Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/3



Procès-verbal of the Meeting of the Supreme War Council, Held at M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Monday, January 13, 1919, at 14 Hours 30

  • Present
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau, President of the Council and Minister for War.
      • M. Stephen Pichon, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
      • M. Clementel, Minister of Commerce.
      • M. Loucheur, Minister of Munitions.
      • M. Leygues, Minister of Marine.
      • M. Klotz, Minister of Finance.
      • Marshal Foch, Generalissimo, Allied Armies on the Western Front.
      • General Weygand.
      • M. Dutasta.
      • M. Berthelot.
      • M. de Lasteyrie.
      • Captain A. Portier.
    • Italy
      • His Excellency Baron Sonnino, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
      • Count Aldrovandi.
      • General di Robilant.
      • Major A. Jones.
    • Great Britain
      • The Right Hon. D. Lloyd George, Prime Minister.
      • The Right Hon. A. J. Balfour, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
      • The Right Hon. A. Bonar Law, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons.
      • General Sir H. H. Wilson, K. C. B., D. S. O., Chief of the Imperial General Staff.
      • Major-General The Hon. C. J. Sackville-West, C. M. G., British Military Representative.
      • Lieutenent-Colonel Sir M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B., Secretary, War Cabinet.
      • Admiral Sir M. Browning.
      • Major A.M. Caccia, M. V. O.
    • United States
      • President Wilson.
      • Mr. R. Lansing.
      • Mr. Hoover.
      • Mr. Hurley.
      • Mr. A. H. Frazier.
      • General Tasker H. Bliss, American Military Representative.
      • Admiral Benson.

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux

Renewal of Armistice With Germany

1. Financial Clause M. Pichon said that the question to be discussed that afternoon related to the conditions of the renewal of the Armistice.

Marshal Foch said that the amendments to be introduced into the financial, naval, and economic clauses of the armistice with Germany had been agreed upon that morning, and, if approved, they could be inserted, as far as possible, in the new armistice.

[Page 509]

M. Klotz said that the following resolution had been drawn up at that morning’s meeting to give effect to the views expressed by Mr. Bonar Law and the representative of the United States of America:—

“Technical delegates of the Allied Governments and of Germany will be required to report how far it would be desirable, to force the German Government to undertake the necessary measures for the protection of the gold reserve in the Reichsbank, and of the machinery required for the issue of bank-notes. Marshal Foch is therefore authorised to demand the insertion of a special clause in the armistice to give effect to this decision at the time of the renewal of the armistice.”

President Wilson enquired what were the exact terms of the clause to be introduced into the armistice.

M. Klotz replied that the instructions to the delegates were that they should, in conjunction with the German Government, take steps to ensure the safety of the cash deposits and of the machinery used for the emission of notes. It was only after the experts had arrived at an agreement that Marshal Foch would be able definitely to draft the clause required.

President Wilson pointed out that the question under discussion was not a military one, and, though he had full confidence in Marshal Foch as regards the carrying out of the terms of the armistice, he did not think the question under consideration was one which should be left to the military authorities for Marshal Foch to decide.

Mr. Bonar Law agreed that this was not a military question. All he proposed to do was to ask their experts to report on the possibility and desirability of doing what had been suggested. It was even possible that the German Government itself might wish that this should be done, in order to prevent the gold and the presses from falling into the hands of the Spartacus Group.

President Wilson said he wished to avoid the impression that, as an afterthought, they now wished to impound the German gold and the presses used for the emission of paper money. It seemed to him that this procedure would be introducing a novel clause into the armistice. By all means let the envoys look into the facts and form an opinion. They should then submit the matter to the German delegates, and, in co-operation with the Germans, endeavour to arrive at a plan which the Germans themselves might welcome. But they did not wish to introduce new conditions into the armistice.

M. Klotz made the following suggestion, which he thought might embody President Wilson’s proposals:—

He would suggest that, after agreement had been reached by the technical delegates on the lines suggested in the first paragraph of the above text, Marshal Foch should be authorised to add the following clause to the armistice:— [Page 510]

“Germany shall forthwith take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the gold deposits in the Reichsbank and of the machinery required for the issue of bank-notes.”

This would mean that the necessary action would be taken in consultation with the German Government, and that it is left to it to take steps to give effect to this decision.

President Wilson enquired whether it would not be sufficient to authorise Marshal Foch, in the event of our own and the German delegates being in accord, to take steps to help the Germans to ensure the safety of the gold.

Mr. Bonar Law thought that if the German Government itself said to our delegates that it would be in a better position to do this if it were made a condition of the armistice, Marshal Foch should not be prevented from doing this.

M. Klotz urged that the clause should be kept secret. If made public it might lead to serious trouble, and bring about the very danger it was desired to avoid.

President Wilson agreed, but said that that did not prevent their arriving at an agreement with the German Government on this question. Should the German Government prefer that the clause be entered in the armistice, he quite agreed that this should be done.

Mr. Bonar Law suggested that the German Government might, in the future, find itself in difficulties if it were discovered that they had willingly agreed to the removal of the gold without the stimulus of its being a condition of the armistice.

M. Klotz thought that the clause, as now amended, met all requirements. It was first suggested that the Allied and German experts must be agreed that action is necessary. It was then left to Marshal Foch to take action.

President Wilson agreed, provided that it was quite understood that no clause be inserted in the armistice terms except at the wish of the German Government.

The following text was accepted:—

“Germany must take as soon as possible all measures to ensure the safety of the gold deposits in the Reichsbank, and of the machinery required for the issue of bank-notes. Marshal Foch is therefore authorised to take the necessary measures to give effect to the recommendation of the experts, either by the insertion of a clause in the armistice or otherwise.”

2. Naval Clauses M. Leygues said that the technical advisers had agreed on the following amendments to Article XXII of the armistice:–

“All submarines which can proceed to sea or be towed are to be surrendered and are to proceed forthwith to Allied ports. These [Page 511] are to include submarine cruisers and mine-layers, and submarine lifting vessels and docks. Those submarines which cannot be so surrendered are to be totally destroyed. Submarine building is to cease forthwith, and those submarines which are now under construction are to be broken up.”

President Wilson said he had understood that these conditions could be included in the existing clauses of the armistice. He enquired how far the clause as now drafted added to the original text of the armistice.

M. Leygues replied that in Clause 22 as originally drafted there was no mention of destroying ships.

Mr. Bonar Law said there was no question that the original intention was that all submarines should be given up, and that this had not been done.

President Wilson enquired why they should not merely insist on the execution of the clause; a few words would be sufficient to give effect to that desideratum.

M. Leygues pointed out that action was being taken “as a penalty”. That was the view accepted.

Mr. Lloyd George insisted that the Germans must accept these terms as a condition of the renewal of the armistice. In the original clause of the armistice they had said “all submarines”. It was not a penalty that they now proposed to impose, it was merely a question of the correct interpretation of the original clause.

M. Pichon proposed the substitution of the following words:—

“In order to insure the complete execution of Clause 22 of the armistice, it is laid down . . . .”

President Wilson

“that what follows is insisted upon as an interpretation of that clause.”

M. Clemenceau said that a period of time should be given within which these terms should be carried out.

M. Leygues suggested that they might introduce the word “immediately”.

(The clause as amended was agreed to:—

“In order to insure the complete execution of Clause 22 of the armistice, it is laid down that what follows is insisted upon as an interpretation of that clause:—

“All submarines which can proceed to sea or be towed are to be surrendered immediately, and are to proceed forthwith to Allied ports. These are to include submarine cruisers and mine-layers, and submarine lifting vessels and docks. Those submarines which cannot be so surrendered are to be totally destroyed. Submarine building [Page 512] is to cease forthwith, and those submarines which are now under construction are to be broken up.”)

Article XXIII of Armistice M. Leygues said that they proposed to add the following sentence at the end of Article XXIII of the armistice:—

“To ensure this being carried out, the German Commission are to furnish the Allied Naval Armistice Commission with a complete list of all surface craft, both built and building (either launched or on the stocks), giving estimated dates of completion.”

(This was accepted without discussion.)

3. Economic Clauses M. Clementel said that the Food Council had considered the question of food supplies for Germany, and had submitted their suggestions to the naval experts in order to see how the German mercantile fleet could best be made use of by the Allied Governments. As a result the following clauses had been proposed by the Allied Naval Council:—

  • “I. The whole of the German merchant fleet (including all passenger and cargo boats, other than those excepted by a committee to be set up by the Allies) to be placed immediately at the disposal of the Allies and of the United States, with a view to increasing the world-tonnage from which the tonnage required for the supply of foodstuffs to Europe, including Germany, can be drawn.

    “The Allies and the United States will take over the administration of this fleet for the use of the Inter-Allied Maritime Transport Council or of any other organisation which they may create or set up for this purpose.

  • “II. The German merchant ships shall be put at the disposal of the Allies and of the United States in the ports and under the conditions laid down by the Allies and the United States. They shall be handed over completely fitted out both as regards crews and stores.
  • “III. In the case of those boats which, being in neutral countries, cannot get to the designated ports, unaided, owing either to lack of personnel or any other cause, Germany shall hand over these in the ports where they are at present, after previously notifying this handing over to the neutral Governments concerned.
  • “IV. German merchant ships shall put to sea flying a flag or flags of the Allied nations.
  • “V. The Allies and the United States may take such measures as they may deem advisable to assure the internal protection of the boats, the safety of navigation, and the supervision of the crews. They may, if necessary, place armed guards on board. The law applicable to these boats shall be that of the Nation which shall have taken charge of them in the name of the Allies and the United States.
  • “VI. The Allies and the United States may proceed with the partial or total replacement of the crews. German officers and crews who are thus discharged shall be repatriated to Germany.
  • “VII. All German merchant ships shall be handed over to the Allies and the United States within a period to be fixed later.

    [Page 513]

    “The condition of boats which are unable to put to sea at the expiry of the period to be fixed shall be confirmed by a Commission of the Allies and the United States.

  • “VIII. The above clauses shall apply only to the use of boats during the armistice period, and for such later period as shall be determined by the Allied and Associated Governments.

    “The above agreements shall not prejudice the ultimate disposal of these boats.”

Mr. Balfour said that he had been desired by Lord Reading1 to put his views before the Conference. He had objected very strongly to any new conditions being added to the armistice, and he considered that the proposals now under discussion made an important addition to the armistice, and that this should be avoided. Lord Reading agreed that it was necessary to obtain the use of these ships, but he thought that this could be done by bargaining, and not by adding new conditions to the armistice. He would say to the Germans: “If you want food you must hand over your ships. If you hand over your ships we would give you sufficient food for a certain number of months.” In this way the weapon of food would still be left in our hands. If Germany agreed to these terms the Allies would help to feed them. The inducement to the Germans would be that a certain quantity of food would be handed over to them in return for the use of a certain number of ships. That policy appeared to be different from the policy now set forth in the proposals under consideration.

M. Clementel said that Mr. Hoover was, according to his own statement, required to solve the following question: namely, the supply of 200,000 tons of corn and 70,000 tons of meat per month to meet the requirements of Germany, and this implied a total of from 800,000 to 900,000 tons of shipping. Germany had some 2,700,000 tons of shipping lying idle. The Allies were compelled to furnish supplies to the whole of Europe. It was necessary, therefore to make Germany give up these ships temporarily for the good of Europe. Otherwise Germany would say that she would only give up sufficient shipping to transport supplies required by herself. On the other hand, unless they insisted on the setting free of all the available tonnage, it was impossible to furnish supplies to Europe. Negotiations had been carried on for some considerable time without results. They were forced, therefore, to the conclusion that these demands should form part of the armistice conditions, so that the Germans would be bound to reply within a given period of time.

[Page 514]

President Wilson enquired whether it would not be sufficient to issue instructions to our delegates forthwith to arrive at an agreement on these lines.

Mr. Bonar Law pointed out that during the last two months endeavours had been made to obtain the use of these ships, but without success: and unless this were made a condition of the armistice the ships would not be obtained. He did not think it would be necessary for the whole of these clauses to be introduced into the armistice, but a clause should be inserted to the effect that an agreement would have to be arrived at in order to set free the German merchant ships. The Germans should be told that, unless these ships are given up, food would not be supplied. The balance of shipping beyond the tonnage required for Germany’s food supplies would be used for payment of food supplied.

M. Clemenceau agreed that it was not only a question of feeding Germany; the whole of Europe had to be fed. Over two months had already been wasted in bargaining, and, if further discussion was to take place, more time would be lost. Whatever text was adopted, they must so act as to make Germany yield the shipping required without further delay.

President Wilson then pointed out that the only other means available, except force, was to withhold food, and to that he agreed.

Mr. Bonar Law pointed out that a meeting of the delegates would take place on Wednesday next. The delegates should be given to understand that they would be supported in any steps which they might consider it necessary to take in order to obtain the use of this shipping.

Marshal Foch said that on the 13th December last this question had been considered. At the suggestion of Mr. Hoover, transmitted to him through General Pershing, he had told M. Erzberger2 that 2,800,000 tons of German shipping should be pooled for the Allies to be used for the supply of food. M. Erzberger had agreed to this proposal, on the condition that the ships and the crews remained German. He had not refused, but had merely made a condition. As that question had not been settled nothing had been done.

Mr. Bonar Law thought they were all agreed that the armistice should be used to bring pressure to bear on the Germans. If the Germans did not agree, they should instruct their delegates to refer the matter back to the Supreme War Council for decision.

M. Klotz enquired whether the Council accepted the condition made by M. Erzberger that the ships should remain under the German flag.

[Page 515]

Mr. Bonar Law said that the Council had decided that the ships should sail under our awn flag. In this connection he would invite attention to Paragraph IV of the clauses under consideration.

M. Leygues pointed out that the Council had agreed to make use of German crews under certain conditions.

President Wilson enquired whether any reply had been made to M. Erzberger’s condition.

As no reply had been made, they were parties to the delay. He then suggested that the delegates should be authorised to sign without delay an agreement with the Germans on the lines proposed in the clauses under consideration, and he would add that, if the Germans refused to sign such an agreement, Marshal Foch should at once be informed so that it may be made a condition of the renewal of the armistice.

(This proposal was accepted.)

4. Supply of Food to Germany M. Clementel said that the next question to be considered related to the supply of food to Germany, Disagreement had arisen between the British, American, and French financial authorities as to the manner in which payment was to be made.

Mr. Bonar Law asked permission to explain the views held by the British authorities. It would be admitted that each of the Allies had got his own debts, but it was now proposed deliberately to add to these debts in order to supply food to Germany. Consequently, this additional debt, in his opinion, ought to be treated as one of the first charges, to be discharged at once. The supply of food was a necessity. It was therefore a necessity that it should be paid for. If payment was not made immediately, the outstanding debts would be proportionately increased.

M. Clementel pointed out that the expenditure to be incurred amounted to 4,500,000,000 fr., which was equivalent to 12,000,000£ sterling a month.

M. Klotz said he fully recognised Mr. Bonar Law’s point of view. He also fully recognised the privileged position of the expenditure contemplated. But, in the absence of any Belgian representative, he could not admit that this expenditure should be given priority, that is, the first place above all other. He was, however, quite prepared to give it a privileged position, leaving it to the Peace Conference to decide the order of priority to be given to the various debts incurred by Germany. As a result of the discussion which had taken place that morning, he now wished to submit the following proposal:—

“That this question should be referred to a Conference of representatives of the Allied and Associated Powers, who should be required to submit their recommendations within the period of one week.”

[Page 516]

President Wilson expressed the view that any further delay in this matter might be fatal, as it meant the dissolution of order and government. They were discussing an absolute and immediate necessity. So long as hunger continued to gnaw, the foundations of government would continue to crumble. Therefore, food should be supplied immediately, not only to our friends, but also to those parts of the world where it was to our interest to maintain a stable Government. He thought they were bound to accept the concerted counsel of a number of men who had been devoting the whole of their time and thought to this question. He trusted the French Finance Department would withdraw their objection, as they were faced with the great problems of Bolshevism and the forces of dissolution which now threatened society.

M. Klotz said he would gladly meet President Wilson’s wishes. But it was not altogether a question of food supplies. They were all fully agreed as to the necessity of feeding the Germans, but he would appeal to President Wilson to consider also the question of justice. He was quite willing to admit that German foreign securities should be earmarked for this purpose. But they were creating a new German debt. There were other German debts which were just as honourable and noble. Therefore, he would ask, as a matter of justice, why Germany should pay for food in preference to paying off debts incurred for the restoration and for the reparation of damage committed elsewhere. Why should exclusive priority be given to such a debt? As a solution of the difficulty he would agree that payment for this food should be made in foreign securities and values. But he would add that “these assets shall be pooled and distribution shall be made by the Allies, taking into account such privileged claims as the Peace Conference would admit”.

He would merely point out that it was not a question of food supply, it was purely a financial question, and no delay need therefore occur in the supply of food.

President Wilson urged that, unless a solution for the immediate situation could be found, none of these debts would be paid. The want of food would lead to a crash in Germany. The great point, however, was this—that the Associated Governments have no money to pay for these supplies; therefore Germany must pay for them. But if they were not paid for and supplied immediately there would be no Germany to pay anything.

Mr. Bonar Law pointed out that, in calculating the sums, they had been going on the assumption that the supply of food would last for one year. He did not think that it would need to last more than a few months, or, say, up to the harvesting of the next crop. The suggestion had also been made that the German merchant ships to be [Page 517] requisitioned would yield funds for the payment of a portion of the sum in question.

M. Klotz proposed that they should accept for a period of two months the text as it stood. At the end of that period the Peace Conference would be able to come to a decision on the whole question of policy.

Mr. Bonar Law considered that if sanction for two months’ payment only were obtained the food supplies could only last for two months.

M. Klotz thought that this showed some confusion of ideas. It was not a question of supplying food for two months. Food supplies could continue. The question to be settled during the course of the two months was merely as to the priority to be given to the payments to be made by Germany. It would be admitted that foreign securities must be considered as gilt-edged securities.

Mr. Bonar Law thought they were arguing in a circle. The first question to be settled was whether a new debt which they had no necessity to incur should be added to previous debts.

M. Klotz agreed, but suggested that at the end of the two months a priority list could be prepared.

M. Pichon said he thought that an agreement had now been reached. Everyone was agreed that payment had to be made. The proposal could therefore be accepted. But the Conference could reconsider the question later on should they wish to do so.

(This was agreed to.)

5. Article XIX of Armistice M. Loucheur said that the return of machinery removed by Germany from the occupied territory was one of the points in the armistice. So far the Germans had refused to do this. It had been proposed, therefore, to add a new proviso to the armistice, making it obligatory for the Germans to return at once all machinery that had been removed to Germany. He proposed the following text:—

  • “I. As the restoration of material taken from French and Belgian territory is indispensable for industrial reconstruction, the following measures will be enforced:—
  • “II. Machinery, parts of machinery, industrial or agricultural plant, accessories of every kind, and, generally, all kinds of material appertaining to industry or agriculture which have been removed from the territories occupied by enemy armies on the Western front, under any pretext whatsoever, whether by military or civil authority or by private individuals, shall be held at the disposal of the Allies, to be returned to their original positions if the French and Belgian Governments so desire.

    “No alteration shall be made or damage done to this material.

  • “III. In preparation for this restoration the German Government shall forthwith put before the Armistice Commission all official or [Page 518] private transactions relative to this material, or contracts of sale or hire, or other contracts, all correspondence relative thereto, all declarations and evidence which will throw light on the existence, origin, transfer, present condition, and whereabouts of this material.
  • “IV. Delegates from the French and Belgian Governments shall proceed into Germany to make enquiries and personally examine into the condition of the material reported.
  • “V. The restoration shall be carried out in accordance with the detailed instructions issued by the French and Belgian authorities.
  • “VI. In particular, with a view to the immediate restoration of driving belts, electric motors or parts of motors, and factory apparatus taken from France, Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Alsace, or Lorraine, all depots of this material, whether in parks, or on railways or ships, or in factories, shall be immediately made known.
  • “VII. The information to be given as laid down in Paragraphs III and VI shall be submitted, commencing within eight days of the 20th January, 1919, and shall be furnished in its entirety before the 15th February, 1919.”

Mr. Lloyd George enquired which clause of the armistice related to this question.

M. Pichon replied that it came under Clause 19, which read: “Reparation for damage done”.

Mr. Lloyd George asked whether this was the interpretation of the clause.

President Wilson said he wished to enquire how these things were to be found in the present disordered state of Germany. The authority under which the machinery had been collected and transported no longer existed. How were these things going to be identified? It might be possible to get similar material, but it would be difficult to obtain the same.

M. Loucheur stated that a “pillage corps” had been formed by the Germans, which had worked methodically and systematically. Full records of all machinery stolen, requisitioned, or removed, had been kept, and these papers were available. Everything was known.

Mr. Lloyd George said that at Lille textile machinery had been taken away, and asked if that could be followed up now.

M. Loucheur said that in most cases they knew where the machinery was. For instance, the machinery for the construction of waggons taken from Douai was now at Essen; they knew exactly where to find it.

President Wilson said that the Conference which formulated the terms of the armistice agreed that they should confine themselves to military conditions, and merely affirm other matters, in principle, in general terms, without entering into details.

Mr. Lloyd George said that during the Armistice Conference a question had arisen as to whether Germany should be required to [Page 519] make reparation in kind or in money. The Conference had, for obvious reasons, replied in the negative to the question concerning the supply of machinery. But the question of returning stolen machinery was quite a different one.

M. Loucheur agreed that the French point of view was wholly opposed to payment in kind, but he insisted on the return of stolen goods.

President Wilson said that he accepted the proposals now before the meeting on the understanding that only the things that could be identified were to be asked for.

Marshal Foch enquired whether this clause was to be made a condition of the armistice. Should it not be accepted, was the armistice to be broken?

(It was agreed to accept the text proposed by M. Loucheur.)

6. Article XXX of Armistice Admiral Browning said that the original obligation of the German Government was to deliver the interned and prize ships by the 17th December. This they had failed to do, and a considerable number of vessels had not yet left Germany. A strong protest should be made as to the failure of Germany to carry out this obligation, and an explanation should be demanded. Immediate compliance with the unfulfilled portion of this article should be required, and it should be understood that any further extension of the armistice would not be allowed to form the basis of a claim to delay the completion of the process of delivering ships until the end of the extended term.

With regard to the protest of the German Commission (G. W. 1726/A1 of the 15th December, 1918), repudiating liability for the reconditioning of ships in Great Britain if they were not allowed to complete the work in Germany, and to the subsequent telegraphic protest against our refusal to allow the German surveyors to act in their interests at the surveys of those vessels held there, it should be emphasised that these repudiations of liability were not accepted, and, adequate arrangements having been made for the interests of the German Government to be watched by the classification societies in which ships are severally classed, no repudiation of claims for damage or reconditioning on either of the above grounds can be admitted.

Mr. Bonar Law enquired whether it was necessary to bring this question into the armistice, and whether it could not be settled otherwise.

Mr. Balfour also asked why this special question was singled out when many other cases where delays had occurred were not brought forward.

[Page 520]

M. Leygues explained that the British naval authorities had pointed out that Clause 30 of the armistice was not being carried out, and as a result tonnage required by the Allies was being withheld from them.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that it would be sufficient if this question were brought to the notice of the German authorities when the renewal of the armistice took place. A promise should then be exacted from the German delegates that these conditions would be fulfilled without further delay.

(Mr. Lloyd George’s proposal was accepted.)

  1. British representative on the Inter-Allied Relief Commission.
  2. Matthias Erzberger, German Secretary of State without Portfolio; President of the German Armistice Commission.