Paris Peace Conf. 180.03601/1

Minutes of the Meeting Held by the Representatives of Powers With Special Interests, January 27, 19191

The Session is opened at 15 o’clock (3 p.m.) under the Presidency of Mr. Jules Cambon, French Delegate, President.

  • Present
    • For Belgium:
      • Mr. Hymans,
      • Mr. Van den Heuvel,
      • Mr. Vandervelde.
    • For Bolivia:
      • Mr. Ismaël Montes.
    • For Brazil:
      • Mr. Olyntho de Magalhaes,
      • Mr. Pandia Calogeras.
    • For China:
      • Mr. Lou Tseng-tsiang,
      • Mr. Suntehou Wei, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of China at Brussels.
    • For Cuba:
      • Mr. Rafael Martinez Ortiz.
    • For Ecuador:
      • Mr. Dorn y de Alsua.
    • For Greece:
      • Mr. Nicolas Politis,
      • Mr. Athos Romanos, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of H. M. The King of the Hellenes at Paris, Technical Delegate.
    • For Haiti:
      • Mr. Tertullien Guilbaud, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of Haiti at Paris.
    • For The Hedjaz:
      • Mr. Rustem Haidar.
    • For Peru:
      • Mr. Francisco Garcia Calderon.
    • For Poland:
      • Mr. Roman Dmowski.
    • For Portugal:
      • Dr. Egas Moniz,
      • The Count Penha Garcia.
    • For Roumania:
      • Mr. Jean J. C. Bratiano,
      • Mr. Nicolas Misu.
    • For Serbia:
      • Mr. Pachitch,
      • Mr. Trumbitch,
      • Mr. Vesnitch.
    • For Siam:
      • The Prince Charoon,
      • Phya Bibadh Kosha.
    • For the Czecho-Slovak Republic:
      • Mr. Charles Kramar,
      • Mr. Edouard Benes.
    • For Uruguay:
      • Mr. Juan Carlos Blanco.

The President sets forth in the following terms the object of the meeting:—

The President of the Conference has done me the honor of appointing me to preside over the meeting of the Delegates of the Powers with special interests which have to settle the names of their representatives on the different Commissions, the list of which has already been drawn up. Other Commissions will be appointed later on.

Today you are summoned to express your views in regard to the composition of four Commissions.

I believe that all the members present speak or understand French; I therefore suggest that you should decide that no translation shall be made of the words pronounced here.

(The meeting, after consultation, assents to this proposal.)

So far as concerns the appointment of Delegates on the Commissions, the simplest plan appears to me to be to suspend the session in order that you may be able to come to an agreement among yourselves. We will open an examination of the lists when the session is resumed.

Mr. Kramar (Czecho-Slovak Republic) asks leave to speak in order to propose a compromise:—

I perfectly understand the idea which guided Mr. Clemenceau at the last session,2 when he said that it would be useless to have Commissions composed of too great a number of members. All those who, like him, have had experience of parliamentary affairs are convinced of this.

I hold the view, in accordance with this opinion, that the Commissions should be composed, in fact, of fifteen members. I ask, however, that an exception should be made in the case of one of them which seems to me to be of special importance. I mean the Commission on the League of Nations. I am well aware that nothing will be definitely decided in commission, but we all of us realize that, when a step has been accepted by a Commission, it is difficult for a contrary decision to be taken in plenary session.

Now, no injury could be caused to the idea of the League of Nations if the small Powers were represented on the Commission. For this reason, and since Mr. Clemenceau has publicly declared that number was not a sacred thing before which one has to bow, it has occurred to me that we might modify the number of Delegates on this important Commission. It would be possible to decide that it should be composed of twenty-five members: fifteen to represent the Great [Page 449] Powers and ten for the Powers with special interests. In this way it would be impossible for any kind of bitterness to remain in the minds of the Delegates of the last-named Powers.

The other Commissions would remain with their composition of fifteen members, ten for the Great Powers and five for the Powers with special interests.

Such is the arrangement which I desire to propose.

The President states that he takes note of the extremely interesting observations offered by Mr. Kramar, and adds:

You certainly remember that at the last plenary session, the President of the Conference was at pains to observe that all Delegates who might desire to make their voices heard in the Commissions could do so as they wished.

At the present moment, I do not think that we—for we represent here only a fraction of the Conference—can modify on our own authority that which has been decided by the Conference at its last session. The proposal which Mr. Kramar has just made can be referred to the next plenary session. To-day we could not deliberate in regard to it without exceeding the mandate which we have to fulfill. The only thing which we have to do is to keep within the rules laid down for us by the Conference and to proceed to vote.

It would, in my opinion, be best to suspend the session in order that you may agree among yourselves on the choice which you wish to make.

Mr. Calogeras (Brazil), after seeking leave to speak, expresses himself as follows:

I desire, in the first place, to congratulate this limited assembly on having at its head as President so illustrious a statesman as Mr. Jules Cambon. May I now be permitted to define certain questions?

Unless I am mistaken, it was stated at the last plenary session of the Conference, as Mr. Kramar reminded us, that the composition of the Commissions, in respect of numbers, was a settled matter.

It was likewise stated that all claims—justified ones, naturally—relating to an increase in the number of members of these Commissions, should be reserved for a later session.

I think I remember that certain claims have already been heard; it will at least be necessary for them to be examined.

It is clear that we cannot at this moment do more than what has been decided. It should, however, be well understood and perfectly clear that this is only a temporary solution until such time as a decision shall have been taken with regard to the question of increasing the number of members of the Commissions. I apologize for speaking at some length and I will attempt to summarize my observations.

[Page 450]

I possess a certain experience of international conferences, having sat on several occasions as the representative of Brazil in Pan-American conferences. Now, my experience does not altogether accord with what has been said here. One is aware that in great parliamentary debates, the majority, by its vote, compels the minority and, moreover, that commissions are not always models of efficiency: this we all know; I am myself a parliamentarian. However, in an Assembly like this one, which is an International Conference, where neither majority nor minority exists, votes must be obtained by unanimity, because, as a final enforcement, you have the signature of the agreements whereby conventional laws are fixed.

There clearly exist certain difficulties in connection with publicity, the very great publicity which is, moreover, necessary to our discussions. In plenary session, a question of human pride comes into play. A nation which has expressed itself in a certain sense cannot easily gainsay itself or reach a compromise; whereas, in Commissions where there is a far greater degree of intimacy, where discussions take place with greater heat but also with greater freedom, agreements are far easier and far simpler than when they are dependent on a vote to be obtained in the plenary Conference.

It is, moreover, manifest that one cannot require that, among so many representatives of different States, among so many mandatories bearers of diverse diplomatic instructions, one should obtain forthwith the agreement which is the indispensable preliminary of the needed solutions. By the very fact that publicity is much greater in plenary session, you will understand that any divergences of opinion, even those which may merely be ones of detail and devoid of really great importance, directly they appear soon acquire a much greater importance and produce an impression which might be unfavorable and, if I may say so, disastrous to the solutions which we wish to reach in harmony and by the free consent of the will of all concerned.

These are the reasons for which it seemed, and still seems to me to-day—I speak from my small experience as a member of several international conferences—that there will be every advantage, from the point of view of the rapidity of our labors and having regard to the necessary agreement which must receive the sanction of the plenary Conference, in fixing the number of members, not of all but of certain of the Commissions, at a higher figure than the one hitherto adopted. I have myself made a claim. Other Delegates have spoken more or less in the same sense; it is clear that there is something to be done in this direction.

We have come here with a great ideal which all the world supports; we desire to institute the League of Nations, that is to say, a system of equality as between all nations. The principle of the [Page 451] League has already been completely established. Each nation must be given a vote; “one nation, one vote.” That is the spirit in which I beg leave to bring to your attention the arguments which appear to militate in favor of an increase in the number of members of Commissions, for the phrase “League of Nations” must not merely appear in our speeches; its spirit must reign in our hearts.

The President points out, with the agreement of Mr. Calogeras, that the observations which have just been made cannot modify the proposals already placed before the Assembly; that, moreover, they cannot be taken into account at a meeting which has for its sole object the designation of the representatives of Powers with special interests.

The observations of the Delegate for Brazil will, however, be recorded in the Minutes of the session, and the President will communicate them to the Bureau of the Conference.

Furthermore, the Delegates of Powers which desire to see an increase in the number of their representatives on the Commission of the League of Nations may naturally go and offer their observations before that Commission. That Commission, which will be undoubtedly animated by a most liberal spirit, may, if it considers the number of representatives to be insufficient, request the plenary Conference to increase the number originally settled.

Mr. Vesnitch (Serbia), offers an observation of a technical description by proposing that the vote to be given should be in the name of States, and not in the name of persons.

This proposal is adopted.

The session is suspended at 15.25 o’clock (3.25 p.m.) in order to allow the Delegates to exchange views before examining the list of the representatives to be designated.

The session is resumed at 16.05 o’clock (4.05 p.m.).

On the resumption of the session Mr. Hymans (Belgium) describes as follows the result of the exchange of views among the Delegates:—

We have sought to reach an agreement, by means of private conversations, in regard to the position of the four following Commissions: Commission on the League of Nations; Commission on Ports; Commission on International Legislation on Labor; Commission to inquire into the Responsibility for Crimes committed during the war.

As a result of the conversations which have taken place, there are two Commissions in regard to the composition of which there appears to be agreement, and we can thenceforward eliminate the two following questions from our deliberations: the Commission on the Responsibility for Crimes committed during the war, and the Commission on International Legislation on Labor.

[Page 452]

If there were no opposition, we could consider that the Delegates have been named for the Commission to inquire into the responsibility for crimes committed during the war, and to examine the penalties attached to those crimes, that Commission being composed of the representatives of Belgium, Serbia, Roumania, Poland and Greece.

As regards the composition of the Commission to study International Legislation on Labor, we propose to put down the names of the following Powers: Belgium, Serbia, Cuba for the South American group, Poland and the Czecho-Slovak Republic. The Serbian Delegates, however, have been good enough to state that they agreed to yield their place to Belgium, which, in view of the position which she holds in the industrial and commercial world, may be considered from that point of view as a Great Power. Belgium would therefore have two seats.

The question is a more delicate one as regards the composition of the Commission to inquire into the constitution of the League of Nations, and the composition of the Commission on the Control of Ports, Waterways and Railways.

In the conversations which have just taken place, there seemed to be an agreement as regards Belgium and Serbia, each having a representative on both Commissions; there are, however, besides those two, Powers which likewise demand to be represented on both Commissions and the number of the Powers which wish to sit on them exceeds the number of available seats. Brazil, China, Roumania, Poland, the Czecho-Slovak Republic, Greece, and Portugal ask to be represented on the League of Nations Commission.

With regard to the Ports Commission, in addition to Belgium and Serbia, Uruguay representing the South American group, Poland, China, Greece, Roumania, and Portugal ask to be represented on this Commission.

In our opinion it would be best, with a view to the composition of these two Commissions, to take a vote; it is our intention to request you, Mr. President, when the vote has taken place and after the nomination of the five Delegates to whom we have been told we are entitled, to make yourself the interpreter of the desire of today’s meeting by begging the Bureau of the Conference to be so good as to increase eventually the number of seats on these two Commissions; we would indicate the Powers for which these seats are requested.

The Greek Delegates state that they agree with Mr. Hymans in regard to the composition of the first two Commissions for which, in default of opposition, the vote should be regarded as settled; furthermore, like Serbia, they renounce their representation on the International Labor Legislation Commission in favor of Belgium.

[Page 453]

The President gives his consent to this mode of procedure and concludes, to sum up, that five Delegates will be appointed and that four will be designated in order that they may be proposed to the Bureau of the Conference so as to complete the Delegation.

The discussion is resumed on the method of voting.

The President states that, with regard to the Labor Legislation Commission and that on the Responsibility for Crimes, there is no need to vote, as the Delegates have agreed among themselves.

The representation of Powers with special interests on the International Labor Legislation Commission will therefore be composed as follows: Belgium, with two seats; Cuba, Poland, and the Czechoslovak Republic, with one seat each.

As regards the Commission to inquire into the Responsibility for Crimes committed during the War, Belgium, Greece, Poland, Roumania, and Serbia will each have one representative on that Commission.

As regards the two other Commissions—those on the League of Nations and on Ports—the President proposes to proceed by separate vote for each: Commission. This having been accepted, he states that it is understood that the Delegates to be considered as elected will be the five who have received the greatest number of votes. The four names following them will be laid before the Conference, by way of suggestion, with a view to complete the Commissions.

An exchange of view takes place in order to fix the method of voting. It is decided in the first place that the voting at the first round is to be determined by absolute majority; at the second, by relative majority; further, that each Delegation shall only hand in one voting card.

The list of candidates for the League of Nations Commission is communicated to the meeting. These candidates are, in alphabetical order in French: Belgium, Brazil, China, Ecuador, Greece, Haiti, Poland, Portugal, Roumania, and Serbia and the Czecho-Slovak Republic.

The votes are collected, sorted and counted.

The President announces the result:

There are seventeen voters; the five nations which have received an absolute majority and the greatest number of votes are: Belgium, China, Brazil, Serbia, and Portugal. Thereafter come Roumania, Poland, Greece, the Czecho-Slovak Republic, Haiti and Ecuador.

In accordance with the decision of the Assembly, the President will communicate to the Bureau of the Conference the names of the four nations which, after the five nations appointed, have obtained the greatest number of votes, namely: Roumania, Poland, Greece, and the Czecho-Slovak Republic.

[Page 454]

The President thereupon proposes to designate the members of the Ports, Waterways and Railways Commission.

Mr. Benes (Czecho-Slovak Republic) offers the following observation:

When we examined the question of the number of Delegates to be admitted into the Commission for Railways, Waterways, and the Internationalization of Ports, I explained to my colleagues on the Commission certain reasons for which we, the Czecho-Slovaks, were anxious to be represented among the five Powers to be designated. Those reasons are as follows: We are in the middle of Central Europe, a country surrounded on all sides by enemy powers, notably Germany and the Magyars, and we have no access to the sea. For us the question of the internationalization of railways is a vital one; on the other hand, our State is a riverain state of the Danube and we are specially interested in the question of the Adriatic; moreover, having no great ports, we shall therefore be interested in expressing our views on the subject of the special system of control of the Baltic and the Adriatic ports. These are the reasons which we have advanced in order that we may be included in the number of the five Powers which are to be represented on the Commission: I therefore propose the candidature of the Czecho-Slovaks to be among the five Powers which you are about to designate.

Mr. Hymans (Belgium) announces, but not in order of priority, the names of the Powers which ask to be represented on the Commission: They are Belgium, Serbia, Uruguay, Poland, China, Roumania, Greece, the Czecho-Slovak Republic and Portugal.

The votes are collected, sorted and counted.

The President announces the result:—

The five Powers which have secured an absolute majority are: Belgium, China, Greece, Uruguay and Serbia.

After them, the following have secured the greatest number of votes: Roumania, Portugal, Poland and the Czecho-Slovak Republic.

Therefore, the suggestion to be made to the Bureau is concerned with the supplementary admission of the four last-named Powers.

Mr. Calogeras (Brazil) makes the following statement in regard to the result of the voting:

It appears to me that a great moral lesson is derived from the votes which this Assembly has just cast: on all the Commissions it is to Belgium that the greatest number, indeed almost the unanimity of votes, has been given. That is not astonishing. We have barely emerged from a struggle which will undoubtedly effect a complete transformation of modern society: now, if it has been possible to secure this victory, if we are assembled round this Conference table, it is certainly because there has been an expiatory victim, a country, [Page 455] small in extent, but great of heart, which has offered itself up as a holocaust, and to which we may well apply the phrase which Joan of Arc used of her banner: “It has been dragged in the dust; it now floats in the breeze.”

Mr. Hymans (Belgium) thanks him in the following terms:—

From the depths of my heart I thank the representative of noble Brazil for the words with which he has just greeted my country. We have, I think, done our duty; victory has crowned the common efforts of the Allies and all of us here will have only one purpose, together with the great Allies at whose side we were sitting yesterday; that is, to establish a just peace, and to organize an international order founded on the rights and equality of nations.

The President adds these words:

In the name of all the nations represented at this table I associate myself with the words just pronounced by the representative of Brazil; at the same time, however, I desire to associate with these eulogies Serbia, Roumania, and all the nations which have suffered, like ourselves and like Belgium, for the cause of Civilization and Right.

It is understood, of course, that the Delegates of countries which have been indicated will be at the same time the Delegates of all the nations, and that they may be requested to present the desiderata of nations which have not been themselves designated.

In conclusion, the President begs the Delegations to communicate as soon as possible to the General Secretariat the names of the representatives of nations designated by the vote which has just been taken, as the Commission ought to be constituted as rapidly as possible.

The members of the Secretariat take note of these names. (See Annex VII).3

The session rises at 16–50 o’clock (4.50 p.m.).

  1. The minutes of the meeting held on January 27, 1919, appear in the files as Annex 6 to Protocol No. 2, Preliminary Peace Conference, Plenary Session of January 25, 1919. There is also in the files an apparently earlier mimeographed version of the minutes, not printed here, the text of which is published In David Hunter Miller, My Diary at the Conference of Paris (New York, 1924), vol. xx, p. 196.
  2. Plenary Session of January 25, 1919; see pp. 176, 196.
  3. i. e., Annex No. 7 to Protocol No. 2, Preliminary Peace Conference, Plenary Session of January 25, 1919, p. 203.