Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/65


Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay on Wednesday, 16th April, 1919, at 4 p.m.

Present Also Present
America, United States of Italy
President Wilson. M. Ricci-Busatti.
Mr. R. Lansing. M. Piacentini.
Mr. L. Harrison.
British Empire
The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour.
Lord Hardinge.
Mr. H. Norman.
Mr. E. Phipps.
M. Clemenceau.
Secy-General Peace Conference
M. Dutasta.
M. Berthelot.
M. Arnavon.
Baron Sonnino.
Marquis Salvago-Raggi.
Count Aldrovandi.
M. Bertele.
Baron Makino.
Viscount Chinda.
M. Kawai.
M. Ashida.

Joint Secretariat

America, United States of Lieut. E. C. Burden.
British Empire Captain E. Abraham.
Italy Lieut. Zanchi.
Japan M. Saburi.
Interpreter:—Prof. P. J. Mantoux.
[Page 477]

1. M. Clemenceau said that the Meeting had been called in order to bring together the Council of Four and the Council of Five.1 It was proposed that the work done separately should be examined in common. His first request, therefore, was that the Council of Five should report what they had accomplished and what still remained to be done. He asked Baron Sonnino if he would make a statement on this subject. Object of Meeting

Baron Sonnino said that on the previous day the Council of Foreign Ministers had before them an agenda of some eleven items. The bulk of these had been remitted to the Drafting Committee, which, he understood, was to meet that day at 5 p.m. The Council of Foreign Ministers was to meet again on Thursday, the 17th instant, to deliberate on the drafts submitted by the Drafting Committee. The Drafting Committee were charged with the task of coordinating proposals made by Great Britain and by the United States. In other words, to reconcile the two drafts suggested.

M. Clemenceau enquired on what subjects the discussion had taken place.

Baron Sonnino said that the subjects dealt with were:—

  • Opium,
  • Belgium,
  • The Suez Canal and Egypt, and
  • An Article requiring from Germany a general renunciation of rights outside Europe, which were to be surrendered to the trusteeship of the Five Powers.

Reference had been made to the Drafting Committee with the object of ensuring that the whole ground was being covered.

President Wilson asked whether the impression that a fuller Conference had been desired to decide these points was erroneous.

Baron Sonnino remarked that another question discussed had been the upkeep of the Army of Occupation in Germany. On this subject, General Weygand had made certain explanations revealing a difference of opinion in calculating the expenses involved in maintaining these forces. Two theses had been put forward and these had been referred to the Council of Four.

Mr. Lansing said that his impression was that they had been referred to the Economic Council.

M. Dutasta said that the reference had been to the Council of Four.

Mr. Balfour observed that, if this was so, the matter should be dealt with.

[Page 478]

2. Baron Sonnino said that two methods of calculating the cost had been mentioned. One considered only the actual expenses of the moment, food, billetting, etc. The other considered more general expenses. He was not able to specify exactly what the definition was, as he had not taken an active part in the discussion. Cost of Maintaining Armies of Occupation in Germany

President Wilson said that presumably the latter category included expenses of army administration as separate from the cost of the actual maintenance in the occupied districts.

Mr. Lansing remarked that on the 8th March, General Pershing had addressed a written enquiry to Marshal Foch. No answer had been returned. The United States of America were, therefore, somewhat embarrassed in giving an opinion on this subject.

M. Clemenceau said that when the documents relating to the subject were before the Meeting, it would be possible to form an opinion or to remit them to some Committee.

Baron Sonnino said that General Weygand was in a position to state the case fully.

President Wilson observed that if General Weygand were called, he could only re-state the question and not offer a solution. He would suggest that the Military Advisers at Versailles be asked to define what was understood by “cost of military occupation.”

Baron Sonnino remarked that there were differences of opinion among military authorities.

President Wilson said that it was desirable to have these differences of opinion laid before the Council.

Mr. Balfour drew attention to the divergent views held by the various delegates at Spa.

President Wilson asked that a digest of these various views should be prepared and laid before the Council.

Mr. Balfour agreed that what was required was a brief narrative fitted for civilian understanding. The Council of Four would then be able to reach a decision.

Baron Sonnino observed that the whole discussion had been raised by a question put by the German General von Hammerstein asking for a definition of what was the cost of maintaining a man and a horse in occupied territory.

President Wilson suggested that the correspondence that had taken place at Spa should be referred to the Military Advisers at Versailles in order that a digest should be prepared of the various opinions.

Baron Sonnino said that he did not disagree, but he thought it right to warn the Council that military opinion was divided as to what should be reckoned in the account.

[Page 479]

(It was then decided to remit to the Military Advisers of the Supreme War Council at Versailles the drafting of the various points of view regarding the estimation of the cost of upkeep of the Forces of Occupation in Germany).

Baron Sonnino observed that the cost of upkeep of the Armies of Occupation previous to the signature of Peace was distinct from that of a continuance of occupation after Peace.

President Wilson said that should any occupation subsequent to the signature of Peace be provided for, the same definition and the same interpretation could be adhered to as in the case of occupation previous to Peace.

3. Mr. Balfour drew attention to Item 6 on the Agenda for the Meeting of Foreign Ministers on the previous day. There were two amendments before the Meeting. One had been adopted, and the other had been referred to the Council of Four. He suggested that the matter be explained by someone who had been present at the Meeting on the previous day. Amendments to Military Terms: Secret Processes for the Manufacture of Gas

Mr. Lansing said that the difficulty had arisen with regard to exacting from the Germans the disclosure of their secret processes for the manufacture of ingredients for the inhuman conduct of war. As the Allies in another provision had prohibited the manufacture of such things, he regarded the suggested amendment as unnecessary. Further he believed that the disclosure of these secrets would add nothing to the military power of the Allies, who already possessed the secret of making even more deleterious gases than Germany. On the other hand, the revelation of these secrets would be of great economic advantage to Allied industries in that the dye making processes would be revealed at the same time. He believed that this motive very likely was not unconnected with the proposal.

Mr. Balfour said that the Military Authorities attached great importance to this question. Their opinions were based on military considerations, and they were in no manner concerned with any ambition to obtain industrial secrets. In their memorandum on the subject they took care to state that the dye process was quite divorced from the purpose they had in view. What they required was a purely military piece of knowledge. He did not profess himself to understand or to estimate the value of this knowledge but he was convinced that the Military Experts attached great importance to it.

Mr. Lansing said that the American Military Experts did not attach any value to it.

Baron Sonnino pointed out that the British proposal demanded the surrender of all chemical processes out of which gases had been or could be made, and for the production of all substances from which [Page 480] gases or other destructive agencies could be produced. This definition was so wide that it was bound to cover the revelation of the secrets of dye making.

President Wiuson said that he believed the framers of the proposal had not this object in view.

Mr. Balfour pointed out that an effective gas mask could not be made without knowledge of the gas which it was to contend with.

President Wilson said that whatever weight might be given to the military opinion on this matter it was certain that many people other than military experts were interested in the revelation of these secrets. There was a further difficulty. However much the Allies might demand the revelation of secrets, they would never be certain that they possessed them all. Twenty-five years of University experience had made him well aware that the most difficult secrets to obtain were those of inventors. Many researchers were so suspicious of their fellow men that they contrived to keep their formulae in their own head for years. In no sphere of life was there so intense a competition as among inventors, each of whom wished to be the first in the field with his invention. This was certainly no less true of Germany than of other countries. He had made objections of a similar character to other proposals, as he thought it was a mistake to exact more than could with certainty be obtained. It could serve no useful purpose to expose oneself to be deceived. The Allies must trust their own inventors to cope with their German rivals. There was a whispering gallery connecting not only the Foreign Offices, but also the laboratories of the world.

Baron Sonnino agreed that the Germans might reveal their second best secrets, but would probably succeed in keeping their best ones.

President Wilson said that they would certainly not reveal their new ones.

Mr. Balfour said that though President Wilson’s remarks appealed to him, he felt that he was not in possession of military knowledge and did not feel disposed to take a decision before he had heard what the Military Authorities had to say. He understood that both the French and British military authorities were agreed.

President Wilson remarked that the Military experts were doubtless authorities as to what they wanted to obtain, but that he regarded himself as an authority as to what they would get.

Mr. Balfour said that he would nevertheless like to know what their case was.

M. Clemenceau was also of the opinion that the experts should be consulted.

Baron Sonnino said that in any case the formula suggested was too wide.

[Page 481]

President Wilson said that he was always prepared to hear military opinion, but that he wished to register his dissent from the proposal put forward.

M. Clemenceau said that if the military experts were unable to answer the objections that had been raised, he would adopt President Wilson’s view.

President Wilson then suggested that this question also should be sent to the Military Advisers at Versailles, in order that they should formulate a military opinion on the subject.

Mr. Balfour agreed, but added that the two categories of objection raised should be communicated to them, namely:—

That in all probability the secrets would not be obtained;
That if obtained they would confer an unfair advantage to competing industries in Allied countries.

(The following Resolution was then adopted:—

“The Military Advisors of the Supreme War Council at Versailles are requested to state the military advantages of exacting from the Germans the revelation of their secret processes for the manufacture of lethal gases.

It is to be observed:—

That no means of supervision exist capable of guaranteeing the veracity of the statements the Germans might make on this subject.
That such a demand for the revelation of German secrets of manufacture might give an unfair advantage to rival industries in Allied countries”.)

(4) M. Clemenceau said he wished to raise the question of the Kiel Canal. A document had been submitted to the Council of Four as being a unanimous report of a Commission on this subject. On examination, the report had proved to be an old report, previously dismissed. It had come up again unamended. He had telephoned to the Secretary of the Naval Committee, who had replied that he knew nothing of it. Kiel Canal

President Wilson explained that there had been unanimity on this subject in the Waterways Commission, which had referred the report back to the Council.

M. Clemenceau observed that the question had a military side, on which naval authorities should be called upon to state their views.

President Wilson suggested that the naval authorities might sit in combined session with the Waterways Commission.

(It was then decided to refer the question of the Kiel Canal to a Joint Session of Naval Experts, and of the Commission on the International Regime of Ports, Waterways & Railways.)

[Page 482]

(5) Baron Sonnino said that two drafts had been proposed on the subject of the validity of Prize Court Decisions. The British draft proposed a clause to be inserted in the treaty stipulating that the validity of Allied Prize Court decisions should not be challenged by the enemy. The American draft proposed, in addition, that the Allies should have the power to invalidate similar decisions taken by German Prize Courts. Both these drafts had been remitted to the Drafting Committee to be fused into one clause. The American draft also contained an additional paragraph, on which he understood the American Delegates did not insist. Prize Court Decisions

Mr. Lansing remarked that the United States did not insist on the form, but wished the substance to be preserved. The reason for this was that Prize Courts in America had ceased to function at the armistice. Nevertheless, the United States wished to maintain certain seizures made subsequently, and therefore without Prize Court decisions.

(7) M. Clemenceau said that he had another point to submit to the meeting. A resolution had been adopted regarding responsibilities, and it had been considered right that Belgium should undertake the prosecution. This had been agreed, he thought, with the consent of M. Hymans. He had heard since that the President of the Belgian Council had come to Paris, and was prepared to refuse his consent to this proposal. As representative of a monarchical State, he held the view that Belgium could not take the lead in prosecuting a monarch. Responsibility for Violation of Belgian Neutrality

President Wilson said that he did not think this obstacle unsurmountable. The essential point was that the Kaiser was to be tried for a high misdemeanour, which might not legally amount to a crime, namely:—for violating the neutrality of Belgium. If Belgium refused to be prosecutrix she would not refuse to be witness. He further pointed out that in the draft adopted, Belgium had not been specifically set down as prosecutrix.

M. Clemenceau said that if that was so, he did not wish to press the point any further.

(The Meeting then adjourned.)

Paris, 16th April, 1919.

  1. The minutes of the Council of Four are to be printed in later volumes. For minutes of the Council of Foreign Ministers (Council of Five), see pp. 515 ff.