3781 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.
"Germany took up arms in defense of its
liberty and independence and for the integrity of its territories. The Reichstag labors
for peace and a mutual understanding and
lasting reconciliation among the nations.
Forced acquisitions of territory and political,
economic, and financial violations are incompatible with such a peace.
"The Reichstag rejects all plans aiming at
an economic blockade and the stirring up of
enmity among the peoples after the war. The
freedom of the seas must be assured. Only
an economic peace can prepare the ground
for the friendly association of the peoples.
"The Reichstag will energetically promote
the operation of international juridical organizations. So long, however, as the enemy
Governments do not accept such a peace, so
long as they threaten violation, the German
people will stand together as one man, hold
out unshaken, and fight until the rights of
itself and its allies to life and development
are secured. The German Nation united is
"The Reichstag knows that in this announcement it is at one with the men who
are defending the Fatherland. In their heroic
struggles they are sure of the undying thanks
of the whole people."
On July 19, these resolutions were formally
adopted, and thus the Reichstag placed
itself on record as opposing annexations
and indemnities. The news was received
in the world outside as evidence of changing
German views regarding the war, but men
who understood German affairs were not
slow to point out that in the last analysis
the War Lords and not the Reichstag determined German policy. On the same day that
the Reichstag majority decided to support
the resolutions, the Kaiser issued a statement
vaguely promising franchise reforms. The
next day, Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg resigned, being forced out, according to
some accounts, by the influence of the Crown
Prince. He was succeeded by Dr. George
Michaelis, Prussian Under-Secretary of
Finance and Food Control. His advent to
power was regarded as a triumph of the military party headed by the Crown Prince.
In his first speech before the Reichstag,
Michaelis justified Germany's course in entering the war and declared that the submarines
were accomplishing all and more than all
that was expected of them. He deprecated
the idea that America would be able to play
any serious part in the war and said that
the Central Powers could look to the future
"with calm security." At the same time,
he expressed a willingness to make peace
but asserted that there must be guarantees
"of the existence of the German Empire upon
the continent and overseas."
Michaelis remained in power only a short
time. On October 24, he resigned and was
succeeded by Count von Hertling, an aged
statesman, who for over five years had been
Premier of Bavaria. Count von Hertling
had, for a time, been Professor of Philosophy
at the University of Bonn and subsequently
a member of the Reichstag. He was a Catholic in religion and a conservative in politics.
The causes of the change in government were
variously interpreted. It was charged that
von Hertling was opposed to broadened Parliamentary powers, that Michaelis was not
candid in his statements regarding the Reichstag peace proposals, and that he showed
partiality to extreme Pan-German annexationists.
During the spring, summer, and fall of
1917, the Italians continued their attacks
upon the Austrians. The difficulties were
enormous, for the country was mountainous
and easily defensible. In places the contending forces fought high above the clouds,
scaling the steep cliffs and even fighting
among glaciers and above the snow line.
Almost everywhere the transportation of
guns and supplies was accomplished only
after overcoming tremendous obstacles. In
such circumstances any speedy advance was
impossible, yet the Italians, by determined
efforts, made substantial gains.
In the second week of May, the Italians
began a three-day bombardment on a thirty mile front from Tolmino to the sea. On the
14th, in spite of strong Austrian counter-fire,
they assaulted the Austrian lines on a wide
front and captured numerous strong points
and over 6,000 prisoners.
Some days later, another attack on the
south of the Carso Plateau resulted in the
taking of 9,000 prisoners. Two weeks later,