Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/25



Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Thursday, January 30, 1919, at 15 Hours 301

  • 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. Sir R. L. Borden.
      • 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.

Views of New Zealand on the Mandatory System 1. M. Clemenceau, having declared the meeting open, called on Mr. Massey to address the Meeting.

Mr. Massey said that he found it necessary to say just a few words because he had expected some fairly clear and definite statement from President Wilson with regard to the proposals contained in Clause 8 of the document which they had been discussing.2 In that expectation he had been disappointed, and he need hardly tell the members of the Council, or remind his colleagues from the Dominions, that the matters referred to in [Page 798] Clause 8 were matters of the utmost importance to the people whom they represented there. They had repeatedly expressed to him that it was a matter of life and death to many of them. He would like to say that he had not gone back in the very slightest on the opinions that he had expressed on the first occasion when he addressed the Council. He knew the very serious, important and urgent matters that were waiting to be dealt with as soon as that Council and Conference could find it convenient to do so, and on that account he did not want to waste any more time than he could possibly help, or place any more difficulties in the way of a settlement. He was still prepared, as far as the Dominions were concerned, to accept the suggestions contained in Clause 8, which had been inserted there to meet the cases of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. He would like to quote the last three lines of the Clause, which were intended to meet the cases of the Dominions, whose—“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.” The safeguards were as follows:—The prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade, the arms traffic, the liquor traffic, and the prevention of the military training of the natives for other than police purposes. Those were the conditions, and, so far as he was concerned—and he thought he could speak for his colleagues in these respects—they were prepared to accept them. They were prepared to accept them right away, but they had not yet had any definite opinion or statement from President Wilson that he was willing to accept them. If President Wilson would say he was willing to accept them, he thought it would clear the ground sufficiently to enable them to proceed, and in saying that he was not suggesting in the very slightest degree any delay so far as he was concerned. The sooner they came to a conclusion on these matters the better for all concerned. He believed, as he had already indicated, in the principle of direct annexation, because direct annexation would enable them to proceed very much more quickly with the deevlopment of the territories concerned. He believed it would be better for the European races, and also better for the native races. They would be able to proceed with the education of the native races, not only in secular matters, but also in the principles of Christianity, which he believed were necessary for the welfare of all nations.

There was just one other point to which he would like to make some reference. It had been said by some of the previous speakers that the Dominions entered into this war because they knew it was [Page 799] right to do so—because it was a good cause. That was only one reason. They went into this war because the Empire, of which they were a part, was fighting for a great cause—fighting for its honour—for humanity—for civilisation, and in order to keep faith with its Allies, and fighting for the defence of the smaller nations. There was also another reason why the Dominions entered this war—because they had confidence in the leaders of the Empire and their judgment—in their discretion—and, in saying that, he hoped that if it ever became necessary for Great Britain again to go to war, the Dominions would be officially represented as never before in the Council of the Empire. He would like to say that he supported the proposal of a League of Nations. He hoped and believed it would be a good thing; he believed it would do much to prevent war in the future. Members of that Conference had a tremendous responsibility so far as the prevention of war in the future was concerned. He believed that if war was not to be renewed in the near future—he meant from 25 to 50 years hence, which was a very short period in the life of a nation—they had not only to see that justice was given on the one hand to those who had suffered in this war—and there were many—but to those who had broken the laws of civilisation during the last 4½ years. He believed that would do more to prevent war than anything else. So far as he was concerned, he was responsible to his constituents, and he was prepared to shoulder that responsibility.

President Wilson asked if he was to understand that New Zealand and Australia had presented an ultimatum to the Conference. They had come there and presented their cases for annexation of New Guinea and Samoa. After discussion among themselves, they agreed to present to the Conference that proposal. Was he now to understand that that was the minimum of their concession? That their agreement upon a plan depended upon that concession? And that if they could not get that definitely now, they proposed to do what they could to stop the whole agreement?

Mr. Massey said: “No”—but he thought he had made himself perfectly clear. Of course he could speak for his colleague from Australia.

Mr. Hughes said he did not know how he could put it better than he had done that morning. He would like to say that Clause 8 of that proposal–—

President Wilson enquired if Mr. Hughes had heard his question.

Mr. Hughes replied in the negative.

President Wilson then said he wanted to know if they were to understand that Australia and New Zealand were presenting an ultimatum to that Conference, and that finding the Conference [Page 800] probably disinclined to agree upon the annexation of New Guinea by Australia and Samoa by New Zealand, they had reluctantly agreed to the modification of Clause 8; and that was the minimum of what they would concede, and if that was not conceded definitely now, they could not take part in the agreement at all.

Mr. Hughes replied that President Wilson had put it fairly well, that that was their attitude subject to the reservation which he had stated that morning. Like his colleagues from New Zealand and South Africa they were in favour of direct control. They found the Conference (as President Wilson had remarked) not in accord with their views. The Dominions had fallen in with the suggestion put forward by the Prime Minister of Great Britain. For the present that represented the maximum of their concession in that direction, but he would like to say: that he had put the position, as he understood it, for his colleagues, and if they were prepared to go further he would offer no objection. He thought it would be agreed that because they were unable to put any definite concrete proposal before the Conference, at least they should be asked to be clothed with those plenary powers giving them discretion to accept whatever that Conference was able to accord to them. Speaking for himself, with great reluctance, he agreed to the proposal in Clause 8. Beyond that he felt that he ought not to go.

General Botha asked that he might be allowed to address a few words to the conference. As everybody knew he was not a British subject of very long-standing and therefore his English was not so good as it might be. He would like to say that he heartily supported President Wilson with regard to what was in the papers that morning. When he saw the paper he had thrown it away. What had appeared in those papers was being sent by cable all over the world. It would upset the people of South Africa, as they did not understand the position. That afternoon he hoped to have a peaceful lunch, but in the middle of it he received a cable to return at once. They were there as gentlemen and they must keep those things out of the newspapers or it would be impossible for other people to remain there. He was of opinion that such an article ought to be investigated to see whence it came, and have a stop put to it. It would create a great deal of mischief.

He would like to tell President Wilson that he had understood that in the speeches which had been delivered that morning there was no threat. He observed that the Prime Minister of Great Britain had met the Dominion representatives and had discussed the question with them and he (General Botha) could assure President Wilson that it was only after very serious discussion, worry and trouble and through the influence of Mr. Lloyd George, that the resolution [Page 801] had been handed in that, morning. He was one of those who would give up everything to reach the highest ideal. Therefore he supported Mr. Lloyd George but he sincerely trusted that President Wilson would also agree. Do not let them stop at small things. If they could gain that bigger and higher ideal, then smaller versions of it ought not to stand in the way. He remembered that after the war in his own country, which was on a smaller scale than the present, but which was just as bloody and miserable, they got self-government; but he saw at once that four different self governing bodies in that country must lead to war. He was one of the original promoters of the Union of South Africa. He had his ideals and they were very high indeed. When he assembled all the leading statesmen he found then that the other people held views from which it would be impossible to persuade them. He had then personally investigated these and had come to the conclusion that these were smaller things. On that occasion he asked his colleagues to stick to one thing, to aspire to the higher ideal, and that was the Union of South Africa. They must give way on the smaller things. He would like to say the same on this occasion. They must give way now and get their higher ideal, get a better understanding and bring the people together, and through that they would gain eventually all the things that they wanted to get. It was a small thing on which he had given way after the war in his own country, but unless they had done so they would have been in a very miserable condition to-day.

He appreciated the ideals of President Wilson. They were the ideals of the people of the world, and they would succeed if they all accepted them in the same spirit and supported them in the manner in which they were intended. If they departed in an indifferent spirit it would not have the success that they would all wish it should have. Therefore, to his own mind, if they differed it was not a threat because at the back of everybody’s heart there was only one idea,—that of attaining a better world understanding. Mankind looked upon them for support to do away with all future wars. He felt that by conceding smaller things they made the higher ideal more acceptable, and it would have the hearty support of the whole world. They must remember that their various peoples did not understand everything from the same point. In that light therefore they must guide them to the bigger ideal. Personally he felt very strongly about the question of German South-West Africa. He thought that it differed entirely from any question that they had to decide in this conference, but he would be prepared to say that he was a supporter of the document handed in that morning, because he knew that, if the idea fructified, the League of Nations would [Page 802] consist mostly of the same people who were present there that day, who understood the position and who would not make it impossible for any mandatory to govern the country. That was why he said he would accept it. He hoped that the second document there was entirely unnecessary because the first document that was handed in that morning, was an entirely provisional one. They could not accept anything by resolution now on hard and fast lines; everything depended on the ultimate resolution. That was how he understood the matter, and he hoped that they would try in a spirit of cooperation, and by giving way on smaller things, to meet the difficulties and make the bigger ideal more possible.

Mr. Massey said that the representatives of Australia and New Zealand had been asked a direct question by President Wilson. Mr. Hughes had answered for Australia and he (Mr. Massey) would answer for New Zealand. The position of Mr. Hughes and himself was practically on all fours up to a certain point. It was on all fours so far as the desire of their people was concerned for what they considered direct control—“annexation” to put it bluntly; but perhaps it was not on all fours after that, because Mr. Hughes had been communicated with by the acting Prime Minister in Australia. He (Mr. Massey) had not been communicated with by his Government and he had not communicated with it. Therefore he was prepared to take the responsibility of supporting the proposals contained in Clause 8. He wanted to emphasise that again. He wanted to assure President Wilson that if he (President Wilson) imagined that any threat was intended he had quite misunderstood the matter so far as both he and Mr. Hughes were concerned. As a public man he never used threats and he did not accept threats from any one if he could possibly meet them. However, he had made that point perfectly clear and he might go as far as the proposals of Clause 8 without consulting his own Government. He was prepared to go so far because he could not get what his Government wanted and in that case he was prepared to accept the next best proposal. If he found it necessary he would communicate with his Government and explain the position; but he was prepared to accept and support the provisional proposal put forward by Mr. Lloyd George.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he would like to suggest, after everybody had made his position quite clear and when nobody was under any illusions as to Mr. Hughes’ position, or General Botha’s position, or Mr. Massey’s or anybody else’s, that they take that as a provisional decision subject to revision when either they found the League of Nations unsatisfactory, or that there was some other reason for revising it.

[Page 803]

Sir R. Borden proposed some slight alteration in one of the clauses in order to prevent misunderstanding. Was the proposal in clause 7 to encourage the establishment of military or naval fortifications?

President Wilson said it was intended to prevent them.

Sir Robert Borden observed that at present it might mean otherwise. Therefore he would read the clause as he proposed it should read, subject to the opinion of the conference, as follows:—

“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 establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases and of the military training of the natives for other than police purposes and the defence of territory, and will also secure equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of other members of the League of Nations.”

President Wilson said that made it clearer.

(This was agreed to.)

M. Pichon said that France could not renounce the right of raising volunteers in the countries under her administration, whatever they might be. The Germans had recognised the importance of the support France had received from her Colonies. Before powerful American troops came to her aid, they had resisted with their own forces for a long time, together with the British Armies, and it was certain, but for the help they had received from their Colonial Possessions, the situation would have been very critical. It was necessary for them to be able to recruit not conscripts but volunteers from all colonial territories under French control. This was absolutely necessary for the future security of the French territory.

President Wilson enquired if this referred to the territories controlled as mandatory states as well as the present.

M. Clemenceau said that the French were the nearest neighbours of Germany, and could be at all times, and had been in the past, suddenly attacked. He did not know whether it was possible to disarm Germany, but they would try. They knew Great Britain had responsibilities in all parts of the world, and could not have the whole of her strength concentrated at one point at a moment’s time. America was far away, and could not come at once to the assistance of France. If the League of Nations and the peace of the world were to be established, it must not begin by putting France in a position of peril which would be much more dangerous for them than for any other Power. America was protected by the whole breadth of the ocean, and Great Britain by her fleet. If the French could not find any territories for which they would have to take the responsibility, [Page 804] and on which they would have to spend money in improving;—if they could not raise volunteers without compulsion—then they felt that the people of France would resent this very much, and would have a grievance against the Government.

Mr. Lloyd George said he was thinking of what the position was in the French and British Colonies at the beginning of this war. Great Britain had native forces in Uganda and Nigeria and other places, and the French also had forces in Senegal and other territories.

Algeria and Morocco were in a different position. He was thinking of the tropical colonies. The only forces Great Britain had there were forces for the defence of those territories. That was equally true of France. France had not raised and armed and equipped great forces for any offensive purposes outside.

M. Clemenceau observed that they were free to do it.

Mr. Lloyd George said that there was nothing in the clause under review to prevent that. The words used there were: “for other than police purposes and the defence of territory”. He really thought that those words would cover the case of France. There was nothing in the document which would prevent their doing exactly the same thing as they had done before. What it did prevent was the kind of thing the Germans were likely to do, namely, organise great black armies in Africa, which they could use for the purpose of clearing everybody else out of that country. That was their proclaimed policy, and if that was encouraged amongst the other nations even though they might not have wars in Europe, they would have the sort of thing that happened in the 17th and 18th century in India when France and Great Britain were at war in India, whilst being fairly good friends in Europe. Then they were always raising great native armies against each other. That must now be stopped. There was nothing in this document which prevented France doing what she did before. The defence of the territory was provided for.

M. Clemenceau said that if he could raise troops, that was all he wanted.

Mr. Lloyd George replied that he had exactly the same power as previously. It only prevented any country drilling the natives and raising great armies.

M. Clemenceau said that he did not want to do that. All that he wished was that the matter should be made quite plain, and he did not want anybody to come and tell him afterwards that he had broken away from the agreement. If this clause meant that he had a right of raising troops in case of general war, he was satisfied.

Mr. Lloyd George said that so long as M. Clemenceau did not train big nigger armies for the purposes of aggression, that was all the clause was intended to guard against.

[Page 805]

M. Clemenceau said that he did not want to do that. He therefore understood that Mr. Lloyd George’s interpretation was adopted.

President Wilson said that Mr. Lloyd George’s interpretation was consistent with the phraseology.

M. Clemenceau said that he was quite satisfied.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he would like to move an amendment to his own document. He said that he was sorry that he had left out one country in Turkey which ought to have been inserted. He did not realise that it was separate. He thought Mesopotamia or Armenia would cover it, but he was now informed that it did not. He referred to Kurdestan, which was between Mesopotamia and Armenia. Therefore, if there was no objection, he proposed to insert the words: “and Kurdestan”.

(This was agreed to.)

M. Orlando said that the question he put was: With regard to the situation concerning the German Colonies, was it to be considered as the continuation of occupation de facto, or was it to be, after they had passed that resolution, a system of provisional mandate—German or Turkish? After having heard the discussion, M. Orlando said that he had come to the conclusion that the solution was to give provisional mandates. If that were so, he asked whether those mandates would be distributed by a further resolution of the conference.

Mr. Lloyd George replied that the resolution did not deal with the distribution of mandates at all, but only laid down the general principles.

M. Clemenceau said that was accepted. The question put by M. Orlando was then discussed.

President Wilson said that he had a suggestion to offer. The maintenance of the status quo involved the difficulties which the Prime Minister of Great Britain had pointed out about the maintenance of large forces of troops. It ought to be possible by agreement among the Allies. He said that, because the United States could not participate at present, as they had not declared war against Turkey. By agreement with the Allies, the military control of those several parts of the Turkish Empire could be arranged as they pleased by substitution. Would not that be better than going through the difficult form of provisional mandate?

M. Clemenceau thought that they were to discuss M. Orlando’s proposal. His proposal was that as France, England and her Dominions had had their share, Italy wanted to have her own share. That was what he understood.

Mr. Lloyd George thought the problem put by M. Orlando was one that they would have to face. M. Orlando said, either they [Page 806] could leave things as they were—leave the mandatories to be settled by the League of Nations and the occupation go on exactly as at the present moment—or they could have a provisional mandate, leaving the definite final thing to be settled by the League of Nations; or they could now say they were the League of Nations and settle the business finally. Those were the three points and he would say quite frankly that he would rather face them at once, as he could not see that there would be any greater light thrown on the subject when the League of Nations came to deal with it or that there would even be a different tribunal—they would be exactly the same people; as a matter of fact, there would be this difference, perhaps—they might not then be able to have the advantage of the presence of the President of the United States at the League of Nations.

Mr. Lloyd George said that they could not accept the status quo. He wanted to put the British position again. The German Colonies did not matter very much, although the maintenance of troops in German East Africa was a very considerable burden. He could not say exactly how many troops they had in that theatre, but he knew it was a very considerable number. Coming to the Turkish Empire, he had handed some figures to the President of the United States and to M. Clemenceau, and he had also told M. Orlando that they had 1,084,000 men there. It was true that only between 250,000 and 300,000 were British troops, but they had to maintain the lot, and it was an enormous expense. The difficulty was to keep all these various tribes in some sort of peace with each other. If they kept them there until they had made peace with Turkey, and until the League of Nations had been constituted and had started business, and until it was able to dispose of this question, the expense would be something enormous, and they really could not face it, especially as they had not the slightest intention of being mandatories of a considerable number of territories they now occupied, such as Syria and parts of Armenia. He thought the same thing applied to Kurdestan and the Caucasus, although they had rich oil-wells. He did not think that they had the slightest intention of being mandatories even for the oil-wells of Baku, but somebody had to be there to protect the Armenians and to keep the tribes and sects in Lebanon from cutting each other’s throats and attacking the French or Turks, or whoever also might be there. Therefore, he was afraid that they must insist (he was not using that word in a military sense but, from the point of view of those who had to pay taxes in the United Kingdom, and to propose it to Parliament). He was afraid however that Parliament would want to know:—Why should they keep 1,084,000 men there? Did they really mean to occupy the country? Why should they do so when they had no intention of having a permanent [Page 807] garrison there? This question specially affected them, and unless the Conference was prepared to relieve them of that responsibility, he would really have to press very hard for a definite appointment of the mandatories, which he should have thought was the most satisfactory way of dealing with it. Then they could clear out, and leave the mandatory to undertake the job.

As to the remark made by President Wilson in regard to Turkey, Mr. Lloyd George said that he did not think that was a conclusive reason. Matters could easily be arranged with Turkey. It would not be regarded as a hostile act by the Turk. He knew he was not going to Armenia and Syria, and he also knew that that was going to be taken away from him, and the Turk would not object to the United States going there instead of the British; in fact, he might object much less, for the reason that the United States had not been fighting him for the last four or five years, whereas the British had.

President Wilson stated what seemed to him to stand in the way of a permanent designation.

Many of these mandates would constitute a burden—by no means a privilege—and a very serious burden, but while he should not be disinclined to see the United States get any advantage out of this war, he should be equally disinclined to see her shirk any burden or duty. But he could think of nothing the people of the United States would be less inclined to accept than military responsibility in Asia. If the United States of America, therefore, was to be asked to share a burden of mandates, the request would have to be postponed until he could explain the whole matter to them, and try to bring them to the point of view which he desired them to assume. That, if the United States was to be included in the request, would lead to permanent assignments. He would therefore like to make a suggestion. The question in the meantime was chiefly a military question, and he wished to suggest that the military advisers of the Supreme War Council should have this question of the military occupation and control of these various regions referred to them for recommendation to that Council as to the distribution of the burden, so that they should have something definite for the military authorities to consider.

(There was no objection to this.)

Mr. Lloyd George said that this would clarify the question. The Secretary of State for War would be there the following day, so that he, Mr. Lloyd George, would be quite prepared to have it examined, say, on Saturday.

President Wilson said that his advisers were already there.

M. Clemenceau said everything depended on the situation in Russia. The French had troops in the East, the British had troops in the Caucasus, the French had troops in Odessa, as also had the [Page 808] British and the Italians. As long as they did not know exactly what they would do with Russia, he doubted if they could do anything at all. It was very difficult to recall troops.

President Wilson observed that it was a question of redistribution and substitution.

Mr. Lloyd George said that supposing the British agreed to withdraw from Syria altogether, he would like to know the attitude of the military authorities. This was a point put to him by Mr. Balfour.

President Wilson said “Or from Mesopotamia.”

Mr. Lloyd George added “Or Kurdestan.”

He also said that they had troops in Persia.

Mr. Lloyd George, in answer to M. Clemenceau, said that he was prepared, so far as the British delegates were concerned, to examine the matter on Saturday with his military experts and that they would have them there.

President Wilson enquired whether it would not be better for someone to formulate the question in writing for the military men to discuss, and present a memorandum to that meeting. If they brought their military experts there it would probably lead to a long discussion.

Mr. Hughes said there was one small point to which he would like to call the attention of the President. He did not like the wording “principle afforded by the necessity of disposing of these Colonies and territories.” He did not think that that was the best way of expressing it. It seemed to be opposed to the principle. Therefore he suggested that it should be made to read “apply to” or “dealing with”. It was a small thing, but it seemed to be against the general spirit of the clause, which did not mean the disposing of people at all. Perhaps, therefore, this alteration might be made.

President Wilson said that the meaning would be the same.

Continuing, President Wilson said they had not yet adopted the instructions to the Polish delegates.

M. Clemenceau thought that they were going to have the reports of the people who were now considering the question.

In regard to the Czecho-Slovaks, there would be a paragraph to introduce into the instructions.

M. Clemenceau asked if those present were willing to hear the Belgian representatives in regard to the Congo.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the Congo was not a German conquest. He did not know on what point the Belgians wished to make themselves heard. No doubt there were many other Powers who would like to be heard. There was the question of the Portuguese Colonies, about which General Botha would probably like to say a [Page 809] good deal. There was a good deal that he himself would like to say about the Congo which would be very useful, but not at that Conference.

President Wilson said that they had got a big enough job already, and that if they went into history by mending the actions of previous Conferences, they would have a very difficult business.

M. Clemenceau thought that it was a little harsh to say they would not hear them.

M. Pichon observed that the Belgians had some claims to certain parts of the German Colonies.

(At this point the Belgian representatives entered.)

M. Orst said that the participation of Belgium in the discussion on the fate of the German Colonies in Africa was justified by the importance of the political and economic interests of Belgium in that part of the world, and by the fact that the Belgian Colonies in Africa were neighbours both of the Cameroons and of German East Africa. Also it should be mentioned that the Belgian troops took a considerable part in the fighting that took place in those districts.

He would like to say a few words about the international regime under which the Belgian Congo has been living. An exceptional system had been established between the two oceans by the Berlin Act of 1885,3 in what was called the Conventional basin of the Congo river. There were two clauses which must be specifically recalled. Article X of that Act stipulated that perpetual neutrality should exist in that part, and the Belgian Congo State in execution of this has declared itself to be perpetually neutral.

Article XI gave the faculty to all the colonies of that hemisphere that belong to those parts to be declared by their owners neutral in the event of a general war.

So, when war broke out, Belgium had a colony and a regime of neutrality, which, by the way, was on a different basis from that of the Mother Country. They decided to observe that neutrality, and instructions were sent to the Belgian authorities which were defensive instructions. On the other hand, Belgium decided to act upon Clause 11 of the Treaty, that was to use the faculty of declaring territories of that area neutral all round. Belgium was ready to make a proposal in that direction to Germany, i. e. for the neutrality of all the territories of the conventional basin of the Congo River. But war broke out instantaneously there. As a matter of fact, the Germans fought in many parts, and very soon the [Page 810] fighting extended to the borders of East Africa and the Cameroons and on both sides of the Congo State. Very soon the fighting extended throughout the Congo State.

On the 15th August, 1914, Belgian positions were attacked. This was merely a proof that Belgium had no responsibility in the matter and that a state of war already existed in that part of the world, although she had done everything to maintain peace in Central Africa, as provided for in the Act of Berlin and that all these sacrifices had to be made on account of the hostilities in Africa which were begun by the hostile action of Germany.

The dangers to the Belgian Congo were great, because the Belgian Congo was not prepared for war. Belgium at once applied to the two Great Powers which were most concerned in these matters—Great Britain and France—and on the 19th September, 1914, they received a formal declaration from Great Britain, which was immediately supported by France, giving them an assurance of the integrity of the Congo territory. Another declaration repeating and emphasising this first one was issued by the French Government on the 28th [29th] April, 1916.4

The part the Belgian troops had taken in the war in that part of the world could be divided into three different actions. They had gone up the valley of the Skumbi [Sanga?] to the heart of the Cameroons until the end of that campaign. Then, with the French troops, they had occupied the capital of the German Cameroons. They had sent other troops to help in the defence of North-Eastern Rhodesia. On their Eastern borders, on the frontier of German East Africa, they had kept troops for 18 months, which had prevented the Germans from invading that colony. They had then advanced into German East Africa, co-operating with the British troops, and the Belgian troops were partly responsible for the taking of Tabora, the main town inland.

The question seemed to be settled at that time, but six months later the Germans came back and another campaign ensued, in which Belgian troops helped the British troops and drove the enemy across the frontier into Portuguese territory.

The effort there had been considerable. If they considered that while the British troops had been fighting in that part of the world the whole of Belgium was invaded and their effort in that direction appeared very much more important. The Allies fully recognised the value of the importance [assistance?] given by Belgium in that direction. What Belgium had been fighting for in Africa was the [Page 811] territorial integrity of her Colony. They knew that the Colony was threatened by the German schemes, which were fairly well known, but better known since the war had taken place. The Germans, not only by their enterprise but also by propaganda, prepared their way into that part of Central Africa. Their propaganda tended to show that Belgium was incapable of the administration of such a large Colony. They also said they had done more, when, after the incidents which everyone remembered between France and Germany in 1911, a Treaty had been signed which bargained for a Moroccan concession against some territories in the Congo region.5 Germany asked France to surrender to her two “feelers” as they were called—two long strips of territory reaching from the Congo on the point where the Lobi river and the Sanga river joined the main river of the Congo. These two feelers were a direct threat to the Belgian Congo and it was now absolutely clear from the map that Germany contemplated the complete satisfaction of her ambitions by joining her colonies in West Africa with her colonies in East Africa through the Belgian Congo.

The French Government, more than any other Government, knew what the ambitions of Germany were in that part of the world. There was an incident which took place before the war between Herr Mogo (?) [Von Jagow]6 and the French Ambassador in Berlin, and which is recorded in the Yellow [Grey?] Book.7 Herr Mogo [Von Jagow] made no mystery of the fact that it was Germany’s intention to take the whole of the Belgian Colony when opportunity offered. The Germans in Africa had always been the enemy of Belgium and of the Belgian Colonial policy. During the war the intentions of Germany were not concealed. It was made clear when they thought they were going to win, by speeches, by articles in the newspapers and reviews, that the Belgian Congo was to become a basis of the future of the German Empire in Central Africa. At the present time the question for Belgium was the question of security. A feeling of security was necessary for further enterprise in those regions. They wished first of all that the Germans should no longer be their Western neighbours and especially that the points driven through French territory to the River Congo should disappear, so as to re-establish that vicinity with the French [Page 812] Government, whom they had always found in those parts of the world to be good and friendly neighbours.

In regard to East Africa the Belgians had made a provisional agreement with the British authorities by which an important part of that country was provisionally under Belgian administration. That country was of considerable value. It was geographically different from the Belgian Congo though the population was of the same family. The comparatively high altitude of the country made it possible to colonise part of it by white settlers. There were fertile valleys, good pasture lands and cattle, and all sorts of facilities for rearing cattle to be sent to the Congo valley afterwards in order to maintain the stock. Also it would be very valuable for the Congo State to have access to the great Victorian (?) range, which was a central attraction for the railways from the coast, and thus enabled the great central basin of the Congo to be within easy communication with the Indian Ocean. The natives have been very friendly since the occupation and there would be no difficulty with them. They seemed to be satisfied with the present administration. They were a superior race to that in the lower valley and he thought that they would be quite satisfied to remain under the existing authorities.

The claims of Belgium might be summarised as follows:—They wished that the former conquests made by the Germans and the points of the Cameroons towards the Congo should disappear and the same on the Eastern side. They had no desire for conquest, but they thought it would be only fair in view of all the losses they had sustained, and it would complete the Congo Colony in many respects, if they could be allowed to retain permanently under their administration the territories in East Africa which they now provisionally occupied. Belgium accepted the 14 points as laid down by President Wilson, and especially point number 5 dealing with colonial claims and with the legitimate interests of those concerned in that question, which was the title upon which they had based their present claim.

M. Pichon said that Portugal had asked to be heard during the last few days. The Portuguese Minister had been to see him at the beginning of the Conferences and said that Portugal would have something to say about the settlement of all those regions when the time came.

Mr. Lloyd George said that Belgium asked for something that they had not yet started to discuss, namely, who should be the mandatory. They were making out a case that they should be the mandatory in respect of those territories, a question which had not yet been reached.

President Wilson added: “to divide up East Africa”.

[Page 813]

Mr. Lloyd George said Belgium asked for the most fertile portion of East Africa whereas they had not made good use of what they had on the Western side.

Mr. Balfour stated that Portugal wanted to say the same thing. The Portuguese Ambassador had often been to see him in London, and among other grievances he had tried to bring before his notice, was the question that Portugal would like to have some part of German East Africa, and would also like to have a large British loan in order to enable them to exploit and develop the side they have had for centuries. He did not know whether all those points should be discussed there. He thought not.

(The question was reserved.)

M. Clemenceau said that the Roumanians wished to be present the next day.

Mr. Lloyd George said that raised the question of the agenda and he thought it was very important that some sort of agenda should be formulated. He was not complaining. But he did not know that the Belgians were coming there that afternoon and they were putting up a claim which very specially affected the British and he found himself without experts on this question and without maps, etc.

In regard to Roumania, Mr. Lloyd George enquired if that meant that they were beginning the following day with the discussion of the territorial questions in Europe. He thought the discussion on Czecho-Slovakia and Poland the other day was absolutely wrong. He would not use the term “a waste of time” because that was a very provocative one, and he could already see the glare in the President’s eye! At the same time he thought it was not quite the best method of dealing with the business. If they were going to begin to hear them in part, let them each make their statements before the matter had been broached at that Conference. Unless they began business with Roumania and considered her claims the next day, he did not think the Roumanian representatives ought to be present. If they came without intending to do business, it would be a waste of time.

M. Sonnino thought that the question of the Czechs and the Poles could not be considered as a waste of time. They knew that the Poles and Czechs were fighting and they wanted to stop that, consequently they had decided to send a Mission to Warsaw. It was their duty to hear the Czechs and the Poles with the least possible delay, instead of sending a Mission which would take a fortnight. If the Poles put out all their aspirations, that was another question.

Mr. Balfour said that was their fault.

M. Sonnino thought that the talk with the Czechs and the Poles was very useful and if, as a consequence of that conversation, they [Page 814] could decide how to put a stop to the fighting, they would have gained and not lost time.

M. Clemenceau said that those present did not always share the same views. President Wilson had proposed that they should begin to deal with territorial questions. They began with the Pacific, then passed to Africa. Now they had come to Europe, beginning with Poland, because there was a pressing necessity and fighting was taking place there. If it were decided not to hear the Roumanian case the following day, well, let it be so; but they must have courage to begin with those questions one day or other. If Mr. Lloyd George wished to have another agenda, of course he (M. Clemenceau) was ready to accept his suggestion, but he only wished that suggestions should be other than negative ones. If it was suggested that they should leave out the Colonial question, that they should not deal further with Poland, that they should not hear the Roumanian case, then that would lead them to a cut de sac. President Wilson had given very important reasons why the discussion of the Colonial questions should be postponed for the moment. They had reached an agreement on the proposal made by Mr. Lloyd George that morning, and President Wilson had said he wished to stop at that stage for the present. Now, if they did not courageously deal with the European questions, what else was there for them to do? M. Clemenceau said that he expected to receive a report from the Committee on the Czecho-Polish dispute the following day, and it would be ready for issue the same afternoon.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he was afraid he had not made himself very clear but did not object to Roumania being taken. What he said was that if they took Roumania they must examine the territorial question. That was what he meant. If Roumania was to be taken as a serious examination of the problem, he had not a word to say. If the Roumanian and Serbian delegates had come there for the conference to hear what they had to say, then he had not the slightest objection to Roumania being taken the following day, so long as it was with a view to serious discussion.

President Wilson said that he had a suggestion to make, which at least looked practical. Discussions such as they had heard on the previous day he admitted were most instructive. His only objection was that they did not bear upon a single point that was in doubt in their minds. Now he wanted to hear the full Roumanian case and it was probable that an opportunity could not be found the next day. His suggestion was that the British students of the subject, and the Americans, French, Italians, and Japanese if they had a body of students conversant with those things, should take up any one of [Page 815] those questions and find how near they were in agreement upon it, and then submit to the conference for discussion their conclusions as to what, for example, the territory of Roumania should be. Then they should submit their conclusions to the Roumanians for their opinion. By this means they would eliminate from the discussion everything in which they were in agreement.

Continuing, President Wilson said that he had on his desk the recommendations of the American students on all those questions, in a digested form, so that he would not be laying them before the conference as American proposals, but as a basis of discussion.

Mr. Balfour said that the only observation he had to make was that he was quite sure that the President was right in thinking that a discussion among the experts who had studied those questions would be most valuable, and that it would tend to eliminate a great many agreed points, and therefore enable them to concentrate their attention on points upon which agreement had not been reached. He was not sure that it would not be wise to allow those people to have their day to explain their case. He thought they would be much happier, although he admitted it took up a great deal of time. He thought it would make a great difference to them if they came there and said that they would put their whole case before the conference.

The second part of his suggestion was that they should have representative experts there.

Mr. Balfour, continuing, said that with regard to the suggestion for allowing each of these groups to have it out before the conference with their experts, he thought that the discussions would be more fruitful, and they would know exactly what these people were thinking in their own minds. The Americans had done most of their work in America. The British had done their work in England and France. They had had books but more than that they had seen the representatives of these countries. If they could come face to face with the actual living feelings of the people concerned, he thought it would be beneficial. That is why he suggested they should have the Roumanians there the following day.

M. Clemenceau said that he agreed.

Mr. Lloyd George added that Serbia must also be present.

Mr. Lloyd George then drew attention to a paragraph which had appeared in the “Daily Mail” published that morning. He said that it was really a very monstrous report, and one might have thought that there was a battle going on between them. President Wilson had called his attention to it that morning. In the afternoon he had obtained a copy, and he thought the language of the President [Page 816] had been very restrained and very moderate, and he was not at all sure that it was adequate having regard to the seriousness of the article.

President Wilson replied that he had left his profane vocabulary at home.

Mr. Lloyd George said that this article gave the impression of a royal row between America, Japan, Great Britain and her Dominions, France, and everybody else, with quotations from the speeches of some of the delegates which appeared in inverted commas, and which were correct. General Botha had already told them that he had received a number of telegrams of a serious nature from South Africa. They would get some in from Great Britain, and would have to give an explanation. It was a grossly inaccurate account, and yet one could see that it was accurate enough to have been supplied by somebody who either directly or indirectly had inside knowledge. That must be stopped.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he did not see how that Conference could be conducted at all if such statements were allowed to continue. In that case they would have to have public séances with speeches, which meant that they would never settle the Peace of Europe or of the Pacific either, because there would be no Pacific. What he wanted was a clear understanding that whatever communiqué was issued, it should be the only communiqué. The next thing that he wanted to know was what the communiqué should be. He hoped for the moment that it would give the impression of an agreement being arrived at so as not to excite further the disturbed state of the people in all those countries, because that was the way to Bolshevism, if the peoples thought that they in that Conference were wrangling and tearing each others’ eyes out. They could say what was absolutely true, that they had arrived at a satisfactory provisional agreement and were examining the question later on.

Mr. Hughes enquired if they were going to put their decisions into the communiqué.

Mr. Lloyd George replied in the negative.

President Wilson suggested that they should say that they had arrived at a satisfactory provisional arrangement with regard to dealing with the German and Turkish territory outside Europe. Then they should say that they had heard the Belgians with regard to the Congo, and that the military advisers of the Supreme War Council should make a report to the Conference as to the best and most advisable disposition of troops to take care of the Turkish territories that are now outside Europe and were now being occupied.

(This was agreed to.)

[Page 817]

Mr. Lloyd George then read the draft terms of reference to the Supreme War Council on the Turkish question:—

“The Military Representatives of the Allied and Associated Powers at Versailles are directed to meet at once and to present a report as to the most equitable and economical distribution among these Powers of the burden of supplying military forces for the purpose of maintaining order in the Turkish Empire,8 pending the decisions of the Peace Conference concerning the Government of Turkish territory.”

  1. These minutes bear the penciled notation “Substituted for Revised Copy.” The text of the latter may be found printed in Miller, My Diary, vol. xiv, pp. 87–119; also in Miller, The Drafting of the Covenant, vol. ii, pp. 204–228.
  2. Appendix to BC–17, supra.
  3. British and Foreign State Papers, vol. lxxvi, p. 4.
  4. M. Paul Fauchille, La Guerre de 1914, Recueil de documents intéressant le droit international, vol. ii, p. 112.
  5. See Franco-German Convention of November 4, 1911, concerning Morocco, Great Britain, Cd. 6010, Morocco No. 4 (1911), and Franco-German Convention of November 4, 1911, on Equatorial Africa, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. civ, p. 956.
  6. Gottlieb E. G. von Jagow, German Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  7. Document No. 2, The Second Belgian Grey Book, printed in Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Diplomatic Documents Relating to the Outbreak of the European War (New York), 1916, pt. 1, p. 420.
  8. A correction issued on February 1, 1919, reads as follows:

    After “Turkish Empire” insert “Trans–Caucasia.”

    Note:—This addition has been agreed to between President Wilson, Mr. Lloyd George, M. Clemenceau and M. Orlando.