File No. 763.72119/8982
The Special Representative ( House) to the Secretary of State
[Received 2.30 p.m.]
8. For the President:
Lloyd George, Balfour, and Reading lunched with me today3 and George stated that it was his opinion that if the Allies submitted to Germany’s terms of armistice without more [discussion?], Germany would assume that the Allies had accepted President Wilson’s fourteen points and other speeches without qualification. So far as Great Britain was concerned, George stated, point 2 of speech of January 8, 1918, respecting freedom of the seas, could not be accepted with [out] qualification. He admitted that if point 2 was made a part of point 14 concerning League of Nations, and assuming League of Nations was such a one as Great Britain could subscribe to, it might be possible for Great Britain to accept point 2. He said that he did not wish to discuss freedom of the seas with Germany and [if] freedom of the seas was a condition of peace Great Britain could not agree to it. Before our discussion ended it seemed as though we were near an agreement concerning this matter along the lines of interpretation of point 2 heretofore cabled you in cable No. 52 to the Department.[Page 422]
We then went to conference at Quai d’Orsay attended by Clemenceau, Pichon, George, Balfour, Sonnino and myself. Conference opened with discussion of fourteen points enumerated in President’s address of January 8 last. Clemenceau and others balked at number [point] 1 until I read them interpretation thereof as cabled to you in telegram No. 5. They then all accepted number [point] 1. After number [point] 2 had been read, George made a short speech worded so as to excite Clemenceau. He reversed his position taken a short time before with me privately and said respecting point 2: “We cannot accept this under any circumstances; it takes away from us the power of blockade. My view is this, I want to see character of League of Nations first before I accept this proposition. I do not wish to discuss it with Germany. I will not make it a condition of peace with Germany.” I stated that if these views were persisted in the logical consequences would be for the President to say to Germany: “The Allies do not agree to the conditions of peace proposed by me and accordingly the present negotiations are at an end.” I pointed out that this would leave the President free to consider the question afresh and to determine whether the United States should continue to fight for the principles laid down by the Allies. My statement had a very exciting effect upon those present. Balfour then made a forceful speech to the effect that it was clear that the Germans were trying to drive a wedge between the President and the Allies and that their attempts in this direction must be foiled.
It was then suggested that France, England, and Italy confer together and submit tomorrow drafts of the proposed answers to the President’s communication asking whether they agree to his terms of peace, stating where they can agree with the President and where they disagree. I then offered to withdraw from the conference so that they would feel at liberty to discuss the matter between themselves. They all stated that they had no secret from America and that they wished me to remain. Accordingly it was agreed after further discussion and after the reading of the terms agreed upon by the inter-Allied naval conference now in session in Paris for the naval armistice that we should meet Wednesday afternoon to consider draft answers by the Allies to the President’s communication transmitting correspondence between the President and Germany.
French Prime Minister and Italian Prime Minister are not at all in sympathy with the idea of League of Nations. Italian Prime Minister will probably submit many objections to fourteen points. French Prime Minister, George, and I agreed to meet Wednesday morning without Italian Prime Minister for the purpose of further discussion.
It is my view that privately George and Balfour believe that the proposed terms of the naval armistice and those of the military [Page 423] armistice are too severe. They wish to get just as much as they can but they wish to be able to continue negotiations in the event that Germany refuses to accept the terms proposed.
An exceedingly strict censorship by the French War Office makes it impossible for American correspondents to send any communications to the United States respecting the progress of the present conference. I am examining into this matter and it may be advisable to take drastic steps in order that the United States can arrange for herself what news of political character shall be communicated to her people.