Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/113


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Tuesday, April 22, 1919, at 4 p.m.

  • Present
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson
    • British Empire
      • Mr. Lloyd George
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
      • Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B., Secretary
      • Professor P. Mantoux, Interpreter.

The Italian Claims in the Adiatic (1) Mr. Lloyd George reported that, on his return from the morning meeting he had found M. Orlando’s Chef de Cabinet awaiting him. He had arranged to see M. Orlando in the afternoon and had just come from the interview. M. Orlando had had the intention of writing a letter saying that Italy could not be represented at Versailles when the Germans came unless the Italian claims were conceded. Mr. Lloyd George had said that in that event Italy’s claim for reparation could not be put forward. M. Orlando had said that this was a settled matter. Mr. Lloyd George had pointed out that this was not the case, and that a number of questions were outstanding. He asked to whom M. Orlando proposed to entrust Italy’s claim against Germany—France, or England, or the United States? He had told him he thought that he was in a very serious situation. He himself and M. Clemenceau stood by their Treaty, but he had told him that if the Treaty was signed without the United States of America it meant disaster. He had pointed out to him that President Wilson was immovable. Moreover, he wanted to present his case to the public immediately. M. Orlando must realize that once President Wilson had done that he could not go back on it, and there would be no chance of conciliation. He had also told him it was only with the greatest reluctance that President Wilson would consider the idea of handing over the islands to Italy. After that he had asked M. Orlando what he thought about the establishment of a free city in Fiume instead of handing it over to Croatia. M. Orlando had then harked back to Zara, Sebenico, and Spalato.

President Wilson said that Italy would never get these.

Mr. Lloyd George said he had one last suggestion to make, that [Page 136] Fiume should be a free city and that Zara and Sebenico should also be free cities with provision for a plebiscite at the end of three years to ascertain whether they would wish to join the mainland.

President Wilson doubted whether this would help the peace of that coast.

M. Clemenceau feared collisions between the Italians and the Jugo-Slavs.

President Wilson feared that the Slavs would crowd into the free cities and there would be a constant agitation in Italy that this was being done to prejudice the plebiscite.

M. Clemenceau said he would not stand in the way of the proposal if President Wilson would accept.

President Wilson thought that a better plan would be for him to publish the statement which he had prepared, to which he proposed to put a preamble in some such words as the following:—

“All aspects of this question should be known before the decision is arrived at.”

Those who knew Italian public opinion well thought that this would for the moment inflame Italian public opinion, but that this would be followed by a reaction in which the people would see that it was to their own interest to accept the cooperation of the United States of America rather than to stand out for the Treaty. Italy, he pointed out, had sent very large numbers of emigrants to the United States of America and every year thousands of these returned to visit their native land. There was a stream of many millions of dollars every year from America to Italy. When the people realized the dangers of the position, as they might in the course of a week or two, opinion would probably change.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out the danger of bringing back a Giolitti Government in Italy.

At this point, the discussion was adjourned to enable the Chinese plenipotentiaries to develop their case on the question of Shantung, which was recorded separately.1 After the interval, however, there was a further discussion as to the action to be taken in regard to the Italian claims. As a result of this discussion, it was agreed that:—

Mr. Lloyd George should be authorized to see M. Orlando at once and to ascertain from him whether Italy would discuss the following conditions:—

Fiume, together with the surrounding territory, to be a free city:
The islands of strategical importance to Italy to be ceded to her, excluding islands such as Pago, which are almost an extension of the mainland;
Zara and Sebenico to be free cities without any definite provision for a plebiscite, but with the power that all countries have under the League of Nations to appeal to the League for an alteration of their boundaries.

Villa Majestic, Paris, April 22, 1919.

  1. See IC–175E, infra.