Paris Peace Conf. 772.73/7

King Nicholas I of Montenegro to President Wilson

Very Dear and Great Friend: You brought into the war the greatest and most pacific of the Republics in the name of outraged right and in the defence of the weak. You caused the Allies themselves to realize the true meaning of their heroic efforts and of the noble aims they were [Page 363]to strive for. You wished for victory in order that upon it peace might be fashioned by the hands of the just. You gave a definite form to the desire of all civilized peoples and to the principles on which perfectible humanity ought to build up its true happiness. In your person we are compelled to see the great conscience of our epoch.

It is because you are all this that to-day the oldest of the heads of States writes to you to appeal to your sense of equity.

My Government has already informed your Government of the facts which oblige me to break that reserve which I have perhaps too long observed.

On December 28, 1918, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Serbian Government near the Royal Government of Montenegro addressed to the latter the following note: “By order of the Royal Government I have the honor to inform the Royal Ministry that the diplomatic functions of the representative of the Royal Government near that Ministry should be considered as at an end for the reason that on the 4th of this month the union of Montenegro to Serbia came into effect.” These few words, this short, brutal sentence, have with cynicism put an end to the long and patient hypocrisy of official Serbia. Her tactics are revealed, her aims discovered, her greed avowed!

In 1914, when the ambition of Austria-Hungary threatened Serbia, Montenegro at once flew to arms. Nothing forced it so to act; it only obeyed a sentiment of fraternal solidarity. It fought courageously, not listening to offers made by the enemy, nor stipulating conditions for its Allies. At my desire the Montenegrin command was entrusted to Serbian officers. In 1915 our little Army sacrificed itself in order to cover the retreat of the Serbs, and thus saved them from disaster. This act of abnegation exhausted Montenegro. It was compelled to abandon the struggle. The brave Montenegrin soldiers were destined to die of cold and hunger in prison camps, and Austria occupied the whole of its territory.

Quickly lightened of its burden of gratitude, the Serbian Government at once sought to take advantage of the precarious situation of its unfortunate Ally and neighbor. It immediately saw the way to exploit the exile of the official representatives of unhappy Montenegro.

In spite of the hospitality extended by France, soon around us began to be heard the whisper of mischief-making, then the murmur of slander. Little by little rumours, at first of the vaguest kind, took shape and grew in volume; subterranean slander broke out into definite accusation. What had so far only been said soon began to appear in print; clandestine libel was replaced by widely distributed printed pamphlets; and these yet anonymous pamphlets were shortly followed by articles in publicly circulated newspapers. All and every means were good enough provided that the King of Montenegro, his [Page 364]family, his surroundings and his Ministers were cried down and vilified; every arm was legitimate if from the wound it made flowed some of the prestige of heroic Montenegro and its old sovereign.

To what end? It was necessary to cause a people to become disgusted with its dynasty, with its Government and even its independence. It was necessary to wear down the sympathy that the Allies were disposed to show towards the misfortunes of the smallest of their number. It was necessary to bring the minds of all thinking people to accept the absorption of one people by another.

Too soon the Serbian Government thought success won: and in 1917 came the declaration of Corfu, signed by the President of the Serbian Council. It was attempted by this act to draw up a pure and simple declaration of the annexation of Montenegro to Serbia. Without its being a question of consulting a single Montenegrin subject, it pretended to place our people under the scepter of the Karageorgevitchs. This attempt was in fact a failure, but a failure far from discouraging its authors. In November 1918 they imagined that they saw in the armistice another favorable opportunity. They hastened to smuggle Serbian troops into Montenegro as soon as the Austro-Hungarians had been evacuated therefrom, and then at once began armed propaganda.

The exploits of this propaganda are known to all. By clumsy artifice a “great Skouptchina” was created, while such an assembly is unprovided for in the Constitution of Montenegro, and while according to the laws of the country the national parliament cannot be legally called together when the King and his Government are on Allied territory and a number of its members are still interned or on their way home.

This assembly without a mandate was credited with authority. The result of a vote which was not even properly elaborated was trumped up—and throughout the world, thanks to the simplicity and cupidity of the Press, was spread the news of the union of Montenegro with Serbia and, at the same time, the deposition of Nicholas I.

The union of Montenegro with its Jugoslav brothers? But all my life I have been the most resolute and most listened to partisan of it! Only, I have always felt that it was necessary to leave to my people an independence which they have so dearly bought by five long centuries of strife, and I have always proclaimed that in the formation of a Jugoslav community each member ought to preserve its autonomy. This I re-stated in October 1918. No Jugoslavia is possible, in my opinion, without liberty and equality among its members.

To this conception what is the conception opposed by Serbia? Distinctly imperialist, the latter desires to see placed beneath the scepter of its King the divers Jugoslav countries thus reduced to [Page 365]nothing more than docile provinces of an exacting and authoritative monarchy.

In this there is a danger which all the diplomats of Europe and of America must perceive. In this in any case there is a violation of those very principles to which it has rightly become a habit to give your name.

It is in the name of these principles and in the name of eternal justice that I raise my voice in complaint to-day. I complain that the Serbian Government ignores my acquired rights, and treats official Montenegro with ignominious disrespect. I complain that official Serbia has made an attempt on the sovereignty of the Montenegrin people. I complain that an attempt is made to cause the Allies to forget their formal promise to restore and re-constitute Montenegro on the same footing as Serbia and Belgium. I complain that by force and ruse one people is doing its utmost to annex another!

I protest with all my strength against this scandal.

If the methods of Prussia have not been for ever abolished by the war just brought to a close; if the old practices of imperialism are still exercised and honored; if Might is Right, then I am wrong to speak. I ought to resign myself to the silence of the weak and the vanquished!

But if the methods of a Bismarck have been uprooted from this world by the hand of the victors; if the will of nationalities and peoples is sacred; if Right is no longer a vain word; the United States and their associate, the Entente, will compel my adversaries to let go their prey and will not allow a political crime to be committed.

Je suis Très cher et Grand Ami
Votre sincère Ami

Nicolas