Mr. D. H. Miller to Colonel E. M. House 1
During general conversation with Butler Wright 2 at Embassy this morning he stated that great labor meeting here last Saturday night was somewhat disorderly, and resolution receiving most applause was one in favor of withdrawal of all allied troops from Russia. Conference with Norman Davis in which he discussed situation of Italy; the annual interest payment of Italy to Great Britain is now $100,000,000, and to the United States $50,000,000, which in his opinion cannot be met by Italy at least for some time except out of fresh loans. Davis believes that question of cancellation of advances by United States and Great Britain to belligerents will be actively raised during preliminary negotiations, and said that Bonar Law had made suggestions to him regarding such cancellation.
Regarding Hoover relief plan3 Davis said that position of British Treasury will be that Great Britain will not participate financially except to extent of supplies furnished by herself such as textiles, and by her colonies, and that such participation would be perhaps 20% of total values. Further regarding relief plan Davis said that some countries such as Belgium would pay for supplies furnished, but as to others where payment impossible he doubted legality of direct loans from United States, particularly in such instances as Poland, and thought financing might be done out of President’s fund. Davis said attitude of British Treasury learned by him from conversations with Keynes would be that indemnities to be paid by Germany should be limited to reasonable amounts. Davis belief based on reports through Holland is that Germans believe in so large indemnity being demanded that apathy and pessimism prevail and that after examination and report he is preparing we should prevent excessive exactions which would mean German economic slavery. Davis opinion from some investigation made by him of damage to home buildings in Northern France, not including buildings or property of any other character, might be $300,000,000. to not exceeding $500,000,000. [Page 335] He thought tentative Belgium indemnity figure published this morning of two hundred seventy million pounds would be somewhat of a shock to French ideas. Davis has talked freely with Monnet 4 who Davis says is very close to Clemenceau and represents his views and Monnet says the French idea regarding a League of Nations has as basis the idea that the security of France against any attack should be guaranteed by Great Britain and the United States; furthermore that any development by the United States of its foreign trade before France has opportunity for trade preparation will make us as well as the idea of League of Nations unpopular; that Clemenceau’s attitude in discussion with President Wilson will be one of acquiescence in general principles of League of Nations, but of continuous questioning as to details; and that Clemenceau will ask the President to formulate economic and financial proposals in which the French are particularly interested. Davis idea is that regarding financial and economic proposals it would be great advantage to us if both Great Britain and France should be required to formulate them in advance for consideration by the United States. Davis mentioned that a letter from Bonar Law received today stated that no further loans would be made by Great Britain to France or Italy. In the former case because France could get along without them, and the latter case, because Italy could get along with last loan of fifty million pounds just made by Great Britain, but Davis thinks that this attitude of Great Britain is taken for bargaining purposes and might be relaxed later. Davis mentioned enormous stock of coffee held in Genoa from which Italians proposed not supplying even our needs with view of making Genoa greatest coffee market in Europe. Keynes of British Treasury told Davis that he Keynes has prepared a complete report of all financial data containing probable British proposals which Keynes will show to Davis as soon as approved by British Cabinet and which I hope to see shortly.
Note to Balfour was delivered about 2:30.5 Wiseman says that Drummond’s6 first reaction to this note was along financial lines, Drummond saying that if United States is to furnish the large part of the relief supplies the United States should finance it. This last confirms what Davis states.
At Premiers’ conference yesterday Wiseman says it was resolved that Kaiser should be proceeded against, and that this was cabled to you;7 also he says decided in favor of large indemnities as that [Page 336] question has become politically here of great importance. This last statement of Wiseman is not in accord with views of British Treasury expressed by Keynes to Davis. Wiseman said that British public feeling was in a very sensitive condition just at this time which he thought would tend to lessen soon and in talking of conference between the British, French and Italians he said in a half laughing way in answer to my inquiry as to what was going on Quote Yesterday they hanged the Kaiser and got big indemnities agreed upon, and today I suppose they are arranging to present a united front to President Wilson (end Quote). Wiseman expressed following views as to President’s visit: If President adopts conciliatory and moderate attitude in first discussions with Premiers and avoids statements prepared by person whose name was not stated but obviously Creel President’s position will be much stronger and if following this President’s proposals are rejected by Great Britain and France prestige of President will increase still more. In other words Wiseman thinks that the first positions taken and statements made by President will be of greatest importance. Will see Tyrrell 8 tomorrow impossible today but talked with Eustace Percy9 with Wiseman present. Percy will be assistant to chief as yet unnamed of League of Nations division of British organizations at Peace Conference which is one of their six main divisions. Percy I think represents British attitude in his view that all detailed questions of settlement should be considered first, and that questions such as League of Nations and international control could only be adjusted when all details of settlement had been gone over to the point of a draft treaty. I suggested to Percy as expressing my own views that perhaps same procedure would not apply in case of preliminary discussions between friends as would be necessary at Peace Conference in the imposition of terms upon enemies and the suggestion of agreements to neutrals. I further suggested to Percy the question of straits and asked how assuming first that some form of international control was to be adopted and assuming second that such international control was to be under a League of Nations if established could questions of detail regarding Constantinople be worked out before question of League of Nations had been determined. To this Percy replied with other hypotheses which I think indicate the present British ideas as Percy has been working on nothing but League of Nations for some time past. Percy’s hypotheses were first that the international control of straits was by a mandatory of League of Nations, second that that mandatory was United States, and third we as similar mandatory have charge of Macedonia. He then elaborated possibility of agreement by the [Page 337] United States to accept such a trust and thought that in this way if similar agreements were generally reached the League of Nations would very largely have its functions determined without any attempt to formulate general principles. He went so far as to suggest that if the formulation of general principles were attempted the Panama Canal would come in the same class as the Straits to which I replied pleasantly as expressing my personal views that such a grouping seemed hardly among the possibilities. I regard Percy’s conversation as an effort to convey to me without stating them as such some of the British ideas which have been formulated, and that his Panama Canal suggestion was an attempt to show difficulties in the way of idealistic principles of United States.
Captain Dennis at Embassy under Colonel Slocum 10 has made study of English political situation. Views of Dennis follow:
Labor element has some features of danger but tendency to Bolshevism is not apparent; political feeling in England is running high, and among the opposing leaders is bitter; a noticeable feature which must be taken into account is the intense anti-German feeling of the women; the Labor Party are giving thorough support to Henderson 11 although he is not regarded as an able leader and Barnes 12 who is the only Labor leader staying with the Coalition is regarded as mediocre. Dennis guesses the Labor Party will get less than one hundred seats but says that the agreements of the whips have resulted in favoring the Conservatives even in places where Liberal sentiment predominates such as Scotland; so that the chief single unit behind the Coalition in the next Parliament will be a Conservative bloc, and the Liberal Party as such will be largely destroyed. Dennis says that British public opinion at the present time is in a condition of nerves bordering almost on hysteria owing to the long strain of the war followed by the relief at its end and the excitement of a general election coming at the same time. Dennis had a talk today with Steed foreign editor of the Times who told Dennis that there was practically a deadlock between the French and British on the one hand and the Italians on the other at the conferences, and that the Italians had written a letter to Milner 13 demanding German East Africa which Steed was going to see Milner about tonight. From what Dennis told me of his conversations with men in the Foreign Office whom he knows I am convinced that a general if not a complete report was made by the British Foreign Office subordinate officials on the British program about last Friday for submission to Cabinet which had a long meeting on Saturday. Dennis said that air of Tyrrell and other men at Foreign Office on last Friday [Page 338] was one of relief that their work had been completed in the preparation of this report coupled with some anxiety as to how their work would be received.
Dennis was present at Labor meeting which filled Albert Hall last Saturday night with an overflow which filled Albert Hall on Sunday night and there was at these meetings two distinct tendencies first to accomplish aims by orderly political methods and second perhaps equally strong to accomplish aims by general strike, and that feeling in favor of withdrawal of troops from Russia appears to be almost chief sentimental aim partly from ignorance and partly from resentment of Henderson’s treatment regarding Stockholm conference. I recommend that you direct that report of Dennis regarding English political situation and his interviews here be forwarded to you daily.
Wiseman tonight has no information as to reported Italian demand for German East Africa but he saw Balfour at four o’clock who said that first reading of note regarding relief seemed to present important questions and he would take it to meeting with French and Italians as they were to present proposal regarding that situation. Wiseman said relief matter will now doubtless await President’s arrival and this was also view of Hurley who told me this evening that President had cabled directing non-delivery of note to Balfour and that Hurley would show me cables tomorrow.
Regret that my cabling today has been delayed by difficulties in hotel accommodations interrupting dictation.
- This and the following four telegrams are reprinted from David Hunter Miller, My Diary at the Conference of Paris, With Documents [1924–26], vol. i, pp. 25, 30, 33, 36, and 37.↩
- J. Butler Wright, counselor of embassy at London.↩
- See vol. ii, pp. 627 ff.↩
- Jean Monnet, French financial expert.↩
- Vol. ii, p. 646.↩
- Sir Eric Drummond, private secretary to the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.↩
- See note from the British Embassy to the Department of State, Foreign Relations, 1919, vol. ii, p. 653.↩
- Sir William Tyrrell, British Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.↩
- Of the British Foreign Office.↩
- Military attaché.↩
- Arthur E. Henderson, Secretary of the British Labour Party.↩
- George N. Barnes, Minister without Portfolio in the British War Cabinet.↩
- Sir Alfred Milner, British Secretary of State for War.↩