The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/Solemn Declaration of the General Assembly of the Bohemian Lands
Solemn Declaration of the General Assembly of the Bohemian Lands
Held in Prague, January 6th, 1918.
In the fourth year of the terrible war which has already cost such immense sacrifices of the wealth and blood of nations the first tentative peace parleys are going on. We, Czech members of the parliament, that parliament which has been by judgments of illegal military courts deprived of many of its Slav deputies, further we, Czech deputies to the dissolved and not renewed Diet of the Kingdom of Bohemia, together with deputies of the Diet of the Margravate of Moravia which has not been convened during the war, and of last Diet of the Duchy of Silesia, ratify the declarations of the Czech deputies in the parliament and we deem it our duty to declare emphatically on behalf of the Czech nation and of her Slovak branch held down by Hungary our attitude toward the reconstruction of international relations.
When the Czech deputies of our then recently revived nation during the Franco-German war made a declaration with reference to the European international questions, they used in their resolutions of Dec. 8, 1870, the following solemn words:
“All nations, the small as well as the great, have an equal right to self-determination, and their equality in this regard should be respected. Only by recognizing this equality and respecting the right of every nation to shape its own destiny can mankind establish true equality and brotherhood, General Peace and Genuine Humanity.”
We, the deputies of the Bohemian nation, faithful to these principles of our predecessors, greet with joy the fact that now all the states built on the principles of democracy whether belligerent or neutral, agree with us in looking upon the right of nations to free self-determination as the guarantee of a general and lasting peace.
The new Russia also in her attempt for a general peace adopted the principle of the right of nations to self-determination as one of the fundamental conditions of peace; she urged that nations should freely choose their own mode of life and determine, whether they will construct their own independent state or form one common state with other nations.
As against that the representative of Austria-Hungary on behalf of the Four Allies declared that the question of the self-determination of nations that have not at present an independent position in any existing state should be solved by constitutional means. We deem it our duty to declare on behalf of the Czech Nation that the attitude of the Austro-Hungarian representative is not our attitude. . On the contrary we have opposed it in all our declara tions and motions, because from our innumerable bitter experiences we see in it the total negation of the principle of self-determination of nations. . We charge indignantly that our nation was robbed of her own independent state and of the right to determine her destinies and was placed by artfully contrived electoral schemes at the mercy of the German minority and made subject to the rule of German Centralizing Bureaucracy.
Our Slovak branch became a victim of Magyar brutality and unspeakable violence in a state which in spite of its seemingly constitutional regime has remained the darkest corner of Europe and in which non-Magyar nations, forming a majority, are oppressed and exterminated by the ruling minority, robbed of their children, without public schols and deprived even of their private schools.
The constitution to which the Austro-Hungarian delegate appeals tampered even with the fairness of the universal manhood franchise by increasing artificially the representation of the German minority in parliament. Its absolute worthlessness, as far as the rights of the peoples are concerned, was demonstrated in an infamous manner by the brutal military absolutism during the war. Every reference to this constitution means in reality a denial of the right of self-determination to the non-German races of Austria, leaving them at the mercy of the Germans; and it means especially a coarse insult to the non-Magyar races of Hungary, where the constitution is merely the means by which the shameless oligarchy of a few high-born Magyar families maintain its rule, as has been once more proved by the last electoral reform bill.
Our nation, like every other democracy of the world desires a general and lasting peace, but is fully conscious that only that peace will be lasting which will put an end to ancient wrongs, brutal force and supremacy of cannon, as well as the rule of states and nations over other nations; that peace only will be lasting which will guarantee free development to nations great and small and which will especially liberate those nations that are still subject to foreign dominion. . It is therefore necessary that the right to a free national existence and self-determination of nations, great and small, of whatever state they may now be a part, shall be the foundation of future international law, the guarantee of peace and friendly relations of nations, as well as the great ideal possession which will free humanity from the horrors of general war.
We, the representatives of the Bohemian nation, declare that a peace which would not bring liberty to our nation could not and would not be for us a peace, but only the beginning of a new, mighty and thorough going fight for political independence in which our nation would employ to the utmost all its material and moral strength; and in this relentless struggle it would not pause until it reached its goal. . Our nation reclaims this independence relying upon its historical state right; it is pervaded by an ardent desire that it shall in its own Sovereign, Equal, Democratic and Socially just state, erected on the principle of equality of all the citizens and within the Historical limits of its Territories, together with its Slovak branch, contribute to the new growth of mankind in free competition with other free nations on the foundation of Liberty and Brotherhood, granting freely in this national state full and equal rights to racial minorities. .
Guided by these principles we protest solemnly agaist the rejection of the right of nations to self-determination at the peace conference. . We demand that in accordance with this principle all nations, including our own, shall be guaranteed participation at the peace conference and full liberty to defend their rights.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.
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