The idea of a separate state in the Rhineland is as old as the two countries whom it most concerns. Perhaps it is older, for the headquarters of Charlemagne's empire, from which both France and Germany and sprung, was situated at Aix-la-Chapelle. Ever since Charles the Bold and Ludwig the German in 870 divided the territory of their nephew Lo thair between them, Lotharingia has been the victim of the conflicting ambitions of France and Germany. Although originally Alsace and the lower Rhine were given to Germany and Lorraine was alloted to France, neither country has been content. The ebb and flow of time has in one century carried the German arms to Verdun and in another advanced the fleur-de-lis or the tricolor to the Rhine and Westphalis.
Now, over a thousand years later, the idea of a Middle Kingdom has been renewed. However much the Berlin government may maintain the doctrine that not one foot of the Reich will under any condition be coded to the foe and that the astivities of the Separatists are merely treasonable outbursts fostered by the French, it is an undeniable fact that the Separatist movement is growing. Never emotionally or intellectually akin to the Prussian, the Rhinelander is now further impelled toward "separatism" by the chance of freeing himself from a government which he feels has misunderstood his needs and from an oppressive burden of taxation and of reparations which is sure to be the lot of Germany for the next generation at least.
To those who have felt that France entered the Ruhr in part at least because of her desire for security, the idea of a separate state will appeal at first sight as perhaps a good substitute for Marshal Foch's famous "left bank of the Rhine." To those, on the other hand, who see in the occupation merely the desire to enforce Reparation payments, the idea will suggest the possibility of guaranteeing Franco-German peace on the basis of a buffer and neutral state. But multiplication of small states-buffer or neutral-has never in the past served the cause of peace. In the present, also, most observes are inclined to see in the numerous new states of central and eastern Europe as dangerous a provacative of future was as were the Balkans or the heterogeneous empire of the Hapsburgs in 1914.
The question of Franco-German relations is the greatest problem in Europe at the present day. On its successful solution depends much of the future. But even the League with at best only a loose power of moral suasion, would seem to be a greater hope for a lasting peace than a separate state, sure to invite the envy of one if not both of its great neighbors. Perhaps after all the two countries will be forced to the solution which at the moment seems the most unlikely-an economic union based on coal in the Ruhr and iron in Lorraine, a union gradually cemented into firm understanding and industrial alliance. At least such a plan would offer the hope of lasting peace. And history has before this played tricks as queer.