Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/34



Minutes of the 3rd Meeting of the 13th Session of the Supreme War Council, Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Monday, February 10, 1919, at 3 p.m.

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • President Wilson.
      • Hon. R. Lansing.
      • Secretaries
        • Mr. A. H. Frazier.
        • Mr. L. Harrison.
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, O. M., M. P.
      • Rt. Hon. Viscount Milner, G. C. B., G. G. M. G.
      • Secretary
        • Lt. Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
      • M. Pichon.
      • Secretaries
        • M. Dutasta.
        • M. Berthelot.
        • M. de Bearn.
    • Italy
      • H. E. M. Orlando.
      • H. E. Baron Sonnino.
      • Secretary
        • Count Aldrovandi.
    • Japan
      • Baron Makino.
      • H. E. M. Matsui.
  • Joint Secretariat
    • America, United States of
      • Colonel U. S. Grant.
    • British Empire
      • Major A. M. Caccia, M. V. O.
      • Mr. H. Norman.
    • France
      • Capt. A. Portier.
    • Italy
      • Major A. Jones.
    • Japan
      • M. Saburi.
  • Also Present
    • America, United States of
      • Mr. Baruch,
      • Mr. Davis,
      • Mr. McCormick,
      • Gen. T. H. Bliss.
    • British Empire
      • Maj.-Gen. The Hon. C. J. Sackville-West, C. M. G.
      • Maj.-Gen. W. T. Thwaites, C. B.
      • The Rt. Hon. Lord Robert Cecil, K. C., M. P.
      • Rear Admiral G. P. W. Hope, C. B.
      • Capt. C. T. M. Fuller, C. M. G., D. S. O., R. N.
      • Mr. J. M. Keynes, C. B.
      • Sir John Beale, K. B. E.
    • France
      • Marshal Foch,
      • General Weygand,
      • General Belin,
      • M. Klotz,
      • M. Loucheur,
      • M. Clementel,
      • M. Leygues,
      • M. de Lasteyrie.
    • Italy
      • General Diaz.
      • General Cavallero.
      • Admiral Grassi.
      • H. E., M. Crespi.
    • Japan
      • General Nara.
      • Colonel Nagai.
      • Capt. Fujioka.
      • M. Matsumura.
      • M. Yamamoto.
      • M. Anno

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux.

1. Renewal of Armistice (a) Financial Clauses M. Clemenceau called upon M. Klotz to explain the conclusions reached by the Inter-Allied Commission on the subject of the Renewal of Financial Clauses to be added to the Armistice when next renewed.

M. Klotz said that since the last renewal of the Armistice the Germans had sought to elude the financial clauses of the Armistice, or have executed them with the greatest ill-will:—

They had only handed over an insignificant quantity of bonds and securities stolen by them and deposited in Germany in the Kriegs Kassen and public banks.
They had prevented the operation of the financial control over their foreign securities and only nominated the Commissioners, who were to be put into touch with the Allies, a few days ago.
They had refused, contrary to their undertaking made in the same protocol, to examine, together with the Allies, measures tending to the restitution of property sequestered by them to the detriment of Allied subjects.
The attitude adopted by them in the Financial Commission at Spa, and the tone in which their notes to the Allies were framed, were deliberately aggressive and should not be tolerated.

Taking these facts into consideration, the Inter-Allied Financial Commission had proposed that the following clauses should be added to the Armistice when next renewed:—

The German Government will, for the restitution of the property taken from the nationals of the Allied nations, follow, in all its conditions, the provisions which have been made by a common agreement by the Allied Delegations at the Financial Sub-Committee of the Spa Armistice Commission, and which will be notified by the Commander-in-Chief.
This will also apply to the carrying-out of the obligations referred to in paragraph 3 of the Treves financial clauses of December 13th, 1918.

President Wilson asked that the terms of the financial clauses referred to might be read.

M. Klotz then read paragraphs III and IV of the Financial Clauses of the Agreement for the prolongation of the Armistice, dated Treves, December 13th, 1918, as follows:— [Page 947]

“III. The German Government binds itself to pay at maturity and in conformity with current legislation to the natives of Alsace-Lorraine (Alsaciens-Lorrains) all debts or bills of exchange which have fallen due or which may fall due during the armistice and connected with German public funds, such as Treasury Bonds, bills of exchange, money or other orders, transfers, acceptances, etc., the corresponding transactions not being limited to those enumerated in the above recital.

The German Government binds itself not to place any special obstacle in the way of free disposal and enjoyment by Alsace-Lorrainers of all property, securities, shares and monies belonging to them and situate or being in Germany.

IV. The German Government binds itself to consider, in agreement with the Allied Governments, the steps to be taken for the speedy restitution of property sequestrated to the prejudice of nationals of the Allied countries”.

President Wilson said that on Friday [Saturday?] last an Inter-Allied Economic Commission had been formed to report on all financial and economic matters.1 He suggested, therefore, that this question should be referred to that Commission.

M. Klotz stated that a unanimous decision had been arrived at by the Inter-Allied financial experts, sitting at Spa, on the question now before the Council. He did not think, therefore, that any useful purpose would be served by again referring the matter to a similar Inter-Allied body.

President Wilson pointed out that although the proposed resolution had been agreed to by the Inter-Allied Financial Commission, the manner of ensuring its enforcement had not yet been considered, and he suggested that that question be referred to the Inter-Allied Economic Commission.

Mr. Balfour said he had no objections to oppose to the question of the enforcement of the financial clauses of the Armistice being referred to the Inter-Allied Economic Commission. But he wished to suggest that the manner in which the Germans could be compelled to carry out all the agreed conditions of the Armistice should also be referred to that Commission. He had that day received a report from the Inter-Allied Naval Armistice Commission, sitting in London, to the effect that the Germans had not as yet carried out their engagements relating to the surrender of submarines and mercantile shipping. Furthermore, there were no signs that they intended to surrender the latter. Consequently, if the Armistice were renewed, it would be essential in the first place to see that the conditions already accepted were duly being complied with. He thought, therefore, that a body was required to decide how the Germans could be compelled to comply with the accepted terms of the [Page 948] Armistice. He could express no definite opinion in regard to the financial question, but in regard to the Naval terms he felt that a very serious situation had arisen. The Germans had promised things, but had failed to carry them out even when in a position to do so.

President Wilson expressed his entire agreement with Mr. Balfour, but he thought it would be necessary to have expert advice in each case. For instance, he understood that some difference of opinion existed between the Allied experts in regard to the correct interpretation of certain of the financial clauses. Therefore, he thought it was a proper question to be referred to the Inter-Allied Economic Commission. He did not know whether the Naval experts had expressed any views as to how the Naval clauses could be enforced.

Mr. Balfour said that he would have agreed, without hesitation, to accept President Wilson’s proposal, were it not for the fact that Admiral Hope had expressed the view that no further means were available for the enforcement of the Naval conditions of the Armistice. Therefore, the Army should come to the aid of the Navy to exert the necessary pressure.

President Wilson expressed the view that the employment of force would mean the end of the Armistice.

Mr. Balfour explained that he had meant to suggest the use of threats and not the actual employment of force.

President Wilson asked Admiral Hope to say what sort of military action would, in his opinion, be necessary and practicable.

Admiral Hope said that his instructions were that no suitable naval penalties existed. Consequently, the penalties to be imposed must be of a military character, and for this reason it had been agreed that the question should be referred to the Supreme War Council. The Naval Authorities offered no suggestions.

President Wilson enquired whether Admiral Hope could, as an individual, suggest any line of action.

Admiral Hope replied in the negative.

President Wilson said that he would put a hypothetical case to Admiral Hope. On the supposition that the Germans refused to surrender the submarines under construction, would it be Admiral Hope’s idea that the military should go and seize them?

Admiral Hope replied that this would mean the occupation of dockyards and some of the larger ports such as Bremen, Hamburg, etc., which would not be possible. He thought that the naval authorities had in view the employment of some other form of pressure.

M. Clemenceau pointed out that two questions were being discussed, namely, a financial question and a Naval question. He suggested [Page 949] that the former question should first be settled, and asked M. Klotz to reply to the statement which President Wilson had made to the effect that disagreement existed between the French and American experts on the interpretation of the financial clauses.

M. Klotz admitted that there had been some disagreement as to the interpretation of Clause 1 of the Armistice of the 13th December, 1918, but in regard to Clauses 3 and 4 there had been complete unanimity, and all the financial experts had subscribed to the resolution which he had placed before the Council. Therefore, whilst he agreed that Clause 1 should be referred to the Inter-Allied Economic Commission, he thought that the resolution which referred to Clauses 3 and 4 should be accepted without further reference.

President Wilson held that this Council was not competent to decide the means of enforcing the clauses of the Armistice, and he urged that that question be referred to the Inter-Allied Economic Commission for report,

Mr. Balfour pointed out that whilst it was quite true that no two questions were more different than a Naval and a financial question, yet the method of enforcing the conditions agreed on would probably be the same in each case. He did not think that a Financial Council was the best body to decide the method of enforcing the clauses of the Armistice. In his opinion, the military would be the best body for the purpose.

President Wilson said that the Germans required means of purchasing in foreign countries. There was, therefore, an economic method as well as a military method of exerting pressure. He did not ask the Economic Commission to recommend the military means but the economic means; the latter were manifold and could be applied gradually.

Mr. Balfour agreed, and suggested that the Inter-Allied Economic Commission should be asked to report also on the economic means of enforcing acceptance of the Naval Clauses. He thought it was essential that the Germans should be made to carry out their promises, and he fully believed that the economic method would probably be found to be the best, and he concurred in the view that the Economic Commission would be the best body to decide what kind of economic pressure should be brought to bear.

M. Clemenceau said that he accepted the proposal, provided immediate action were taken. The matter, in his opinion, was a very serious one. The Germans were getting very haughty, and had given insolent replies to the Allies’ demands. For instance, in the case of Poland, they had refused to comply with the Allies’ request to stop their attacks. From the Allies’ point of view the Weimar Assembly had selected the very worst candidate as President, and the same [Page 950] remark applied to the newly appointed Chancellor, M. Rantzau. “Deutschland über Alles” had been sung at the conclusion of the last Meeting of the Constitutional Assembly. Consequently, he fully agreed with President Wilson’s view that economic pressure should be applied, but a decision should be reached without delay, as the Armistice would expire on the 17th of this month.

Marshal Foch said that, as a matter of fact, the Armistice would have to be signed on the 16th. The negotiations would therefore have to be begun on the 14th and completed on the 15th.

M. Clemenceau agreed that a conclusion would have to be reached by the 14th, and proposed that each of the Great Powers should appoint one expert, either naval, economic or financial, to report in two days’ time on the best methods of applying pressure on Get-many to obtain compliance with the conditions of the Armistice, already accepted. Should the Commission report that economic means would give the desired result, so much the better.

President Wilson declared himself ready to act on any plan that would throw sufficient light on the subject. But he was also aware that the Allies were about to take a very serious decision, because they found themselves confronted by a momentous situation which might force them to a renewal of the war, since a refusal to renew the Armistice meant a renewal of war. The work done would have to be done over again, and he wondered what would be the reaction in the minds of the people of the world. Their choice on Wednesday would be very serious and solemn. No nation of the world would forgive them if hostilities were renewed for any but the most imperative reasons. It could not be foreseen what might be brought upon them by an insufficiently considered action. He could not help feeling that if, on Wednesday, they were not perfectly clear as to the steps they were going to take, it would be better to renew the Armistice on its present terms for a very short period, say one or two weeks, until they could reach a well-considered decision.

M. Clemenceau asked whether Marshal Foch had any statement to make on President Wilson’s proposal.

Marshal Foch agreed that a very grave decision had to be taken, for if the Armistice were not renewed, it would mean war. The heavier, the more important and the more precise the new conditions to be inserted in the Armistice, the more likely would the enemy be to hesitate and to show disinclination to accept. But, not knowing the whole of the new conditions to be imposed on the enemy, it was impossible for him to say what was the chance of their being accepted. On the other hand, the non-execution of the clauses already agreed on gave serious cause for reflection, and on this [Page 951] account he was inclined to favour the idea of renewing the Armistice for a short period only.

President Wilson said that he did not wish to delay matters, but it might have a very important effect on the enemy if the Armistice were renewed only for two weeks, the enemy being told that the reasons which rendered this necessary were that the Allies were considering the action to be taken in order to enforce compliance with their conditions. The Germans would doubtless employ the short period of time so accorded to them in profitable thinking.

Mr. Balfour thought that President Wilson’s warning would no doubt be most impressive. He wished, however, to suggest a procedure which did not possess all the gravity of a refusal to renew the Armistice. It was open to the Allies to tell the German[s] at any time that they were not fulfilling their engagements, and that any further failure to do so would result in serious economic measures being taken which would entail serious consequences. He thought that in the economic blockade the Allies possessed a weapon which was conceded by the Armistice and yet did not involve war.

M. Pichon expressed the view that it might be dangerous to renew the Armistice, even for a short period, as long as the Germans failed to fulfil the conditions already agreed to. He did not think the Germans would be likely to fulfil, during the short period of extension, the conditions which they had refused to fulfil during the period of the Armistice, especially when they realised that at the end of the extended period additional serious conditions would be imposed. He thought that the proposal merely meant a temporary postponement of their difficulties. The Germans would realise that the Allies hesitated to give orders, and they would thereby be encouraged to further resistance.

President Wilson admitted that M. Pichon’s remarks were very just, but the right solution had still to be found. M. Pichon was concerned with the effect the action contemplated would have on the German mind, but the effect which a renewal of the war would have on the minds of the Allied peoples must not be lost sight of. In his opinion, a renewal of the war would require the most extraordinary justification.

M. Clemenceau suggested that the further consideration of the question be adjourned to Wednesday morning next (February 12th). No decision would have to be reached before Wednesday evening next, so that, if necessary, two meetings could be held that day. Furthermore, by Wednesday next the promised report on the situation in Poland would have been received, and that might assist them in arriving at a decision. He agreed that nothing hasty or [Page 952] precipitate should be done. By an adjournment, 36 hours for thought would be obtained, and by them more information bearing on the problem would have been received.

President Wilson agreed, on the understanding that during the interval the question would be referred to a Committee consisting of a military and an economic adviser representing each of the four Great Powers, who would report on Wednesday next as to the wise and practical means of bringing pressure to bear on the enemy for the enforcement of the clauses of the Armistice.

M. Clemenceau asked that the Committee be instructed to submit their report on Wednesday morning next and that the Commanders of the Allied Armies be invited to attend the Meeting on that date.

Mr. Balfour said that the Commanders of the Allied Armies should not be the military advisers on President Wilson’s Committee: They should merely be present at Wednesday’s meeting to assist in the consideration of the whole question.

M. Clemenceau agreed, and suggested that Marshal Foch should be asked to call together the Chiefs of the Allied Armies on Tuesday next in order to have a preliminary discussion of the whole question.

(It was agreed that a Committee consisting of a Military and an Economic adviser representing each of the four Great Powers should be appointed, to report on Wednesday next as to the wise and practical means of bringing pressure to bear on the enemy for the enforcement of the clauses of the Armistice. It was also agreed that the Chiefs of the Allied Armies should meet on Tuesday next, under the Presidency of Marshal Foch, for a preliminary discussion, and that they should attend the meeting on Wednesday next to assist in the consideration of the whole question).

President Wilson enquired whether it would be possible for the Governments forthwith to nominate the representatives to serve on the Committee.

M. Clemenceau suggested that the Meeting should be adjourned for five minutes in order to carry out President Wilson’s suggestion.

(When the Meeting resumed, the following names were announced:—

America Mr. Norman Davis and General Bliss.
British Empire Lord Robert Cecil and General Thwaites
France M. Clementel and General Degoutte.
Italy M. Crespi and General Cavallero.

[Page 953]

It was decided that the Delegates should hold their first meeting at 6 p.m. that evening at 4 bis Boulevard des Invalides).

2. Renewal of the Armistice: Request of the Poles M. Clemenceau said that since the discussion of the Armistice had been adjourned, he thought that the question relating to the insertion of additional clauses relating to Poland should also be postponed.

(This was agreed to.)

3. The Arrest of Enemy Persons Guilty of Braches of the Laws of War Mr. Balfour said that the suggestions he had to make arose from a discussion he had had with the British Solicitor-General, who was making up the case of inhumane breaches of international law. Many of the members of the Committee were in favour of its being made a condition of the Armistice that all those against whom a prima facie case could be made should be given up. In the clause of the Armistice dealing with this question, no names would be given, but a condition would be entered to the effect that any person asked for would in due course be surrendered. It was felt that if this were not done, there would be no use in setting up a tribunal, because when the names of the guilty people became known, they would have disappeared. He himself thought that the question was important, but that it might not be right to make it a condition of the Armistice. The question, however, required careful consideration. He understood that Mr. Lansing did not think this was a proper question to put into the Armistice, and he himself did not dissent from that view. He would even go further and say that were this clause to be put into the Armistice, no great advance would have been made. The clause would merely state that the Germans should give up a number of people whose names would be communicated at a later date. The Germans would already know who the people were, and they would resent these men being taken away to be tried before a foreign tribunal. The Germans would express their willingness to deal with criminals and to try them themselves. Consequently, he was in some doubt whether the method suggested would prove effective in the long run, and he saw no reason for introducing anything so novel into the Armistice. But by what other means could these guilty people be brought to justice? It would obviously be very lamentable, after all the expectations raised in the public mind, if when the time came, after the tribunal had been established, none of the criminals could really be brought to trial. Whether his proposal was relevant or not to the renewal of the Armistice, he had felt it his duty to bring this question to the notice of the assembly. He had no definite proposal to make, and he personally felt profoundly perplexed.

[Page 954]

President Wilson agreed that the proposal would be futile at present. When the terms of peace were made it would be possible to know the names of the guilty people, and a demand could then be made for their surrender. Meanwhile the criminals might endeavour to conceal themselves, but it was not likely that they would even try to leave Germany. Consequently, the difficulty would be no greater then than at the present moment. On the contrary it would be less, because the names of the people wanted would then be known.

(It was decided to postpone the further consideration of this question.)

4. Blockade: Introduction of Raw Material Intro Germany M. Clemenceau said that the Council had agreed to refer all questions relating to the Blockade to the Inter-Allied Economic Commission. M. Klotz had no objections to offer, but he wished to discuss a document which revealed the fact that the Germans had drawn up a systematic plan for the destruction of French industries in the occupied territories.

M. Klotz said that the Conference had referred to a technical Committee all questions relating to finance, blockade and raw materials. But these questions frequently had a direct bearing on the general policy affecting the renewal of the Armistice. The question of food supplies concerned the general policy of the Armistice just as the question of the supply of raw materials concerned the general policy of the Peace Terms. Since a Commission had been formed to consider the best means of bringing economic pressure to bear on the enemy, he would confine himself merely to the question of the supply of raw materials, which had not yet been brought under discussion. The Allies had never agreed to supply raw materials to Germany. The devastated countries would never agree to raw materials being supplied to Germany, where the factories were still intact, until their own industries had been re-established. To do so would be contrary to President Wilson’s third point, which prescribed “the removal so far as possible of all economic barriers, and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all nations consenting to the Peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.” In order to bear out his contention, he would read some extracts from a German pamphlet which had been published in Munich by the German General Staff in February, 1916, at the time when the Verdun offensive was being launched.

President Wilson enquired what was the object M. Klotz had in view.

M. Klotz replied that the pamphlet in question would afford evidence of the premeditated and systematic character of the destruction of industries in France by the German official authorities.

[Page 955]

President Wilson expressed the view that this evidence might no doubt affect their frame of mind, but what effect would it have on their plans?

M. Klotz said that in his opinion it would not in fairness be possible to consider the supply of raw materials to Germany, unless the facts contained in this document were given due weight. The Inter-Allied Economic Commission would study the question from a purely technical point of view, but there was also a political aspect of the case, which could not be ignored by the Conference. It was the latter point which he wished to bring forward.

(M. Klotz then read extracts from the work entitled “Die Industrie in Besetzten Frankreich”, published in Munich under the direction and by order of the German Great General Staff in February, 1916. Copies of this publication may be obtained from the Secretariat-General.)

M. Klotz, in conclusion, expressed the view that a Technical Committee having been appointed to deal with the supply of raw materials, it was its bounden duty in the first place to consider and to give an absolute priority to the needs of the industries of the occupied territories, which had been destroyed by the enemy during the course of the war. To do otherwise would be to permit the aggressor to gain what he had hoped for at the expense of the victim. Subject to these observations, he had no objections to offer to the whole question being referred to the Inter-Allied Economic Commission.

5. Occupation Territories in the Turkish Empire and Trans-Caucasia M. Clemenceau said that the next question to consider was the report submitted by the Military Representatives at Versailles.

Lord Milner remarked that he came new to the Occupation of question. There might, therefore, be arguments which would account for a report which, at first sight, had somewhat surprised him. As he understood the case, the reason for the reference to the Military Representatives was that there was a desire to discover whether the military forces occupying the Turkish Empire were not excessive and whether they could not be reduced. In his opinion, that was quite a proper question to remit to the Military Representatives, namely: the amount of force required to occupy those territories. But not only had a most startling reduction in forces been proposed, but the report went on to specify the particular nature of the forces. It did not merely say that so many forces were required to hold Palestine, or Syria, or Trans-Caucasia, but it went on to show that the forces holding each of those places should be either British, or French, or Italian, as the case might be. In his opinion that was a big political question and not a military one, and very large issues had thereby been raised. For instance: he thought that the suggestion that Italy should occupy the [Page 956] Caucasus not only implied very serious operations, but raised the question very directly of the future political problem of this country, a problem which had not yet been before this Conference. Consequently, it was a question which he might have thought should not be discussed before the audience there present. In one word, it was not a question for the Supreme War Council, but for the Peace Conference.

President Wilson explained that it was only fair to the Military Representatives to say that they had not gone further than they had been authorized to go. Mr. Lloyd George had expressed anxiety as to the number of forces the British Empire was compelled to keep in these territories and the Military Representatives had been asked to estimate the number of troops actually needed and to advise on an equitable distribution of the burden amongst the Allies, it being understood that this distribution would not prejudice any arrangement that the Peace Conference might subsequently make. Mr. Lloyd George had, at the same time, expressed the hope that the United States of America would share the burden. He (President Wilson) had replied that whilst agreeing with this sentiment, he doubted his authority to order American troops into the territory of a country with which the United States was not at war. He agreed with Lord Milner that the recommendation made by the Military Representatives tied in so closely with the possible future of these areas that it was not a matter for the Supreme War Council but for the Peace Conference to decide.

Lord Milner, whilst disclaiming any intention of criticising the action of the Military Representatives, desired to maintain his contention that the decision of the question appertained more to the Peace Conference than to the Supreme War Council.

M. Clemenceau said the solution was a simple one. The representatives of the Great Powers need only convert themselves into a Peace Conference today. Otherwise, the question could be adjourned to the following day.

(It was agreed to adjourn the further consideration of the question to the following day.

It was also decided to place the following questions on the Agenda Paper of the meeting to be held on Tuesday, the 11th February, 1919, at 3 p.m.:—

—Belgian territorial claims.
—Occupation of territories in the Turkish Empire and Trans-Caucasia.)

11 February, 1919.

  1. See BC–26, p. 934.