File No. 763.72119/1125

The Ambassador in France ( Sharp) to the Secretary of State


3032. Following the speech of Mr. Pichon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the Chamber, the following order of the day was adopted by 377 [397] yeas to 133 [145] nays:

The Chamber, approving the Government’s declarations and confident in it for pursuing, thanks to an energetic conduct of the war, the complete reparation of the abuse of might, the establishment of the reign of justice in international relations, and the triumph of democracy, passes to the order of the day.

Answering certain interpellations in the Chamber of Deputies among which were three proposed by Mr. Albert Thomas, leader of the United Socialist Party, Mr. Pichon took up first the question of passports. He said substantially while willing that relations and [conversations] might be established by French and Russian Socialists, yet the handing of passports was a question of [opportuneness, and] request was made at so dark an hour that it could not be granted by the Government. He said also that he was opposed to the idea of the international workingmen’s conference; that while it was true that question did not enter into the definite plan of the Socialist group, yet they had declared that it would be raised and would be examined. Mr. Pichon said that such a conference would be still more dangerous than negotiations with the Maximalists for it would [Page 29]risk throwing disorder into public opinion, replacing the authority of the Government by private initiative, and disorganize the Government’s defensive forces. Besides, there would be the scandals of reunions in which French patriots would meet with the instigators and the accomplices of those [aggressions] and calamities from which the world is suffering today. He concluded his reference to such a conference by saying it now serves as resource in Russia for those who seek to work against France. He declared that the French Government did not want in any way to mix in Maximalist discussions for it had proof that Germany was trying to draw the Allies into them. His declaration that there could be no question whatsoever of the French Government treating [on] such affairs with the usurping power which had invested itself in Petrograd called for applause.

Discussing the objects of French delegates Mr. Pichon said:

For what are we fighting? A just and durable peace. Three conditions are necessary: the sacred character of the respect of treaties, a territorial regulation based on the right of nations to dispose of themselves, the limitation of armaments. That is our program. It is also the program developed by Mr. Lloyd George. As for the society of nations, victory alone can bring it to realization. Mr. Lloyd George has declared this and it is our own program too. Mr. Wilson also asserts that there is no divergence between the principles affirmed by him and by the Allies. Mr. Wilson asks for the suppression of economic barriers, the evacuation of Russian territories, the evacuation of our territories, the restitution of Belgium, of Roumania, of Serbia, the reparation of the harm done to France in 1871. Coming after those made by Mr. Lloyd George these declarations give a world wide character to our claims. What we want is the just peace consecrated by the restoration of our right violated in 1871, higher than all hypocritical plebiscites. All the declarations of the Allies are in accord.

Mr. Pichon closed his speech [with] an arraignment of the acts of the Maximalists, in the following words:

First of all there was a marked recoil [on] the part of the Maximalists, Trotzky proclaimed the negotiations broken off, then he proposed to transfer them to a neutral country. Germany refused, Trotzky returned to Brest-Litovsk. The great wrath of the Maximalists against the German plenipotentiaries was appeased. On the one hand the Allied countries through their Governments have made known the principles of a just and durable peace towards which they are tending, equity, liberty, independence, right reparation of damages, institutions intended to prevent the return of war and they have declared themselves formally to be ready to examine among themselves the propositions which might come from their adversaries. Our former allies have repudiated—I speak merely of the Maximalists and not of Russia taken as a whole—their obligations, and you now ask us to leap with them in their adventure [Page 30]and compromise ourselves in their bargain. No, we will not do this. They are going their way and we ours. Unless events which unfortunately are very improbable should occur, these ways cannot meet at all. However, the advent of a normally elected Constituent Assembly working freely and regularly might change this situation. Have we reached this point? I fear not. Their design would appear to be not to open but perhaps to wind up the Constituent Assembly. May these indications be proved untrue by developments! That is what I wish. The Allies could then apply the instructions given to their ambassadors and proceed with the regular Government to examine the conditions of a just and durable peace. We wait with hope for circumstances to allow the fulfillment of this program. Until then we can but maintain our attitude towards a Government which is in fact and perhaps without intention serving the cause of our enemy and lacks even the excuse of resting upon the national will of its country.

As a rather interesting illumination upon an event now a matter of history bearing on the attitude of the French Government [toward] President Wilson’s appeal to the Allied Powers to state their aims, I quote as follows from Mr. Briand, who during the discussion of the interpellations arose to explain his position as Premier at the time:1

I was called upon at a period of the war when circumstances were different to hand to Mr. Wilson a reply in the name of the Allies, This has been mentioned in the course of the present debate. That reply was difficult to draw up, it was handled, and I think I may say—and M. Albert Thomas who was then my collaborator and was aware of its terms will not contradict me—that we had to face a double event. First a peace offensive coming from Germany in ill-defined conditions which necessitated a negative reply; this reply was made. Then President Wilson turned to the belligerents and said: “Acquaint us with your war aims.” We then thought that we must have confidence in the President of the great Republic of the United States. We drew up our war aims in conformity with the circumstances and the exigencies of the moment. Today we may say it would have been better if certain agreements had not been made but consider that if certain agreements had not been made under the pressure of the time, today perhaps the question of France’s success would not exist because she would have remained in the battle alone before her aggressor. The essential thing was to group all friendly [forces] against the common enemy. This confidence which we had in President Wilson allowed him, holding our detailed reply in his hand, to turn back towards the Central Empires which had spoken of peace without making any predictions [precisions?] and to say: “Here is what France and the Allies have handed me; what have you to say?” The Central Powers did not reply. Then the United States knew on which side good faith existed. I claim that a note drawn up in those conditions was done in the service of France and in her interest.

[Page 31]

The Paris papers quote with approval extracts from Mr. Pichon’s address. They give particular emphasis to the fact that it is in entire accord with the speech of Lloyd George and the message of President Wilson. In most of them the opposition of the Socialist group is condemned in strong terms. In several of the papers indorsement is given to Mr. Pichon’s refusal to in any way recognize the Maximalists or compromise the Government by dealing with them.

While proclaiming the determination of the Government to use its entire might to a quick prosecution of the war, and I am sure the country has never been more united for that purpose than now, yet considering the speech in its entirety I have been impressed with the moderation of its tone and its announced willingness to entertain and consider propositions of the enemy upon which a durable peace might be secured.