has got to live in contact with Germany and
Russia to the end of time. Do you understand the force of that
expression: 'To the end of time'? Facts must be taken into account, and
especially appalling facts, such as this, to which there is no possible
remedy on earth. For reasons which are, properly speaking,
physiological, a prospect of friendship with Germans or Russians even in
the most distant future is unthinkable. Any alliance of heart and mind
would be a monstrous thing, and monsters, as we all know, cannot live.
You can't base your conduct on a monstrous conception. We are either
worth or not worth preserving, but the horrible psychology of the
situation is enough to drive the national mind to distraction. Yet under
a destructive pressure, of which Western Europe can have no notion,
applied by forces that were not only crushing but corrupting, we have
preserved our sanity. Therefore there can be no fear of our losing our
minds simply because the pressure is removed. We have neither lost our
heads nor yet our moral sense. Oppression, not merely political, but
affecting social relations, family life, the deepest affections of human
nature, and the very fount of natural emotions, has never made us
vengeful. It is worthy of notice that with every incentive present in
our emotional reactions we had no recourse to political assassination.
Arms in hand, hopeless or hopefully, and always against immeasurable
odds, we did affirm ourselves and the justice of our cause; but wild
justice has never been a part of our conception of national manliness. In
all the history of Polish oppression there was only one shot fired which
was not in battle. Only one! And the man who fired it in Paris at the
Emperor Alexander II. was but an individual connected with no
organisation, representing no shade of Polish opinion. The only effect
in Poland was that of profound regret, not at the failure, but at the
mere fact of the attempt. The history of our captivity is free from that
stain; and whatever follies in the eyes of the world we may have
perpetrated, we have neither murdered our enemies nor acted treacherously
against them, nor yet have been reduced to the point of cursing each
other."

I could not gainsay the truth of that discourse, I saw as clearly as my
interlocutor the impossibility of the faintest sympathetic bond between
Poland and her neighbours ever being formed in the future. The only
course that remains to a reconstituted Poland is the elaboration,
establishment, and preservation of the most correct method of political
relations with neighbours to whom Poland's existence is bound to be a
humiliation and an offence. Calmly considered it is an appalling task,
yet one may put one's trust in that national temperament which is so
completely free from aggressiveness and revenge. Therein lie the
foundations of all hope. The success of renewed life for that nation
whose fate is to remain in exile, ever isolated from the West, amongst
hostile surroundings, depends on the sympathetic understanding of its
problems by its distant friends, the Western Powers, which in their
democratic development must recognise the moral and intellectual kinship
of that distant outpost of their own type of civilisation, which was the
only basis of Polish culture.

Whatever may be the future of Russia and the final organisation of
Germany, the old hostility must remain unappeased, the fundamental
antagonism must endure for years to come. The Crime of the Partition was
committed by autocratic Governments which were the Governments of their
time; but those Governments were characterised in the past, as they will
be in the future, by their people's national traits, which remain utterly
incompatible with the Polish mentality and Polish sentiment. Both the
German submissiveness (idealistic as it may be) and the Russian
lawlessness (fed on the corruption of all the virtues) are utterly
foreign to the Polish nation, whose qualities and defects are altogether
of another kind, tending to a certain exaggeration of individualism and,
perhaps, to an extreme belief in the Governing Power of Free Assent: the
one invariably vital principle in the internal government of the Old
Republic. There was never a history more free from political bloodshed
than the history of the Polish State, which never knew either feudal
institutions or feudal quarrels. At the time when heads were falling on
the scaffolds all over Europe there was only one political execution in
Poland--only one; and as to that there still exists a tradition that the
great Chancellor who democratised Polish institutions, and had to order
it in pursuance of his political purpose, could not settle that matter
with his conscience till the day of his death. Poland, too, had her
civil wars, but this can hardly be made a matter of reproach to her by
the rest of the world. Conducted with humanity, they left behind them no
animosities and no sense of repression, and certainly no legacy of
hatred. They were but a recognised argument in political discussion and
tended always towards conciliation.

I cannot imagine, whatever form of democratic government Poland
elaborates for itself, that either the nation or its leaders would do
anything but welcome the closest scrutiny of their renewed political
existence. The difficulty of the problem of that existence will be so
great that some errors will be unavoidable, and one may be sure that they
will be taken advantage of by its neighbours to discredit that living
witness to a great historical crime. If not the actual frontiers, then
the moral integrity of the new State is sure to be assailed before the
eyes of Europe. Economical enmity will also come into play when the
world's work is resumed again and competition asserts its power. Charges
of aggression are certain to be made, especially as related to the small
States formed of the territories of the Old Republic. And everybody
knows the power of lies which go about clothed in coats of many colours,
whereas, as is well known, Truth has no such advantage, and for that
reason is often suppressed as not altogether proper for everyday
purposes. It is not often recognised, because it is not always fit to be
seen.

Already there are innuendoes, threats, hints thrown out, and even awful
instances fabricated out of inadequate materials, but it is historically
unthinkable that the Poland of the future, with its sacred tradition of
freedom and its hereditary sense of respect for the rights of individuals
and States, should seek its prosperity in aggressive action or in moral
violence against that part of its once fellow-citizens who are Ruthenians
or Lithuanians. The only influence that cannot be restrained is simply
the influence of time, which disengages truth from all facts with a
merciless logic and prevails over the passing opinions, the changing
impulses of men. There can be no doubt that the moral impulses and the
material interests of the new nationalities, which seem to play now the
game of disintegration for the benefit of the world's enemies, will in
the end bring them nearer to the Poland of this war's creation, will
unite them sooner or later by a spontaneous movement towards the State
which had adopted and brought them up in the development of its own
humane culture--the offspring of the West.

Joseph Conrad