Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/38
Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Thursday, 13 February, 1919, at 3 p.m.
- America, United States of
- President Wilson
- Mr. R. 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.
- M. Clemenceau
- M. Pichon
- Mr. A. H. Frazier
- Mr. L. Harrison
- Lt. Col. Sir. M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B.
- Mr. E. Phipps.
- M. Dutasta
- M. Berthelot
- M. de Bearn
- H. E. M. Orlando
- H. E. Baron Sonnino
- Count Aldrovandi
- M. Bertele.
- H. E. M. Matsui
- America, United States of
- Joint Secretariat
- America, United States of
- Col. U. S. Grant
- British Empire
- Major A.M. Caccia, M. V. O.
- Capt. A. Portier
- Major A. Jones
- M. Saburi.
- America, United States of
- Also Present
- America, United States of
- Dr. Westermann
- Mr. Shotwell
- British Empire
- Maj. Gen. His Highness the Maharajah of Bikaner, G. C. V. O., etc.
- Major the Hon. W. Orms-by Gore
- Mr. A. J. Toynbee.
- M. Coue
- Capt Coulonge
- M. Tosti
- Major Mazzolini
- America, United States of
|”||”||”||”||”||(4)||Dr. Bliss, M. Chekri Gamen, Chief representative of the Central Syrian Committee.1|
|Mardan Bey, Mussulman representative.|
|M. Chehade, Orthodox representative and an Israelite representative of the Committee.|
Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux.
1. Appointing Members of Committees on Poland and on Belgium M. Clemenceau enquired whether the representatives of the Great Powers to form part of the Poland and Belgium Committees, respectively, had been appointed.
The following names were communicated:—
(i) Committee on Poland.
|Great Britain:||Sir W. Tyrrell.|
|France:||M. Jules Cambon.|
(ii) Committee on Belgium.
|Great Britain:||Sir Eyre Crowe.|
|Mr. J. W. Headlam-Morle.|
President Wilson said he regretted that through an omission the American representatives to sit on these two Committees had not yet been chosen. But he would submit the names to the Secretariat-General during the course of the afternoon.1a
M. Orlando said that the name of the second representative to sit on the Belgian Committee would shortly be submitted.2[Page 1015]
2. Military Terms of Peace With Austria-Hungary M. Orlando asked permission to make a statement in connection with the decision taken yesterday on the subject of the immediate disarmament of Germany. The import of that decision would be to anticipate the final disarmament of Germany, for it was not intended to renew the Armistice but to draw up and accept the military terms of the eventual peace treaty. The decision reached in regard to Germany raised the analogous question of Italy and Austria-Hungary, the question which was of particular importance to Italy. He quite realised that the two cases were not altogether analogous, especially as the old Austro-Hungarian Empire no longer existed and had been replaced by a number of nationalities, some friendly, and some hostile to the Allies. But, as a question of form, Italian public opinion might not passively accept the situation, which was open to the interpretation that on the Western front peace had been declared, whereas on the Italian front, a state of war still existed. He was anxious to prevent the spread of such an impression. He wished, therefore, to suggest that the Inter-Allied Military Commission, appointed to draw up the military terms of peace with Germany, should be instructed also to study the similar question as between Italy and Austria-Hungary. He did not suggest that the decision in regard to the German terms should in any way be altered or delayed; but he did ask that the Italian military advisors should be authorised to bring the question of the Austrian military terms before the Inter-Allied Military Commission.
President Wilson expressed the view that M. Orlando had made a reasonable and right request; the suggestion had already occurred to him and he gladly accepted M. Orlando’s proposal.
(It was agreed:—
That the conditions of the Armistice with Austria-Hungary should be examined by the military Inter-Allied Committee, assembled under the Presidency of Marshal Foch, in accordance with the decision of the Supreme War Council, dated 12th February, 1919, with a view to determine what changes,3 if any, were necessary in order to arrive at the final military terms of peace with Austria-Hungary $ following the procedure adopted in the case of Germany.)
(At this stage Dr. Bliss4 entered the Council Chamber).
3. Syria: Statement by Dr. Bliss M. Clemenceau welcomed Dr. Bliss and called on him to make his Statement.
Dr. Bliss Dr. Blis then read the first following statement:— [Page 1016]
“Mr. President, Gentlemen,
I shall not detain you long. My deep interest in the people of Syria, irrespective of race, creed or condition, bred from a long residence among them—in fact I was born on Mt. Lebanon—is my only excuse for detaining you at all.
First, a preliminary word as to the people themselves. They are intelligent, able, hospitable and lovable, but with the sure defects of a long oppressed race; timidity, love of flattery, indirectness. They also have the defects characteristic of people who are face to face with the results of civilisation without having passed through the processes of modern civilisation. They lack balance, they are easily discouraged, they lack political fairness, they do not easily recognise the limitations of their own rights. They must therefore be approached with sympathy, firmness and patience. They are capable of nobly responding to the right appeal. And they will grow into capacity for self-determination and independence.
My plea before this body on behalf of the people of Syria is this: that an Inter-Allied or a Neutral Commission, or a Mixed Commission, be sent at once to Syria in order to give an opportunity to the people of Syria—including the Lebanon—to express in a perfectly untrammelled way their political wishes and aspirations, viz: as to what form of Government they desire and as to what power, if any, should be their Mandatory Protecting Power.
My plan is based upon the ground that the 12th point of President Wilson’s 14 points and the declarations made by France and Great Britain in November, 1918,5 have committed the Allies and the United States to the granting of such an opportunity of self-expression to the people freed from the Turkish yoke to so express themselves. The declaration is as follows:—
‘The aim which France and Great Britain have in view in waging in the East the war let loose upon the world by German ambition is to ensure the complete and final emancipation of all those peoples so long oppressed by Turks, and to establish national Governments and Administration which shall derive their authority from the initiative and free will of the peoples themselves. To realise this France and Great Britain are in agreement to encourage and assist the establishment of Native Governments in Syria and Mesopotamia, now liberated by the Allies, as also in those territories for whose liberation they are striving and to recognise those Governments immediately they are effectively established. Far from wishing to impose on the peoples of these regions this or that institution they have no other care than to assure, by their support and practical aid, the normal working of such governments and administrations as the peoples shall themselves have adopted: to guarantee impartial and even justice for all, to facilitate the economic development of the [Page 1017]country by arousing and encouraging local initiative, to foster the spread of education, to put an end to those factions too long exploited by Turkish policy—such is the part which the two Allied Governments have set themselves to play in liberated territories.’
I maintain that such an opportunity for self expression has not as yet been given. Up to the time I left Beirut, viz: January 9th, 1919, the stringency of the censorship of the Press and of the Post Office, the difficulty of holding public or private meetings for the discussion of political problems, and the great obstacles in travelling, had made it practically impossible for the people, suffering from centuries of intimidation, and now timid to a degree, to express their opinions with any sort of freedom. It is true that a Lebanese delegation has succeeded in reaching Paris and is here to-day. I know these gentlemen, several of whom are my pupils, but there are many other groups besides this particular delegation, including other groups from the Lebanon, who would have gladly been here to speak for themselves and others had they been as fortunate as this group in being able to organise themselves and to find the means of travelling hither.
The point is this. Up to January 9th (the date of my leaving) no notice of any arrangements had been published anywhere in Syria, so far as I know, looking to anything like a general poll of the people of Syria (always including the Lebanon) or even anything like an attempt had been made to secure a widespread knowledge of public sentiment. I did hear more or less of a list of names that was being made up attached to various petitions in favour of this or that programme, but although in a position to hear of any Official or thorough or systematic general plan to ascertain the wishes of the people, no such report came to my knowledge. Many interested citizens of Beirut and the Lebanon were never approached for the purpose of ascertaining their political desires.
I therefore plead that the above mentioned Commission should be sent out as soon as possible by the Peace Conference with ample powers given to them and of course with the wholehearted support granted to them by the French and British authorities now in Syria. The ascertaining of the desires of the people should proceed either without the presence of any foreign Power (and this is impracticable) or in the presence of both French and British Authorities under whom Syria has been living for the past four months.
The people are easily frightened and intimidated even where there is nothing to fear from any source; hence these precautions. The advantage of knowing what the people wish would be a boon to the power eventually becoming the Mandatory power as well as to the people of Syria. One word as to the work of the Commission. Their [Page 1018]task will not be an easy one. They must approach it, in my opinion, in the spirit of large sympathy, infinite patience, frankness and goodwill. In the hands of fair and openminded men, resourceful, shrewd and generous—men who can make clear their honest purpose to a timid but intelligent people—very valuable results can be secured. The result of this enquiry will be, I am convinced, the discovery of the desire for the erection of a state or states looking eventually to complete independence but at present seeking the guardianship of a Mandatory Power.
Both the state or states and the Mandatory Power should be under the control of the League of Nations. Unless in this state or states there should be an absolute separation between religion and the state, most serious results must inevitably arise. The Government on the one hand, religion on the other, can best pursue their majestic tasks apart. Surely Oriental if not general history is making that abundantly clear.
One word more. Unless the Mandatory Power working under the League of Nations approaches its great task in the spirit of lofty service, her splendid opportunity to lead an aspiring people to independence will be for ever lost. But once let the same superb spirit sustain her and the League of Nations as has animated the Allies and the United States in working together for the establishment of freedom in the world, the task, though difficult, will be accomplished.”
M. Pichon asked whether Dr. Bliss’ proposal applied to all the populations who had been living under Ottoman rule in the Ottoman Empire—in Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Armenia, or did these proposals apply only to Syria?
Dr. Bliss replied that he spoke only for Syria where he had been born, and where he had been living. He knew the conditions existing in that territory. He thought his remarks should apply also to other religions and to other populations; but as regards Syria he spoke from his own personal knowledge of the country.
Mr. Balfour said that M. Pichon had just referred to the case of other peoples who had been under Ottoman rule, and enquired from Dr. Bliss whether he would apply his system without qualification to Armenia also, although the Armenians were in a minority as compared with the Mussulmen, so that self-determination would probably not lead to an improvement in the conditions of the Armenian minority.
Dr. Bliss thought that the question must be examined in a large way. The Committee sent to these countries should not merely be a machine, adopting the same method everywhere in attempting to determine the wishes of the people. The Committee must use its [Page 1019]brains and develop some method which would do the largest justice to the various people concerned. But he wished to make his point perfectly clear that he merely spoke for Syria, because he lived there and knew what had been done there. On the other hand, he thought that the proposal should apply to all liberated areas.
Mr. Balfour said that from the early part of Dr. Bliss’ evidence, he gathered that the authorities in Syria had prevented the free use of the Posts, Telegraphs, and Communications. The authorities had also prevented all deputations, but one, from coming to Paris, and they had hampered the free communication of the wishes of the populations to the statesmen assembled at the Peace Conference. He enquired from Dr. Bliss whether he knew exactly by whom, and for what reasons, these limitations on free communications, had been imposed.
Dr. Bliss replied that Syria was under military occupation and presumably a censorship was essential where military operations were being undertaken. The restriction[s] he had referred to were, therefore, necessary to safeguard the integrity of the military operations. But as a result the people had been hampered by the existence of these regulations. Regulations made for military reasons prevented anything like free interchange of political opinion, especially among the timid people of Syria. The application of the Censorship, especially in regard to Postal matter and Newspapers, combined with the difficulties placed in the way of public and private meetings were such as to render political life impossible. There were several Syrians living abroad in Egypt, France, North and South America, and in other parts, all of whom were devoted to Syria. These people had left Syria on account of the oppression of the Turks; but it was most desirable that there should be a free interchange of views between people in Syria and their sympathisers and fellow citizens abroad to enable them to formulate their desires. At the present moment that was prevented by the difficulties of travel and the Postal restrictions.
Mr. Balfour enquired what, in Dr. Bliss’ judgment, was the general character of the opinions, whose free expression had thus been prevented by military necessities.
Dr. Bliss replied that he was unable to answer the question. The people had encountered great difficulties in reaching conclusions, owing to the numerous restrictions imposed by the Military Authorities. The Syrians were very honest and childlike; they had suddenly found themselves in the presence of a new situation; and they wondered what they were going to get out of it. They felt the golden hour was passing away, never to return. They felt aggrieved that other nationalities had been more fortunate in being able to send [Page 1020]delegations to put their case before the Peace Conference; whereas, they themselves, rightly or wrongly felt that they had been hampered in giving expression to their wishes by the stringency of the censorship, the difficulty of holding public meetings and the great obstacles in travelling.
Mr. Balfour enquired from Dr. Bliss whether, with his intimate knowledge of the population, he had been able to form any judgment as to what were their views.
Dr. Bliss thought that his own personal impressions would probably not be of any great value. He would prefer to leave the question to be answered by the suggested Commission, who would carry out its enquiries on the spot.
Lord Milner pointed out that the military censorship which apparently prevented this timid people from expressing their views was British. Were these views being suppressed because they might be unpleasant to the British?
Dr. Bliss replied that the facts were that those—the bolder men among the people—who tried to express their opinions were not able to do so on account of the stringency of the censorship. Consequently, if a Commission were sent to Syria to ascertain the wishes of the people, it should pursue its work freed from the preventive force due to the censorship of press and post-office. He himself was present at that meeting simply to plead for a principle; the determination of the wishes of the people. He did not ask that his own word should be taken, or that of anybody else; but in view of the fact that no opportunity had yet been given to the people to express their views, he thought the only solution would be the appointment of an Inter-Allied Commission, whose duty it would be to find the true opinion of the people. Those who lived in Syria would gladly accept a Mandatory Power, feeling that they had thereby been given an opportunity; and they would honestly work with the Mandatory Power, whether French, American or British, in the best possible way, feeling confidence in the fact that the promise held out to the people to express themselves had been fulfilled. Otherwise, if the opportunity, which the people had a right to claim in view of President Wilson’s 12th Point and the Franco-British Declaration of 1918, were not given, the probable outcome would be discontent, sullenness, resentment and even bloodshed.
Mr. Balfour pointed out that anybody reading the evidence given by Dr. Bliss would suppose that the British censorship had been exercised to prevent opinions unfavourable to Great Britain being expressed. If this was a correct interpretation of Dr. Bliss’ statement an enquiry should be held. On the other hand, if the statement was incorrect, it should be contradicted.[Page 1021]
Dr. Bliss replied that the censorship of the papers published in Beirut was exercised by the French Military authorities, and he presumed that the censorship arrangements had been carried out by the local authorities with the approval of General Allenby. But the effect of the censorship was that the people did not feel that they had a free opportunity of expressing themselves and his plea was that something should be done to enable them to have that free opportunity.
Lord Milner said that he still felt some uneasiness as to what had been said, especially as a matter of national honour was involved. The impression left in his mind was that the British censorship was being used to suppress the expression of pro-French or other non-British sympathies.
Dr. Bliss replied in the negative. The censorship was being used to suppress the expression of all opinions.
Lord Milner agreed but insisted that the point was whether he, Dr. Bliss, thought the censorship had the effect of suppressing one opinion rather than another. Great Britain was, for the moment, the predominant military power in Syria and exercised the right of censorship. Did Dr. Bliss consider that the British Military Authority had used its powers in order to influence opinion in a special pro-British direction?
Dr. Bliss replied that quite the contrary was the case. The existence of the censorship, however, made it difficult for the people to give proper expression to any views.
(Dr. Bliss having completed his evidence was invited to remain in the Council Chamber during the discussion of the Syrian question.)
(The Members of the Syrian Commission:—6
|M. Chekri Gamen||Chief Representative of the Central Syrian Committee.|
|Mardan Bey||Mussulman Representative.|
|M. Chedade||Orthodox ”|
An Israelite Representative of the Committee then entered the Council Chamber.)
(4) Claims of Syrian Commission to Syria M. Clemenceau having introduced the members of the Syrian Commission to the Conference called upon M. Chekri to make his statement.
M. Chekri Ganem then read the following statement:—
(This statement will be issued separately.)7
(It was then agreed to adjourn the further hearing of the Syrian question to a later date.)[Page 1022]
(5) Condition & Legislation Concerning Women and Children President Wilson asked permission to make a statement on the question of women representation. He had recently received a visit from a group of ladies, representing the suffrage associations of the Allied countries who had assembled and children here in paris, under the Chairmanship of Mrs. Fawcett of Great Britain. These ladies had brought him a resolution, and had asked him to bring it to the notice of the Conference. The resolution contained a proposal to the effect that a Conference of women should be appointed to consider the conditions of children and women throughout the world.8 He sincerely desired to give effect to the views expressed by the representatives of the Suffrage Associations of the Allied countries. He wished, therefore, to enquire whether the Conference would agree to the appointment of a Commission consisting of one representative of each of the five Great Powers and four representatives of the Smaller Powers to report on the conditions and legislation concerning women and children throughout the world, and to determine whether any international regulations should be issued. This Commission to be entitled to invite the suffrage associations of the Allied countries to nominate some of its members to attend in an advisory and consultative capacity.
M. Clemenceau enquired whether the question could not be referred to the existing Inter-Allied Commission on International Labour Legislation.
President Wilson thought that M. Clemenceau’s proposal would hardly give satisfaction to the Suffrage Associations, as they asked for recognition. He did not wish to urge this against the opinion of the Conference, but in his judgment recognition should be given.
Maharaja Bikaner expressed the view that the question raised by President Wilson would present considerable difficulties in all oriental countries, for reasons which it would be unnecessary for him to explain at the present moment.
President Wilson agreed that the enquiry should be restricted to European countries and America.
M. Clemenceau said he had no objections to offer to an enquiry being carried out into the conditions of woman and child labour: but he would strongly object to any enquiry being held into the political status of women.
President Wilson pointed out that the women were chiefly interested in the latter question.[Page 1023]
Mr. Balfour said lie had long been in favour of women suffrage, but he felt considerable alarm at the thought that the Peace Conference should extend its activities to a consideration of that question.
Baron Makino remarked that there had been a suffrage movement in Japan, but it was insignificant.
Baron Sonnino pointed out that the Inter-Allied Commission on International Labour and [sic] Legislation had already enquired into matters relating to women and children, with the exception of the Suffrage question. He, personally, was in favour of women suffrage, but he did not think it would be good politics to take up this question at the present moment. He thought interference by the Peace Conference would hardly lead to good results.
President Wilson said that he did not wish to press the matter unless there was a chance of obtaining practical unanimity. Under the circumstances, therefore, he would withdraw his proposal.
(President Wilson’s proposal regarding women’s position in the world was withdrawn.)
(6) Report League on Nations Commission President Wilson reported that the Committee to formulate plans for the League of Nations hoped to complete their labours that night. He wished to suggest, therefore, that a call be prepared for a Plenary Conference to be held tomorrow afternoon for the submission of the scheme and in order that full explanations might be given. The conclusions reached by the Commission would very quickly become generally known, and, therefore, in his opinion, the final draft should be placed at once before the Plenary Conference. He asked, therefore, that a notice be prepared for issue on the following morning, if the Commission’s report were then found to be ready for submission to the Plenary Conference.
M. Clemenceau enquired whether it was not intended that the report should, in the first place, be submitted for consideration to the Conference of the Great Powers. According to President Wilson’s proposal the Plenary Conference would receive the report before it had been examined by the present meeting.
President Wilson replied that in the ordinary course of events the best plan would perhaps have been to circulate the Commission’s report in the first place to the Conference of the Great Powers. He would point out, however, that the League of Nations Commission was not a Commission of the Conference of the Great Powers but of the Plenary Conference. Consequently, the first report ought, as a matter of fact, to go to the Plenary Conference. In accordance with his proposal the Plenary Conference would be asked to receive the report, and the Chairman of the Commission would then give the necessary explanations. That is to say, the report would be submitted [Page 1024]by himself, and some of his colleagues on the Commission would subsequently give additional explanations.
Mr. Balfour thought that it would be a great advantage if President Wilson could explain the scheme to the Plenary Conference before he left for the United States of America. He would do this as Chairman of the League of Nations Commission and not as a member of the Conference of the Great Powers. The members of the latter Conference would not be committed to the scheme in any way. He, therefore, saw no objection to President Wilson’s proposal.
M. Clemenceau understood the proposal to be that the report of the League of Nations Commission would be presented to the Plenary Conference by its chairman (President Wilson), who would give certain explanations, after which the Conference would adjourn.
President Wilson agreed that this was his proposal, though he did not quite know how other members of the Plenary Conference could be stopped from making speeches if they wished to do so. But in any case no decision would be taken.
(It was agreed that a Plenary Conference should, if possible, be held at 3:30 p.m. on the afternoon of Friday, 14th February, 1919,9 in order to place before it the report of the League of Nations Commission. It was agreed that individual notices to this effect should be issued to each of the Delegates to the Peace Conference.)
(The Meeting then adjourned.)
A correction issued on February 17, 1919, reads as follows:
For list of Members of the Syrian Commission substitute the following:—
M. Chekri Ganem Chief Representative of the Central Syrian Committee. M. Anis Schenade Orthodox Greek. Jamil Mardam Bey Moslem. Dr. Georges Samne Greek Melchite. Nejil Bey Maikarzel Maronite. Dr. Tewfik Farhi Hebrew.
- Dr. Isaiah Bowman was appointed American representative to the Commission of Polish Affairs; Dr. Charles H. Haskins and Col. S. D. Embick were appointed American representatives to the Commission for Belgian and Danish Affairs.↩
- Count Vannutelli-Rey was named as the second Italian representative.↩
- According to a correction issued later, the word “measures” should be substituted for the word “changes.”↩
- Rev. Howard S. Bliss, President of the Syrian Protestant College, Beyrout, Syria.↩
ii, p. 274.↩
- For correction issued on February 17, 1919, see footnote 1, p. 1014.↩
- This statement appears on p. 1024.↩
A correction of this portion of the minutes was issued later in which the preceding sentence was omitted and the following substituted:
The resolution contained a proposal to the effect that a commission should be appointed by the Peace Congress to enquire into and report upon the international aspect of the position of women and children throughout the world.
- For minutes of this Plenary Session, see p. 208.↩
- The documents referred to do not accompany the minutes.↩
- The documents referred to do not accompany the minutes.↩
- Current History (March 1920), vol. xi, p. 499.↩