Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/5

BC–2

Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, on Wednesday, January 15, 1919, at 10:30 a.m.

  • Present
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
      • M. Pichon.
      • M. Dutasta.
      • Berthelot.
      • Captain A. Portier.
    • Great Britain
      • The Right Hon. D. Lloyd George.
      • The Right Hon. A. J. Balfour.
      • Lieutenant-Colonel Sir M. P. A. Hankey.
      • Major A.M. Caccia.
    • Italy
      • Baron Sonnino.
      • Count Aldrovandi.
      • Major A. Jones.
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson.
      • Mr. R. Lansing.
      • Mr. A. H. Frazier.
    • Japan
      • M. Matsui.
      • Viscount Chinda.

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux.

1. Publications in Press Mr. Lloyd George said that there were two preliminary questions which he wished to raise. He had been under the impression that an agreement was always to be reached as to what was to be published in the Press. It was very important that the Press of one country should not give more information than that published by any of the others. There were two things published in the French Press to which he wished to draw particular attention. Firstly, it had been agreed that nothing should be published regarding the placing of Germany’s gold reserve in a safe place. It had been recognized that any publicity on this question would be tantamount to giving notice of our intentions to the Germans and Bolshevists. This was the very thing it had been desired to avoid. Secondly, he himself had enquired at the last meeting whether anything should be published on the subject of the number of delegates apportioned to the British Dominions and the smaller Powers. It had been agreed to say nothing until the list had been accepted in its final form. Now, this information had been published in the French Press. As a result, he himself had received numerous enquiries from the Representatives of the British Dominions, to which he could only reply that nothing definite had been settled.

[Page 544]

He fully admitted that this publication was no doubt due to inadvertence. But steps were necessary to prevent a repetition of such occurrences.

M. Pichon explained that the reason for the publication of this information in the French Press was that the French correspondents had learnt that the facts mentioned by Mr. Lloyd George had been cabled to the United Kingdom and to the United States of America. And as there was no censorship in those countries, it was feared that this information would get into the British and American papers, and the French correspondents were anxious not to be forestalled by the Foreign Press.

Mr. Lloyd George remarked that if M. Pichon’s statement gave a correct interpretation of the case, there could be no safety. As regards Great Britain, one man had been appointed on behalf of the Press, who received all matter for publication in the Press. In the two cases under consideration nothing had been communicated to the British Press and nothing had appeared in that Press. Unfortunately, the information which he complained of had the drawback of being accurate.

M. Clemenceau agreed that immediate steps should be taken to prevent such things appearing in the French Press. The mere fact that French journalists might or might not be forestalled by journalists of other countries could not be accepted as an excuse. Henceforth they must prevent the occurrence of any leakage of this nature.

Mr. Lansing complained that, as a matter of fact, the French censorship was stopping messages addressed to America. The Americans had no censor of their own, but Mr. Baker had been appointed to give to the American newspaper correspondents such information as might be published.

M. Pichon explained that a Committee had met yesterday and agreed on the text of the information to be communicated to the Press. He now proposed that this Committee, consisting of an American, British, French and Italian representative, should meet daily and that the information so supplied should alone be published. Everything else would come under censorship and be refused publication.

(It was agreed, as regards the proceedings of these Conferences, that messages should be published as might be communicated officially to the Press by the Secretariat.)

Baron Sonnino said that it would be advisable to add that the opinions expressed by a particular Power on any question discussed should not be published, as if this were done it would undoubtedly interfere with the absolute freedom of discussion desired.

[Page 545]

Mr. Lloyd George agreed. It was particularly important that the Press should not give prominence to views expressed by one Power which were not in complete accord with the views of other Powers. In carrying out these discussions they frequently had to fight a question out, but eventually ended in agreement. If the Press jumped in before agreement had been reached, it led to the difference becoming stereotyped. As an instance of this, he would mention the publication of M. Pichon’s reply to the British Government in the “Humanité”. He fully recognized that the French Government regretted this publication. But, unfortunately, the French Press continued to argue as if there was a difference of opinion between Great Britain and France on this subject. That was very bad. He fully realized that certain of the newspapers could not be influenced, but in so far as it was possible to influence the Press, steps should be taken to prevent their discussing such controversies as might from time to time arise between one country and another. Thus, as regards the question of Russia, Great Britain and France had never even exchanged views. But it made it very difficult if the Press of the place where the Conference was actually meeting began an attack on the Delegates of another country. The “Echo de Paris”, for instance, continued to attack the British view without having seen the British Note. He could naturally sanction the British document being published. That would hardly be fair, but he might be forced to do so if the controversy continued in the Press.

(It was agreed that the Press should be prevented, as far as possible, from discussing controversial matters as between the Great Powers represented.)

2. Procedure of the Peace Discussions M. Pichon said they would now take under consideration the draft scheme of procedure in regard to the Peace Conference. As a result of the work done the day before, the following Draft Discussions Regulations had been drawn up:—

I.

The Conference assembled to fix the conditions of peace, first as regards the preliminaries of peace, and then the definite treaty of peace, shall include the representatives of the belligerent Allied and Associated Powers.

The belligerent Powers with general interests (the United States of America, British Empire, France, Italy, and Japan) shall take part in all sittings and Commissions.

The belligerent Powers with special interests (Belgium, Brazil, China, the British Dominions and India, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Roumania, Serbia, the Czecho-Slovak Republic, and the States of Latin-America) shall take part in the sittings at which questions concerning them are discussed.

The Powers in a state of diplomatic rupture with the enemy Powers, Neutral Powers and States in process of formation shall be heard either orally or in writing when summoned by the Powers with general interests, at sittings devoted especially to the examination of [Page 546]questions directly concerning them, but only so far as these questions are concerned.

The conditions of the representation of Russia shall be fixed by the Conference at the moment when the business concerning Russia is examined.

II.

The Powers shall be represented by plenipotentiary delegates to the number of—5 for the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy and Japan; 3 for Brazil; 2 for Belgium, China, Greece, Roumania, Serbia, Poland and the Czecho-Slovak Republic; 1 for Portugal and Siam; 1 for Cuba, Guatemala, Hayti, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, and Panama.

The British Dominions and India shall be represented as follows: 2 delegates each for Australia, Canada, South Africa and India (including the Native States); 1 delegate for New Zealand. The representation of the Dominions (including Newfoundland) shall, besides, be included in the representation of the British Empire by the panel system.

Montenegro shall be represented by one Delegate, but the rules concerning the designation of this Delegate shall not be fixed until the moment when the political situation of this country shall have been cleared up.

III.
Each delegation of Plenipotentiaries may be accompanied by Technical Delegates properly accredited, and by two stenographers. The Technical Delegates may be present at the sittings for the purpose of furnishing information which may be asked of them. They shall be allowed to speak for the purpose of giving any desired explanations.

He wished to enquire whether these Regulations were accepted.

Mr. Lloyd George proposed that the words “may be” should be substituted for “shall be” in the second paragraph of Article II. The use of the words “shall be” made the clause mandatory. There was no necessity for this.

M. Clemenceau agreed to Mr. Lloyd George’s proposal, but claimed the same concession for all other Powers. He suggested adding the following sentence:—

“It is understood that each Delegation shall have the right to avail itself of the panel system.”

Baron Sonnino said that he understood that it had been agreed that any Power could change its Representatives from time to time.

M. Pichon said that as regards the numbers of Delegates for each Power (Article II. of the above Draft Regulations), the fact that only two Representatives had been apportioned to Belgium, China, Greece, and Serbia had given rise to bitter complaints. He wished to suggest, therefore, that all Powers who had been in the war since the beginning should be given three representatives and that three representatives should also be allotted to the British Dominions.

Mr. Balfour asked permission to repeat his protest on behalf of a small country, namely, Portugal. This country really had a case. [Page 547]Putting out of consideration all questions of prejudice, the fact remained that Portugal had sent some 60,000 troops to the Western Front. At a critical stage of the war they had given all the field guns which had been supplied to them by the French. They had, in addition, sent troops to the Colonies. Under these circumstances, they were justified in thinking that it was monstrous that they should be classed with Siam. Was it not an outrage that Brazil, a former part of the Portuguese Empire, should receive three representatives whilst Portugal had only one? Portugal knew that it had no supporters, and had turned to its most ancient ally, Great Britain, to support their case. He (Mr. Balfour) honestly thought that they ought to have two Representatives. If, now, three Representatives were given to China, and Portugal retained only one, a serious injustice would be done. …

President Wilson pointed out that China had sent labourers to Europe.

Mr. Lloyd George replied that Portugal had done so too. The labour contribution of Portugal had been as great as that of China.

M. Pichon stated that, in a protest sent in by China yesterday, she asked for five delegates. China based her claim on the importance of her territory, her population, the natural resources of the country and the part it played in the world.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that the same arguments would apply to India.

Baron Sonnino said he saw no reason why Portugal should be given an exceptionally low position. She had been one of the belligerent powers, and she had done her best. She had supplied some 100,000 men and had lost some 15,000 dead in battle. He thought that Portugal should be placed in the same position as the other small States. She must not be put in a position different to Belgium, Greece, Roumania, or Serbia. Therefore, each must have either two or three Representatives.

M. Pichon enquired whether it was agreed that Belgium and Serbia, who had fought throughout the War, should receive three Representatives and Portugal and Greece two Representatives each.

Mr. Lloyd George said he could not accept this proposal. The Great Powers, America, Great Britain and France, each with a population, all told, of some 100 million souls, were only to have five Representatives. Clearly Belgium, which at the height of its power only put some 150,000 men in the field, could not have three Delegates. There was no sense of proportion in such a proposal and no point in it. After all, the Delegates were only there to present their case and their case could be presented just as well by two Representatives as by three and perhaps better still by one only. [Page 548]He thought if they agreed to give two Representatives all round there would be no room for jealousy. Each Power had done its best, including Portugal. There were also the Portuguese Colonies to be considered, Portugal being one of the chief Colonial Powers. Therefore he would propose that two Representatives should be granted all round.

(It was agreed to accept the Rule given above, Article II. being amended to read as follows:—

“II. The Powers shall be represented by Plenipotentiary Delegates to the number of—5 for the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy, and Japan; 3 for Brazil; 2 for Belgium, China, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Roumania, Serbia, and the Czecho-Slovak Republic; 1 for Cuba, Guatemala, Hayti, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua. Panama, and Siam.

“The British Dominions and India shall be represented as follows:—2 Delegates each for Australia, Canada, South Africa and India (including the Native States); 1 Delegate for New Zealand. The representation of the Dominions (including Newfoundland) and India may, besides, be included in the representation of the British Empire by the panel system. It is understood that each Delegation shall have the right to avail itself of the panel system.

“Montenegro shall be represented by one delegate, but the rules concerning the designation of this Delegate shall not be fixed until the moment when the political situation of this country shall have been cleared up.”)

President Wilson thought that some publication should be issued in order to remove any misapprehension. He thought that the Powers might think that each of the Delegates had a vote, and that the number of Delegates would affect the number of votes. That misapprehension should be removed. The newspapers should be put in a position to explain that the number of Delegates did not represent a certain number of votes. Each country was merely put in a position to explain its case and in addition each Power was at liberty to change its Representatives from time to time.

(It was agreed that some publication should be made in newspapers in order to remove any misapprehension which, might exist about the functions of the Delegates appointed to the Conference as regards the numbers accredited.)

Article III. Order of Precedence of Delegates M. Pichon said they could not [now] proceed with the consideration of the remaining articles of the Note submitted by the French Government (see Appendix “A” of I. C. 104).1 Article III. stated that the delegates should take precedence according to the alphabetical order of the list of Powers (in French).

[Page 549]

(It was agreed that the Great Powers should take precedence in the following order:

  • Amérique, États-Unis d’.
  • Empire Britannique.
  • France.
  • Italie.
  • Japon.)

M. Pichon then read Article IV. as follows:—

Article IV Authentication of Mandates of Delegates “The Conference to be declared open by the President of the Republic; immediately after the President of the French Council of Ministers to be invested for the time being with Chairmanship. A Committee, composed of the chief Plenipotentiary of each Allied or Associated Power shall proceed at once to the verification of the credentials of all members present.”

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that it would not be necessary for the Committee to be composed of the “chief” Plenipotentiary of each Allied Power. He thought that any one of the Delegates could perform this duty.

Baron Sonnino suggested that this duty could be carried out by one of the Plenipotentiaries of each of the five Great Powers only.

(It was agreed that Article IV. should read as follows:—

“The Conference to be declared open by the President of the Republic; immediately after the President of the French Council of Ministers to be invested for the time being with the Chairmanship. A Committee composed of one Plenipotentiary of each Allied or Associated Great Power shall proceed at once to the verification of the credentials of all members present.”

Article V. Appointment of President and Vice-presidents M. Pichon then read Article V., as follows:—

“After the aforesaid verification, the Conference shall at once appoint a permanent President and four Vice-Presidents, chosen according to alphabetical order.”

M. Pichon pointed out that a Vice-President would be required to take the place of the President in his absence.

(This clause was accepted without amendment.)

Article VI. Secretariat M. Pichon then read Article VI., as follows:—

“A Secretariat, appointed outside the Delegation proper, to be submitted to the agreement of the Plenipotentiaries by the President, who will have the control of and responsibility for it.

“This Secretariat to be entrusted with the task of arranging for the procedure of the sittings, of classifying the records, of looking after the administrative organisation of the Conferences and, generally, [Page 550]of assuring the regular and punctual working of all services ascribed to it.

“The head of the Secretariat to be in charge of and responsible for all protocols and records.

“The records to be open at all times to the members of the Conference.”

Mr. Lloyd George said that the interpretation to be given to this clause was that the Secretariat should be organised on exactly the same lines as had been followed in the case of the Supreme War Council. The same organisation should be continued. That organisation had always worked very well.

(This was agreed to.)

M. Matsui asked that the Japanese Representatives should be authorised to appoint a Secretary.

M. Pichon replied that it was intended that each of the five Great Powers should appoint Secretaries.

(It was agreed that each of the five Great Powers should be empowered to appoint Secretaries.)

Article VII. Communications to Press Concerning Proceedings of the Conference M. Pichon then read Article VII. as follows:—

“The work of the Conferences to be made public by means of daily official bulletins prepared by the Secretariat and issued every day at the same hour, the conference The bulletins to be previously submitted to the members of the Conference for examination two hours at least before publication.

“Any member of the Conferences to have the right to request an alteration in the text of the bulletin. If a difference should arise, the point to be settled at the beginning of the next sitting.

“The Powers here represented and their Delegates expressly renounce all other communications concerning the proceedings of the Conferences.”

Mr. Lloyd George said that this clause dealt with a very important point. Representatives of the Press had enquired from him whether they were entitled to go to any of the delegates and ask for information. He had replied, “Certainly not.” This was undoubtedly the view held by his colleagues.

President Wilson enquired whether there was any serious objection in the case of the large Conferences to having members of the Press present. He asked this question because leaks were absolutely certain to occur in such large Conferences, where a number of channels existed. In these large Conferences nothing of an embarrassing nature would be discussed. Important and delicate questions would have been discussed beforehand and only such questions as had been digested in various ways would be placed before these Conferences. Thus, questions such as those of Poland, Russia, etc., would never be discussed [Page 551]in public in the large Conferences. He himself would favour complete publicity rather than the publication of incorrect information through leakage.

Mr. Balfour thought that President Wilson’s proposals were open to the prima facie assumption that all the work of the big Conferences would be formal; that is to say, that merely agreed propositions would come before those Conferences. As a matter of fact, many other questions, such as those relating to the creation of new States, were bound to come under discussion. If Press representatives were admitted at these big Conferences, all questions would have to be thrashed out separately and it would be found necessary to bring into the small Conferences Czecho-Slovaks, Arabs, and others, in order that an agreement might be reached beforehand. It would end in these representatives of small States taking part in the discussions of the Great Powers.

President Wilson replied that his comment on that was, that it would not be possible in a big Conference to discuss such questions. The Representatives of the small States had, as a matter of fact, already stated their case in documents which had been published. They could say no more. It would, however, give them satisfaction to publish their views abroad. But, on the other hand, it would not be necessary for us to state our case in public. Written documents could be issued.

M. Pichon thought if President Wilson’s proposals were accepted they would provoke unending discussions. If the Representatives of the smaller States knew that their speeches would be reported in extenso in the newspapers, they would feel bound to enter fully into all discussions.

Mr. Lloyd George hoped that President Wilson would not press the case until it had been further considered. There was a great deal to say in favour of President Wilson’s idea as regards the publicity to be given to the large Conferences, but he feared there would be no end to these Conferences if reporters were there. One Delegate would get up and put forward all his case, so that it could be published in his native land and, as there were some twenty native lands, once they began that sort of business there would be no end to it. Again, someone would have to reply and he was not sure whether in the end this might not lead to unpleasant disputes in the Conference Room.

M. Pichon said there was another point of view which should be considered. During the study of the Peace Preliminaries it would be dangerous to let Germany know our difficulties. It was not desired to make a present to her of arguments which might divide the Allies [Page 552]and so enable her to escape the necessity of accepting the conditions of the Preliminary Peace.

M. Clemenceau said there was another point also to be considered. They had agreed that all decisions reached by the five Great Powers should be unanimous. In order to obtain this unanimity he would himself be prepared to give way on some points, and when these questions finally came before the large Conferences he would accept the decision so reached in silence. But if the Press were admitted to these Conferences, and the question came under discussion, he would be bound to take part in the debate. He could not let it be said that he had refused to speak on a question about which he held decided views. It would, however, clearly be seen that if he then expressed his opinion it would raise great confusion at the meetings.

Baron Sonnino expressed his complete agreement with Mr. Balfour. If the Press were admitted, not only would the small Powers put the whole of their case before the Conference, but the Great Powers would be compelled to do the same. Each Power would, therefore, be obliged to put forward the whole of its case—the public would expect that. As a result, the Conferences would never end.

President Wilson enquired whether they could really avoid, in any case, the difficulties mentioned by Baron Sonnino. He did not think they were going to escape a syllable and they would still be obliged to give their answers even if the Conferences were held in private.

Baron Sonnino said a compromise might frequently be arrived at between two small States in private. At a large Conference, if held in private, the grounds upon which this decision had been reached need not be given. But if the Press were admitted, the parties to the compromise would feel compelled to put forward the whole of their case for the benefit of their countrymen.

President Wilson enquired whether, even if the Press were excluded, any method could be found to prevent the leakage of information regarding the discussions that took place in the Conference.

Mr. Lloyd George thought that the only way to prevent leakage was not to give information. In the case of the Supreme War Council it had been found quite possible to maintain the desired secrecy.

Baron Sonnino held the view that a leakage of information was in many cases preferable to publicity.

President Wilson said he had merely raised the point for discussion and he did not wish to press the question, but there certainly were two big sides to it.

Mr. Lloyd George said that all lie wished was to press that for the moment the case should not. be decided.

[Page 553]

M. Clemenceau thought that, whatever decision was arrived at, it would be necessary to give information to the public of the various countries as a block, giving no advantage to one country over another.

(It was decided that the question should receive further consideration at a later date.)

Article VIII M. Pichon next read Article VIII. of the Note, as follows:—

“The French language is acknowledged as official for the discussions and resolutions of the Conferences.

“The Delegates to be entitled to present observations or verbal communications in any language they may wish to use, on condition that a French translation be thereafter immediately provided. In this case, if the initiator so desires, the original foreign text may be appended to the official report.”

M. Pichon said he would give the interpretation of this Article. It would be possible for each of the Delegates to speak in his own language, but there could only be one official text of the proceedings. It would be admitted that even translations could not express the exact shade of meaning of the original. It would therefore be necessary to have one text to which it might be possible to refer as the official version. In recent times French had always been accepted as the diplomatic language. It had been accepted as the official language at the Conferences which had been held when the Treaties of Paris, of Berlin, of Peking and of Algeciras had been drawn up. Again, at the Hague Conferences all the conventions and proceedings had, by agreement, been drawn up in French. The Article now under consideration had, indeed, been taken almost textually from that which had been accepted by agreement for the Hague Conferences. Naturally, each of the Delegates had full right to the use of his own language, but only one text could be the official one. It was proposed that for the official text the French language should be used. This would not prevent the use of the English language, which was perhaps more widely spread and more widely known than any other language. Again, a French and an English text of all documents could be published. But should a dispute arise as to the correct interpretation to be given to a particular statement, the French text should be recognised as the official text.

Mr. Lloyd George regretted that he could not accept the Article as at present drafted. He assured his French colleagues that he was in no way prejudiced on the subject of the French language. It was one of his greatest regrets that he was not better acquainted with it. But, for the first time in history, there would appear at a Conference of this class the representatives of the United States of [Page 554]America, with a population of 100 million people, whose official language was English, and of the British Empire, with a total population of 350 millions, of which from 60 to 70 millions naturally spoke the English language. In other words, the official language of 160 to 170 million people to be represented at the Conference was English. He fully recognised that no attempt had been made to preclude the English language from being used at the Conference. But in the event of a dispute arising as to the interpretation of a given statement, the French language alone would be accepted. The British Empire had some experience on this question. In South Africa, Dutch and English were both recognised as official languages. Again, in Canada, French and English were the recognised official languages. In both cases the two texts were printed side by side and each was regarded as an official text. There had never been any practical difficulties, even though the test had been a far more severe one, since, in the case of legal documents, shades of interpretation, fine and subtle differences in words were of great importance, whereas in the case of the interpretation of Treaties, difficulties always arose on broad questions. He did not intend that the language employed by the majority of the people in the Alliance should be preferred to the French language, but he did propose that the English language should be used side by side with the French in the official documents of the Conference. He proposed, therefore, that the first paragraph of Article VIII should be amended to read:—

“The French and English languages are acknowledged as official for the discussions and resolutions of the Conference.”

Baron Sonnino said that, in a general way, he would prefer that only one language should be accepted as the authoritative language; but if two languages were to be admitted, it became very difficult to preclude the use also of the Italian language. French and Italian citizens were numerically equal. If only one language was to be admitted, he would agree to the use of French, because, historically, French had been recognised as the official language. But if the historic rule was to be changed, then Italian should also be admitted. Otherwise it would look as if Italy was being treated as an inferior by being excluded.

President Wilson agreed that they all recognised the historic claim of the French language. There were very few languages that excelled it in precision and delicacy of shading. But leaving this question out of consideration, he would invite attention to the fact that English was the diplomatic language of the Pacific. Negotiations, for instance, between Japan and China were conducted in English. All diplomatic transactions on that side of the globe were [Page 555]in English. Further, there was an example of the use of three official languages in Switzerland, where French, Italian and German were used.

Mr. Lloyd George enquired whether this was really the case.

President Wilson continuing, said that the question under consideration was not really a matter for discrimination, but a question of general use. English was comprehended by a larger population than the language of any other of the peoples represented at the Conference. Therefore, it seemed to him that the language which was the official language of the greater part of the world was the most suitable language for a Conference of this nature. But he did not wish to propose that English should be the only official language. His proposal was that both French and English should be accepted as such. He fully recognised the claims of the Italians, both on account of the beauty of their language and on sentimental and other grounds. But it was so plainly the fact that English was now the language used by the great majority of the peoples represented at the Conference that it justified discrimination as against Italian.

Baron Sonnino pointed out that at Versailles, though the procès-verbaux of the Supreme War Council were printed only in English and French, the conclusions reached were printed in three languages. Was there any objection to the resolutions of the Peace Conference being given in three languages.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that in that case they should also be given in Japanese. He thought the question could only refer to the adoption of two languages or one language.

Baron Sonnino thought that, in the case of disputes, a decision as to the correct interpretation to be given would be easier if three languages were given, especially as it should be remembered that only a slight difference existed between nuances of the French and Italian languages.

President Wilson said he wished to draw attention to the second paragraph of this Article, which apparently entitled Delegates to submit observations in any language they chose, provided a translation in French was provided. It would obviously be a great burden to supply a French translation of every document and this part of the Article should not be retained.

M. Clemenceau said that he was greatly embarrassed. He fully admitted that the English language was a most widely spread language and had brought with it great activity and liberal institutions. Now, in ancient times, Latin had admittedly been the official language and French had followed it. The French language possessed the great advantage of extreme precision, which was useful in the case of [Page 556]official documents. Mr. Lloyd George had said that in South Africa and Canada the use of two languages had caused no trouble. He had also said that the interpretation of legal documents gave rise to greater troubles than the interpretation of Treaties. As a matter of fact, differences of opinion in the interpretation of Treaties led to the most serious upheavals. This fact had been fully recognised at the Hague and even at the Berlin Conferences, where it had been agreed to accept the French language. Still, he was prepared to admit that other languages (English and Italian) had claims and he was fully prepared to recognise those claims. He proposed, therefore, that they should retain perfect liberty to use the English, Italian and French languages at the Conferences, without the necessity of supplying French translations. Each of the texts, whether in English, French, or Italian, would be treated as the standard text. But if any difficulties or differences arose as to the correct interpretation, the French text would be recognised as the official text. In other words the three languages received complete recognition, but, in case of dispute, the French text would be accepted as the correct one. To give effect to his views he would make the following proposal:—

“The English, French, and Italian languages will be recognised as the official languages of the Conference, the French version holding good in case of dispute.”

President Wilson enquired whether the procès-verbaux should be kept in three languages.

M. Clemenceau replied in the affirmative.

Mr. Balfour thought that in reality there was no difference between the procedure proposed by M. Clemenceau and that given in the original text, since French was still to be the official language, which was to be accepted in case of dispute.

Mr. Lloyd George said he would prefer to leave the case until the afternoon, in order that it might be given further consideration.

(The Meeting then adjourned, to meet again in the afternoon at 2.30 p.m.)

  1. Vol. i, p. 386; the articles here referred to are those of section VI, beginning on p. 392.