Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/19

BC–12

Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Monday Afternoon, January 27, 1919, at 3 O’clock

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • President Wilson
      • Mr. Robert Lansing
      • Dr. G. L. Beer
      • Prof. E. T. Williams
      • Mr. A. H. Frazier
      • Mr. L. Harrison
      • Col. U. S. Grant
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
      • The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, M. P.
      • The Rt. Hon. Sir R. L. Borden, G. C. M. G.
      • The Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes
      • Gen. The Rt. Hon. L. Botha
      • The Rt. Hon. W. F. Massey
      • Lt.-Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B.
      • Major A. M. Caccia, M. V. O.
      • Mr. H. Norman
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
      • M. Pichon
      • M. Dutasta
      • M. Berthelot
      • Capt. Portier
    • Italy
      • M. Orlando
      • M. Sonnino
      • Count Aldrovandi
      • Major A. Jones
    • Japan
      • Baron Makino
      • H. E. M. Matsui
      • M. Saburi
    • China
      • Dr. C. Thomas Wang
      • Dr. K. Wellington Koo
      • Mr. W. P. Chao

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux.

Disposal of German Colonies M. Clemenceau having declared the meeting opened, said that he would call on the Japanese representative, Baron Makino to put Disposal of forward the views of the Japanese Government on the question of the Pacific, with special reference to the German Pacific Islands. It has been decided to take into consideration the question of Kiaochow at a subsequent meeting.

Baron Makino then read the following statements:—

(a) Japanese Claims to Pacific Islands and Kiaochow The Japanese Government feels justified in claiming from the German Government the unconditional cession of:

(a)
The leased territory of Kiaochow together with the railways, and other rights possessed by Germany in respect of Shantung province.
(b)
All of the Islands in German possession in the Pacific Ocean North of the Equator together with the rights and properties in connection therewith.

[Page 739]

At the outbreak of the war, the German military and naval base at Kiaochow constituted a serious menace to the international trade and shipping, jeopardising the peace in the Extreme Orient. The Japanese Government in consultation with the British Government conformably with the agreement of 1911,1 gave notice to the German Government to surrender the leased territory of Kiaochow with a view to its restoration to China. The German Government failing to make reply within the specified time limit, no other course was left to Japan but to proceed to reduce the German base by recourse to arms. The Japanese forces have, in conjunction with the British contingents, succeeded in taking the leased territory as well as the railway line connecting Tsingtau with Chinanfu, which the Germans used for military purposes. Japan has since continued in possession of the rights then enjoyed by Germany. By the reduction of the German stronghold, the base of her military as well as political offensive in the Extreme Orient has been completely destroyed, thereby re-establishing the uninterrupted course of trade, commerce, and communication in these regions.

Now that the primary object for which Japan entered the war and which was clearly set forth in her Declaration of war against Germany, has been successfully achieved, Japan cannot view with equanimity anything that may tend to revive German activities in the Far East to the undoing of all that has been achieved at no small sacrifice, and is compelled to advance the claims under item A.

Subsequently to the fall of Kiaochow it became a matter of urgent necessity to clear the Indian and Pacific Oceans, including the Australian routes, of the enemy ships and to keep these waters free and secure from enemy raids; and for carrying out this object, the Japanese navy extended its sphere of activities in co-ordination with those of the British navy. The enemy ships had been planning to escape from the superior Japanese and British naval forces, and the Japanese squadron, upon arrival at Panope, of the East Caroline group, found that they had just left. From the objects and materials left behind, it was abundantly clear that a full preparation for further raids was being made, using the harbour as their naval base. The circumstances demanded that the German South Sea Islands should forthwith be taken possession of in order to defeat the enemy’s object, and the German possessions North of the Equator have since remained under Japanese occupation and control. The inhabitants of these Islands are being given employment so as to ensure livelihood for them, besides being provided with schools for their instructions, and they are fully contented under the present Regime. The total area of these Islands is about two thousand five hundred square kilometres with the population of some fifty thousand in all, composed of many different tribes. These tribes have each its own peculiar language, unable to understand one another without resorting to the medium of interpretation; and being on the whole still in a primitive state, they are not in a position to organize themselves politically, economically, or socially, in the modern sense. Japan being in actual possession and having regard to the circumstances which led to such [Page 740]occupation and to the present conditions above alluded to, and further, in view of the public opinion of Japan which is unanimous in this connection, she claims the definite possession of these Islands where she may continue to protect the inhabitants and to endeavour to better their conditions.

In conclusion, it may be stated that, in view of the extent of their efforts and achievements in destroying German base[s] in the Extreme Orient and the South Seas, and in safeguarding the important routes on the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean waters, to say nothing of their contribution in other respects, the Japanese Government feels confident that the claims above advanced would be regarded as only just and fair”.

Baron Makino added that a documentary statement setting forth the Japanese claims in full would be handed in by him at a later date.

Dr. C. Thomas Wang said that the question was of such vital interest to China that he hoped the Great Powers would reserve decision until the views of China had been heard.

(This was agreed to)

(b) Application of Mandatory Systems President Wilson said that in order that the field of discussion should be defined as clearly as possible perhaps it would be better to begin with a clear statement of what was the mind of those who proposed a trusteeship by the League of Nations through the appointment of mandatories. The basis of this idea was the feeling which had sprung up all over the world against further annexation. Yet, if the Colonies were not to be returned to Germany (as all were agreed), some other basis must be found to develop them and to take care of the inhabitants of these backward territories. It was with this object that the idea of administration through mandatories acting on behalf of the League of Nations arose. This idea would be most distinctly illustrated by an example. The case of the South West Africa would be found a most favourable instance to make a clear picture. South West Africa had very few inhabitants, and those had been so maltreated, and their numbers had been so reduced under German administration, that the whole area was open to development that could not yet be determined. Therefore, either it must be attached to its nearest neighbour and so establish what would seem a natural union with South Africa, or some institution must be found to carry out the ideas all had in mind, namely, the development of the country for the benefit of those already in it, and for the advantage of those who would live there later.

This he assumed to be the principle: it was not intended to exploit any people; it was not intended to exercise arbitrary sovereignty over any people.

[Page 741]

The purpose was to serve the people in undeveloped parts, to safeguard them against abuses such as had occurred under German administration and such as might be found under other administrations. Further, where people and territories were undeveloped, to assure their development so that, when the time came, their own interests, as they saw them might qualify them to express a wish as to their ultimate relations—perhaps lead them to desire their union with the mandatory power.

Should the Union of South Africa be the mandatory of the League of Nations for South West Africa, the mandate would operate as follows:—In the first place, the League of Nations would lay down certain general principles in the mandate, namely, that districts be administered primarily with a view to the betterment of the conditions of the inhabitants. Secondly that there should be no discrimination against the members of the League of Nations, so as to restrict economic access to the resources of the district. With this limitation, the Union of South Africa would extend such of its laws as were applicable to South West Africa and administer it as an annex to the Union so far as consistent with the interest of the inhabitants. The expense of its administration would be met by fiscal arrangements, which, if they involved customs duties, would be the same for all nations trading with South West Africa; all countries would pay the same duties, all would have the same right of access.

Mr. Lloyd George stated that South Africa under present arrangements gave a preference to Great Britain of 3 per cent. He enquired whether that preference would extend to South West Africa under the scheme proposed by President Wilson.

President Wilson replied in the negative. Preference as far as South-West Africa was concerned, would be excluded under the circumstances, but, with the elimination of that exception, there would be no administrative difference between his scheme and annexation.

It was in the mind of many people that the mandatory power might be subject to constant irritation and constant interference by the League of Nations. In his opinion^ that would not be so, as long as the mandatory performed his duties satisfactorily. In so far as the administration by the mandatory power became a financial burden, it was clearly proper that the League of Nations should bear a proportion of the expense. The fundamental idea would be that the world was acting as trustee through a mandatory, and would be in charge of the whole administration until the day when the true wishes of the inhabitants could be ascertained. It was up to the Union of South Africa to make it so attractive that South West Africa [Page 742]would come into the Union of their own free will. Should that not be the case, the fault would lie with the mandatory.

He would ask: Was this merely camouflage: a means of bringing about the willingness of the people to be united with the Union, to which the Great Powers were not now willing to consent. He would answer, No, as under the Mandatory the administration would be so much in the view of the world that unfair processes could not be successfully attempted. If successful administration by a mandatory should lead to union with the mandatory, he would be the last to object. Therefore, the only difficulty which might arise would be that associated with the dangers of aggression. In this connection he was reminded of a story he had recently heard: In the United States a man bought an inordinate amount of real estate. When asked by a friend when this process, would stop, he replied that he would never be satisfied so long as anyone owned any land adjoining his own.

With all respect, it seemed to him that this was the difficulty in the mind of the representative of Australia. If the present conditions in regard to annexation were permanently to continue, he would himself feel inclined to agree with the representative of Australia. But this position was based on a fundamental lack of faith in the League of Nations.

If any nation could annex territory which was previously a German Colony, it would be challenging the whole idea of the League of Nations. Under the League of Nations they were seeking to lay down a law which would rally the whole world against an outlaw, as it had rallied against Germany during the last war. Should a nation attempt to take from a mandatory the country entrusted to it, such nation would become an outlaw. When any nation became an outlaw, all nations should rise up against it, and treat it as such. If they had any confidence in the League of Nations there was not the slightest danger that anyone else except the mandatory power could take possession of any colony entrusted to it, such as New Guinea, because all the other nations would be pledged, with the United States in the lead, to take up arms for the mandatory.

Therefore, all danger of bad neighbours was past, and the only question remaining was whether administration by a mandatory would not be as useful as direct Australian administration. If the League of Nations did not prove adequate to its task, general chaos and confusion would arise in all parts of the world. Therefore, the League of Nations must succeed, and if all the delegates in this room decided that it must succeed, it would succeed.

As regards who should be the mandatory in New Guinea, his mind was absolutely open. It was perhaps so near to Australia that no [Page 743]other alternative was possible. This reminded him of a story he had read in regard to the annexation of Mexico by the United States of America. Someone had asked whether America would annex that country. The reply was that the country was so contagious that America might be forced to take it whether it wanted to do so or not. Now, New Guinea might be so contagious that Australia would be obliged to take it whether it desired to do so or not. But this was in the lap of the gods.

If the process of annexation went on, the League of Nations would be discredited from the beginning. Many false rumours had been set about regarding the Peace Conference. Those who were hostile to it said that its purpose was merely to divide up the spoils. If they justified that statement in any degree, that would discredit the Conference. The attitude of the people on this point had been quite clearly expressed. Therefore he would say, “Let us have a frank interchange of views on this question”, and he would put two questions:—

Assuming the League of Nations existed (and it was born on Saturday), was it necessary, from the point of view of protection to have annexation? If not, what was there in the principle of a mandatory that would make its adoption objectionable?

(c) Claims of Union of South Africa to German South West Africa General Botha said that he did not wish to go over the ground which had been traversed by his colleagues last week. German South West Africa, as everybody knew, was part and parcel of South Africa. It was a piece of land cut out of Union. The Eastern and Southern frontiers of German South West Africa were merely lines drawn on a map. The only good port on the West Coast was Walfish Bay, which belonged to the Union of South Africa. Walfish Bay had always been under the administration of the Union of South Africa. German South West Africa was a desert. It had been occupied by Germany for 30 or 40 years; but it had never been used for colonising purposes. There were no white people, with the exception of a few pensioned soldiers, who had been given grants of land as an inducement to remain. The only real settlements consisted of immigrants from the Union of South Africa. But these settlers were extremely few in numbers on account of the disabilities to which they had been subjected by the Germans. The Germans used the country only as a military station. The natives were utterly miserable; they were merely slaves of the Germans. On the other hand, these people must be given protection because the country was still full of wild bush-men, and for this purpose a big force would have to be maintained. The country had been very peaceful since its occupation by the Union of South Africa, and the people were quite happy. As already stated [Page 744]the Germans never had any idea of settling the country. It was merely used as a military station. A large wireless station had been set up in direct communication with Berlin and it was also connected with other wireless installations 50 miles to the North. At present, under its constitution, the Union of South Africa enjoyed certain free rights. If a mandatory were now appointed to administer German South-West Africa, the trade relations of that territory with the Union would necessarily undergo a great change, and the Union would be compelled to protect itself economically, and to place customs houses round the frontiers. That naturally implied a large expenditure.

The Union of South Africa had suffered greatly from animal diseases, which invariably came from the North. Nothing was being done in the North of Africa to stop these diseases, and the South was compelled to take the necessary measures. If a mandatory were placed there, and if it did not spend money to stop these diseases, the Union would be obliged to do so. In his opinion, there was therefore only one solution, namely, complete union between the two territories.

The few German colonies still remaining in German South-West Africa had recently passed a resolution proclaiming a republic. Should a mandatory be appointed, would it be obliged to respect that decision? This demand for a republic had been merely put forward in order to favour the Germans, and, should it be granted, the Union would be the only sufferers. The League of Nations was a long way off, and could not possibly know the true requirements of the country. Had there been a large population in German South-West Africa, he would have concurred in President Wilson’s proposal. He would ask that the point of view of the Union should not be lost sight of. For the sake of peace, in order to satisfy the peoples of South Africa, German South-West Africa must be incorporated in the Union. Should this not be done, then there would be constant agitation. The small German population would continue to foment trouble in order to get back to Germany, and those troubles might extend to the Union. It must be recollected that in South Africa there had been two republics (Transvaal and Orange Free State) and two British Colonies (The Cape and Natal). In the past there had been a great struggle between the two. It was no use to talk about the past, but the struggle still existed, and the danger of an uncertain frontier might re-open the sore. The Union consisted of two peoples—the English and the Dutch. He had spent his life in an endeavour to get those two races to understand each other. It was necessary that they should co-operate for their own [Page 745]good and for their own future and, unless their requirements were fully understood, grave trouble might at any moment arise.

He himself was a great enthusiast for the League of Nations, and realized that all must be ready to make great sacrifices to attain that high ideal. But they must not be too hasty in settling these questions, lest the burden prove to be too heavy in the beginning. Therefore, they should settle each case on its merits, and let the League of Nations start with a clean sheet.

Sir Robert Borden enquired whether both races—the Dutch and British—in South Africa were agreed on this question.

General Botha replied in the affirmative.

(d) Australian Representative’s Views on the Application of the Mandatory Principle to New Guinea Mr. Hughes said he would, in the first place, direct himself to the general principle of mandatories before applying the principle to Australia. The mandatory principle, although generally applied to the management of estates and private affairs, but [had] never been applied to countries. He would, to begin with, ask the question: Was the mandatory principle per se desirable? If contrasted with the direct control, which every country exercised over its own territories, the answer must be in the negative. Consequently, the mandatory principle was merely a compromise suggested by the circumstances in which the Allies now found themselves. It was not suggested that either the United States of America or Great Britain, or France should be governed through a Mandatory State. It was only suggested that the mandatory system should be applied to the territories previously under German Dominion. He was not personally, in principle, opposed to the idea of a mandatory, but he thought it would be necessary to prove the necessity for making use of this machinery in each case separately. If it were asked what was the best form of Government: clearly the most direct form would be the best, and the most indirect form the worst. Therefore, as a general principle, the mandatory system would have to give way, and direct Government would be given the preference. This being the case, he would ask: Why have a mandatory? The President replied: Because the world was against annexations. To that, he would reply: Was it proposed then, to adopt that principle to all questions to be dealt with by the Peace Conference? Was it proposed to appoint mandatories to the New States to be created in Europe? It was proposed to take away the Pacific Islands from Germany because she had not governed them well. But why should the mandatory principle be applied to any of the territories taken by the Dominions? It was for those who wished to apply the principle to prove their case. They all desired to do what was right; but what advantage was to be gained by the [Page 746]appointment of a mandatory for New Guinea in preference to handing it over to Australia? Geographically, and by virtue of its action during the war, Australia had a just claim. President Wilson had said that Australia should accept the mandatory system as she would thereby obtain greater security. Australia owned, at present, governed, and had for many years governed, parts of New Guinea. Australia possessed a good Government; the people were very critical and censorious, and had shown that they were capable of taking over responsibilities. Consequently, that Government which had been governing adjoining territories for centuries had the best claims. To sum up: Australia had governed New Guinea; New Guinea was essential to the safety of Australia; Australia was a democracy; the Australians were on the spot; Australia knew what New Guinea wanted far better than any League of Nations. Australia actually at the present moment represented the Nations, and if the claims of Australia were not now accepted, what more attention would it in future receive from the League of Nations? Were this mandatory principle applied to Great Britain, to America, to France, it would not work. As Ireland is to the United Kingdom, as Mexico is to the United States of America, as Alsace-Lorraine is to France, so was New Guinea to Australia; but it was said that the taking over of Alsace-Lorraine by France merely meant a restoration. The mandatory system could never be as satisfactory for New Guinea as the direct system. It is said that the World favours the mandatory system because it is against annexations; but annexation was only bad when it made for Imperialism. The Australians had fought to govern themselves in their own way, and New Guinea was the outward and visible sign of the World’s recognition that they were worthy to be entrusted with the Government of that country. Next, it would be asked, what assurances could Australia give for its good behaviour? Australia would be a member of the League of Nations. The League would control their members, and if necessary outlaw them. He would point out, however, that progress had not been made by the World in general, but by peoples in particular. France and England and America were examples of this. They had now reached their present stage not because the World had put them there, but because they had worked out their own salvation. Australia was a democracy, not unworthy of comparison with any other. The people of Australia would never tolerate the ill-treatment of other peoples. They had fought against militarism and for the liberty of the people. The choice between annexation and the mandatory system was a narrow one. There was nothing to be gained by the mandatory system that could not be got by direct Government, except that the World was said to dread annexations. But he was positive that no one [Page 747]dreaded the annexation of New Guinea by Australia. The world only dreaded annexation for Imperialistic purposes or for the purpose of exploiting other peoples. But Australia was a democracy and responsible for its actions to its people. He would readily admit that the mandatory system would be applicable to other parts; but it could never apply to New Guinea.

(e) Practical Application of Mandatory System Mr. Lloyd George said that before examining particular cases he thought the meeting should have an opportunity of considering the practical application of the mandatory system. This was the first time they had heard an exposition of the system principle. As far as the principle was concerned, apart from certain particular cases, he had no objections to make; but its practical application required careful consideration and he would like to consult his experts and discuss with them the proposals put forward in President Wilson’s speech. He saw a practical difficulty, for instance, as regards the expenditure of money. Colonies, as far as Great Britain was concerned, did not mean a division of spoils, but rather the incurring of expenditure. Great Britain had no Colony from which a contribution towards the national expenditure was obtained. He thought the same consideration would present itself were the mandatory system applied to Mesopotamia, Syria, and other parts of the Turkish Empire. Whoever took Mesopotamia would have to spend enormous sums of money for works which would only be of profit to future generations. It might pay in the future, but who was to pay at present? Was the League of Nations to pay? How would it be possible to raise sufficient money to carry out all the necessary works for the development of these countries from which no returns could be expected for many decades? Consequently, if a country was to be merely a mandatory, it would be necessary to have a levy from all members of the League of Nations in order to make good the annual deficit. But would countries be able to raise money by taxation in order to enable, say, France to develop the Cameroons? Take again the protection of the shores. Where would the League of Nations come in with reference to all these questions? Therefore, he thought each of those present at this meeting should consult their advisers purely on the practical application of the principles of the mandatory power, as laid down by President Wilson in his speech.

Mr. Massey enquired whether, if the meeting were adjourned, he would have an opportunity of putting forward his case when debate was resumed.

M. Clemenceau replied in the affirmative.

President Wilson said that experts could give opinions only on subjects in which they were experienced. Undoubtedly, their training [Page 748]was such that they had experience only in what they had been accustomed to; but a new regime was now about to be established. It had been said that the British Colonies had cost Great Britain a large amount. But he preferred to say that Great Britain had carried the burden of their development up to the point where they were prepared for independence and self-Government. They were then admitted to a little family of nations. It was just this burden which he wanted the League of Nations to take up, and it was not inconceivable that an assessment might be made against the members. General Smuts, in his pamphlet, had rightly compared the British Empire to a League of Nations. Undoubtedly, the obligation of defending the territory would rest upon the mandatory but part of the expense of the defence, if too heavy, would be borne by the League of Nations.

Mr. Lloyd George repeated that a new principle had been put before them and he would like to have it examined, before its application to particular cases came under consideration. He was not afraid of the principle, because in the British Crown Colonies they did not differentiate between nationals as regards the grant of concessions; but he would like to have time carefully to examine the scheme proposed.

(Mr. Lloyd George’s proposal was accepted, and the Meeting adjourned until 11 o’clock next morning.)

  1. British and Foreign State Papers, vol. civ, p. 173.