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Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/17


Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay on Friday, January 24, 1919, at 3 p.m.

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • President Wilson
      • Mr. R. Lansing
      • Mr. A. H. Frazier
      • Colonel U. S. Grant
      • Mr. L. Harrison
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George
      • The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour
      • The Rt. Hon. Sir R. L. Borden
      • The Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes
      • The Rt. Hon. W. F. Massey
      • Lieut. Gen. The Rt. Hon. J. C. Smuts
      • Lt. Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B.
      • Captain E. Abraham
      • Mr. E. Phipps
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
      • M. Pichon
      • M. Dutasta
      • M. Berthelot
      • Captain A. Portier
    • Italy
      • H. E. Orlando
      • H. E. Baron Sonnino
      • Count Aldrovandi
      • Major A. Jones
    • Japan
      • Baron Makino
      • H. E. M. Matsui
      • M. Saburi

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux.


Commission for Poland M. Clemenceau said that, before inviting the Dominion Prime Ministers to come in, he wished to obtain a decision on one or two urgent matters. The first question was that of nominating Commissioners to go to Poland. He asked whether the Powers had each nominated their delegates.

Mr. Balfour remarked that General Botha, designated by the British Government, had not yet formally accepted.

With this exception, it was understood that the members of the Commission had already been nominated.

M. Clemenceau expressed the opinion that the Commission should not start without receiving instructions in writing from the Council.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that someone be designated to draw up draft instructions, copies of which should be circulated.

M. Clemenceau said that he would ask M. Pichon to prepare this draft and submit it to the Council before being issued to the Commission.

[Page 717]

M. Sonnino said that one of the Italian nominees was the Italian Minister at Christiania. He asked whether it was necessary to summon him to Paris, in order to receive his instructions.

(It was agreed that this should be left to the discretion of the Italian Government, and that M. Pichon should prepare draft instructions for the approval of the Council.)


Press Delegation To Accompany the Commission Mr. Lloyd George said that he heard through Sir George Kiddell that the Press were very anxious to send two pressmen from each nation to accompany the Commission to Poland.

M. Sonnino expressed the opinion that this would not assist the labours of the Commission.

M. Clemenceau was of the same opinion.

President Wilson pointed out that the Press were clearly entitled to send a Mission independently.

Mr. Lloyd George agreed, but thought that the pressmen would not be able to reach their destination save under the aegis of the official Mission. Dantzig was in enemy country and the railway from that port was in German hands.

M. Sonnino thought that the introduction of irresponsible politics into the labours of the Mission would be highly embarrassing.

President Wilson expressed the view that English and American pressmen had no special views on Polish politics. They would merely report events as they saw them.

M. Clemenceau was of the opinion that they would undoubtedly send telegrams and attempt to exercise a control over the Delegates.

M. Pichon strongly supported this view.

President Wilson said that, as far as the American Press was concerned, the pressmen would not represent individual papers but News Associations without any particular bias. They would send bare news without any colouring. Unfortunately, there were in America three such News Associations and the choice of two delegates might be difficult.

M. Pichon pointed out that the same was the case in France, where there were three News Agencies.

Mr. Lloyd George then proposed that there should be only one press delegate from each nation, and that the choice of the delegate should be left to the Press.

M. Clemenceau agreed, provided that it be well understood that the delegates sent only news and not views.

(It was accordingly agreed upon that one Press delegate from each of the five Powers, chosen by the Press, should be allowed to proceed to Poland with the Commission on the express understanding that he should only transmit news and not expressions of opinion.)


Financial and Economic Questions M. Clemenceau said that most of the questions submitted to the Council had been distributed to Commissions. Financial and economic queastions, however, remained. He proposed that Commissions of two members from each Power should be set up to classify and frame in suitable language all questions coming under these categories. The work of these Commissions would be to submit to the Council a questionnaire. In this manner, the whole work of the Conference would be distributed.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that with regard to the framing of financial questions, this had already been decided on.

President Wilson suggested that time should be given for further consideration of these matters.

(It was agreed that the question should be discussed on the following day.)

At this stage the Dominion Prime Ministers entered the room.


Disposal of German Colonies Claims of British Dominions M. Clemenceau welcomed the Prime Ministers of the British Dominions.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he thought it best that each of the dominions should present its case Dominions separately. As far as the British Empire was concerned, most of the Colonies captured had been taken by Dominion troops. This even applied to German East Africa, where a considerable contingent of home troops had been employed. All he would like to say on behalf of the British Empire as a whole was that he would be very much opposed to the return to Germany of any of these Colonies. His reasons for saying so had been put in writing, and he was prepared, if necessary, to circulate the document to the Council. In many cases the Germans had treated the native populations very badly. For instance, in South-West Africa, they had deliberately pursued a policy of extermination. In other parts of Africa they had been very harsh, and they had raised native troops and encouraged these troops to behave in a manner that would even disgrace the Bolsheviks. The French and British, doubtless, had also raised native troops, but they had controlled them better.

President Wilson said that he thought all were agreed to oppose the restoration of the German Colonies.

M. Orlando, on behalf of Italy, and Baron Makino, on behalf of Japan, agreed.

(There was no dissentient and this principle was adopted. It was agreed that no public announcement of this policy should at present be made.)

[Page 719]

The Mandatory System Mr. Lloyd George said that the second question, therefore, was to decide in what manner these territories should be dealt with. There were two or three methods proposed. The System first internationalisation or control by the League of Nations. It was generally agreed that these territories could not be directly administered internationally. Therefore, it was suggested that some one nation should undertake the trusteeship on behalf of the League as mandatory. The conditions of the trust would doubtless include a stipulation that the territory should be administered, not in the interests of the mandatory, but in the interests of all the nations in the League. There must be equal economic opportunity for all, and, further, there must be a guarantee that the natives would not be exploited either commercially or militarily for the benefit of the mandatory. There would also, no doubt, be a right of appeal to the League of Nations if any of the conditions of the trust were broken. For instance, if the missionaries or concessionaires of any nation complained of unfair treatment. He did not suggest that this was an exhaustive account of the conditions, and if his account were in any way inaccurate, it would, no doubt, be set right hereafter.

He would like to state at once that the definition he had just attempted to give did not differ materially from the method in which the British Empire dealt with its Colonies. In all British Colonies there was free trade. He did not think there was such a thing as a preferential tariff in any. Germans or Americans could trade throughout the British Colonies on the same terms as British subjects. In fact, in British East Africa, most of the commerce was done by a German firm and Germany subsidized a shipping line which carried the bulk of the trade. No troops, save for police purposes, were raised in the British Colonies. British coaling stations were as free to foreign as to British ships, and German battleships coaled in them as freely as British battleships. As far as Great Britain was concerned, therefore, he saw no objection to the mandatory system.

Annexation The next alternative was frank annexation. The German colonies conquered by Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would be dealt with in detail by the Ministers representing these Dominions.

German South West Africa was contiguous to the territories of the Union. There was no real natural boundary and unless the Dutch and British population of South Africa undertook the colonisation of this area it would remain a wilderness. If the Union were given charge of German South West Africa in the capacity of a Mandatory there would be in a territory, geographically one, two [Page 720]forms of administration. It was questionable whether any advantage would be derived from this division capable of outweighing its practical difficulties.

In the case of New Guinea, one-third of the island was already under direct Australian administration, another third had now been conquered from Germany. It was manifest that to draw a customs barrier between one portion of the island and the other presented disadvantages. Yet, if Australia were the Mandatory of the League of Nations for the administration of what had been German New Guinea, it might have to administer this portion of the island on different lines to those followed in its previous possessions.

Samoa also would be best administered directly by New Zealand. He pointed out that the task of administering Colonies was an expensive one. The British Colonial Budget was steadily increasing. Unless money were to be spent upon them colonies should be dropped. The Dominion of New Zealand had a population of little more than one million souls. It had put 100,000 men into the field, had incurred a war debt of £100,000,000 sterling, had suffered 60,000 casualties and lost 16,000 killed. New Zealand had taken Samoa and fully realized that money would have to be spent upon it if the island was to be retained. It might not think it worth while to undertake the task of administration only as a Mandatory.

To sum up, he would like the Conference to treat the territories enumerated as part of the Dominions which had captured them rather than as areas to be administered under the control of an organisation established in Europe which might find it difficult to contribute even the smallest financial assistance to their administration.

Australia Claims to New Guinea Mr. Hughes said that the Prime Minister of Great Britain has dealt with the question as a whole. He would beg leave to present the particular case for Australia. Pointing to a map he indicated the intimate geographical relations of Australia to the Pacific. The Pacific was not only greater than any other sea, it was a world in itself, to which the construction of the Panama Canal had given added importance. Strategically the Pacific Islands encompassed Australia like fortresses. New Guinea was the biggest island in the whole world save Australia itself, and was only 82 miles from the mainland. South-east of it was a string of islands suitable for coaling and submarine bases, from which Australia could be attacked. The value of the islands in themselves he made no mention of. Australia had enough land not merely for its present population but for 100,000,000 men. It was obvious that 5 million people could not hold, against powerful enemies, a [Page 721]country larger than the United States, with a coast-line as long as the distance between Australia and England. If there were at the very door of Australia a potential or actual enemy Australia could not feel safe. The islands were as necessary to Australia as water to a city. If they were in the hands of a superior power there would be no peace for Australia. He proposed to explain shortly how the Germans came to possess a part of New Guinea. Australia’s claim to the Island was not a new one. It had been advanced in 1867, but not supported by the British Government. It had been raised again in 1871 and 1873 when Captain Moresby had provisionally annexed part of the country, but the annexation had not been ratified by the Imperial Government. In 1875 Sir John Robertson had put forward a proposal for the annexation of the country, and in 1877 Queensland had despatched an expedition to New Guinea and had been responsible for order until 1884 in all the non-Dutch portion of the Island. At that time Germany had asked for a friendly consultation to deal with this subject and had taken possession without waiting for British consent and established her stations in the Island. Germany had done little or nothing to develop the Islands she possessed in the Southern Pacific. She had regarded them from the strategic aspect only. In 1914, when this war broke out, Australia had sent troops to New Guinea and had captured the country. Australia had been in occupation ever since. The other Islands had also been seized, as they were, in the hands of the Germans, a direct menace to Australia.

As to internationalisation, he would endeavor to show why this principle should not be applied in this particular case. As Mr. Lloyd George had pointed out, part of the country was under Australian administration and Australian laws were current there. Control by the League of Nations would lead to confusion of authority, which could only be harmful. If the Mandatory were to exercise real authority, its policy would have to be directed presumably by the League of Nations. In this case the Mandatory would be so overwhelmingly superior in power to Australia that Australian authority would be completely overshadowed. The Mandatory, as it were, would be living in a mansion and Australia in a cottage. Any strong power controlling New Guinea controlled Australia. He questioned whether any country represented at the meeting would consent to be overshadowed in such a way, even by an international authority. The policies of nations were liable to change, and history showed that friends in one war were not always friends in the next. From this point of view he was prepared to say that in the Mandatory Power established in New Guinea under international control, Australia [Page 722]would see a potential enemy. It was reasonable and fair that the rights of the natives should be insisted upon. Australia was ready to agree to such requirements, but Australia also had a right to claim freedom from the menace of any enemy such as had weighed upon her before this war. The security of Australia would threaten no one. No state would suffer if Australia were safe, Australia alone would suffer if she were not. Australia had suffered 90,000 casualties in this war and lost 60,000 killed. Her troops everywhere had fought well. Her war debt alone amounted to £300,000,000 sterling exclusive of another £100,000,000 for the repatriation and pensioning of her troops. Australia did not wish to be left to stagger under this load and not to feel safe.

Union of South Africa and German South-West Africa General Smuts said that the Union of South Africa was putting forward a claim to the German territory in South-West Africa. The map would show that the two countries were geographically one. The reason why South-West Africa had not been annexed to the Union was the dilatoriness of the Imperial Government. The Imperial Government had regarded the country as a desert and had taken no action. In 1884 any possible action on their part had been suddenly forestalled by Bismarck. As to the subsequent history of the country its administration under the Germans had been a failure. The country was only fit for ranching. The Germans had not colonised it. They had done little else than exterminate the natives. It must be remembered that, at the outbreak of this war, there had been a rebellion in the Union, very largely fomented by the Germans in South-West Africa. Some of the officers of the Defence Force had been seduced, and General Botha, after his victory had found German telegrams offering to recognize the independence of South Africa if the rebellion succeeded. The rebellion had been very formidable, and its suppression had employed 40,000 troops. It was only after this that the Union had been able to conquer German South-West Africa.

The question to be decided was whether the Union of South Africa should absorb this country, or should be appointed mandatory for its administration. He would point out that this territory was not in the same category as other German possessions in Africa. The Cameroons, Togo-Land and East Africa were all tropical and valuable possessions; South-West Africa was a desert country without any product of great value and only suitable for pastoralists. It could, therefore, only be developed from within the Union itself. He thought, therefore, that, although there might be a good case for the administration of the other German possessions in Africa by a [Page 723]mandatory, there was not in this instance, a strong case. It was on this ground that South Africa claimed the country. A white community in South Africa had been established there for two or three centuries. It had done its best to give a form of self-government to three million natives, and its policy had been tested and found good. It was suited as much to the whites as to the natives, and this policy should be applied to the natives in South-West Africa. The fiscal system, he also thought, should be the same. It would be impossible to set up police posts along many hundred miles of desert frontier.

Another very serious ground for the claim made was that in the rebellion General Botha had gone a very long way to do his duty to the British Empire in fighting his own people. There was at that time a great issue at stake in South Africa. The Dutch people, to whom General Botha and he himself belonged together with many who were of German descent, wished to be neutral in this war. Their position, however, was such that they could not legally or constitutionally remain neutral. If the territory in question were not ceded to the Union, the result would be the overthrow of General Botha and of all his policy. Apart from the interest of the British Empire, it was to the interest of South Africa that the two white peoples inhabiting it should live in harmony. He would greatly deprecate that this Conference should adopt any form of settlement that would justify the rebellion of 1914. This would render the position in South Africa most deplorable. On these grounds he would press very strongly that, whatever might be decided in respect to the valuable African Colonies in other parts of the Continent, this desert country, so closely connected with South Africa, should be included in the Union. The community to which he belonged had been in South Africa since 1650. They had established a white civilization in a savage continent and had become a great cultural agency all over South Africa. Their wish was that one of the effects of the great settlement now to be made should be to strengthen their position and to consolidate the union of the white races in South Africa. The Boer pastoralists were always looking for uninhabited country in which to settle. He was quite sure that if German South-West Africa were given by the Conference to the Union, its work in this respect would be good.

In conclusion, he would like to add that the Union had made great sacrifices. He did not wish to stress them particularly as all had made great sacrifices; but he believed that the effort made by South Africa, sometimes with a divided heart, would prove on examination to be second to none among the small States that had partaken in the war.

[Page 724]

New Zealand’s Claim to Samoa Mr. Massey said that he wished to thank the President of the Council for the opportunity given to him to state the case on behalf of New Zealand. New Zealand was particularly concerned with Samoa. In the first instance, he would like to call the attention of the President of the Council to New Zealand as it appeared on the map. The point he wished to make was that New Zealand was much more important than its size on the map would seem to indicate. The area of New Zealand was as nearly as possible the same as that of the United Kingdom. The race occupying New Zealand was exactly the same kind of race as that which occupied the United Kingdom today. They were just as enterprising and just as virile as they were in the United Kingdom, and he hoped and believed in time to come New Zealand would be as useful to humanity in the Southern Hemisphere as the United Kingdom had been to humanity in the Northern Hemisphere. It was necessary for him to refer, as previous speakers had done to past history and this he would do very briefly. He would like to go back to the events which took place in the seventies, when the attention of European nations first began to be directed to the potentialities of the islands in the Pacific, and particularly to Samoa and New Guinea. There was a genuine impression that the natives of Samoa were, or had been not many years ago, savages. That impression was not correct. The Samoans, so far as records went, were never savages. It was true they had no written language, but they had had, during the years we had been acquainted with them, and for many years before, a form of local government which was sufficient for their own requirements. In the seventies the leading natives of Samoa became alarmed at what was likely to take place. They heard the intentions of Germany, of the intentions of the other European Powers, and they formed a big deputation which journeyed to Fiji to interview the High Commissioner of the Pacific, who at that time was also Governor of Fiji, in order to ask Queen Victoria either to annex the Samoan islands, or to establish a protectorate, and so to preserve and protect them in the future. But so far as Samoa was concerned nothing was ever done. Matters went on quietly and without anything serious happening for some years, until a number of Germans appeared in the Pacific, and settled there. The Samoan group of islands had a population even today—and it had not decreased for a long time past—of about 35,000 people. Civil war broke out among the natives themselves and it was said that this was the result of interference by the Germans. The attention of the Government of the United States was called to this; Germany of course was taking notice; Great Britain was taking notice. Germany [Page 725]sent a fleet of three warships to Samoa in 1889; the United States of America sent a fleet of three warships to meet the German fleet, and Great Britain sent one smart, second-class cruiser. All those present would remember the immense hurricane that happened. The three German warships were driven ashore and the three American warships were in trouble. The British ship alone had a chance of escape by steaming right out to the open sea. She did so and was saved. The natives were religious or superstitious enough to think that the hurricane’s interference was providential. However, what happened was this: A sort of Protectorate was established of the three nations—Germany, The United States and Great Britain. To say the least, the result was by no means satisfactory. Germany was given the larger and much more important of the Islands; the United States of America were given a small portion with a very good harbour. He did not wish to find fault with that. Great Britain was given some rights in other Islands. Germany, then became established there. He was delighted to notice the decision practically arrived at by the Council against German occupation of these Islands in the future. He was inclined to believe that we had not reached the last war. History has a knack of repeating itself and nations, just as unscrupulous as Germany had proved herself to be during the last few years, might make war. What took place in the triple Protectorate was that Germany was allowed to establish great trading stations all over the Pacific; great financial and commercial companies came along and settled there, and a strong squadron of German warships was sent to the Pacific and there established a huge wireless station. That was the position New Zealand had to face when war broke out. Then, for the first time, New Zealand appeared on the scene. New Zealand had a population of very nearly 1,200,000 which included 50,000 natives, who were treated exactly as all other citizens. As an instance of this he mentioned that there were six native Members in the New Zealand Parliament today. It could not be said that the native race was going out of existence; it was merging into the European population.

Immediately on the declaration of war they received a request to send a military force to take possession of German Samoa, whose harbours were offering shelter to raiders on our commerce. In fact, the headquarters of the German Fleet were there. Within ten days of the outbreak of war, 2,000 New Zealanders sailed out of Wellington to take possession of German Samoa. This was a great risk, the extent of which very few realised. At Noumea they were met by the battle cruiser “Australia” and also a French ship—the “Montcalm”. On reaching their destination they called upon the Germans [Page 726]to surrender, which they did, and German Samoa was occupied by New Zealand troops and had been occupied by them ever since. That was the position at the present time.

And now he would like to make one or two remarks in regard to the hardships New Zealand had suffered from the presence of the Germans in Samoa. The Germans had a strong squadron of warships in the Pacific. The British Government sent a number of ships into the Pacific to look after the interests of New Zealand. The result was a sea-fight, in which our ships were outclassed and outranged by those of the Germans and we sustained a loss of 2 cruisers and 1,600 British seamen. However, there was some consolation in the fact that the victorious German ships met their fate off the Falkland Islands not very long afterwards. Had it not been, however, for the presence of the Australia with the battle cruisers, the Germans would most certainly have bombarded the New Zealand coastal towns, and much shipping would have been sunk, especially ships trading between New Zealand and Great Britain. Fortunately they had not been troubled with the submarine difficulty. The Pacific was too far away. Nevertheless, as he had previously said, the Germans got raiders into the Pacific, which had reached the New Zealand coast, sunk several of their ships, and laid minefields. That was the sort of experience they had had from the Germans, and it was needless for him to say that they did not want the Germans ever to appear in the Pacific again. New Zealand was endeavouring, and not unsuccessfully, to build up a British nation in the Pacific. They were doing their best for civilization in that part of the world. They did not want to be confronted with a menace such as Germany had been to the nations of Europe for the last hundred years. They in New Zealand were not fighting for themselves, but for those who would come after them. Samoa was of great strategic importance, and the key to the Pacific.

He would like to call attention to the position taken up by the Natives under British control in the South Sea Islands during the years of the war. When they asked for volunteers in the early days of the war, 2,000 natives had come forward and many others had volunteered since. Many Maoris had been accepted as first grade fighting-men. Besides these there were the natives of Rarotanga who had volunteered and a contingent of them had been sent to Palestine where they had done good work. Natives of Niue, which was a comparatively small island, had also volunteered; further, the natives of Fiji had rendered most useful service in the Great War. Contrast this with the natives under the rule of Germany; he did not think there was a single case where any natives had volunteered to fight for Germany. He had received most pathetic letters from people of the [Page 727]native races begging that never again should they be allowed to be placed under German rule. These were merely illustrations of the argument which he would put forward presently. Everyone knew what Germany would have done if she had been victorious in this war; most of them had read German publications on the subject. Direct references had been made by prominent German statesmen to various parts of the British Empire. Dr. Solf1 himself had taken a very prominent part in German public affairs; at one time he was Governor of Fiji [Samoa]. Dr. Solf had stated publicly that when Germany became victorious he was quite certain that she would occupy some of the British Colonies. He (Mr. Massey) did not suggest that we should do what Germany would have done, as we were not out for territorial aggrandisement. We had been forced into this war, and it was up to us to prevent anything of the sort happening in the future.

With regard to the League of Nations, which had not yet been established, he hoped that it would be established and that it would be very successful. He would like to remind those present that we had had experiences in the past, which had sometimes been sad experiences, of joint control of native races. Mr. Massey mentioned the case of the New Hebrides. We were the best of friends today with the citizens of France and the Government of France, and he hoped and believed that that very satisfactory state of things would continue for all time. But he thought it would be admitted, not only by the people of France, but by others, that our joint control of the New Hebrides had been an ignominious failure. Egypt, too, had not been a success under joint control, neither had Samoa. He was very sceptical in regard to the success of any joint arrangement in regard to the German Colonies.

New Zealand had sent over 100,000 men to the war; 16,456 had been killed, and 41,404 had been wounded. That was a big record for a small country with a small population. They did not regret it because they believed it was their duty. The men went out to fight for the great cause of civilisation. He believed they would do the same thing again in similar circumstances.

In conclusion, on behalf of his fellow-citizens, and on behalf of the people in the Islands of the South Pacific, for the sake of the native races, and for the sake of humanity, he most strongly urged that the claim he was making in regard to Samoa should be granted by the Congress, and that the island should be allowed to remain under British control.

[Page 728]

Sir Robert Borden said that the Dominion he represented had no territorial claims to advance. There was one thought, however, that he would like to present to the Council on behalf of the claims put forward by the other Dominions. Those Dominions were autonomous nations within an Empire which might more properly be called itself a League of Nations. He realised that the British Empire occupied a large part of the world, but the prejudice raised by the word Empire might be dispelled by considering the matter from the angle he had just suggested. All the cases advanced rested upon the plea of security, and he considered that the arguments put forward deserved the closest attention of the Council.

M. Clemenceau thanked the Dominion Ministers for the statements they had made. The Council had listened to them with the greatest attention, and he begged to assure them that no decisions would be taken without full consideration of all they had said, with regard both to the interests of each and to the interests of all.

25 January, 1919.

  1. Wilhelm Solf, Former German Secretary of State of the Colonial Office; Secretary of State of the Foreign Office in the Cabinet of Prince Max of Baden.