Paris Peace Conf. 182/1

Confidential Memorandum on Preparatory Work for Peace Conference1a

It is impossible in selecting negotiators to represent this Government at the Peace Conference to find men who possess the full knowledge to deal with the numerous and complex questions which will arise. It is important, therefore, that they should be furnished beforehand with information and data in a condensed form upon which they can rely in the discussion of questions even though they may not be participants in all the discussions.

To accomplish this purpose experts on the various probable subjects of negotiation should be invited, with or without compensation, to prepare brief, though comprehensive articles on these subjects, explaining to the writers that the purpose is for the use of the representatives of the United States at the Peace Conference and that, therefore, their work must be kept secret.

The subjects in general would fall under the heads of History, Commerce, and International Law. History would naturally be divided under the various countries and could be developed along political, commercial, industrial and military lines. Possibly it would be found advantageous to group certain countries together in treating of their history, while colonial possessions would require special treatment. Commerce would be in a measure statistical but would involve the careful study of exports and imports, markets and trade routes. International Law would cover a wide range of subjects, relating to peace and war, such as maritime law, rules of war, neutralization of land communication, internationalization of waterways, extent of territorial waters, &c.

Outside of these subjects which fall under the three heads named, there are others which should be considered, such as disarmament, international [Page 11] guaranties and their enforcement, arbitration, &c. Possibly, too, it would be advisable to have the constitutions and political institutions of the countries carefully analyzed and commented upon.

Following out this general plan, which, if adopted, ought to be elaborated with great care in order that the experts engaged would understand the exact limits of their respective studies, a selection should be made from the historians, political economists and jurists in this country, who are especially qualified to deal with particular subjects. Each should prepare a pamphlet of not to exceed 10,000 or 15,000 words on the topic assigned to him and these pamphlets after being submitted to the person or persons having general charge of the work of gathering information for the negotiators should be secretly printed and carefully indexed for use when occasion arises.

In addition to these condensed articles it would probably be advisable to have a collection of documents, statistics, quotations, &c., which would form appendices to the articles, but which should be indexed so that they could be readily referred to. These appendices should also be secretly printed.

Full instructions should also be prepared for each writer engaged on this work explaining the method of treatment of the subject assigned to him.

The division of subjects, the selection of writers, the issuance of instructions, the examination of articles and collected data, and the direction of printing and indexing should be in the hands of one man, who should have such assistants as he may require.

  1. This unsigned memorandum appears to have been prepared in the Department of State. It may be the memorandum referred to in Colonel House’s letter of Sept. 20, 1917, to Secretary Lansing, p. 12.