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Czecho-Slovak Declaration of Independence 191
the denationalizing oppression under which we have suffered for the last three hundred years. We consider freedom to be the first prerequisite for federalization, and believe that the free nations of central and eastern Europe may easily federate should they find it necessary.
II. We make this declaration on the basis of our historic and natural right. We have been an independent state since the seventh century; and in 1526, as an independent state, consisting of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, we joined with Austria and Hungary in a defensive union against the Turkish danger. We have never voluntarily surrendered our rights as an independent state in this confederation. The Hapsburgs broke their compact with our nation by illegally transgressing our rights and violating the constitution of our state,which they had pledged themselves to uphold, and we therefore refuse longer to remain a part of Austria-Hungary in any form.
We claim the right of Bohemia to be reunited with her Slovak brethern of Slovakia, once a part of our national state, later torn from our national body, and fifty years ago incorporated in the Hungarian state of the Magyars, who, by their unspeakable violence and ruthless oppression of their subject races, have lost all moral and human right to rule anybody but themselves.
III. The world knows the history of our struggle against the Hapsburg oppression, intensified and systematized by the AustroHungarian dualistic compromise of 1867. This dualism is only a shameless organization of brute force and exploitation of the majority by the minority; it is a political conspiracy of the Germans and Magyars against our own as well as the other Slav and the Latin nations of the monarchy. The world knows the justice of our claims, which the Hapsburgs themselves dared not deny. Francis Joseph [I], in the most solemn manner, repeatedly recognized the sovereign rights of our nation. The Germans and Magyars opposed this recognition; and Austria-Hungary, bowing before the Pan-Germans, became a colony of Germany, and, as her vanguard to the East, provoked the last Balkan conflict, as well as the present world war, which was begun by the Hapsburgs alone without the consent of the representatives of the people.
We cannot and will not continue to live under the rule, direct.or indirect, of the violators of Belgium, France, and Serbia, the would-be murderers of Russia and Rumania, the murderers of tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers of our blood, and the accomplices in numberless unspeakable crimes committed in this war against humanity by the two degenerate and irresponsible dynasties. We will not remain a part of a state which has no justification for existence and which, refusing to accept the fundamental principles of modern world organization, remains only an artificial and immoral political structure, hindering every movement toward democratic and social progress. The Hapsburg dynasty, weighed down by a huge inheritance of error and crime, is a perpetual menace to the peace of the world, and we deem it our duty toward humanity and civilization to aid in bringing about its downfall and destruction.
1 The so-called Ausgleich.
We reject the sacrilegious assertion that the power of the Hapsburg and Hohenzollern dynasties is of divine origin; we refuse to recognize the divine right of kings. Our nation elected the Hapsburgs to the throne of Bohemia of its own free will, and by the same right deposes them. We hereby declare the Hapshurg dynasty unworthy of leading our nation, and deny all of their claims to rule in the Czecho-Slovak land, which we here and now declare shall henceforth be a free and independent people and nation.
IV. We accept and shall adhere to the ideals of modern democracy, as they have been the ideals of our nation for centuries. We accept the American principles as laid down by President Wilson: the principles of liberated mankind of the actual equality of nations
and of governments deriving all their just power from the consent of the governed. We, the nation of Comenius, cannot but accept these principles expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, the principles of Lincoln, and of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. For these principles our nation shed its blood in the memorable Hussite wars five hundred years ago; for these same principles, beside her allies in Russia, Italy, and France, our nation is shedding its blood to-day.
V. We shall outline only the main principles of the constitution of the Czecho-Slovak nation; the final decision as to the constitution itself falls to the legally chosen representatives of the liberated and united people.
The Czecho-Slovak state shall be a republic. In constant endeavor for progress it will guarantee complete freedom of conscience, religion and science, literature and art, speech, the press, and the
1 A Moravian bishop and educator (1592-1671).
Czecho-Slovak Declaration of Independence 193
right of assembly and petition. The Church shall be separated from the State. Our democracy shall rest on universal suffrage; women shall be placed on an equal footing with men, politically, socially, and culturally. The rights of the minority shall be safeguarded by proportional representation; national minorities shall enjoy equal rights. The government shall be parliamentary in form and shall recognize the principles of the initiative and referendum. The standing army will be replaced by militia.
The Czecho-Slovak nation will carry out far-reaching social and economic reforms; the large estates will be redeemed for home colonization; patents of nobility will be abolished. Our nation will assume its part of the Austro-Hungarian pre-war public debt; the debts for this war we leave to those who incurred them.
In its foreign policy the Czecho-Slovak nation will ac full share of responsibility in the reorganization of eastern Europe. It accepts fully the democratic and social principle of nationalism and subscribes to the doctrine that all covenants and treaties shall be entered into openly and frankly without secret diplomacy.
Our constitution shall provide an efficient, rational, and just government, which will exclude all special privileges and prohibit class legislation.
Democracy has defeated theocratic autocracy. Militarism is overcome, democracy is victorious; on the basis of democracy mankind will be reorganized. The forces of darkness have served the victory of light, the longed-for age of humanity is dawning.
We believe in democracy, we believe in liberty, and liberty evermore.
Given in Paris on the eighteenth of October, 1918.
1 Signed by Thomas G. Masaryk, prime minister, M. R. Stefanik, minister of national defense, and Edward Benes, minister of foreign affairs.
33. COVENANT OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS, 1919 1
As soon as the Peace Conference met at Paris steps were taken to organize a League of Nations. A committee of delegates, representing fourteen countries and including President Wilson and Mr. E. W. House (United States), Lord Robert Cecil and General Smuts (Great Britain), M. Léon Bourgeois (France), Premier Orlando (Italy), and Baron Chinda (Japan), held daily sessions and on February 14, 1919, presented a unanimous report to a plenary session of the Conference. The preliminary draft of the constitution or covenant was subsequently modified as the result of world-wide discussion and on April 28 was again laid before the Conference. This amended document then became the first part of the peace treaty with Germany. The signing of the treaty by the Allied and Associated governments and its subsequent ratification set up the League of Nations in active operation. The original members of the League are twenty-six Allied belligerent powers (counting separately the British Empire, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and India) and four powers (Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay) in a state of diplomatic rupture with the enemy. Thirteen neutral countries were also invited to accede to the covenant. China, which did not sign the peace treaty, and the United States, which did not ratify it, were consequently excluded from the list of original members of the League.
COVENANT OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS, 1919 The high contracting parties, in order to promote international co
operation and to achieve international peace and security, by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war, by the prescription of open, just, and honorable relations between nations, by the firm establishment of the understandings of international 1 Senate Document, No. 49 (66th Congress, ist Session), pp. 8–17. Washington,
law as the actual rule of conduct among governments, and by the maintenance of justice and a scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations in the dealings of organized peoples with one another, agree to this covenant of the League of Nations
The original members of the League of Nations shall be those of the signatories which are named in the annex to this covenant and also such of those other states named in the annex as shall accede without reservation to this covenant. Such accession shall be effected by a declaration deposited with the Secretariat within two months of the coming into force of the covenant. Notice thereof shall be sent to all other members of the league.
Any fully self-governing state, dominion, or colony, not named in the annex, may become a member of the league, if its admission is agreed to by two-thirds of the Assembly, provided that it shall give effective guarantees of its sincere intention to observe its international obligations, and shall accept such regulations as may be prescribed by the league in regard to its military, naval, and air forces, and 'armaments.
Any member of the league may, after two years' notice of its intention so to do, withdraw from the league, provided that all its international obligations and all its obligations under this covenant shall have been fulfilled at the time of its withdrawal.
The action of the league under this covenant shall be effected through the instrumentality of an Assembly and of a Council, with a permanent Secretariat.
The Assembly shall consist of representatives of the members of the league.
The Assembly shall meet at stated intervals, and from time to time as occasion may require, at the seat of the league or at such other place as may be decided upon.
The Assembly may deal at its meetings with any matter within the sphere of action of the league or affecting the peace of the world.
At meetings of the Assembly each member of the league shall have one vote, and may have not more than three representatives.