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Once more a nation has appealed to the League against a provision of the Peace Treaty, and in the name of "self-determination." This time it is Alsace-Lorraine--that darling for whose redemption France poured forth so much blood and treasure--that raises its voice against its liberator. It is Alsace-Lorraine that protests loudly at the high-handed conduct of the French officials, and at being forcefully "annexed" without its consent. Furthermore, the agitation in favor of independence is spreading steadily throughout the districts. Is it for this then, that France has waited fifty years; is it for this that thousands of Frenchmen gave their lives in the great war; and for this that the Strass-bourg statue was draped in black for two generations? Such seems indeed to be the case.
Ever since the War of 1870, France has dreamed of the hour when the lost provinces should once more be numbered among her children. Now she can claim them but time has wrought great changes. The simple truth is that Alsace-Lorraine is neither German nor French now but an entity in itself. The Germans tried desperately to Prussianize it and all they succeeded in doing was to de-Frenchify it. They drove out most of the strongly French faction, to be sure, and put in German colonists in their places; but the colonists soon became as bitter under the German misrule as the original population. The result has been to build up a people conscious of its wrongs and solidly united against all oppression. It has been Alsace-Lorraine against the world.
This change it is that France, unswerving in her devotion and steadfast in her hope, is quite unable to comprehend. Like the rest of the world she has been assuming all along that Alsace was to go to her gladly and as a matter of course. The awakening will be bitter. Sentiments long cherished are hard to forget, but the cold fact remains that the restored provinces care little more for France than they do for Germany. That is the sorrow of it for France.
What the outcome will be no one can say. Most likely the protest will be ignored by the League. The strategic value to France of the districts is too great to be disregarded, and there are limits even to self-determination. Very likely if the provinces are consulted, they may be persuaded to stay with France after all. But the whole situation illustrates very well, how quickly and completely nations may undergo change, and the small part that grtaitude plays in international relations.
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