Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, Volume I
The French Ambassador ( Jusserand ) to the Secretary of State
Mr. Secretary of State: My Government has just informed me that, with a view to expediting the peace preliminaries, which any way can not be actually determined until after the arrival in Paris of the President of the United States, it had taken up a preliminary study of the various problems bearing upon that very important question.
In compliance with the instructions I have received, I have the honor to communicate herewith to Your Excellency a statement of the results of that examination. My Government would be glad to know whether the plan of studies suggested by it, and the principles upon which they rest, meet with the general approval of the American Government. It would be also very desirous of being informed of all the remarks which you might see fit to offer.
Be pleased [etc.]
The French Government, upon examination of the precedents of the Congresses of Vienna 1814–1815, Paris 1856, and Berlin 1878, has taken up the various problems raised by the determination of the peace preliminaries and the establishment of the general peace treaty by the Congress which is to meet at Versailles.
The arrival of President Wilson in Paris in the middle of December will enable the four great powers to agree among themselves [Page 366] without any discussion with the enemy upon the conditions of the peace preliminaries to be imposed severally on him.
The examination will first apply to Germany and Bulgaria, with which it is to our interest to negotiate at once in order to promote on the one hand the disunion of the countries which compose the first named; and on the other hand, as to the second country, avoid the dangerous Bulgarian intrigues at home and abroad.
The peace preliminaries with Germany will furthermore shape the way for the settlement of the main territorial restorations: Alsace-Lorraine, Poland, the Slav countries, Belgium, Luxemburg, the cession of the German colonies, the full recognition of the protectorates of France over Morocco and of England over Egypt, the provisional acceptance of the Constitution of new independent states made up of the territories of the former Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, as well as the conclusion of treaties between the Allies and Bulgaria and on the subject of Turkey, the abrogation of the Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest treaties, and of all the previous conventions with Russia and Roumania.
The speedy establishment of peace preliminaries with Germany raises the question of a future regime. Even now one may notice the antagonism of the Centralist tendency, which was that of the Hohenzollern Prussian Administration, the National Liberals and the Socialists, to the Federalist tendency (represented by the dynasty and administration of the secondary states and by the deputies to the Reichstag). We are interested in favoring Federalism and furnishing a basis for it by elections held under universal suffrage and by promoting the manifestation of differences through the clauses of the treaty. Indeed, we cannot negotiate except with a Constituent Assembly freely elected by universal, secret, and direct suffrage.
The peace preliminaries with Bulgaria will likewise define the main lines of the respective territorial status of the Balkan countries.
The question of peace preliminaries with the other two enemy powers presents itself in a different aspect. With respect to Austria-Hungary it is not even existent, since that power has disappeared; it will then be within the province of Congress to admit on an even basis the two new states that have already been recognized: the Czecho-Slovaks and Poland, and to listen to the claims of the Jugo-Slav state now forming. As for the country of the Magyars (formerly Hungary, stripped of the Slovaks, Roumanians of Transylvania, and Croatians), and Austria (German), the objections of growing out of their interpretations suggest exclusion.
The same, of course, applies a fortiori to Turkey whose complete reorganization, accompanied by intervention in her internal regime (which on principle is barred with respect to other states), is worthy [Page 367] of consideration. It seems preferable to leave to the Congress the discussion of the fate of those nationalities, for if peace preliminaries were signed with them, it would be tantamount to pledging ourselves at once to maintain the Ottoman Empire, that is to say, a rule which for a century has perpetrated its abuses, crimes, and causes of discussion among the great civilized states. Furthermore, where could the power authorized to ratify in the name of Turkey be found? Is it not better that the Allies should determine the fate of the territories lying within the former Ottoman Empire without the encumbrance of negotiations with that Empire?
After reaching an agreement as to the peace preliminaries, the representatives of the Great Powers will have to come to an agreement on the principles of the representation of the several belligerent, neutral, and enemy states at the Peace Congress. They will take up in succession the cases of the actual and theoretical belligerents, the newly recognized states, and the states in formation, the former Allies who have concluded treaties with the enemy but whose treaties have not been recognized by us (Russia and Roumania), the neutrals, and the enemies. Among the belligerents, it will be proper to distinguish between the small and the great powers in respect to the number of plenipotentiaries and of admission to the sessions. The great victorious powers alone will attend all its sessions, the small powers being called only to sessions designated for their special affairs. As for the neutrals and states in formation, they may be called when their own interests are at stake.
The number of plenipotentiaries will be limited to avoid congestion and confusion in the debates; the Great Powers may designate from three to five plenipotentiaries, the small powers from one to two, the neutral and forming states only one. As the decisions are to be taken by a majority vote, and as the representation of a state is but one unit, it is not necessary that any state should have as many representatives as a power of the same category, as provided by the precedents of the congresses of the nineteenth century: each state may freely choose the number of its delegates within the limits above cited.
It seems that the labors of the Congress should be divided into two main series: The settlement of the war properly so-called, and the organization of the Society of Nations. The examination of the second question no doubt calls for the settlement of the first. Furthermore, the settlement of the concrete questions should not be confounded with the enforcement of the stipulation of general public law. Besides, that distinction is made necessary by the fact that the enemy has no right to discuss the terms that will be imposed upon him by the victors, and that the neutrals will only be called in exceptional [Page 368] cases to attend the sessions where the belligerents will fix the peace terms, while all the peoples, whether belligerents, neutrals or enemies, will be called to discuss and take part in the principle of the Society of Nations.
On the other hand those principles of President Woodrow Wilson’s which are not sufficiently defined in their character to be taken as a basis for a concrete settlement of the war, even if appealed to as they have been admitted by the Allies, will resume their full strength in the matter of the future settlement of public law, and this will remove one of the difficulties that might obstruct the Allies.
The procedure of the Congress will also be determined at the preliminary meetings in the second half of December: Election of the President, appointment of the secretarial forces (charged with the duties of drawing the protocols, filing the archives, preparing daily communiqués, provide for the administrative organization of the Congress and the regular operation of the services), written motions read at the previous session discussed jointly (so as to bring about an agreement on the principle and afterwards work out the details), printing of the protocols, organization of a drafting committee, etc.
The program of the labors will then be determined, for in all the previous congresses the stipulations of a treaty (the Paris treaty of May 30, 1814, at the Vienna Congress; the protocol signed at Vienna on February 1, 1854, at the Paris Congress; the treaty of San Stefano signed March 3, 1878, at the Berlin Congress), had served as a basis while the Congress of 1919 has no fixed basis before it: indeed neither the four armistices signed with Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Germany, nor the answer of the Allies of January 10, 1917,15 jointly making known their war aims to President Wilson, nor the President’s fourteen propositions which are principles of public law can furnish a concrete basis for the labors of the Congress.
That basis can only be a methodical statement of the questions to be taken up which may be classified as follows:
First—Settlement of the War
- Political stipulations.
- New states:
- Already recognized (Bohemia)
- Being formed (Jugo-Slavia, Russian States, etc.)
- Territorial questions: restitution of territories.
Neutralization for protection purposes.
- Alsace-Lorraine (8th Wilson proposition)
- Belgium (7th Wilson proposition)
- Italy (9th Wilson proposition)
- Boundary lines (France, Belgium, Serbia, Roumania, etc.)
- International regime of means of transportation, rivers, railways, canals, harbors.
- Eastern questions (12th Wilson proposition)
- Colonies (5th Wilson proposition)
- Far East
- Military and naval stipulations.
- Military guarantees on land and at sea. Number of effectives, dismantling of fortifications, reduction of war manufactures, territorial occupation.
- Indemnities stipulations: Reparation for war damage on land and at sea, restitution, reconstruction, compensation in kind, reimbursement of expenses unlawfully imposed. “(C. R. B.)”
- Economic and financial stipulations: raw materials, economic systems, settlement of accounts.
- Stipulations of private law: settlement of private debts, liquidation of sequestrated property.
- Punishments’ to be inflicted on account of acts of violence and crimes committed during the war in violation of public law.
- Stipulations of a moral character: Recognition by Germany of the responsibility and premeditation of her rulers justifying the measures of penalization and precaution taken against her. Solemn disavowal of the breaches of international law and of the crimes against humanity.
- Restoration of the conventional regime broken by the war.
Second.—Organization of the Society of Nations
- Stipulations of general public law.
- Guarantees and penalties.
- Freedom of the seas (2nd Wilson proposition).
- International economic regime (3rd Wilson proposition).
- Publication of the treaties (1st Wilson proposition).
- Limitation of armaments (4th Wilson proposition).
- International arbitral organization of the Hague.
- Society of Nations.
The program of labors being thus defined, there would be left only to make a logical distribution determining their order and the conditions under which commissions should study them as to territorial and political affairs and committees as to general international questions.
- Polish affairs.
- Russian affairs.
- Baltic nationalities.
- States sprung from former Austria-Hungary.
- Balkan affairs.
- Eastern affairs.
- Affairs of the Far East and the Pacific.
- Committee on Jewish affairs.
- Committee on the international river navigation (Rhine, Danube, Scheldt, Elbe) practice of the society of nations.
- Committee on international railways (railways of the 45th parallel from the Adriatic to the Baltic, Bagdad trans-African railways from Capetown to Cairo and from Capetown to Algiers).
- Committee on public law (free determination of the peoples combined with the rights of the ethnical and religious minorities).
- Committee on international labor legislation. (A very important question, the initiative, management and settlement of which must not be left to the Socialists.)
- Committee on law relative to patents and trade-marks.
- Committee on punishment for crimes committed during the war.
It may be remarked that a certain number of the questions that are raised have to be settled directly amongst the great powers without calling upon any committee to discuss them; this applies to colonial affairs which essentially concern England and France. It also applies to indemnities, for outside of the torpedoing from which the British fleet mainly suffered, Belgium and France alone are entitled to indemnities on account of the systematic devastation suffered by them. (The states which have become independent and those which have secured considerable territorial enlargement would have but a slight claim to indemnities.) It also applies to economic and financial stipulations, the amount of which will be determined by the great powers but the mode of payment of which alone will be discussed by the peace treaty.
The Congress finally could place itself as has sometimes been done in the past under the invocation of some of the great principles leading to justice, morals and liberty, which would be proclaimed at its very opening and even before fixing the procedure (concerning which an unofficial agreement only would have been reached): right of self determination of the peoples, right of the minorities, suspension of all previous special agreements arrived at by some of the Allies with a view to the fullest freedom of examination by the Congress, declaration that the home country and colonial territory held by the Allies on August 1, 1914, shall not be touched, solemn repudiation of all the violations [Page 371] of international law and of humane principles, and disqualification of enemy delegates who have signed violated instruments or are personally guilty of violations of the law of nations or of the crimes against humanity.
The foregoing sums up the plan of study and the principles suggested by the French Government.