Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/24

BC–17

Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held at Mr. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Thursday, January 30, 1919, at 11 a.m.

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • President Wilson
      • Mr. R. Lansing
      • Mr. A. H. Frazier
      • Mr. L. Harrison
      • Col. R. H. Williams
      • Mr. G. L. Beer
      • Prof. E. T. Williams
      • Mr. D. H. Miller
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
      • The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, M. P.
      • The Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes
      • Gen. The Rt. Hon. L. Botha
      • The Rt. Hon. W. F. Massey
      • Mr. C. J. B. Hurst
      • Lt. Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey
      • Major A. M. Caccia
      • Mr. H. Norman
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
      • M. Pichon
      • M. Simon
      • M. Dutasta
      • M. Berthelot
      • Captain Portier
    • Italy
      • M. Orlando
      • Baron Sonnino
      • M. Salvago-Raggi
      • Count Aldrovandi
      • Major Jones
    • Japan
      • Baron Makino
      • Viscount Chinda
      • H. E. M. Matsui
      • M. Saburi
      • M. Kimura

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux

1.

Resolution Regarding the Application of the Mandatory System M. Clemenceau said that it was intended that morning to continue the exchange of views on the question of the disposal of the German Colonies.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he had circulated a document (see Annexure A) to each of the representatives of the Great Powers. That document did not represent the real views of the Colonies; but it had been accepted by them as an attempt at a compromise. Great Britain had deliberately decided to accept the principle of a mandatory; but that decision had not been wholly accepted by the Dominions. The Dominions, however, were prepared to accept the conclusions reached in the document as a compromise, because they fully realized that there could be no greater catastrophe than for the delegates to separate without having come to a definite decision. It had been decided to accept the doctrine of a mandatory for all conquests in the late Turkish Empire and in the German Colonies. [Page 786]But three classes of mandates would have to be recognized, namely:—

  • Firstly: Mandates applicable to countries where the population was civilized but not yet organized—where a century might elapse before the people could be properly organized. For example, Arabia. In such cases it would be impossible to give full self-government and at the same time prevent the various tribes or units from fighting each other. It was obvious that the system to be applied to these territories must be different from that which would have to be applied to cannibal colonies, where people were eating each other.
  • Secondly: Mandates applicable to tropical Colonies situated a long way from the country of the possible mandatory. In other words, territories which did not form an integral part of any particular mandatory country. For example, New Guinea. In these Colonies the full principle of a mandatory would be applied, including the “open door.”
  • Thirdly: Mandates applicable to countries which formed almost a part of the organization of an adjoining power, who would have to be appointed the mandatory.

Finally, he wished to emphasize the fact that the memorandum was intended to deal only with those parts of the Turkish Empire and of the German Empire, which had actually been conquered. Districts such as Smyrna, Adalia, the North of Anatolia were purposely excluded. Such territories would have to be considered separately on their merits.

Mr. Hughes said that the Prime Minister of Great Britain had accurately set out the position taken up by the Dominions. The members of the Conference had already heard his own views and they knew that Australia desired direct control. But, Australia fully recognized that grave interests, involving the fate of humanity were at stake, and, therefore, he did not feel justified in opposing the views of President Wilson and those of Mr. Lloyd George, beyond the point which would reasonably safeguard the interests of Australia. He had indicated to the Conference substantially the position as it stood, because his Government had desired him to emphasize its position and its attitude towards it, and it had asked him to press for direct control. As soon as his Government had heard that the mandatory principle was to be imposed, it had asked for full details and for an opportunity of considering those details. His colleagues were to meet for this purpose that afternoon and he felt compelled, therefore, to withhold his assent until they had communicated their decision.

2.
Press Reports of Conversation President Wilson said that, first of all, in unaffected good humor, he wished to refer to a question of privilege. Each morning in the Paris press, printed in English, appeared a great deal more information regarding the meetings than was given in the official communiqués. He referred [Page 787]especially to the comments on President Wilson’s idealistic views. It was stated, for instance, that, as regards President Wilson’s ideals, he (President Wilson) did not know how his ideals would work. If these articles continued to appear, he would find himself compelled to publish his own views. So far he had only spoken to people in that room and to the members of the American Delegation, so that nothing had been communicated to the Press regarding President Wilson’s views, either by himself or by his associates. He and his colleagues had been extremely scrupulous that nothing should come from them that implied that there were divergencies of view. For example, the Press had disclosed that morning that there was, apparently a Dominion point of view, and that the United States of America was in some way or another standing out against that view. If these articles continued to appear a public discussion would become inevitable, and such a public discussion would be fatal at this juncture. He himself was greatly distressed at these occurrences, but he did not know how they could be prevented. Nevertheless the time might come when he would be compelled against his own wishes to make a full public exposé of his views.
3.

Constitution of League of Nations in Reference to Appointment of Mandatories Next, to take the document circulated by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, he considered it to be a very gratifying paper. It made a long stride towards the composition of their differences, bringing them to within an easy stage of final agreement On the other hand he did not think of they could have a final decision immediately. Mr. Hughes, for instance, wished to discuss the question with his colleagues, who were anxious to know just what it all would mean. Mr. Hughes was not in a position to answer that question, neither could anyone else answer it. He could say that President Wilson said that a mandatory would work in a certain manner, but President Wilson’s views had not been adopted. There were obviously other views but he could not say what they were. He (President Wilson) had in his possession a separate paper showing how the scheme would work in connection with the League of Nations, but that scheme had not yet been accepted. He had discussed it with Lord Robert Cecil and Mr. Balfour, and that day he would discuss it with M. Orlando. So far these were merely the exchange of general views in an attempt to arrive at a decision.

Furthermore, the difficulty with which they were faced was not to satisfy the Powers in that Room (France, the United Kingdom, Italy and America), but to satisfy the disturbed communities of the world, mostly on the other side of the Rhine. It would be difficult to harness these communities to any kind of arrangement. It would be impossible to drive them tandem; they must be driven abreast. [Page 788]Mr. Lloyd George was disturbed with regard to the number of troops which had to be maintained in different parts of the world—troops which could not be withdrawn until Peace was signed. Even if an understanding could be reached with another country to replace these troops, the world would ask “Are you exchanging territories before peace is made?” For instance, it had been suggested that America should act as a mandatory. The people of America would be most disinclined to do so. He himself had succeeded in getting the people of America to do many things, and he might succeed in getting them to accept this burden also. But even if it was suggested that American troops should occupy Constantinople, or Mesopotamia, it was evident that they could not do so as they were not at war with Turkey. Therefore, it would, in his opinion, be extremely unwise to accept any form of mandate until they knew how it was intended to work.

To return to the immediate subject, could they take a clean sheet, and say that Australia, for example, would accept a mandate about New Guinea? How would that mandate be exercised? What would it involve? No one could give an answer to Australia. He could say that he himself had proposed various forms of mandate. He surmised that the character of the mandate would be left in the hands of an executive of the League of Nations, consisting of the Great Powers with a minority representation of the Smaller Powers. He imagined, also, that no action could be taken by that Council in the face of three negative votes. Should that system be adopted it would be impossible for any harmful conditions to be imposed upon the mandatory state. But that arrangement had not yet been adopted; no agreement had as yet been reached. He had been accused of being a hopeless Idealist, but as a matter of fact he never accepted an ideal until he could see its practical application. The practical application was always the more difficult. Mandatories might work unsatisfactorily under one programme, whilst they might work well under another. Therefore no one should accept the scheme unless it was shown how it was going to work. The mandatory system was not intended to satisfy merely the interests of the mandatory Power but to care for, protect and develop the people for whom it was intended. Consequently to hand over distinguishable people to a mandatory in perpetuity and to say: “You never shall have a voice in your future; you are finally disposed of”, would be contrary to the principles of that Conference and contrary to the principles of self-determination accepted by it. For instance, if South Africa managed South-West Africa as well as she had managed her own country, then she would be married to South West Africa. Further, it would be necessary to define the methods of self-expression of the ward or people under tutelage. There must be a responsible body which would be in a [Page 789]position to hear that self-expression and not be carried away by its sympathies. As had already been stated, in many parts of the world hitherto German, strong German influences might remain; but they were familiar with German methods and the body proposed would be most familiar with the German nature. However, his was merely a personal proposal and he could give no assurances that it would be accepted. But, whilst accepting the paper of Mr. Lloyd George as a precursor of agreement, it did not constitute a rock foundation, as the League of Nations had not yet been fixed, on which this superstructure would rest.

Therefore, he thought that the whole idea on which this principle depended should be put forward and then the Nations would know where they stood. Meanwhile, he would accelerate discussion of all these disturbing questions of the world which prevented Europe from settling down to normal life. The Great Powers had agreed that the League of Nations should form an integral part of the Peace Treaty. Therefore, it would not be accepted by itself, and to make the document presented by Mr. Lloyd George valid, they were bound to complete a preliminary peace. He thought that could be done in a few weeks. Disinterested students had been studying territorial questions on documentary evidence of every kind, working like scholars and basing their conclusions on acknowledged facts as far as they were ascertainable. If a map of Europe were produced showing the limits of the territories to be created, based on historical, racial and economic facts, the Great Powers could then sit down to consider these suggestions and give weight to those points of view, such as expediency, natural antagonisms, etc., which played no part in scholarly wisdom. They could then arrive at a conclusion quickly and be able to conclude the preliminary peace, and the League of Nations would thereby be established without the haunting element of conjecture. In every instance the mandate should fit the case as the glove fits the hand. In conclusion, accepting the document; presented by Mr. Lloyd George as practically clearing away all prospects of serious differences he thought they should build upon this agreement the solid foundations which would carry this superstructure.

Mr. Lloyd George remarked that, with all due deference to President Wilson, he could not help saying that the statement to which they had just listened filled him with despair. Should that attitude be taken about each question, no agreement would ever be reached. If the delegates said that they could not agree to problem (a) until agreement had been reached regarding questions (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f), the result would be disastrous. Each of them had his questions (b), (c), (d) and (e) which he considered more important than [Page 790]any other. Further, he would point out that it was only with the greatest difficulty that the representatives of the Dominions had been prevailed upon to accept the draft submitted, even provisionally. These gentlemen were not enamoured of the mandatory system: they represented real democracies and the people were solid behind them on this question. He had reminded them that they were not only members of a particular democracy but also members of a Conference which had met to settle the peace of the world. Consequently, they had accepted his proposals, but only as a compromise. Now, President Wilson had expressed the view that the mandatory business should not be trusted until more was known about it, that was to say, until the League of Nations was definitely set forth on paper. To this, the representatives of the Dominions would obviously reply that they wished to see it working and not on paper. President Wilson had suggested that they should leave the Colonial questions for the moment and take up those relating to Europe. There, again, they would be met with difficulties which would have to be settled by the League of Nations, so that the proposal really meant a 15 days’ adjournment until a paper League of Nations was produced. He felt confident that what had been done last Saturday1 in giving birth to a League of Nations was a reality. It had really been born. That he treated as a fact. Therefore, he begged them to accept it as such and to get to business. The suggestion that the constitution of the League of Nations would be completed by the end of next week, he considered rather sanguine, as it meant formulating the constitution of the whole world. How long did it take to lay the foundations of the 13 original states of the United States of America? How long did it take to produce the constitution of the Federation of the states of Australia? To think that a federation of the whole world could be produced in 9 or 10 days would be ideal. However, he was only pleading for immediate peace. It was not across the Rhine that his Government had to keep their eyes, but at home. At the present moment, the British Empire was maintaining 1,084,000 troops, including 300,000 British troops, in the Turkish Empire alone, and the settlement of that part of the world was, therefore, important. In conclusion he felt that if the delegates continued to adjourn questions, because they were not as important as others, no final decision would ever be reached. He sincerely hoped, therefore, that his colleagues would provisionally adopt the resolutions he had submitted (see appendix “A”), subject to such reconsideration as might be required when the complete scheme of the League of Nations was formulated.

[Page 791]

President Wilson expressed the view that he had said nothing which need justify discouragement. He was willing to accept Mr. Lloyd George’s proposals, subject to reconsideration when the full scheme of the League of Nations was drawn up. He suggested that the resolutions be accepted as an immediate settlement, and, if the premise added by Mr. Lloyd George were added, it would prevent any misunderstanding. Mr. Lloyd George said that the League of Nations had already been accepted, and that it would [be] necessary to turn to it for the settlement of various questions. In his opinion, that view emphasised the necessity to know the instrumentality which was to deal with these questions. It would be impossible to refer to an undefined instrument. He did not wish to delay any decision and he was ready to accept any provisional arrangement.

Yesterday they had listened to a discussion between the Czechoslovaks and the Poles, but it was inconclusive because there was nothing on the table saying what was to be discussed. M. Dmowski had said that Poland must be a barrier between Russia and Germany. Did that mean a barrier based on armaments? Obviously not, because Germany would be disarmed and if Germany was disarmed Poland could not be allowed to arm except for police purposes. To carry out such disarmament the necessary instrumentality for superintendence would have to be set up. That was the gist of the question. Therefore, he would urge his colleagues to press on the drafting of the League of Nations in a definite form.

Mr. Lloyd George enquired whether the actual constitution itself of the League of Nations would have to be settled before the meeting of the delegates could discuss the Italian, French or Polish question.

President Wilson replied in the negative and added that in future only definite propositions should be discussed and meanwhile the drafting of the constitution of the League of Nations should be pressed forward. Yesterday, they had been unable to confine the discussion within proper limits because they did not discuss anything in particular, therefore he would urge that they should formulate the League of Nations as a final court of appeal. In conclusion he expressed his readiness to accept as a provisional arrangement the resolutions proposed by Mr. Lloyd George.

4.

Temporary Mandates M. Orlando expressed his pleasure at the agreement reached. He fully understood the difficulties of the question and he raised no objection provided everyone was willing to accept the proposals, but he would like to clearly understand the situation. If Mr. Lloyd George’s resolutions were accepted it would mean that all territories of Austria, Turkey, and the late German territories of Africa and in the Pacific, would be reserved to the League of Nations. He thought that was agreed. [Page 792]The League of Nations would administer these territories through mandatories which would reserve to themselves the choice of the mandatories, as well as the terms of the mandate, which would differ in each case until the League of Nations was constituted and able to give its decision. These countries would remain under a provisional status quo which was equivalent to saying that during the period between the decision reached on that day and the final decision to be given by the League of Nations, temporary mandatories would be established, subject to future changes, if so desired by the League of Nations. Was that agreed or was the status quo to be maintained, namely, a military occupation in virtue of the armistice, by troops (Chiefly British), occupying the territories in the name of the Allied and associated powers in accordance with the terms of the Armistice. In that case he had only one observation to make from the point of view of the particular interests of Italy. As he had already stated on previous occasions, Italy had only one simple and perfectly just desire, namely, that a proper proportion between the Allies should be maintained in respect of the occupation of these territories. Consequently whether a temporary mandatory were appointed or the status quo maintained, he would ask, and he trusted this would not be considered excessive, that Italy obtain its share of mandates or territories to be militarily occupied.

M. Clemenceau enquired what subject should next be placed on the agenda now that Mr. Lloyd George’s resolutions had been accepted. From what had been said it would appear that everything depended on a decision being reached regarding the constitution of the League of Nations, consequently, the meeting would be bound to wait until the League of Nations had been established, and it would be obviously useless to discuss the claims of the Roumanians, Yugoslavs and others. If he had correctly interpreted what had been said that morning he felt compelled to make serious formal reservations. In his opinion it would be impossible to establish a League of Nations which was not to be a common organism of defence, but an organism to deal with all the world. Furthermore, if this new constitution for the whole world was to be produced in eight days he was bound to feel some anxiety.

5.

Japan’s Acceptance of Mandatory System Baron Makino expressed his satisfaction that a provisional agreement had been reached on the question of mandatories. As regards the League of Nations, he wished to state that as the matter was so important his Government was ready to associate itself with the work of this very important organization. Frankly there were difficulties, and his Government was not quite certain how it would work. But, seeing that it was a matter which was being very [Page 793]earnestly considered by the Great Powers it was quite ready to associate itself with this great work. Although so far his Government was not in possession of any official plan of the organization, he had had the privilege a few days ago of receiving President Wilson’s exposition, and yesterday he had received the more concrete plans of Mr. Lloyd George. Yesterday he had telegraphed both documents to Tokio, and he had added that it was desirable that his Government should favorably consider the proposition suggested by Mr. Lloyd George. Naturally no reply could yet have been received; but since he had already asked for instructions his duty was to wait for the receipt of his Government’s reply before giving his definite adherence. Meanwhile all he could do was to adhere to the resolutions ad referendum.

6.
Australia’s Reservations Regarding Application of Mandatory Systems Mr. Hughes asked to be permitted to say one word on the matter as the question had now taken a new aspect since hearing President Wilson’s statement. When the British Empire Delegates had discussed the question yesterday, they had agreed to the proposals of Mr. Lloyd George as a compromise. But the basis of the proposals had now been disturbed by what President Wilson had said that morning. He thought President Wilson had set out the case for Australia better than he himself could do. President Wilson had said things which he (Mr. Hughes) had been afraid to say; they were things which agitated the minds of the Colonies. It was proposed really to govern the fate of people by declaring that a certain principle should apply, but to what extent that principle should apply, or by whom that principle should be applied, or when it should be applied, no one knew. For that reason President Wilson had pointed out that the acceptance of Mr. Lloyd George’s resolutions would not settle anything until the League of Nations had been created and clothed with authority and with certain powers, duties and functions. Meanwhile he was faced with a great difficulty, for he would have to say to the people of Australia not what he thought, but what he was permitted to say. For Australia the War had been a question of life and death, and still remained so. Now he would have to tell the people of Australia how the whole matter was to be settled, and they would ask, how? His reply would be that the mandatory principle was to apply but he did not know how except that the arrangements would be such that the scheme would fit like a glove to the hand. Having lived all his life in Australia and knowing the Australian temperament, he thought it would be impossible to expect them to accept a principle the nature of which was not known. A definite decision could only be expressed when they knew what it all meant. In conclusion, he enquired whether they should [Page 794]wait the acceptance of the League of Nations by the Conference and by the world whilst they were waiting for a decision. Was not the de facto League of Nations already in existence in that room? He suggested that they as a League of Nations should act as the executive of the future League of Nations and settle the various problems which awaited settlement. This League should say who were to be the mandates outside the Polish question and impose their will on Germany. No League of Nations could be superior to the members of that Conference. Those that came after could only have one-tenth of the power. The world looked to them for decisions, and the world would breathe more freely if those decisions were made.
7.
Canadian Views on Mandatory System Sir Robert Borden expressed his pleasure at the fact that an agreement, if only provisional, had been reached. He was one of those who most earnestly desired the establishment of the League of Nations. He agreed that the future destinies of the world depended largely on it because there were forces in Russia which would manifest themselves unless some proposal of that kind could be accepted. The success of the League of Nations would not depend upon the machinery that might be created, but on something behind it, namely, public opinion, which would give it the power; the same power which steam or electricity gave to the machinery of a factory. He would beg them to be careful not to impose too heavy a burden on it in the first instance. Born as an infant it might develop as a giant, but whilst an infant too much should not be imposed on it. He had carefully studied the organisation of the British Empire, which was not unlike the proposed organization of the League of Nations, and he knew that the British Empire depended only on public opinion. Not one of the Dominions could have been forced to send a single man to the war; they joined in the war because of the cause involved, and because of public opinion. The League of Nations would have to depend on the same considerations. Therefore as far as possible, he hoped that the Conference would come to a conclusion on all proper matters with as little delay as possible. It would be for the representatives to decide forthwith whether they would themselves settle this question or whether they would constitute themselves into machinery to settle such questions at some future date. At any rate it was essential that the organisation of the League of Nations should be determined without imposing too much on it at once. It was well known that no democratic country attempted to enforce every law to its fullest extent as that would be impossible. Government by convention and goodwill founded on public opinion was the only Government possible; and the working of the League of Nations would depend on similar foundations. Therefore he hoped the matter [Page 795]under consideration would be determined as speedily as might be possible because the world was looking to the proceedings of the Conference and might become tired in face of any delay.

President Wilson pointed out that M. Orlando had raised a very important question that would have to be discussed later on. He suggested that further discussion of the question should be postponed until the afternoon meeting.

(This was agreed to.)

The Meeting then adjourned until 3.30 p.m. in the afternoon.

Appendix

PB–11

Draft Resolutions in Reference to Mandatories

1.
Having regard to the record of the German administration in the colonies formerly part of the German Empire, and to the menace which the possession by Germany of submarine bases in many parts of the world would necessarily constitute to the freedom and security of all nations, the Allied and Associated Powers are agreed that in no circumstances should any of the German Colonies be restored to Germany.
2.
For similar reasons, and more particularly because of the historical mis-government by the Turks of subject peoples and the terrible massacres of Armenians and others in recent years, the Allied and Associated Powers are agreed that Armenia, Syria, Mesopotamia, Palestine and Arabia must be completely severed from the Turkish Empire. This is without prejudice to the settlement of other parts of the Turkish Empire.
3.
The Allied and Associated Powers are agreed that advantage should be taken of the opportunity afforded by the necessity of disposing of these colonies and territories formerly belonging to Germany and Turkey which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, to apply to those territories the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilisation and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in the constitution of the League of Nations.
4.
After careful study they are satisfied that the best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position, can best undertake this responsibility, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as mandatories on behalf of the League of Nations.
5.
The Allied and Associated Powers are of opinion that the character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of development of the people, the geographical situation of the territory, its economic conditions and other similar circumstances.
6.
They consider that certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a mandatory power until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the mandatory power.
7.
They further consider that other peoples, especially those of Central Africa, are at such a stage that the mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory subject to conditions which will guarantee the prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade, the arms traffic and the liquor traffic, and the prevention of the military training of the natives for other than police purposes, and the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases, and will also secure equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of other members of the League of Nations.
8.
Finally they consider that there are territories, such as South-West Africa and certain of the Islands in the South Pacific, which, owing to the sparseness of their population, or their small size, or their remoteness from the centres of civilization, or their geographical contiguity to the mandatory state, and other circumstances, can be best administered under the laws of the mandatory state as integral portions thereof, subject to the safeguards above-mentioned in the interests of the indigenous population.

In every case of mandate, the mandatory state shall render to the League of Nations an annual report in reference to the territory committed to its charge.

  1. See Protocol No. 2, Plenary Session of January 25, 1919, p. 176.