Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/37



Minutes of the Meeting of the Representatives of the Five Great Powers at 3 p.m., and of the Meeting of the Supreme War Council at 5 p.m., Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Wednesday, February 12, 1919

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • President Wilson
      • Mr. Lansing
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, O. M., M. P.
      • The Rt. Hon. Viscount Milner, G.C.B., G.C.M.G.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
      • M. Pichon
    • Secretaries
      • Mr. A. H. Frazier
      • Mr. L. Harrison
      • Lt. Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey, K.C.B.
      • Mr. H. Norman
      • M. Dutasta
      • M. Berthelot
      • M. de Bearn
    • Italy
      • H.E. M. Orlando
      • H.E. Baron Sonnino
      • Secretaries
        • Count Aldrovandi
        • M. Bertele
    • Japan
      • Baron Makino
      • H.E. M. Matsui
  • Joint Secretariat
    • America, United States of
      • Lieut. C. Burden
    • British Empire
      • Capt E. Abraham
    • France
      • Capt. A. Portier
    • Italy
      • Major A. Jones
    • Japan
      • M. Saburi
  • Also Present
    • America, United States of
      • Gen. Tasker H. Bliss
      • Admiral Benson
      • Maj. Gen. McAndrew
      • Lt Comdr. Carter
      • Captain de Marenches
      • Mr. Hoover
      • Mr. Baruch
      • Mr. Davis
      • Mr. McCormick
    • British Empire
      • Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, K.T.
      • Maj. Gen. [Lieut. Gen.?] Sir Henry [Herbert?] Lawrence, K.C.B.
      • Maj. Gen. Hon. C. J. Sackvilie-West, C.M.G.
      • Maj. Gen. Thwaites, C.B.
      • Rear Admiral Hope, C.B.
      • Capt. Fuller, R.N.
    • France
      • M. Klotz
      • M. Loucheur
      • M. Clementel
      • M. Leygues
      • Marshal Foch
      • Marshal Petain
      • Gen. Weygand
      • Gen. Degoutte
      • Gen. Belin
      • Admiral de Bon
      • Lt de Vaisseau Odend’hal
      • M. de Lasteyrie
    • Italy
      • H.E. M. Crespi
      • H.E. Gen. Diaz
      • Gen. Cavallero
      • Admiral Grassi
    • Japan
      • Gen. Nara
      • Col. Nagai
      • Capt. Fujioka
      • Capt. de Vaisseau Nomura
      • Capt. de Vaisseau Yamamoto

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux


Renewal of Armistice: Reduction of German forces M. Clemenceau, in opening the Meeting, suggested that the discussion should be continued from the point at which it left off in the morning.1

President Wilson said that after reflecting on the morning’s proceedings he had come to the conclusion that the difference of opinion was reduced to one point. That point was one of great importance. Mr. Balfour had made the difficulty quite clear by saying that we should not delay until our forces were so reduced that we could not compel the Germans to accede to our demands. This was the point that he had himself sought to make clear. By reducing our forces month by month, and by renewing the armistice month by month, we might be led to a stage at which Germany could resist with some prospect of success. He wished to be sure the danger point was past before reducing the Allied forces to the extent mentioned in the morning. Should trouble arise, he would be quite willing to re-mobilise the American forces, but this might be difficult, and it would certainly be a lengthy process, as the troops would have scattered to their homes. The longer we dealt with the Germans on this plan, the longer their hopes would have to grow. This might lead them to a false sense of self-confidence, and the German Government’s forces might consolidate in a way which it was not at present possible to forecast, and the ancient pride and boastfulness of Germany might gain a new lease of life. The point under discussion in the morning concerning which no agreement had been reached was the question whether the military terms of peace could be isolated from the other conditions of peace. Peace, it had been said, was one fabric with one pattern. The plan of general disarmament, which had been alluded to, seemed to render it difficult as a provisional measure to prejudge what should be the relative strengths of national forces. Disarmament contained two elements—(1) the maintenance of an adequate force for internal police; (2) the national contribution to the general force of the future League of Nations. At present we did not contemplate that Germany should make any contribution to the latter force. We need therefore not take that element into consideration. [Page 1002] All we need contemplate was the amount of armed force required by Germany to maintain internal order and to keep down Bolshevism. This limit could be fixed by the military advisers. In general, he felt that until we knew what the German Government was going to be, and how the German people were going to behave, the world had a moral right to disarm Germany, and to subject her to a generation of thoughtfulness. He therefore thought it was possible to frame the terms of Germany’s disarmament before settling the terms of peace. He was encouraged in this belief by the assurance that the military advisers could produce a plan in 48 hours. It might take more than 48 hours for the heads of Governments to agree on this plan. It was not his idea that the armistice should be protracted very much longer, but a definite term could not be fixed until the Governments had matured their judgment concerning the disarmament of Germany. Once this point was settled, the Germans could be given short notice to accede to our demands under pain of having the armistice broken. The main thing was to do this while our forces were so great that our will could not be resisted. The plan he proposed would make safety ante-date the peace. He thought that this brought the two views into accord as regards the purpose in the minds of both parties to the morning’s debate.

Before concluding, he wished to draw $L Clemenceau’s attention to a statement made by the papers that the French Government had stopped demobilisation.

M. Clemenceau said that this was not true.

President Wilson said that the rumour was general throughout France, and some of his friends on their way to the front had found people much alarmed at the prospect of a renewal of the war. This feeling rendered people uneasy about re-starting their ordinary lives, and these rumours were very-much to our disadvantage. He thought it important to put a stop to mischief of this kind. He was himself convinced that the rumours were unfounded but after all the world was full of accomplished liars, and he wished to spoil their game.

He regretted that he had not put his views in the morning in so complete a manner.

M. Clemenceau said that the purpose pursued by President Wilson was exactly the same as his own. He was therefore prepared to accept his proposal. Before doing so, however, he would like more precise information on certain points. We were to ask the experts to state as quickly as possible the conditions of the disarmament of Germany. The American experts, President Wilson had said, were ready. The French were also ready.

Mr. Balfour remarked that the English were ready, too.

[Page 1003]

M. Clemenceau said that in these conditions their report could be obtained very soon. But the thought struck him that President Wilson was going away in a few days, and the date of his return was uncertain. Though the report of the experts might be received in a short time, he would not like to discuss a matter of such importance in the absence of President Wilson. Doubtless President Wilson would be away for a month. The delay therefore would be of considerable extent. There would be a further month of demobilisation, and a critical diminution of our forces. He was not discussing the question in principle, but only seeking a way out of the difficulty. At present the armistice was being renewed month by month, but the Allies had a right to break it at any moment after 48 hours’ notice. There was not therefore a very great difference between the two systems, save that the one at present enforced was established for a slightly longer period. If the President had been staying, he would have raised no objection to the indeterminate prolongation of the armistice, but, as he was going, the difficulty arose, as he was quite unwilling to discuss the matter while President Wilson was away. He would therefore suggest that things should be left as they were, and that the armistice should be renewed as heretofore. This would not prevent us from giving a stern warning to the Germans at the next renewal that severer conditions would be made at the end of the month. This modification of President Wilson’s proposal did not mean any disagreement. It was quite clear that the five Governments were united. In dealing with the Germans, we must be careful not only of the substance, but also of the form. The slightest appearance of hesitation would be immediately interpreted by them as a sign of weakness and an encouragement to make use of it. President Wilson’s plan he again wished to repeat satisfied him completely. He only wished to get more precision as to the date.

President Wilson said that M. Clemenceau had paid him an undeserved compliment. In technical matters most of the brains he used were borrowed: the possessors of these brains were in Paris. He would, therefore, go away with an easy mind if he thought that his plan had been adopted in principle. He had complete confidence in the views of his military advisers. If the military experts were to certify a certain figure as furnishing a marginal safety, he would not differ from them. The only other question was to decide whether this was the right time to act. On this point, he was prepared to say yes. In another month’s time, the attitude of Germany might be more uncompromising. If his plan were agreed on in principle, he would be prepared to go away and leave it to his colleagues to decide whether the programme drafted by the technical advisers was the right one. He did not wish his absence to stop so important, [Page 1004] essential and urgent work as the preparation of a preliminary peace. He hoped to return by the 13th or 15th March, allowing himself only a week in America. But he did not wish that, during his unavoidable absence, such questions as the territorial question and questions of compensation should be held up. He had asked Colonel House to take his place while he was away.

M. Clemenceau said that he was completely satisfied.

M. Pichon asked whether it would not be possible to obtain the report of the experts before the departure of President Wilson.

Lord Milner pointed out that the question had already been studied and the figure of 25 divisions had been laid down as the maximum Germany should maintain.

M. Orlando said that he was extremely glad of this agreement. He had felt that the difference was rather in the form than in the substance. It remained, however, to decide whether the Armistice should be renewed sine die or with a fixed term.

M. Clemenceau said that this question remained open.

M. Orlando said it must also be decided whether the Germans were to be given a warning that the reduction of their forces was to be imposed on them. He, himself, had asked Marshal Foch whether the reduction to 25 divisions corresponded to the maximum force which could safely be left to Germany as its final establishment. Marshal Foch had replied in the affirmative. Italy, before the war, had 25 divisions on a peace footing. Germany was a far larger country, and he was therefore inclined to think that 25 divisions must be the minimum required for internal order.

M. Sonnino asked whether there should not be in the Armistice a clause enabling the Allies to exercise some supervision over the disarmament required, and to force the Germans to accept an organisation of this kind.

President Wilson said that the military experts appeared to have means of obtaining knowledge.

M. Sonnino said that Marshal Foch appeared to have doubt on this subject. We should be in a position to obtain week by week, or even day by day, knowledge of the measures taken by Germany to fulfil our demands.

President Wilson said that it might not be possible for the Governments to make a decision in 48 hours. For instance, the naval programme put up on the previous occasion contained some very “large orders.” It would need very careful consideration. The Governments, therefore, could not be ready in time for the next renewal of the Armistice, but unless the Germans were told to be ready for something more drastic on the next occasion, they would think that the Allies were weakening. It would, therefore, he thought, be more [Page 1005] prudent to renew the Armistice indefinitely and say that final terms would be put forward at the next renewal. It might not be possible for the Governments to be ready in a month. He, therefore, advocated a renewal sine die, coupled with the warning suggested above. The Armistice would then be ended by the formulation of definite preliminary terms of peace on military conditions. The question of the Kiel Canal and the question of the cables, included in the naval report, would have to be dissociated from the purely naval conditions to be imposed at the close of the Armistice. These matters concerned the ultimate peace.

Mr. Balfour said that, before lunch, he had circulated a series of resolutions which he thought might, perhaps, bring the discussion to a head and meet, perhaps, all the objections raised. Since listening to the discussion, he had re-drafted these resolutions and he proposed to read them, as amended, to the Meeting. Mr. Balfour then read the following:—

The Supreme War Council agree that:—

As a condition of the renewal of the armistice Marshal Foch shall stipulate that the Germans shall desist from all offensive operations against the Poles, whether in Posen or elsewhere.
The Armistice with Germany shall be renewed for a short period terminable by the Allied and Associated Powers at three days’ notice.
Detailed and final naval, military, and air conditions of the preliminaries of peace shall be drawn up at once by a Committee to be presided over by Marshal Foch and submitted for the approval of the Supreme War Council; these, when approved, will be presented for signature to the Germans, and the Germans shall be at once informed that this is the policy of the Associated Governments.
After the signature of these preliminaries of peace, Germany will be permitted to receive such controlled quantities of food, and raw materials for the rehabilitation of her industry, as shall be deemed just, having regard to the prior claims of Allied countries, especially those on whose industries Germany had deliberately inflicted damage.
The question of the quantities of food and raw material to be allowed to Germany after the signature of the preliminaries of peace shall be referred to the Economic Council for examination and report.

President Wilson questioned whether it would be good policy to forewarn the Germans at the next renewal of the Armistice of the intentions embodied in paragraphs (4) and (5).

M. Clemenceau said that, for his part, he would be very unwilling to do so, as the Allies would seem to be offering the Germans an inducement.

Mr. Balfour then suggested that only Clauses (1), (2) and (3) should be given to Marshal Foch for communication to the Germans; [Page 1006] Clauses (4) & (5) could be accepted by the Governments as fixing their future policy when the military terms of a preliminary peace had been accepted by Germany.

(The above Clauses were then accepted, with the reservation that only Clauses (1), (2) and (3) should be communicated by Marshal Foch to the Germans.)

M. Clemenceau suggested that the military advisers should be summoned and that these clauses should be communicated to them. He pointed out that it would not be sufficient to tell the Germans to reduce their forces to a fixed number of divisions. Napoleon had done this and the Prussians had passed the whole population through the formations allowed them. It was, therefore, essential that the military experts should lay down what was to be Germany’s military law. It might, further, be necessary to control those operations by means of High Commissioners appointed by the Allies.

Mr. Balfour added that a similar provision must be made concerning munitions.

(It was, therefore, decided that, after a short adjournment, the military experts should be summoned.)


Commission on Belgian Territorial Claims Mr. Balfour said that, before adjourning, he wished to draw the attention of the Meeting to two subjects, the first of which was the Commission arising out of M. Hymans’ statement.2 He had framed a draft resolution on this subject, which he proposed to read. Mr. Balfour then read the following:—

That an expert Commission, composed of two representatives each of the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy and Japan, be appointed to consider and advise on the following questions arising out of the statement made at the Quai d’Orsay on February 11th., by the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs on the claims of Belgium, namely:—
The proposed transfer of the town and district of Malmedy to Belgium.
The definite incorporation in Belgium of the town of Moresnet.
The possible rectification in favour of Holland of the German-Dutch frontier on the lower Ems, as a compensation to Holland for meeting Belgian claims in regard to sovereignty over the mouth of the Scheldt and the southern part of Dutch Limburg.

That the question of securing for Belgium in times of peace the full rights and liberties which, according to the statement made at the Quai d’Orsay on February 11, by the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, she claims in regard to: [Page 1007]

the navigation and control of the waters of the Scheldt in its entire course.
the Ghent-Terneuzen canal, and
the communication by canals and railways between Antwerp and the Rhine and Meuse and Dutch Limburg

be referred to the Commission on the International Control of Ports, Waterways and Railways.

(This resolution was accepted without discussion.)


Committee To Deal With Reports From Polish Commission Mr. Balfour, continuing, said that the second subject to which he wished to draw the attention of the Meeting was the method of dealing with reports sent by the Polish Commission. He Propose to institute a Committee of Experts representing the five Great Powers to follow the work of the Commission and to study the results obtained. This Committee would only send up to the Supreme Council big questions requiring their decision. If all the reports were separately sent to each of the Capitals, confusion would ensue. If all communications came direct to the Council, the Council would be overwhelmed by a quantity of unnecessary material. It was, therefore, desirable to have a Committee to sift this material, to answer the bulk of the correspondence and only refer when necessary to the Council.

(The following resolution was then adopted:—

It is agreed that a Committee, composed of one representative each of the Governments of the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy and Japan (?), be appointed to deal with all reports and requests for instructions from the Commission sent to Poland. On matters of high policy, the Committee will refer to the Conference of the Associated Powers.)

Notification of Names to the Secretary General It was further decided that the nominees of various Governments should be certified to the Secretary-General as soon as possible.

Polish Demand for Return of Agricultural Implements M. Clemenceau said that he had received a demand from the Poles that at the next renewal of the Armistice the Germans should be required to return agricultural implements stolen from the Poles. He felt that as a similar provision had been made in favour of the French and Belgian peasants, this request could not in fairness be refused.

President Wilson said that, even at the risk of seeming hardhearted, he thought it would be best not to undertake this. The Poles were technically on German territory. The Allies might have moral right on their side but the Germans would have the law on theirs.

[Page 1008]

Mr. Balfour asked whether it would not be possible to put pressure on the Germans outside the Armistice and say to them: “You cannot expect us to assist you as long as you keep goods stolen from our friends”.

President Wilson suggested that this should be referred to the Economic Council.


Return French Cattle M. Clemenceau agreed to this provided the question of the return of French cattle should also be referred to that Council.

(It was therefore decided that the question of the return of agricultural implements to the Poles, and the question of the return of French cattle should be referred to the Economic Council.

For recommendations on these subjects see Annexures “A” and “B”).


Civil Commissioners Attached to Marshall Foch M. Clemenceau said that there were now Civil Commissioners attached to Marshal Foch. He wished to know whether it was understood that these Civil Commissioners were not to meet the Germans independently. The war was not yet over, and he felt that only soldiers should have direct intercourse with the enemy. The Governments could give orders to Marshal Foch, but on technical questions it would be difficult to give orders to civilian experts.

President Wilson said that he would agree provided that it were well understood that Marshal Foch consulted the Civil Commissioners whenever economic questions arose.


Resumption Commercial Relations With Turkey & Bulgaria On M. Clemenceau’s proposal it was agreed, without discussion, that the Allies should resume commercial relations with Turkey Resumption of and Bulgaria.

(The meeting then adjourned for a short time and was resumed on the entry of the military advisers.)

M. Clemenceau read the first 3 clauses of the Resolution concerning the renewal of the Armistice.


Line of Demarcation Between German & Polish Armies Marshal Foch asked whether the first clause should not be made more definite. The expression “or elsewhere” made it difficult to put a stop to offensive operations by the Germans. They might, for instance, undertake movements not directly against the Poles, but in such a manner as to make the position held by the Poles untenable. Marshal Foch explained this with the help of a map.

(It was then agreed that Marshal Foch be authorised to settle a line of demarcation between the German and Polish Armies without prejudice to the future frontiers of Germany and Poland.)

[Page 1009]

President Wilson pointed out that the Poles complained of German action against the civil population as well as against the armed forces.

M. Clemenceau said that this matter could not be settled by Marshal Foch and suggested that if further complaints arose the question should be reconsidered by the Council.

(This was agreed to.)

Period of Renewal of Armistice M. Clemenceau explained the intentions of the Governments in connection with clause 2, and asked the military and naval experts to get to work immediately and to in close touch with himself.

Nominees for Navel, Military & Air Committee President Wilson proposed that the members of the Committee to advise on the disarmament of Germany should be named at once.

(It was decided that the Naval, Military and Air Advisers should sit together in one Committee, which should be composed, in addition to the Commanders-in-Chief, of three representatives from each of the Great Powers.) The following nominees were then appointed:—

  • United States of America
    • General Bliss.
    • Admiral Benson.
    • General Mason N. Patrick.
  • British Empire
    • General Sir H. H. Wilson.
    • Admiral Wemyss.
    • General Sykes.
    • (Or their representatives)
  • France
    • General Degoutte.
    • Admiral de Bon.
    • General Duval.
  • Italy
    • General Cavallero.
    • Admiral Grassi.
    • (& a third to be nominated later)
  • Japan
    • (The Japanese delegates remain to be chosen.)


Instruction to Marshal Foch It was agreed that Marshal Foch should obtain from M. Clemenceau the text for the renewal of the Armistice, which should be presented to the Germans.)

(The Meeting then adjourned.)

[Page 1010]

Annexure “A”

Demand of the Polish Government

I. Industrial and Agricultural Material

On January 16th 1919, the prolongation of Armistice up to February 17th 1919 was signed by Marshal Foch. In this agreement we find the following paragraph:—

“The machines, spare parts, industrial or agricultural tools, all kinds of accessories and, generally speaking, any industrial or agricultural implement, taken away, from the territories that had been occupied by the German armies on the Western Front, under any pretence, by the German military or civil authority, will be held at the disposal of the Allies in order to be returned to their original place”.

It is essential that, for the next prolongation of Armistice, an absolutely similar article should be stipulated as regards Polish interests.

Instead of the words:

“On the Western Front”

should be written:

“On the territory of the Kingdom of Poland, created at the Congress of Vienna, as well as in the Governments of Grodno, Kowno, Wilno and Minsk”.

At the end of the article, it would be desirable to stipulate:

“The material taken away will have to be sent to the Polish Government and to the places indicated by the latter”.

opinion of the commission

After examination, the Commission have given out the following opinion:—

That the restitution of the material of which the Poles have been robbed by the Germans in violation of all principles of international right is, in the name of equity, fully justified.
That the insertion of a clause approving of this restitution in the forthcoming act of renewal of the armistice would, even if it were not carried into immediate execution, be a source of moral comfort to the Polish nation and a guarantee likely to encourage the efforts in view of the resumption of the economical activity and stay numerous Polish labourers out of work from the Bolshevist tendencies to which unemployment might incline them.

The Commission think it desirable that the proposal be inserted in the Armistice Act.

[Page 1011]

II. Rolling Stock

The Poland of the Congress possesses 11.000 freight ears instead of 34.000. Galicia 6.000 cars instead of 20.000.

To ensure the supplies of the country and enable it to start at least partially its industry, it would be necessary to ask from Germany for Poland at least 25.000 freight cars and a corresponding number of engines, in order to replace the rolling stock that Poland has been obliged to surrender.

advice of the commission

Poland—Rolling Stock.

The Commission consider as fair, as Poland has been deprived of 40.000 cars, that at least 25.000 should be restored to her.

Financial Aid.

The financial aid which the Poles are asking for from the Entente Governments and the banking establishments comprises the sending of delegates authorised to arrange for a loan.

The Commission is in favour of waiting before they send these delegates till they have studied the situation at Warsaw and have made out the state of mind of the Polish Government.

Annexure “B”

return of french cattle

The President du Counseil, Ministre de la Guerre, to the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies

I have the honor to inform you, in accord with the Ministers of Agriculture and of the Liberated Regions, that I deem it fitting in the next agreement concerning a renewal of the Armistice, for you to demand that the Germans take all steps toward handing over to us:

Domestic Animals

5,200 Horses:—

The enemy has taken 400,000 from the devastated regions, whereas he himself had 4,523,000 before the war. We thus claim only 1/77 of what was taken away from us, and 1/870 of what the enemy possessed in 1914.

[Page 1012]

204,000 Cattle:—

The enemy took 1,000,000 from us, and before the war he had 20,182,000. We thus claim only 1/5 of what was taken from us, and 1/10 of what the enemy possessed in 1914.

101,000 Sheep and goats:—

The enemy took 1,000,000 from us, and before the war he himself had 9,214,000. We thus claim only 1/10 of what he took away, and 1/91 of what he possessed in 1914.

345,000 Rabbits and poultry:—

The enemy took 10,000,000 from us. Before the war he had 77,103,000. 345,000 are asked for. We thus only ask for 1/29 of what he took away, and for 1/223 of what he possessed in 1914.


150,000 quintals of spring oats
25,000 of spring barley.
4,000 of beet-root for fodder.
4,000 of sugar beet.
1,000,000 of potato plants.
100,000 of gross-grained vegetable (peas, vetches etc.)
5,000 of garden seed.

The quantities of oats and barley above-given represent only 1/57 of the losses due to devastation, and 1/765 of the annual German production before the war (134,000,000 quintals).

As to potatoes, 1/11 of the losses are asked for, which is only 1/541 of the annual German production of before the war (541,000,000 quintals).

The Economic Commission will be empowered to fix the conditions of quality and delivery, as well as to apportion the figures stipulated above as to domestic animals according to species and age.

It will also determine the varieties and the quantities of each variety of seed and plants to be turned over.

  1. See BC–29, supra.
  2. At meeting of February 11; see BC–28, p. 957.