The Chargé in Great Britain ( Laughlin ) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 10334

Sir: Adverting to my confidential telegram, No. 4478 of December 10, 1918, 4 p.m.,16 I now have the honor to enclose, herewith, copies and translations of a paper recently left at the Foreign Office by the French Ambassador entitled “Projet de Préliminaires de Paix avec l’Allemagne”, and copies of a Memorandum prepared by Mr. Gunther, of my Staff, stating how he obtained this document, and giving a report of the conversation held with him on the 7th instant by the Counsellor of the French Embassy, Monsieur de Fleuriau. I have already transmitted copies of both to Colonel House.

As set forth in my telegram above mentioned I have reason to believe that the French Ambassador has not yet been formally authorized to communicate this document to us and our possession of it, therefore, should for the present be kept secret.

I have [etc.]

Irwin Laughlin
[Enclosure 1]

The Secretary of the Embassy in Great Britain ( Gunther ) to the Chargé in Great Britain ( Laughlin )

Several days ago hearing incidentally that some “Notes on the Indemnity” had been left at the Foreign Office by the French Ambassador, I made informal enquiries of friends in the French Embassy Sis to whether it would be possible for me to be furnished with a copy thereof or their substance. The next day the Counsellor of the Embassy asked me to come there, said that he would have a copy made, explaining that the “Notes” or Project was given to the Foreign Office informally, and extra-officially.

To-day the Counsellor, M. de Fleuriau, came to see me and left with me the paper, herewith attached. He re-emphasized the informal [Page 372] character of this Project and added that it had been devised and drawn up by M. Cambon and himself and was therefore merely their own plan. My own opinion, however, is that this document has the approval of the French Foreign Office and is a feeler or “Ballon d’essai” launched in this manner to prepare the ground in advance of the Peace Conference.

M. de Fleuriau explained that various reasons impelled M. Cambon and himself to the belief that a Preliminary Peace should be concluded without delay and thus terminate the present anomalous period of neither war nor peace. The Germans are clearly not able to fulfill the terms of the Armistice within the time limit, and on the eixteenth [eighteenth?] of this month the Armistice would therefore have to be extended. Before all conditions could be carried out it would probably have to be extended again. Owing to the unforeseen length of the Armistice and the disadvantages to them the Germans would have good grounds to claim and press for the determination of a more definite status. The French demands too for prompt demobilization will become more insistent as time goes on. M. de Fleuriau drew the parallel of 1870 when it was not illegal for the French to trade with the enemy, while since the Decree of October 1914 it has been, and therefore is so through the duration of the Armistice as well.

Both the Ambassador and he believe that the question of feeding Germany should be settled without delay, not so much for the need of food among the German people as for the moral support that the supplying of it would give to the Government at the time in power in Germany. It was necessary therefore to determine which group of the present “Directorate General” in Germany should be thus favored.

He concluded by saying that he feared no real work could be accomplished by the Peace Conference before January 1st, as the preliminary meetings would as usual be discursive and ceremonial, and reminded me that neither M. Cambon nor himself desired to claim the authorship of the “Project” herewith enclosed.

F. M. Gunther

[Enclosure 2—Translation]

Proposed Basis for the Preliminaries of Peace With Germany

There are for us three essential problems to be solved in order to reconcile the necessary guarantees and International Law:

—Guarantees on the left bank of the Rhine (military neutralization, without political intervention);
—Complete restoration of Poland (for she is irreconcilable with the Kingdom of Prussia);
—Future administration of Germany (in conformity with the right of peoples to self-determination):—

I. Territorial Clauses

The following stipulations will indicate the new German frontiers, in the way of restoration of the provinces which Prussia had unjustly incorporated either to its territory, or to that of the former German Empire.

Restitution to France of the Provinces of Alsace and Lorraine torn from France in 1815 and 1871, with the slight rectifications of frontier indicated by Marshal Foch (along the valley of the Queich, the Rhine to Landau, extended by the ridge bounding the basin of the Sarre on the North).
Surrender to the reconstituted State of Poland of the Polish districts of Prussia (see Mr. Balfour’s remarks at the Versailles Conference) of Posnania and Upper Silesia, as well as access to the Baltic (Upper Silesia, which has not belonged to Poland in modern times, should be allocated to her because it is Polish but cannot be by way of restitution. For the same reason all the southern districts of Eastern Prussia which are by language and race Polish, though forming part of the historic Duchy of Prussia, the successor of the Teutonic Knights.
Restitution to Denmark of the Danish territories of Slesvig.
Rectification of the Belgian Frontier in the district of Malmedy.
Freedom of the economic union of Luxembourg from every tie with Germany (the provision in the Treaty of Frankfort17 which took from the Compagnie Française de l’Est the control of the railways of Luxembourg will be replaced by a clause restoring to that Company the said control).
Cession by the German Government of its sovereign rights over the German possessions overseas.
Recognition by Germany of the French Protectorate in Morocco in its entirety and with suppression of all rights derived for Germany from the Treaty of Algeciras18 and other treaties.
Recognition by Germany of the British Protectorate in Egypt.
Recognition by Germany of the States established out of the territories of the former Empires of Russia and Austria-Hungary in the same way and under the same conditions as the Allies.
Abrogation of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk19 and of all agreements concluded with whatever authorities constituted in or in the [Page 374] name of territories or peoples comprised in the former Russian Empire including Finland.
Abrogation of the Treaty of Bucharest20 and of all previous agreements with Roumania (a new treaty with this country through the medium of the Allies not being necessary since Germany has no common frontier with Roumania and since a treaty concluded under Allied auspices would appear to establish a sort of protectorate over Roumania).
Security given by Germany to the Allies (except the United States) of her adhesion to the clauses, which will be communicated to her of the peace treaties concluded between the Allies, the Turkish Empire and Bulgaria.
Cession by Germany to the Allies by an arrangement to be come to within six months of all concessions granted to German subjects in the Turkish Empire.

II. Reparations, Restitutions and Guarantees

In a general way, all damage resulting from the war, either in Allied territories which have been occupied by German troops and which have been subjected to bombardment by the German Fleet or by German aircraft, or damage at sea, by reason of German action, must be made good at the expense of the German Government.

Neutral States may, at their request be admitted to the benefit of this stipulation.

(a) Restitutions.

I.—Germany will restore to France five billions of francs of which two billions will be in gold, with compound interest (1871–1919).

The two billions in gold must be paid within a month.

The three billions of francs, in French francs or by means of exchange accepted by the French Government, within six months.

The compound interest, for the period 1871–1919, on that sum of five billions will be settled in fifty annuities.

II.—Germany will redeem, in francs at the rate of 1.25 frs per mark, the property in marks belonging to Alsatians, Lorrainers, (officials or private persons) or French persons, prisoners of war, interned, those deported or inhabitant, living in invaded countries, exactly as handed to her by the French Government.

III.—Germany will restore to France within three months, the amount of the taxes, duties, war contributions, fines, levied during the war on private individuals and communities.

Requisitions, expropriations, labor in kind or in service will be settled within six months.

[Page 375]

IV.—Restitution within one month of cash, deeds, securities of all kinds, including ledgers, accounts, minutes, archives, etc.

V.—Restitution within in kind identical or its equivalent—by substitution—of raw materials, building materials, ships, tools, manufactured articles, works of art destroyed or removed during hostilities, public or private collections.

VI.—The German Government must take with regard to her nationals all measures indicated by the French Government, as capable of effecting the restitutions reviewed in the preceding articles in a rapid and complete manner.

(b) Repairs.

I.—Property built or non-built, damaged, laid waste or destroyed will be put in order at the expense of Germany.

II.—Personal property of all kinds, securities, etc., taken away or destroyed the loss of which has been recognized by the French Government—if the equivalent cannot be returned under the terms of Article V of Chapter A.21—will be indemnified at their current value as mutually agreed upon.

III.—The total cost of the present war will be paid by Germany by 1975 by means of fifty-six annuities, estimated and calculated in Schedule No.—.

Means of Restoration.

I.—Germany will furnish a list of the property of her nationals in foreign countries. Of these properties she must requisition those indicated to her by the French Government so as to put them at their disposal, as a means of payment.

II.—Germany will make known the orders and options placed by her in foreign countries, on raw materials, appliances, manufactured articles of all kinds, and the French Government can then benefit by these options and orders for which the payment will be guaranteed by Germany and will be credited to her pro rata in settlement.

III.—Germany will renounce all concessions which she obtained from her Allies, and will instruct the Government (?) to give notice of that renunciation as it sees fit.

She will compile a list of all existing concessions to her account or that of her dependants in the other countries. The Government (?) reserving to itself the right with the consent of the grantor, to substitute itself for the German Government or its subjects.

IV.—Germany will annul all measures taken on her territory or in the countries administered by her during the war to the prejudice of the French, (distraints, sequestrations, forced sales, expropriations, etc.) and will make good in money or other means indicated by the [Page 376] French Government the damage caused by these measures to the said citizens.

V.—Germany will annul all measures of a legal or administrative character, which by reason of the duration of the war, would be disadvantageous to French citizens, such as accounts falling due, prescriptions on securities and dividend warrants, etc.

VI.—Germany will deliver at the request of the French Government and at the points on the frontier chosen by the latter within the limits of the maximum quantities named in schedule No.—a consignment of raw materials and products semi-manufactured (coal, metallurgic coke, zinc, wood-logs and cut wood, sugar, etc.).

The price of these materials and products will be fixed each year by the Commission provided for in the said schedule No.—. This price free of all customs dues and taxes will be charged to the total of the sums due from Germany to France, in fulfillment of the present arrangements.

(c) Guarantees.

I.—For the payment of the German debt the States of Germany will yield jointly and severally in pledge thereof the receipts of their customs, ports, railways, canals, mines, forests, monopolies, etc.

Germany will fix an export duty on exported products, of German origin or manufacture. This duty will be payable in the currency of the receiver country. The total will be remitted direct, according to a proportion to be fixed, to the Allied creditor Governments.

II.—A special mortgage will be fixed on the revenues collected on the left bank of the Rhine (general taxes, customs, railways, property of all kind).

III.—An International Commission will control the revenues set apart for the pledge and will guarantee the payment by the enemy at fixed periods. Its composition and functions are determined in schedule No.—.

IV.—In case of non-performance of one of the above clauses or delay in payment at the times fixed, the International Commission of the German Debt will have power to fix terms or delays with or without a moratorium, to accord with the surrenders partial or complete, as provided in Annexe No.—.

On the other hand, special pledges (such as maritime duties, import charges, etc.) will be agreed upon which in the same case of non-performance or delay can be seized effectively, at the request of the International Commission of the German Debt, by forces designated for that purpose by the Allies.

(d) Various Clauses.

I.—Enemy Property in France. The French State reserves to itself the right to confiscate, failing indemnification, all interests that enemy [Page 377] subjects may have preserved in French territory or in the countries under French protectorate and which are at present under sequestration.

The indemnity detailed in the preceding paragraphs will be a charge upon the German Government and will be deducted from the sums due by that Government to the French Government by reason of the war.

II.—French property sold in Germany. The sales of French interests and property effected by the application of special war legislation will be, at the request of the former owner of the property, annulled or its status established as it was before the war. The owner will be liable with regard to the actual holder, even in good faith, only for the indemnities for improvements, fixed in case of disagreement, by the Tribunal established by Article X. If the French owner accepts the sale, he can establish the price before the Tribunal established by Article X. The sums arising from the sale or fixed by the Tribunal will be paid to the rightful owner, by the intermediary of the Office of Compensation and Verification, as is provided in Article X.

III. Economic Clauses

These clauses are in accordance with the impossibility of passing at once from a state of war to a state of peace. Their object is to institute and define a transitory state which will lead to the ratification of the preliminaries, the date of the end of the state of war, and will end at the ratification of the final treaty of peace, the date of the commencement of peace.

During this period the Allied Powers will maintain the control established during the war on exportations, importations and navigation. This control will, by common consent, be progressively reduced with a view to preparing the complete resumption of the freedom of commercial transactions and navigation. The Allied Governments agree to make use of for that purpose, of the Allied Council of Maritime Transport, of Alimentation, of Munitions and various articles and purchases of war and finance. A special agreement will fix the powers of these Councils, for the period of transition.
The Allied Governments will guarantee through the medium of the competent Allied Councils, the importations into Germany of stores and supplies indispensable for the German population. For this purpose, the German Government guarantee the equitable distribution on German territory of the articles thus imported and it places the German commercial fleet under the direction of the Allied Council of Maritime Transport. German technical delegates will carry on the liaison between the German Executives and the Allied Councils, where they may be admitted for the discussion of affairs concerning Germany.
These stipulations will be communicated to the Neutral Powers.
Economic administration of German territories occupied by the Allies.
The supply to the blast furnaces of Alsace-Lorraine of German coke, (there furnaces are worked on Westphalian coke, which is unobtainable elsewhere).

IV. General Guarantee

As safe-guard for the carrying out of the Preliminaries of Peace, occupation of German territory.
Special military administration of the German territories on the left bank of the Rhine.
  1. Not printed.
  2. British and Foreign State Papers, vol. lxii, p. 77.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1906, pt. 2, p. 1495.
  4. Ibid., 1918, Russia, vol. i, p. 442.
  5. Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol. i, p. 771.
  6. Reference is to V under “(a) Restitutions” above.