Paris Peace Conf. 185.111/29

General Tasker H. Bliss to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: Yesterday Dr. Mezes handed to me a Tentative Draft of an agreement for an Association of Nations which seems to be a modification of one submitted to you by Mr. Miller.20

I discussed his draft with Dr. Mezes at the time he handed it to me and subsequently wrote him a letter of which I hand you, attached hereto, a copy. I do this with the idea that possibly the interchange of ideas among the members of the Commission may result in a general clarification and harmony of view on important questions.

Cordially yours,

Tasker H. Bliss

General Tasker H. Bliss to the Chief of the Section of Territorial, Economic and Political Intelligence of the Commission to Negotiate Peace ( Mezes )

Dear Dr. Mezes: I have before me your Tentative Draft of an “Agreement for an Association of Nations”. I have studied it with the greatest interest. I shall make some comments and I shall [Page 522] make them in the light of an incident that I am going to relate to you.

In my comparative youth I served on the staff of a very wise old General. His mind was very active and he was constantly dictating memoranda of things that he had it in mind to do, reforms to accomplish and all that sort of thing. Almost the first day that I joined him he sent me one of these memoranda, on a rather important subject as I now remember it, and asked me to make any suggestions that occurred to me. From a feeling of modesty not always characteristic of youth it did not occur to me that he really wanted my criticism; so I returned his memorandum with a careful analysis showing its excellent points and only suggesting some rearrangement. It promptly came back to me with the statement that he knew the good points in his memorandum better than I did; that what he wanted to know was the bad points; and that, to know them, he wanted my criticism, even that suggested by well-intentioned foolishness or ignorance, because that could do him no harm and might suggest something useful.

So I am going to suggest, haphazard, whatever occurs to me.21

1.) Paragraph 2, Clause 1:—The Capital selected will probably be that of a smaller government. It will not have a diplomatic representative from each of the powers, because many of them have no interests there. The powers that have interests there, appoint diplomats to attend to those interests, qualifications for which work may not call for the best kind of men for the League of Nations. The other powers will, presumably, appoint their best men specially for the latter work. One set of diplomats will have other work than that of the League of Nations; the other set can devote themselves exclusively to this work of the League.

It has been objected against having specially assigned delegates versus the regular diplomats at this Capital, that the former will, for a good part of the time, have no ostensible function. If there is anything in what I have said above, a part of the diplomatic body will, in effect, be specially selected for the purposes of the League and will have nothing else to attend to. Moreover, for some years, at least, the delegates will have no lack of work in trying to get some degree of order into this distracted world.

But, to my mind, the real objection is this. We cannot expect any near change in the diplomatic system or methods of the world. Most of the diplomats will be men trained from their youth, until they have become hide-bound, in governmental ideas and in the ideas of governing classes. That is the very thing that we most want to get away [Page 523] from. A diplomat from the United States is the only one, of the large powers, that could realize my conception of the requirements. He is not trained in a system where all his ideas have been fitted to a Procrustean bed. And his appointment has to be approved by an elected representative body.

I would, rather, suggest for consideration that the delegates must be specially approved by the Legislatures of their respective countries, and that they must be eminent in their countries for their knowledge of history, of the Law of Nations and, above all, for their proved: intelligent interest in the problems of humanity. This is the more; necessary since Paragraph 17 makes the Representatives constitute an International Court.

2.) Paragraph 2, Clause 2:—I am afraid of this provision as it stands. At the moment when we hope to establish the League, the number of great, really civilized powers will be pitifully small. Yet with them rest the issues of world-peace and world-war. It is of vital importance to minimize the chances of having any one of them secede from the League. Disguise it from ourselves as we may, the basic idea of the League is to begin some form of government for the world in which the ideas of the best class of men in the great civilized powers shall dominate, because the ideas of that class of men will be subject to a more or less wise restraint and, in my judgment, a wise self-restraint is going to be the saving grace of the League. But I see nothing in your provision to prevent the government of the world from passing into the hands of the lesser advanced peoples or, at least, being to some extent controlled by them. It would be a risk to the interests of such nations as the United States and Great Britain that we cannot expect them to take.

3.) Paragraph 2, Clause 3:—You do not provide affirmatively for an approval of the Executive Committee. Do you mean that approval results ipso facto from the lapse of ten days without action? In that case, disapproval might be given in 24 hours but approval must always wait ten days. Yet, there might be a case of unanimous action of the Representatives of the Powers and where prompt steps to carry it into effect may be imperative.

Passing from that point, would it not be well to make the provision much more elastic and leave it to the wisdom of the Representatives to meet the requirements of each case? In that case, I should suggest a much longer time limit, within which approval or disapproval is to be given, assuming that a thing manifestly good will be promptly approved and a thing doubtful will receive a longer consideration before it is either approved or disapproved.

4.) Paragraph 3:—If the Executive Committee provided for in Paragraph 2 can be made to fully represent the interests of the large, [Page 524] advanced powers, I should prefer to have the Executive Committee regulate everything that approximates routine.

5.) Paragraph 5:—I am afraid of the word “guarantee”. Moreover, it is conceivable that the League itself, in the adjustment of some dispute, may infringe on the territorial integrity of some power.

Finally, “territorial integrity and political independence” cannot be “guaranteed” except by an agreement to make war when necessary to maintain the guarantee. The United States may make war to do this, but it depends on the will of the Congress then in existence.

Nor do I believe that a guarantee is a sine qua non for the present. If a solemn covenant or promise by all the nations to respect territorial integrity and political independence is threatened to be violated, thereby bringing on danger of a great war, the United States may be trusted to live up to her “gentleman’s agreement” as a member of the League.

6.) Paragraph 6:—I do not like the provision “national armaments should be limited to the requirements of international …22 security, and the Representatives of the Powers shall consider provisions for carrying into effect this principle”. There is only one way to carry the principle into effect, and that is to disarm. And the burning question is, “has not this war made us reasonably ready for it?” If not, God help us.

I am of those who believe that disarmament and a League of Nations go hand-in-hand. When a dozen men sit around a table to discuss questions fraught with all sorts of possible irritation and it appears that some of them have a pistol in each pocket and a knife in their belts, while others have penknives and fire-crackers or nothing at all, the first and sole question is disarmament. There can be no fair and free discussion of anything till that is settled. The American principle, I am inclined to think, is a League of Nations with equal representation. How can you have equal representation with some nations weak and others with millions of trained soldiers or fleets of battleships or both? You must remember that a League of Nations will be born not only from a feeling of incipient international confidence and trust but also from the existing feeling of international distrust. The problem would be bad enough, but not thoroughly bad, if it were a League entirely of wolves or entirely of sheep. It will be a problem indeed, if you try to make it one of wolves and sheep.

And what will the United States have gained from the war if this is to be the result? A League having some nations armed to the teeth will be dominated by those nations. That is what they will [Page 525] be armed for. And what part will the United States play in such a League? If she is going to play with wolves she must have fangs and claws as long and as sharp as theirs. But, as I conceive it, we fought the war more for the purpose of avoiding this necessity than for any other one thing. If we want to play with the wolf without becoming one ourselves we must pull all his fangs and trim all his claws. The wolf is militarism and thus far we have pulled only one fang.

I think we can have a League in only one or the other of two forms: a general League of Nations disarmed for purposes of international war, or a League of four or five heavily armed nations who will impose their will upon the world and who will keep the peace among themselves only so long as each thinks that it is getting its share of the rest of the world.

Personally, I have not much fear of the result. If we do not settle it, the peoples behind us will. And if our inaction or criminal stupidity forces them to act it may be, almost of necessity will be, by a revolutionary upheaval of all governments that may, for a time at least, eclipse our present civilization. My hope is that the Americans will have the courage to lead the people and, if I understand at all the President’s views, I believe we will. Our peace terms with Germany should provide as far as is humanely possible against a revival of German militarism, and we should then and at once demand its abolition everywhere.

In the subsequent paragraphs I suggest that careful scrutiny be given to each one that touches on the Constitutional rights and powers of the Congress of the United States. For example, under Paragraph 11 Congress would have to cede to the League its constitutional power and duty to regulate Commerce. I do not see how Paragraph 15 can be effective unless Congress does what it cannot do,—delegate its power to make war to the League. Such things might cause adverse action by the Senate on any treaty.

Cordially yours,

Tasker H. Bliss
  1. Apparently the Miller draft printed on p. 505. Dr. Mezes’ draft not found in Department files.
  2. References to specific paragraphs and clauses apparently are not to the original “Tentative Draft of an Agreement for an Association of Nations” printed on p. 505, but to a later revision; see footnote 20, p. 521.
  3. Omission indicated in General Bliss’ letter.