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Mr. History:

Is this true? In 1916, the Germans tried to negotiate peace with the Allies … naming themselves the winners. The Allies refused.



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Dear David,

As early as February 8, 1916, newspapers were describing an attempt by German chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Holweg to make a peace proposal through Pope Benedict XV. His proposal and its stipulations were further explained by Count Julius Andrassy in Budapest in April, but the Allies dismissed it out of hand because of its essentially calling for a return to prewar boundaries, leaving only the fate of Germany’s overseas possessions in dispute. In November Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, circulated a letter calling for a negotiated peace in the name of saving civilization, but it was roundly condemned by most British statesmen. In that same  month, Herbert H. Asquith resigned as prime minister and his successor, David Lloyd-George, reaffirmed the British and French resolve that an acceptable peace could only come with the outright defeat of Germany. One other proposal followed the death of Austrian Kaiser Franz Josef on November 16, 1916, when his successor, Kaiser Karl, proposed a separate peace that interested American President Woodrow Wilson enough to hold off declaring war on Austria-Hungary until the fall of 1917, when it became clear that Austria-Hungary would not break its alliance commitment to Germany. Ultimately, all came to naught and the war went on.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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