Paris Peace Conf. 180.0201/2
Preliminary Peace Conference, Protocol No. 2, Plenary Session of January 25, 1919
The Session is opened at 15 o’clock (3 p.m.) under the presidency of Mr. Clemenceau, President.
For the United States of America
- The President of the United States.
- Honorable Robert Lansing.
- Honorable Henry White.
- Honorable Edward M. House.
- General Tasker H. Bliss.
- For the British Empire
- The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George.
- The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour.
- The Rt. Hon. G. N. Barnes.
- The Hon. C. J. Doherty, Minister of Justice of Canada.
- The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Ward, Bart, K. C. M. G., Minister of Finance and Posts of New Zealand.
- The Rt. Hon. The Lord Robert Cecil, K. C, M. P., Technical Delegate for the League of Nations.
- Dominions and India
- The Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Borden, G. C. M. G., K. C., Prime Minister.
- The Rt. Hon. Sir George Eulas Foster.
- The Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes.
- The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Cook.
- General The Rt. Hon. Louis Botha.
- Lieut.-General The Rt. Hon. J. C.
- The Rt. Hon. W. F. Massey, Prime Minister.
- The Rt. Hon. E. S. Montagu, M. P., Secretary of State for India.
- Major-General His Highness The Maharaja of Bikaner.
- Mr. Clemenceau.
- Mr. Pichon.
- Mr. L. L. Klotz.
- Mr. André Tardieu.
- Mr. Jules Cambon.
- Mr. Léon Bourgeois, Former President of the Council of Ministers, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Technical Delegate for the League of Nations.
- Marshal Foch.
- Mr. V. E. Orlando, President of the Council of Ministers.
- The Baron S. Sonnino.
- The Marquis Salvago Raggi.
- Mr. Antonio Salandra, Deputy, former President of the Council of Ministers.
- Mr. Salvatore Barzilai, C. B., Deputy, former Minister.
- Mr. Scialoja, Senator of the Kingdom. Technical Delegate for the League of Nations.
- The Baron Makino, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Member of the Diplomatic Advisory Council.
- The Viscount Chinda.
- Mr. K. Matsui.
- Mr. H. Ijuin, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of His Majesty The Emperor of Japan at Rome.
- Mr. Hymans.
- Mr. Van den Heuvel.
- Mr. Vandervelde, Minister of Justice, Minister of State.
- Mr. Ismael Montes.
- Mr. Olyntho de Magalhaes.
- Mr. Pandia Calogeras.
- Mr. Lou Tseng-tsiang.
- Mr. Cheng-ting Thomas Wang.
- Mr. Rafael Martinez Ortiz.
- Mr. Dorn y de Alsua.
- Mr. Eleftherios Veniselos, President of the Council of Ministers.
- Mr. Nicolas Politis.
For the Hedjaz
- His Highness The Emir Feisal.
- Mr. Rustem Haidar.
- Mr. Francisco Garcia Calderon.
- Mr. Roman Dmowski.
- The Count Penha Garcia, Former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Former Minister of Finance.
- Mr. Jayme Batalha Reis, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of Portugal at Petrograd.
- Mr. Jean J. C. Bratiano.
- Mr. Nicolas Misu.
- Mr. Pachitch.
- Mr. Trumbitch.
- Mr. Vesnitch.
- The Prince Charoon.
- Phya Bibadh Kosha.
For the Czecho-Slovak Republic
- Mr. Charles Kramar, President of the Council of Ministers.
- Mr. Edouard Benes.
- Mr. Juan Carlos Blanco.
- For the United States of America
The President informs the Conference that, at the request of the Delegation of the United States, the approval of the Protocol of the first Session is postponed to the next Session, as that Delegation has not yet received the English text of Protocol No. 1 which it reserves the right to present to the Conference.
The order of the day calls for the appointment of five Commissions charged with the duty of examining the following questions:—
- League of Nations.
- Responsibility of the authors of the War and enforcement of penalties.
- Reparation for damage.
- International Legislation on Labor.
- International Control of Ports, Waterways and Railways.
The first Commission to be nominated concerns the League of Nations, upon which subject the Bureau presents a draft resolution (Annex I) which has been distributed in English and French to all the members of the Conference.[Page 178]
The discussion is opened on the question of the League of Nations.
The President of the United States delivers the following speech:
“I consider it a distinguished privilege to open the discussion in this Conference on the League of Nations. We have assembled for two purposes—to make the present settlements which have been rendered necessary by this War, and also to secure the Peace of the world not only by the present settlements but by the arrangements we shall make in this Conference for its maintenance. The League of Nations seems to me to be necessary for both of these purposes. There are many complicated questions connected with the present settlements which, perhaps, cannot be successfully worked out to an ultimate issue by the decisions we shall arrive at here. I can easily conceive that many of these settlements will need subsequent reconsideration; that many of the decisions we shall make will need subsequent alteration in some degree, for if I may judge by my own study of some of these questions they are not susceptible of confident judgments at present.
“It is, therefore, necessary that we should set up some machinery by which the work of this Conference should be rendered complete. We have assembled here for the purpose of doing very much more than making the present settlement. We are assembled under very peculiar conditions of world opinion. I may say without straining the point that we are not representatives of Governments, but representatives of peoples. It will not suffice to satisfy Governmental circles anywhere. It is necessary that we should satisfy the opinion of mankind. The burdens of this War have fallen in an unusual degree upon the whole population of the countries involved. I do not need to draw for you the picture of how the burden has been thrown back from the front upon the older men, upon the women, upon the children, upon the homes of the civilized world, and how the real strain of the War has come where the eye of Government could not reach, but where the heart of humanity beats. We are bidden by these people to make a peace which will make them secure. We are bidden by these people to see to it that this strain does not come upon them again, and I venture to say that it has been possible for them to bear this strain because they hope that those who represented them could get together after this war, and make such another sacrifice unnecessary.
“It is a solemn obligation on our part, therefore, to make permanent arrangements that justice shall be rendered and peace maintained. This is the central object of our meeting. Settlements may be temporary, but the actions of the nations in the interests of peace and justice must be permanent. We can set up permanent processes. [Page 179] We may not be able to set up permanent decisions, and therefore, it seems to me that we must take, so far as we can, a picture of the world into our minds. Is it not a startling circumstance for one thing that the great discoveries of science, that the quiet study of men in laboratories, that the thoughtful developments which have taken place in quiet lecture-rooms, have now been turned to the destruction of civilization? The powers of destruction have not so much multiplied as gained facility. The enemy whom we have just overcome had at its seats of learning some of the principal centres of scientific study and discovery, and used them in order to make destruction sudden and complete; and only the watchful, continuous co-operation of men can see to it that science, as well as armed men, is kept within the harness of civilization.
“In a sense, the United States is less interested in this subject than the other nations here assembled. With her great territory and her extensive sea borders, it is less likely that the United States should suffer from the attack of enemies than that many of the other nations here should suffer; and the ardor of the United States,—for it is a very deep and genuine ardor—for the Society of Nations is not an ardor springing out of fear and apprehension, but an ardor springing out of the ideals which have come to consciousness in the War. In coming into this war the United States never thought for a moment that she was intervening in the politics of Europe, or the politics of Asia, or the politics of any part of the world. Her thought was that all the world had now become conscious that there was a single cause which turned upon the issues of this war. That was the cause of justice and liberty for men of every kind and place. Therefore, the United States would feel that her part in this war had been played in vain if there ensued upon it merely a body of European settlements. She would feel that she could not take part in guaranteeing those European settlements unless that guarantee involved the continuous superintendence of the peace of the world by the Associated Nations of the World.
“Therefore, it seems to me that we must concert our best judgment in order to make this League of Nations a vital thing—not merely a formal thing, not an occasional thing, not a thing sometimes called into life to meet an exigency, but always functioning in watchful attendance upon the interests of the Nations, and that its continuity should be a vital continuity; that it should have functions that are continuing functions and that do not permit an intermission of its watchfulness and of its labor; that it should be the eye of the Nation to keep watch upon the common interest, an eye that does not slumber, an eye that is everywhere watchful and attentive.[Page 180]
“And if we do not make it vital, what shall we do? We shall disappoint the expectations of the peoples. This is what their thought centres upon. I have had the very delightful experience of visiting several nations since I came to this side of the water, and every time the voice of the body of the people reached me through any representative, at the front of its plea stood the hope for the League of Nations. Gentlemen, select classes of mankind are no longer the governors of mankind. The fortunes of mankind are now in the hands of the plain peoples of the whole world. Satisfy them, and you have justified their confidence not only, but established peace. Fail to satisfy them, and no arrangement that you can make would either set up or steady the peace of the world.
“You can imagine, Gentlemen, I dare say, the sentiments and the purpose with which representatives of the United States support this great project for a League of Nations. We regard it as the keystone of the whole program which expressed our purpose and our ideal in this war and which the Associated Nations have accepted as the basis of the settlement. If we return to the United States without having made every effort in our power to realise this program, we should return to meet the merited scorn of our fellow-citizens. For they are a body that constitutes a great democracy. They expect their leaders to speak their thoughts and no private purpose of their own. They expect their representatives to be their servants. We have no choice but to obey their mandate. But it is with the greatest enthusiasm and pleasure that we accept that mandate; and because this is the keystone of the whole fabric, we have pledged our every purpose to it, as we have to every item of the fabric. We would not dare abate a single part of the program which constitutes our instructions. We would not dare compromise upon any matter as the champion of this thing—this peace of the world, this attitude of justice, this principle that we are masters of no people but are here to see that every people in the world shall choose its own master and govern its own destinies, not as we wish but as it wishes. We are here to see, in short, that the very foundations of this war are swept away. Those foundations were the private choice of small coteries of civil rulers and military staffs. Those foundations were the aggression of great Powers upon small. Those foundations were the holding together of Empires of unwilling subjects by the duress of arms. Those foundations were the power of small bodies of men to work their will upon mankind and use them as pawns in a game. And nothing less than the emancipation of the world from these things will accomplish peace. You can see that the Representatives of the United States are, therefore, never put to the embarrassment of choosing a way of expediency, because they have laid down for them their unalterable [Page 181] lines of principle. And, thank God, those lines have been accepted as the lines of settlement by all the high-minded men who have had to do with the beginnings of this great business.
“I hope, Mr. Chairman, that when it is known, as I feel confident that it will be known, that we have adopted the principle of the League of Nations and mean to work out that principle in effective action, we shall by that single thing have lifted a great part of the load of anxiety from the hearts of men everywhere. We stand in a peculiar case. As I go about the streets here I see everywhere the American uniform. Those men came into the War after we had uttered our purposes. They came as crusaders, not merely to win the war, but to win a cause; and I am responsible to them, for it fell to me to formulate the purposes for which I asked them to fight, and I, like them, must be a crusader for these things, whatever it costs and whatever it may be necessary to do, in honor, to accomplish the objects for which they fought. I have been glad to find from day to day that there is no question of our standing alone in this matter, for there are champions of this cause upon every hand. I am merely avowing this in order that you may understand why, perhaps, it fell to us, who are disengaged from the politics of this great Continent and of the Orient, to suggest that this was the keystone of the arch and why it occurs to the generous mind of our President to call upon me to open this debate. It is not because we alone represent this idea, but because it is our privilege to associate ourselves with you in representing it.
“I have only tried in what I have said to give you the fountains of the enthusiasm which is within us for this thing, for those fountains spring, it seems to me, from all the ancient wrongs and sympathies of mankind, and the very pulse of the world seems to beat.”
Mr. Lloyd George (Great Britain) delivers the following speech:
“I arise to second this resolution. After the noble speech of the President of the United States I feel that no observations are needed in order to commend this resolution to the Conference, and I should not have intervened at all had it not been that I wished to state how emphatically the people of the British Empire are behind this proposal. And if the National leaders have not been able during the last five years to devote as much time as they would like to its advocacy, it is because their time and their energies have been absorbed in the exigencies of a terrible struggle.
“Had I the slightest doubt in my own mind as to the wisdom of this scheme it would have vanished before the irresistible appeal made to me by the spectacle I witnessed last Sunday. I visited a region which but a few years ago was one of the fairest in an exceptionally [Page 182] fair land. I found it a ruin and a desolation. I drove for hours through a country which did not appear like the habitation of living men and women and children, but like the excavation of a buried province—shattered, torn, rent. I went to one city where I witnessed a scene of devastation that no indemnity can ever repair—one of the beautiful things of the world, disfigured and defaced beyond repair. And one of the cruellest features, to my mind, was what I could see had happened,—that Frenchmen, who love their land almost beyond any nation, in order to establish the justice of their cause, had to assist a cruel enemy in demolishing their own homes, and I felt: these are the results—only part of the results. Had I been there months ago I would have witnessed something that I dare not describe. But I saw acres of graves of the fallen. And these were the results of the only method, the only organized method,—the only organized method that civilized nations have ever attempted or established to settle disputes amongst each other. And my feeling was: surely it is time, surely it is time that a saner plan for settling disputes between peoples should be established than this organized savagery.
“I do not know whether this will succeed. But if we attempt it the attempt will be a success, and for that reason I second the proposal.”
Mr. Orlando (Italy), having asked leave to speak, delivered the speech of which the following is a translation:
“Allow me to express my warmest adhesion to the great principle which we are called upon to proclaim today. I think that we are thus accomplishing the first and the most solemn of the pledges which we gave to our people when we asked them to make immense efforts in this immense war; pledges of which the counterpart was death, nameless sacrifices and boundless grief. We are, therefore fulfilling our duty in honoring this sacred pledge. That is much, but it is not all. We must bring to the task a spontaneous spirit and, if I may be allowed the mystic expression, purity of intention. It is not in any spirit of petty national vanity that I allow myself to recall the great juridical traditions of my people and its aptitude for law. I only do so the better to prove to you that the mind of the Italian people is well fitted to accept this principle spontaneously and wholly. Now, law is not only the defense of order, founded on justice, against all violence, it is also the necessary outward form, guaranteed by the State, of that essential principle which forms the very foundation of the existence of human society, that is to say, the principle of social co-operation. I think then that the formula [Page 183] proposed to us offers not only guarantees against war, but also that co-operation among nations which is the true essence of right.
“Mr. President, Gentlemen, today is a great moment, a great historical date, because it is only from today that the law of peoples begins and is born, and the fact that this birth has taken place in the generous and glorious land of France, which has proclaimed and won acceptance for the rights of man by its genius and its blood appears to me to be a happy omen. Quod bonum felix faustumque sit.”
Mr. Léon Bourgeois (France) speaks in French in these terms:
“I am deeply grateful to the President of the French Council of Ministers for having done me the distinguished honor of entrusting to me the task of speaking in the name of France. Recollections of the Conference of the Hague have probably led him to this choice; the honor therefore belongs to the very numerous colleagues present here with whom I collaborated in 1899 and 1907.
“President Wilson has just eloquently and finally said that we do not, that you, Gentlemen, do not represent Governments alone, but peoples. What do the peoples wish today and what, therefore, do the Governments wish who are really free, really representative, really democratic, that is to say, those whose wishes are necessarily in agreement with those of their peoples? They wish that what we have seen during these four horrible years shall never be repeated in this world. Their wishes are the wishes of all the victims of this war, of all those who have breathed their last for liberty and for right. Those men fought not only to defend their country, but came together from all parts of the world for this crusade of which President Wilson so rightly spoke, and they knew that they died not only for France but for universal freedom and universal peace. For universal peace: the Premier of England has just described with striking eloquence the picture of ruin and desolation which he has seen. That ruin, that desolation we ourselves have witnessed and you have seen them very far from the spot where hostilities began. For in fact, henceforth, no local conflict can be confined to some one part of the world; whatever may be the State where the difficulty arose, believe me, it is the whole world that is in danger. There is such an interdependence in all the relations between nations in the economic, financial, moral and intellectual spheres that, I repeat, every wound inflicted at some point threatens to poison the whole organs.
“There is another reason why it is impossible that Humanity should again witness such spectacles. President Wilson has just alluded to the alarming progress of science, turned from its proper object, which [Page 184] is continually to give to mankind greater well-being, a surer moral, more hope for the future, and which was used for the most terrible and miserable of purposes, the purpose of destruction. Now science daily makes fresh progress and fresh conquest; daily it perfects its means of action and in the light of what we have seen during these last five years in the way of terrible and destructive improvements in machinery and gunnery, think of the fresh destruction with which we might be threatened in a few years.
“We have then the duty of facing a problem of conscience which thrills us all, that is what we are to do to reconcile the special interests of our peoples, which we cannot forget, with those of our common country, all Humanity.
“We must take counsel with ourselves and ponder that saying which I deem as a sublime truth, that among all the vital interests which we can consider, there is one which is above, and includes all others, one without the defence and protection of which all the others are in danger—the interest of the common country.
“Speaking of tragedy of conscience, I remember the scruples which, at the Conference of the Hague, held back the Representatives of even the freest peoples, the peoples most imbued with the sense of democracy and most resolved to prepare the way of peace. They said to themselves: ‘We must nevertheless reserve questions of our honor and our vital interests’. Perhaps it was this which delayed the creation of that bond which will unite us from to-day. We know now that there is one vital interest which we have before all to consider and defend. That is the interest of universal peace founded on Right, without which none of the most vital interests of our several countries, great or small, would be free from menace and destruction.
“How can we succeed in making a reality of that which but a few years ago was still thought to be a dream? How is it that this dream now appears as an imminent fact in the mind of the statesmen present here, realists whose right and duty it is not to let themselves be carried away by ideals of generosity, however attractive they may be? Why is it that to-day these statesmen are sitting round this table inspired with a common thought? For doubtless you will presently adopt unanimously the proposals which will be made to you. How is it that these statesmen, these realists, can come to consider as a tangible thing realisable in a short time, that which formerly appeared a dream? Looking back at the history of the last thirty years, particularly to that Conference at the Hague, for reverting to which I beg your pardon, we see that if it did not produce all the results expected from it, it nevertheless produced a certain number. Members of the different Governments will remember that the institutions set up by the Hague Conference thrice proved defective [effective] [Page 185] and that in differences—I will not use a stronger term—which might have disturbed the relation between the different States, the judgments of the Hague succeeded in smoothing away difficulties and re-establishing harmony. I may even recall that between France and Germany there was a conflict—the Affair of Casablanca—which might have been very serious and not for those two countries alone, for,—as I was saying, local conflicts sometimes become general,—where recourse to arbitration completely safeguarded the honor of France and made it possible for Germany not to draw the sword.
“Why is it that this could not last, or rather, why is it that the institutions of the Hague failed to prevent the terrible conflicts from which we are just emerging? There are two reasons and within the next few days you will sweep away one of them. The Conferences at the Hague were attended by the Representatives of many States, but even those who were inspired by real good will were forced to recognize that on the map of the world the frontiers of different countries were not what they should have been. While we were deliberating there, we Frenchmen could not forget that there was a part of France which was not free and you, Representatives of the Kingdom of Italy, could not forget that there were still Italian Provinces outside Italian law. How could you expect an international organization, however perfect, to prove really effective if, when it began to work, it met this terrible question of irredentism as our Italian friends call it, national claims, as we say, just as one’s foot meets an obstacle on the road?
“You will bring about the situation in which the facts conform to the principles of Right. You will draw frontiers which correspond to the wishes of the peoples themselves, and you will give to each country the limits which Right itself would give it. You will also impose obligations which it was beyond our power to impose, for, as you will remember,—it was historically a very significant fact—how the different states grouped themselves, and we have now seen those who voted against us then join against us on the field of battle. The foes of Right were already leagued together against us.
“You who have fought for Right are about to set up an organization, to impose penalties and to insure their enforcement. Having established compulsory arbitration, having fixed—methodically, progressively and surely—the penalties to be imposed for disobedience to the common will of civilized nations you will be able to make your work solid and lasting and enter with confidence and tranquility the Temple of Peace.
“This is not the moment to discuss ways and means, but I hasten to say, in the name of the Government of the French Republic, that to do all that can be done to lead the free peoples as far as possible on [Page 186] the road to agreement must be our aim and wish. In addition to juridical methods designed to establish the reign of Right and to ensure the freedom of all, we shall certainly adopt—and here I turn toward the Italian Prime Minister who just said: ‘It is co-operation in the work of peace’.—all the measures required for co-operation between States in relation to those numberless interests the interdependence of which I mentioned just now. This interdependence becomes daily closer. It will not only be a question of checking nascent conflicts but of preventing their birth.
“I think that, even without any further statement, I have thus correctly interpreted the general feeling. It is enough for me to have shown with what deep enthusiasm France joins those who but lately proposed the creation of the League of Nations. President Wilson said that this question was at the very heart of mankind. That is true. He said we must constantly have an eye open on humanity, a watchful eye that never shuts. Well, I will end by recalling another memory of the Hague. It has been said that we heard there the first heart-beats of Humanity. Now it lives indeed. Thanks to you. May it live for ever!”
Mr. Hughes (Australia) having asked whether it will be possible to discuss the scheme when it is complete, the President replied that the members of the Conference would be quite at liberty to do so.
The President calls successively on the Delegates of various Powers who, speaking in French, support the draft resolution in these terms:
Mr. Lou (China): In the name of the Chinese Government I have the honor to support whole-heartedly the proposed resolution. China, always faithful to her obligations and deeply interested in the maintenance of the Peace of the World, associates herself entirely with the lofty ideal embodied in the resolution, which is that of creating an international cooperation which would insure the accomplishment of obligations contracted and will give safeguards against war. I am glad to give an assurance to this Conference that the Chinese Republic will always have the keenest desire to consult with the other States in the establishment of a League which will give all nations, both small and great, an effective guarantee of their territorial integrity, of their political sovereignty, and of their economic independence founded upon an impartial justice.
Mr. Dmowski (Poland): I rise not only to support the draft resolution but to express deep gratitude for this noble initiative. I do so not only as representing a part of mankind which has suffered no less than those who have suffered most and which cherishes the hope that such sufferings will never be repeated and that what this war [Page 187] has not destroyed will be preserved for the peaceful generations of the future.
I do so also as representing a country placed in that part of the world where sources of danger to future peace are greater than elsewhere, where today after the conclusion of the armistice, war continues, as representing the country which at this moment is exposed on three sides to danger and is forced to make war on three fronts. If we have [had] an institution like that which is proposed today, such as would give international guarantees of peace, we should not be in this dangerous situation.
I express my gratitude in the name of a country which, perhaps more than all others, needs international guarantees of peace and which will greet a League of Nations with the greatest enthusiasm.
Mr. Hymans (Belgium): Gentlemen, I have not asked leave to speak in order to discuss the ideas expressed in the draft resolution, which the Belgian Delegation of course accepts whole-heartedly, and which have been so nobly set forth in this Assembly. I have asked to speak only on a practical question which is, I think, of general interest.
The Conference to-day is organizing its methods of work and procedure. I should like to ask for an explanation of the last sentence of the draft resolution relative to the representation of the Powers on the Commission appointed to examine the draft constitution of the League of Nations. The draft says that the Conference appoints a Commission representing the Associated Governments to work out the constitution in detail and to settle the functions of the League.
The President replies to Mr. Hymans that the explanation which he is about to furnish will doubtless give him satisfaction.
As nobody asks leave to speak on the subject of a resolution of the League of Nations, which has been submitted to the Conference by the Bureau, that resolution is unanimously adopted.
The President then replies to the question raised by the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, on the method of appointment of the Commission charged with the duty of working out the draft constitution of the League of Nations:
The Great Powers, in accordance with the motion, have designated two delegates each to serve on the Commission. It has been decided that five delegates to be chosen in common by the other Powers should represent those Powers on the Commission. That is to say that you are asked to meet here say, on January 27th, if that day suits you, at 2 or 3 o’clock, to come to an agreement among yourselves and appoint the 5 delegates of the other powers.
I ought to tell you that we shall ask you to agree to the same course as regards the appointment of other commissions. You will therefore have several elections to hold at the same time.
On this question of the appointment of the commission, the delegates of a certain number of Powers ask leave to speak and explain in turn the views of their respective countries: (All speak in French except Sir Robert Borden (Canada) and M. Phya Bibadh Kosha (Siam).
Mr. Hymans (Belgium): The reply which the Hon. President has been so good as to make to me raises the question of the constitution of all the conditions [commissions] which will be appointed to-day. That will allow me, I think, to define my views on the whole question, which I will do very quickly.
Excepting the case of the Commission appointed to examine the question of reparation for the damage of the war, the general system, according to the President, is to give two delegates to each of the great Powers, which allows them 10 delegates, and five delegates in all to a group or collection formed of 19 Powers who have been classed among the Powers ingeniously termed “Powers with special interests.”
I do not wish to speak in the name of the Delegates of other countries, but I will speak only in that of my own and in that of the Belgian Delegation.
As an exceptional measure we, like Serbia, Greece, Poland and Roumania, have been given 2 delegates—2 to each of these Powers that [sic] on the Commission appointed to examine the question of reparation for the damage of the war. Apart from this Commission, the 19 Powers “With special interests” have to appoint in common by a system hitherto unexplained, which they will have to discover, 5 delegates. It is not stated whether this will be done by proportional representation or otherwise.
We Belgians will beg leave to present to the Conference the following request:
First, as regards the Commission to examine the constitution of the League of Nations and next, the Commission appointed to examine international legislation on labor. We should wish the Conference to be so good as to grant to Belgium 2 delegates on each of these 2 Commissions.
As regards the Commission for the establishment of the League of Nations, we think that we have a right to this on account of our international, political and even geographic position, which has exposed us, and may again expose us in the future to serious danger.
As regards the question of international labor legislation there is nothing that could interest us more. Belgium, small in extent, counts among the great commercial producing and industrial powers of the world—she counted among them and I hope she will again count among them in a short time, after her reconstruction.[Page 189]
I will not tire the Conference by quoting figures, but we are in that respect among the 5 or 6 foremost Powers; we have a large industrial population. In certain departments we are among the very first. I will mention only the coal and zinc industries and the production and casting of iron. I will not labor the points.
I think it would be just to give to Belgium a double representation on the 2 Commissions I have mentioned, that is, two delegates.
There remain 3 Commissions: One dealing with the control of ports and ways of communication, another which will deal with crimes committed during the war and with the penalty to be inflicted for those crimes and the third dealing with reparation. But in this last named Commission we think we are fairly well represented. There remain therefore only two: that on ports, waterways and railways and that on crimes committed during the war and the penalties which those crimes deserve.
I ask that it should at once be recognized that Belgium shall have a delegate on each of these two Commissions and in doing so I do not think that I am asking more than is reasonable. Belgium possesses one of the three most important ports on the European Continent. She has a network of railways which is the densest in Europe. Owing to the needs of her production and trades she is directly interested in the whole system of international communications. It is certainly not exaggerated to ask that for the examination of so grave a problem Belgium should have a Delegate, and I ask the Conference to decide in this sense.
As regards the question of crimes committed during the war and the penalties to be exacted for them, who could deny that we have an absolute right to be represented on the Commission, when our country was the first to be invaded, the first to be submerged by invasion, when her neutrality was violated in spite of the treaty signed by the enemy, and when some of the most abominable crimes with which the enemy can be reproached were committed on our soil as also on Serbian soil? I think then there is nothing excessive in our demand.
I speak only for ourselves. I do not wish to prejudice the rights and interests of any other country. I do not think I shall arouse their susceptibilities when I state this claim in the name of the Belgian Delegation alone.
To sum up, I ask that, as in the case of the Commission on damage caused during the war, Belgium should have two delegates on the Commission for the establishment of the League of Nations, two delegates on the Commission on international labor legislation, one delegate on the Commission relative to the control of ports, and one delegate on the Commission for the examination of crimes committed by the enemy and of the penalties to be exacted for them.[Page 190]
I appeal to the sense of justice of the Great Powers and to that of the President of the Conference.
Mr. Calogeras (Brazil): It is with some surprise that I constantly hear it said: “This has been decided, that has been decided.” Who has taken a decision? We are a sovereign assembly, a sovereign court. It seems to me that the proper body to take a decision is the Conference itself.
Now, it appears from what has been said that functions have been allotted and that representation on the Commissions is contemplated without certain very important interests having been able to obtain a hearing. It is unnecessary to say that I cordially adhere to the principle of a League of Nations. I have the honor to represent a country which in its constitution absolutely forbids, in express terms, the waging of a war of conquest. This is an idea of long standing with us, firmly rooted in our traditions. I am therefore heartily in favor of the idea of a League of Nations.
But if, on the other hand, I consider the proposed organization of the conditions and the manner in which the interests of my country may be represented thereon, I must point out that we have laws, I may even, say texts, of a constitutional character, which do not permit us to give to anybody powers to represent us.
I therefore appeal to the sense of justice of the President and of the members of the Bureau of this Conference. I ask them that, at least on the Commission which will deal with the League of Nations as well as on those which are to examine international control of railways and ports and reparation for damage, Brazil should enjoy the representation to which she considers herself entitled.
Sir Robert Borden (Canada): I have a great deal of sympathy with the point of view of the smaller nations, because possibly the constitution of the League affects them even more closely than it affects the status of the Great Powers of the world. On the other hand, I realize that there must be a reasonable limitation of the membership of the Committee; otherwise, it would be very difficult to carry on the work in an effective way. And I remember, also, that after this Committee has made its report, its conclusions must be submitted to this Conference, and must be approved by it before they can go into effect, but I do feel that the matter has been placed before this Conference in perhaps not the most appropriate way. We are told that certain decisions have been reached. The result of that is that everyone of us asks: “By whom have those decisions been reached, and by what authority?”
I should have thought it more appropriate to submit a recommendation to this Conference, and to have the Conference itself settle the number to be appointed and who they are to be. If that course [Page 191] had been taken, it seems probable that most of the difficulty which had arisen would not have presented itself. And I should like to suggest, with all due respect, that perhaps that would be a more appropriate method of dealing with such matters in the future. Certain regulations have been formulated and passed by which, as I understand, two Conferences were established—one a Conference of the 5 Great Powers, and another which may be called the full or plenary Conference. I do not understand that, up to the present time, there has been any Conference of the five great Powers in accordance with the regulations thus adopted. It may be that there has and I have no doubt that there is, and with the best intention; but nevertheless, as we are acting under regulations adopted by the representatives of the 5 Great Powers, it seems highly desirable that we should abide by them. Therefore, I again suggest, with all respect, that the proceedings in the future should be guided by those regulations.
M. Trumbitch (Serbia): I have the honor to declare, in the name of the Delegation of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, that we support the entirely just proposal of my honorable friend Mr. Hymans. At the same time, I have the honor to ask that the same representation may be given to the delegation to which I belong as to the Belgian delegation.
It is not necessary for me long to retain the attention of this high assembly to justify the desire which I have expressed, for the reasons just now put forward by M. Hymans are almost the same as those which justify our proposal.
M. Veniselos (Greece): As regards the League of Nations, I associate myself with the request put forward by the Belgian Delegation, without, however, asking that Greece should receive the same treatment. I recognize that all small countries are deeply interested in the study of this question, but I must admit also that the situation of Belgium is entirely a special one by reason of her proximity to the German Empire, which started this War, and for the other reasons given by Mr. Hymans.
I therefore do not ask that my country should be specially represented on this Commission, and confine myself to declaring that I hold myself at the disposal of the Commission when it is appointed in order to make known my ideas on the subject.
As regards reparation for damage, I must thank the representatives of the Great Powers for the representation which they have granted to my country.
As regards the responsibility of the authors of the war, I ask that Greece may also be given a representative, in view of the fact that we have to deplore the loss of between three and four hundred [Page 192] thousand people of Greek race in the Ottoman Empire. It would, therefore, appear to be just that we should be represented in order that we may be able to submit to the Commission and then to the Conference our special point of view on this question.
I do not ask that my country should be specially represented on the Commission relating to international legislation on labor, for other nations are perhaps more interested than ourselves in this question.
It would be well, finally, that we should be granted a representative on the Commission for the international control of ports, not only on account of the maritime importance of my country, and of the special interest which it has in this question, but also because of the fact that even in the present territory of Greece there are certain places which might come within the purview of this part of the program of the Conference. It would, therefore, be just that Greece should in this respect be authorized to make known her wishes.
I think it right to remind the assembly in conclusion that in the report that I have the honor to submit to the Conference concerning the territorial claims of my country, I declared myself ready to agree that countries bordering on the sea should give all possible facilities to countries placed behind them which have not such easy access to the sea.
Count Penha Garcia (Portugal): You will allow me to make some observations on a question which interests small and great Powers alike. First, I draw your attention to an essential fact which is moreover the corollary of all the noble speeches which this assembly has just heard.
It is certain that the League of Nations, a question of such great importance raised by the Great Powers and interesting the weaker countries in so high a degree, must inspire confidence as regards the future, particularly among the latter. It is likewise certain that respect for our rights, the decisions which we shall be called upon to take and the cordiality of our relations within this Assembly will constitute a kind of foretaste of that League of Nations which we have just been invited to join. I feel certain that this consideration will guide the proposals of the Great Powers and that our decisions will be inspired by the lofty view and the spirit of high justice which should preside over the League of Nations.
We must not, however, exaggerate the importance of the question of representation on the Commissions, for that, after all, only concerns a method of work, and those who propose this method meant well in doing so, because it offers indisputable advantages.
It is true that large Commissions are more difficult to direct and that their work is sometimes rather slow, but we must not forget that [Page 193] the work of these Commissions must be of such importance to each of the countries interested that perhaps in reality it is worth running the risk which we are now seeking to avoid. Perhaps it would be better so to arrange that in each Commission all interests should be represented and made known so that we may attain, doubtless more slowly, a surer result, which will enable us to come with more precise ideas and less unprepared to the plenary sessions.
I will especially draw the attention of the President, whose qualities of heart and whose fairness constitute for us a two-fold guarantee, to this point, of the importance of which for my country he has certainly not lost sight.
As regards the Commission on Reparation, the non-representation of Portugal is certainly due to an oversight, since other countries having special interests in this respect are all represented thereon, a fact which, I may say, affords me great satisfaction. I pay homage to the sufferings and endurance of so many countries which have been the victims of an aggression, the brutality of which has excited universal indignation.
I beg leave, however, to point out that the position of Portugal is absolutely the same, that we have shed our blood in France for the cause of Right and Justice, that our territories in Africa have been invaded, that we are half, I might indeed say completely, ruined by our efforts in the war. We do not regret this. But why, then, should we not be heard, why should we not also be represented on the Commission appointed to consider the question of Reparation. Once again I must observe this seems to me to be an oversight.
As regards the other Commissions, those relating to the control of ports, to the League of Nations, to Labor questions and to penalties for responsibility for the war, are also of unquestionable interest to Portugal, but, generally speaking, I request the Bureau to be so good as to accede to the legitimate desire of all countries represented at the Conference to be able to make their voices heard whenever they have a special interest to defend, and to be represented on the Commissions. I ask that all these countries may be placed on the same footing as the others where their rights are affected.
Mr. Benes (Czecho-Slovak Republic): Without entering into detail in regard to the question of the nomination of representatives on the Commissions, I beg leave to submit the following considerations to the Conference:
The Czecho-Slovak delegation ask to be represented on the Commissions appointed to examine the questions of Reparation and of the Responsibility of the Central Empires. We base this proposal on the following grounds:[Page 194]
The Czecho-Slovak Republic is especially interested in all questions concerning the financial and economic liquidation of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire; for its territory formed the most industrial region of that monarchy. It would therefore be impossible to settle these questions without allowing us to bring forward such information on the subject as we possess.
Our delegation also has a special interest in the question of International railways and waterways. Our country has in fact no access to the sea, and it is extremely important for our future international position to know how these great channels of communication will be controlled, and especially to take part in the discussion relating to the control of international railways, waterways and ports. Therefore we ask to be represented on the Commission instructed to examine these questions.
The question of the League of Nations being also of the highest interest to countries surrounded, like ours, by Powers who have always been hostile to them, we ask that we may be granted a representative on the Commission concerned.
To sum up, we beg the Conference to grant us a representative on each one of the three Commissions called upon to discuss questions of special interest to our Republic.
Mr. Bratiano (Roumania): The Belgian Representative, although professing only to speak on behalf of the special interests of Belgium, has raised a question of principle which Roumania has far too much at heart to allow her to refrain from expressing agreement with his point of view.
I wish for the moment to confine myself to drawing attention to the importance of these principles to States like Roumania without entering into the details of each of the questions which, I hope, will be treated fully in a subsequent discussion. I will, however, point out, in passing, with regard to one of these questions (that of international ways of communications), that Roumania is at the mouth of the Danube, a great river which affects the communication of a great part of Europe, and that she has therefore very special interests in it.
I do not, however, wish to lose sight of the fact that at this moment the League of Nations is in question, and that it would be poor evidence of the interest felt by Roumania in the formation of this League if I did not contribute to the explanations made by those representatives of other countries who have already spoken. It is certain that, in the representation of such a league, the relative strength of each state has been kept in view, and it would be just to consider at the same time the interests which lead each state [Page 195] to favor the formation of this league, when it might perhaps be found that small states have more interest in it than great ones.
In settling the representation of the League both of these points of view must be kept in mind.
It is to express the interest which Roumania feels in the principles of this League that she asks to be represented on this commission.
Phya Bibadh Kosha (Siam): May I be permitted, in the name of the Siamese Delegation, to ask whether representation may be afforded to those countries who have the misfortune to be without it, and, as a delegate of one of those nations, to ask whether we have the right and opportunity to attend the proceedings of each commission dealing with matters directly of interest to the country which they represent, such as a League of Nations and the International Control of ports, railways and waterways?
Mr. Lou (China): I also desire to appeal to the spirit of equity of the members of the Conference, so that technical delegates may largely participate in the different work on the Commissions.
The desire has already been expressed, as to representation by delegates, that the principle of equality among States be the basis of the League of Nations. I also express the desire to see the delegation of China represented in the Commissions on Labor Legislation and on the Means of Communication. In fact, China, during the war has sent to France nearly 150,000 Chinese laborers, of whom nearly 120,000 were in the British camps. All these laborers have indirectly contributed to the happy issue of the present war.
On the other hand, China has a very large coast line, and her railways, which connect her with the three big neighboring Powers will have considerable development after the war.
It is for these reasons that I ask for the representation of the Chinese delegation on the two Commissions I have indicated.
I may perhaps make a suggestion. I have heard my honorable colleague, who represents Brazil, saying: “The Conference decided this, the Conference decided that.” I personally have had the experience of two Peace Conferences, as Mr. Léon Bourgeois kindly remarked a moment ago: I think that the present Conference will make its work much more interesting if it will concentrate the efforts of the two former ones, which have established a panel of delegates from which each delegation interested in any one particular question could select one or two members for the working of the Commission. That is a suggestion I beg to propose to this Conference.
Mr. Dmowski (Poland): In view of the extent of the territory of Poland, the size of the population, and the economic development of [Page 196] the country, and in view also of her political interests and her very important geographical position, I am of opinion that she should have the right to send a delegate to all such Commissions as she may think fit.
I rise to associate myself with those members present who have opposed the method whereby it is proposed to choose these five delegates for Powers with special interests. The large number of voices which have been raised shows that the task of assembling the delegates of the Secondary Powers would be very difficult, that the discussion between them would, firstly, involve much loss of time and, secondly, would not tend towards harmony among them. I beg leave to propose that each delegation should draw up a written statement of its case in making a demand for the number of representatives whom it wishes to send to each Commission. I would likewise propose that there should be a Commission above all the others to decide finally on the composition of each of them. We would accept its decisions in advance, being convinced that it would seriously consider the interests of all the Powers whatever they may be.
The President, speaking in French, replies to the observations and suggestions of the delegates, in a speech of which the following is a translation:
“As nobody else wishes to speak, I shall speak in my turn in order to try to justify the Bureau. It requires this, for if it had ever flattered itself that it could satisfy everybody, it would by now be thoroughly disillusioned.
“Sir Robert Borden has reproached us, though in a very friendly way, for having come to a decision. Well, we have decided, as regards the Commissions, in the same way as we decided to summon the present Conference. With your permission I will remind you that it was we who decided that there should be a Conference at Paris, and that the representatives of the countries interested should be summoned to attend it. I make no mystery of it—there is a Conference of the Great Powers going on in the next room. Sir Robert Borden has the less reason to be unaware of it since he yesterday did us the signal honor of making a statement before us on questions concerning the British Colonies.
“The Five Great Powers whose action has to be justified before you today are in a position to justify it. The British Prime Minister just now reminded me that, on the day when the war ceased, the Allies had 12,000,000 men fighting on various fronts. This entitles them to consideration.
“We have had dead, we have wounded in millions, and if we had not kept before us the great question of the League of Nations we [Page 197] might perhaps have been selfish enough to consult only each other. It was our right.
“We did not wish to do this, and we summoned all the nations interested. We summoned them, not to impose our will upon them, not to make them do what they do not wish, but to ask them for their help. That is why we invited them to come here. But we still have to see how this help can best be used.
“A few days ago Mr. Lloyd George was cruel enough to remind me that I was no longer very young. I entered Parliament for the first time in 1871. I have seen many Committees and Commissions and attended many meetings, and I have noticed—as most of you perhaps have also noticed—that the larger the Committees are the less chance they have of doing any work.
“Now, Gentlemen, let me tell you that behind us is something very great, very august and at times very imperious, something which is called public opinion. It will not ask us whether such and such a State was represented on such and such a Commission. That interests nobody. It will ask us for results, ask us what we have done for the League of Nations so eloquently championed today by President Wilson, Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Bourgeois and Mr. Orlando.
“What crime have we committed? We have decided that, for our part, we would appoint two delegates each on the Commission on the League of Nations. I would beg Mr. Hymans and all those who followed him to let me keep to the point. As soon as I indulgently allowed him to wander from it, as soon as the door was opened, everybody rushed in and discussed everything except the subject under discussion. It is my duty to guide the Conference in its work in order to obtain a result.
“We have therefore decided to appoint two delegates each, and then—may I be pardoned for it—we have decided to ask you to appoint five delegates in common.
“If you do not think this enough, I will not take the responsibility of choosing from among you all, since each asks for more representation, but I will make a proposal: Choose all of us, so that everybody will at least have his rights.
“What is the complaint? Has any right been denied to any Power? You all know how Committees work and you have the right to go before any Committee you like. Mr. Bourgeois, who is here, is not a plenipotentiary. He spoke with the authority to which he is entitled, and you were glad to hear him. I have heard Mr. Veniselos and many of you say: ‘Our voice will not be heard.’ How can you level such a reproach at us? Your voice will be all the better heard, because we are now arranging a means by which we [Page 198] can listen to each other. You can be heard on all the Commissions and Committees, and, after all, are you not sure that your voice will reach the Conference since you yourselves will be present and able to speak there?
“Think, Gentlemen, of the consequences of the proposals now made to us. As Mr. Dmowski said just now, requests will be made in writing and we shall collect these papers and then spend an hour or two in our Committee trying to find the best way out of these difficulties. But that is of no use either, for what we want is tangible results. The armistice still keeps many millions of men at the front. It is not questions of procedure, but essential ones, that have to be decided. I ask all of you to consider the consequences of the proposals which come to us from all parts of this Assembly. If today we leave aside the essential question to indulge in debates in procedure, I think I am safe in saying that at the end of a week or even of a fortnight nothing will have been settled and the essential question will not even have been examined.
“Now, the public is waiting. This state of things appears to me impossible. I join Mr. Dmowski in asking anybody having observations to make to send them to the Bureau. But I do not ask for a. special Committee to decide the matter.
“Why should I not say what I think? I do not see that the Committee has the right to impose its will upon these five Powers. At least I say what I think. I want to get on, and I should very much like you to make up your minds today.
“Let me make a suggestion which might suit everybody for the time. You might vote on all the proposals which we put before you today, reserving the right, which all Assemblies have, to insert amendments. But, Gentlemen, do not let us go home today without having voted decisively, so that President Wilson, Mr. Bourgeois, Lord Robert Cecil and all of them may be able to get to work this evening and the Commissions to start from tomorrow. My aim and that of my colleagues of the other Powers is to organize Commissions as soon as possible, so as to give them work. All those of you who wish to appear before them will do so. Anybody who wants changes will ask for them. As proposed by Mr. Dmowski, they will be examined and reported on. In this way we shall at least have the advantage of beginning work at once.
“We propose to you to appoint a certain number of Commissions. There will be two—one economic and the other financial—to be appointed at the next Session, after which all the Commissions will be working, the order of the day can be satisfactorily dealt with, and effective discussion begun.[Page 199]
“I beg your pardon, Gentlemen, for having spoken at such length, but all that I have said appeared to me necessary. Think of the immense work awaiting us. Just think of it! As President Wilson just now said, in an admirable sentence which sums up the whole question: ‘We, like our Armies, wish to win not only the war, but a cause.’ We have the burden and responsibility of this cause in our hands. Of course, questions of procedure have their importance, too. They will be settled in due course. If the number of Commissions proves insufficient it can be increased—we leave you quite free in that respect—but remember, Gentlemen, the larger the Commissions, the less gets done.
“Gentlemen, since I began to take part in these discussions I have sacrificed a certain number of personal opinions. I have done this cheerfully, feeling that I was doing something good and useful for the Common Cause. That was what I said to myself just now on hearing the noble words of President Wilson and Mr. Lloyd George.
“Let all of us, Gentlemen, be animated by the same spirit. The Bureau never wished to hurt anybody at all. On the contrary, it would like to unite you all in one group. Let us, then, start work at once and in the meantime claims will be presented and your Bureau able to start work.”
Mr. Hymans (Belgium) declares that he will say no more for fear of justifying the reproaches of the President of the Conference, and confines himself to the following observation:
“I simply propose that the Conference should vote on the resolutions which have been submitted to it. The Bureau has heard the observations which have been made in this Assembly. As I said just now, I have confidence in its justice, and I ask it to pay attention to those observations, to revise the composition of the Commissions and decide thereon.”
Mr. Klotz (France) lays on the table of the Conference, for reference to the Commission which has just been appointed, a draft proposal for a financial Section of the League of Nations.
The President submits to the Conference resolutions relative to the appointment of the four other Commissions for which provision is made in the order of the day, and for which the Powers with special interests have to name their delegates.
He recalls the fact that the second Commission has to examine the responsibility of the authors of the war and the enforcement of penalties (Annex 2) and that the small Powers have to choose five representatives on this Commission.
In reply to an observation made by Mr. Calogeras (Brazil) on the subject of the number of representatives allotted to his country, the [Page 200] President points out that Brazil has no reason to complain of the number of Delegates allowed to her, and that it does not follow that because a country is not represented on a Commission, it has not the same rights as those who are.
On the third Commission, which will consider the question of reparation for damages (Annex 3), Belgium, Greece, Poland, Roumania and Serbia are asked to appoint two representatives each.
With regard to the text of the resolution relative to this Commission, Mr. Klotz (France) observes that there appears to be an important omission in it. It says that this Commission will have to examine various questions: (1) the amount of reparation which the enemy Powers ought to pay; (2) their capacity for payment; (3) by what method, in what form, and within what time this payment must be made. To this last paragraph it will be well to add: “And the guarantees necessary to insure its payment.”
The amendment proposed by Mr. Klotz is referred to the Bureau for examination.
On the fourth (International Legislation on Labor—Annex 4) and fifth (International Control of Ports, Waterways and Railways—Annex 5) Commissions, the Powers with special interests will for the time appoint five Delegates.
The President proposes that these appointments should be made on January 27.
Mr. Hymans (Belgium) having asked that the Secretariat should examine the question and arrive at a decision regarding the number of representatives to be appointed, the President replies that the question is one for the Bureau, and not for the Secretariat. He adds:
I ask that the Bureau should retain its liberty of action. If you do not wish to name your Delegates now, but would rather wait, so be it, but, let me tell you, at this moment we are occupied with serious questions. The Polish question is among the foremost. On Monday we have to hear Delegates. If you ask for the postponement of the election, it will be postponed, but I must tell you that the Delegates of the Great Powers, for their part, will not consider themselves to have been postponed and nobody will gain anything.
As for us, we think that our work is urgent, and we ask the help of the whole Conference to assist us to get through it.
Mr. Hymans (Belgium) expresses agreement, and asks for the judgment of the Bureau, whose decision will be awaited.
Mr. Bratiano (Roumania) recognizes that everybody is willing to meet on the 27th of January for the purpose of naming Delegates, who will be able to begin work at once now that it is possible to examine questions of principle.[Page 201]
The President puts to the vote the proposal of the Bureau:—That the Delegates of the Powers with special interest[s] should meet on the 27th of January at 15 o’clock (3 p.m.) to elect representatives.
This proposal is adopted.
(See Annex 6 for the minutes of the Session of January 27, and Annex 7 for the list of the members of the five Commissions.)1
The President asks those members of the Conference who have declarations to make regarding the Delegates to be so good as to present them to the Bureau.
The Session is adjourned at 18.10 o’clock (6.10 p.m.).
J. C. Grew
M. P. A. Hankey