The Making of the Reparation and Economic Sections of the Treaty

by Bernard M.Baruch. New York: Harper and Brothers. 1920. 12mo, 353 pp. $3.00.
THIS book is substantially a commentary upon an international statute. Of its 343 pages, exclusive of the index, 220 are occupied by selected clauses of the Versailles Treaty, or by documents relating to the adoption of those clauses and expository of them. Such a commentary might seem to promise few sensations, and to appeal but mildly to the interest of a layman. Indeed, it is written for serious men of affairs rather than for the numerous fledgling cosmopolitans who have found world politics since the war a source of emotional novelty. Nevertheless, it has immediately taken a notable place in the more widely read treaty literature, and has received liberal notice in the press of practically all the belligerent powers.
Partly, no doubt, this is due to the author’s prominent part in drafting the Treaty’s reparation and economic clauses. After serving as chairman of the War Industries Board during hostilities, he was appointed economic adviser of the American Peace Commission at Paris, where he served as member of the Economic Drafting Commission, the Reparation Commission, the Economic Commission, and the Supreme Economic Council — a list of offices indicative of some of the complexities of a single group of problems associated with the Treaty, and of the varied organizations created to deal with them. But the attention that the book has received is based upon more than the author’s intimacy with his subject. He elucidates the genesis and import of some of the most controversial clauses of the Treaty, and those which, directly or indirectly, peculiarly concern our country. If Mr. Baruch in one sense holds a brief for the work with which he was so prominently associated, that brief may fairly be said to be explanatory and informative, rather than apologetic.
He tries to picture in his introduction the emotional background with which the terms of the peace were in a degree compelled to harmonize. But that is a story we have already heard from every critic and apologist who has written about the work at Paris. It is when we eome to the early chapters, describing the struggle behind the scenes to make the Treaty conform— within at least blushing limits — with the pre-Armistice covenants with Germany, that we reach original material of interest and importance. In these chapters Mr. Baruch gives us an authoritative history of the reparation and economic clauses of the Treaty, much as Professors Haskins and Lord have given us the history of the political treaty clauses dealing exclusively with Europe. He has done so with such frankness as to elicit a rebuke from certain foreign reviewers — although a rather diffident one, to be sure, in view of the general engagement that the diplomacy at Paris should be “open” — for having violated some conventional reticences. This applies particularly to his publishing the secret memorandum of General Smuts, which decided the definition of reparation to civilians finally accepted by the Conference.
Americans have no reason to be ashamed of the documentary chapters, which are unbiased witnesses of facts, and show the American representatives fighting honorably for honest interpretations and plighted faith against the somewhat shifty and specious arguments of statesmen who were so compromised by political pledges at home that they found themselves, in view of their preArmistice promises to Germany, the victims of almost irreconcilable engagements. V.S.C.