Our Declaration – A 1916 declaration by Croatian and Slovene Priests in America

Our Declaration

(A 1916 declaration by Croatian and Slovene Priests in America)

As Croatians and sons of the nation of Croatia, and of our fraternal Slovene lands, from the very start, we hereby announce and confirm our political stance as regards our homeland during these bellicose times—times which hold seen and unforeseen consequences.

We stand on the national, state, historical, and written rights of the Nation of Croatia and her people, which are contained, among others, in the Coronation Oaths taken by Croatian rulers as far back as 1490 and beyond, in fact, up to this very day; these rights are also contained in the Electoral Charter from the year 1527, as well as in the Pragmatic Sanction dated 1712. In short, we stand by the program as represented by the Party of Right from the year 1894 and as developed and promulgated long since by the apostle of Croatianism, Dr. Ante Starčević, and as adopted by our Slovene brothers at the gathering in Trsat.

We believe in the strength, national awareness, and patriotism of the Croatian and Slovene Peoples whom much more powerful enemies were unable to crush, as witnessed by 14 centuries of our history. In that already realized past, we look to our freedom and independence.

We believe that the Croatians and Slovenes, who are bound by faith, history, culture, and a contemporary national consciousness, factors that are powerful features in the nation of all peoples, comprise one whole group of peoples in southern Europe, and, as such, have all the necessary prerequisites for independence.

We know that from its inception in 924, the Croatian Nation, stretching from Mt. Triglav to the Drina and from the Danube to the Adriatic has never ceased to be, not even in its darkest days in the past, nor in more recent times from 1790 to the present. She has remained as a Nation and as a People, and will continue to remain so. Her loyal sons will not traffic with her rights.

We know that official Austria and Hungary, Turkey and Italy, aided by Great Britain, have, through the centuries, encroached and truncated the sacred rights and freedom of the Croatian People. The past history of the Croatians and Slovenes has condemned publicly and continues to condemn those very same peoples for all the wrongs and violations of their rights. Through the centuries we have fought and stood firm for our rights, rights which we will continue to value and honor, and which we ourselves must and will ultimately accomplish. Those who doubt the abilities of people to free themselves, thereby deny existence to them. Peoples who gain their freedom at the hands of others soon become their subordinates.

In the name of humanity and the right of a People to exist, we strongly condemn Hungary’s politics of force, and Austria’s approval of such politics. We seek the right to freely develop and will continue to seek the right for Croatians to retain their own lands and sea, as well as all their other rights. In the name of all the Croatian and Slovene blood spilt on the battlefields of Europe, we will seek that all wrongs against us be corrected, for that spilt blood cries out for revenge from God who is the avenger of all wrongs.

Herein we assert that the so-called Serbian element which was born and lives in the nation of Croatia during the past fifty years, or, better said, since they emerged on the political scene in Croatia, has always and faithfully stood on the side and at the service of the enemies of Croatia—especially the Hungarians, Austrians, and Italians. As to the question of the Slavs in general, and the South-Slavs in particular, our thoughts are guided by those expressed in the writings of our Croatian statesmen—patriots in life and work—Eugen Kvaternik and Ante Starčević, as well as by the mournful experience related to this question which befell our great Bishop Strossmajer from the very founding of the Jugoslav Academy and up to the very year 1885. When Bishop Strossmajer wanted to visit Serbia, the response of the Serbian government was that it could not guarantee his life or safety if he were to visit his flock which lived in Serbia. The fanatcism of the Serbs, a particular characteristic of theirs, was previously seen as being strong, as based on their oft repeated syntagm: “Serbians all and everywhere.” That fanaticism is now even stronger. According to their notion and teaching, all the Balkan Peoples should be subsumed by Serbia. We do not wish to become Serbs, or Yugoslavs, nor Serbo-Croatians, but we will remain Croatians, brothers to all remaining Slavs; however, each in his own house, in his own land, and within the scope of his own rights. From the time our forefathers settled in our present homeland, we have evolved and we have created our own history in this manner.

With Italy’s entrance into the present war, she commended the insane Austrian politics against the Croatians and Slovenes as related to their Littoral and Dalmatia. By being favorable to the Italian minority, Austria prepared the way for the Italian aggression. The French, English, and Russian Trilateral Memo of Understanding promised Italy ownership of the Adriatic and possession of our shore and the lands between Trieste and beyond. We most strongly condemn this traitorous act carried out by the great powers. England did not offer the Island of Malta to Italy as a reward for entering the war—an island she rules but which is inhabited only by Italians; nor did she offer them greater rights in the Mediterranean wherein she and the French rule, and even less, dominion in Egypt. France did not grant Italy the territories of Savoy or part of Tunisia where more than one and one-half million Italians live. Russia, which has interests in the Kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro, acceded to the promises made to Italy such that no one asked Serbia or Montenegro at the time the promise was made to Italy; rather, they simply informed it (Serbia) of what they sold to Italy. These who thunder and rule in Europe did not offer that which, by virtue of the principles governing nationhood, they should have offered; rather, they gifted the very eyes and door of Croatian state and people to treacherous and enemy Italy, so that she might close the door and eyes of the Croatian Nation forever. They offered the bones and flesh of the Croatian and Slovene Peoples at the marketplace so as to buy Italy’s entrance into the war, a war where Croatian and Slovene heroes are dying while defending their home and hearth from the treachery committed against their Peoples by France, England, and Russia. In the announcements to their peoples, these powers stated that they are going to war for sake of freeing small nations. Their history belies such an announcement since they never freed so much as one People. To the contrary, they, in fact, always opposed such freedom; nor should they castigate Germany or Austria in that regard. They promised foreigners a full two-thirds of Croatian lands such that one-third of its 110,000 square kilometers will cease to remain part of Croatia once the fundamentals of the Trilateral Agreement and Italy take place…“They divided my garments and cast lots for them.”

A free and united Croatia will order its international and political relationships, and will enter into agreements and laws according to the principle which states: “regnum regno non praescribit leges”—“One nation does not prescribe laws to another.”

Previous [pro-Yugoslav] declarations, starting with that from the gathering in Chicago on the 10th of March, 1915, fail to mention any sort of guarantees sought by an independent People as a condition of their independence; quite to the contrary, they obliterate the basis for individual and national existence for the Croatians. They divest Croatia of its past, its rights, its national name, and its national significance.

Thus far, there is no authoritative declaration on anyone’s part that Croatia will remain independent in “Yugoslavia”; to the contrary, representatives of the parties that have the authority to issue such a declaration made pronouncements at their gatherings and in their speeches in favor of a monarchical Serbia. We do not want the nation of the Croatian People to be swallowed by a unitary “Yugoslavia,” or better said, a Greater Serbia, a Croatia that is at least three centuries older than the nation of Serbia. We remain loyal to God, to our People and Homeland, and to him to whom our people conveyed their sovereign right to rule, and which persists to this day, and is sustained through the Crown of Croatian rulers.

In conclusion, and in the uncertain position in play on these shores wherein our immigrants live, let the tried and tested words of the defenders of our People’s rights, namely, Dr. Matko Laginje from Istria, representative Stjepan Zagorac from the province of Croatia, Rev. Ivo Prodan from Dalmatia, Bishop Šarić from Bosnia, and Dr. I Kreka, from Kranjska in Slovenia, serve as our guiding beacon.

Let the war end as it will, we do not abrogate our stand; rather, we will seek an Independent Croatian Nation along with all those rights possessed by a sovereign people.

Rev. Dr. E. Kajić

Rev. Pet. Čančarević (after signing the document, he withdrew his name)

Rev. Bosiljko Bekavac

Rev. Ivan Raab

Rev. Ambroz Širca

Rev. D. Krmpotić

Rev. A. Živić

Rev. Leon Josip Medić

Rev. Anton Sojar

Rev. Francis Podgoršek

Rev. Irenej Petričak

Rev. Mihael Tušek

Rev. Fr. Racinger

Rev. M. Hranilović

Rev. Valentin Mihelić