File No. 763.72119/9051

The Special Representative ( House) to the Secretary of State


41. My entire time outside of the scheduled conferences of Prime Ministers has been spent in working for a solution of the difficulties mentioned in my No. 38.1 It had become very clear that the conference to be held at my headquarters at 3 o’clock this afternoon was to be a critical one and I was fully prepared to exert strong pressure in order to secure from the Allies an acceptance of the President’s fourteen points set forth in his speech of January 8, 1918, and of his subsequent addresses.

At 3 o’clock this afternoon, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Orlando and Hymans (representing the Belgian Government) met with me at my headquarters for a talk over the fourteen points. George opened the discussion by stating that he was prepared to stand by the proposed answer cabled in my No. 12.2 I pointed out that the following phrase of this answer was not satisfactory to the President inasmuch as it was not clear that the Allies accepted the principle of the freedom of the seas: “They must therefore reserve to themselves complete freedom on this subject when they enter the peace conference.” I then read to the conference a paraphrase of the President’s telegram to me dated October 31,3 in answer to my [Page 456] No. 12. Clemenceau then stated, “We accepted the principle of the freedom of the seas,” and turning to George he said, “You do, also, do you not?” George answered: “No, it is impossible for any British Prime Minister to do this.” He then stated: “We are quite willing to discuss the freedom of the seas in the light of the new conditions which have arisen by reason of the war.” I stated: “Why do you not say so?” He said: “I am perfectly willing to say that to the President and I will instruct the British Ambassador in Washington to so inform the President.” I said: “I would prefer to have you so inform me and I will inform the President.”

I am now in receipt of the following letter:

British Embassy
Paris, November 3d, 1918.

My Dear Colonel House: I write to confirm the statement I made in the course of our talk this afternoon at your house when I told you that “We were quite willing to discuss the freedom of the sea in the light of the new conditions which have arisen in the course of the present war.” In our judgment this most important subject can only be dealt with satisfactorily through the freest debate and the most liberal exchange of views.

I send you this letter after having had an opportunity of talking the matter over with the Foreign Secretary, who quite agrees.

Ever sincerely,

D. Lloyd George

The Belgian representative proposed a number of modifications of point number 3. None of these received approval. One change, however, was requested by the Allied representatives to point 3. They wish it to be understood that the words [“so far as possible”] qualify the entire point. This they suggest could be accomplished by transposing them to the beginning of the point, so that point 3 would read: “So far as possible the removal, etc., etc.” I assented to this suggestion and stated that I thought it would probably be unnecessary for the President to point out this change to Germany. All other points were agreed upon without reservation.

Situation now is therefore as follows. The proposed answer cabled you in my No. 12 will be sent to the President along with the terms of the military and naval armistice to be offered to Germany. The President will then send the answer received from the Allies to the German Government with the statement that the military authorities of the Allies and the United States are prepared to receive the German military authorities and to communicate to them the terms upon which an armistice will be granted to Germany. The letter quoted above that I received from George must not be published unless it becomes necessary. If I do not hear from you to the contrary, I shall assume that you accept the situation as it [Page 457] now is. This I strongly advise. Any other decision would cause serious friction and delay.

A conference will be held at my headquarters Monday morning at 11 o’clock. In the afternoon at 3 o’clock a full conference to be held at Versailles. At these meetings the terms of the naval and military armistice to be offered Germany will be finally agreed upon.

Edward House
  1. Ante, p. 448.
  2. Ante, p. 425.
  3. Ante, p. 427.