Paris Peaee Conf. 180.03401/115


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House, in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Wednesday, April 23, 1919, at 11 a.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.

(1) The Italian Claims Mr. Lloyd George produced a communication he had received from M. Orlando giving the latest Italian proposal (Appendix I).

He felt this offered no basis for negotiation. He suggested it might be desirable to ask the Italian delegates whether they intended to meet the Germans when they came to Versailles.

M. Clemenceau thought it was a good idea.

President Wilson suggested that when we came to deal with Austria, if the Italians were standing out of the Conference the boundaries should be settled as fairly as though Italy were in. Italy should be treated on absolutely fair lines and shown that their interests were taken care of.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that if Italy was not present in the negotiations with Germany it would be difficult for the Allied and Associated Powers to put forward claims on their behalf for reparation, for example.

President Wilson referred to a report which he had received from a M. Pupin, a scientist of Yugo-Slav nationality, who was working in Columbia University. The memorandum was by no means of a menacing character, but it did convey the impression that the result of a peace unsatisfactory to the Jugo-Slavs would be to drive them into the hands of the Bolshevists. They would unite with the rest of the Slav peoples. One interesting point in M. Pupin’s memorandum was a reference to an Italian Socialist meeting which had been held at Rome at which Italian claims, as recognised by the Socialists, had been outlined. No mention was made of Dalmatia, Fiume, Gorizia, or of Carinthia.

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After some further discussion on this subject, which was taken up after other subjects had been discussed, President Wilson said that it was his intention to publish his memorandum on the Italian question this evening.1

Mr. Lloyd George read a memorandum which Mr. Balfour had prepared at his request and which presented the point of view of France and Great Britain.1a In the course of the reading of Mr. Balfour’s memorandum the following corrections were suggested:—

An alteration in certain phrases which conveyed the impression that Fiume was not mentioned in the Treaty of London. It was pointed out that Fiume was mentioned in a note to Article 5.
Fiume, it was pointed out, was not on the Dalmatian but on the Croatian coast.
The addition, after a sentence in which it was mentioned that Fiume was one town and not two, of the following words “and that is Slav.”
That it would be better to omit a passage on the last page referring to the forthcoming withdrawal of Italy from the Conference. It was pointed out that although Italy had withdrawn from these conversations they had not formally withdrawn from the Preliminary Peace Conference. It was suggested it would be better to prepare the memorandum to deter Italy from doing so rather than to suggest that it was a probable contingency.

Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau agreed on the following:

That the letter should be revised on the above lines.
That copy should be sent to M. Clemenceau for him to have translated and examined.

No decision was taken as to when the letter should be forwarded to the Italian representatives.

There was some discussion as to the difficult position which would arise if Italy persisted in her present attitude. It was pointed out that if Italy should insist on holding on to Fiume, this would be itself a breach of the Treaty which definitely allotted Fiume to Croatia. If, on the other hand, Italy should abandon her position in Fiume, the situation would be very difficult, because then France and Great Britain would be bound by their Treaty to sign a Treaty with Austria which President Wilson did not feel himself in a position to sign, since Italy could insist on the portion of Dalmatia comprised in the Treaty being transferred to her sovereignty. It was generally agreed that anything which caused a difference between Great Britain and France on the one hand, and the United States of America on the other, would be most deplorable, since the future peace of the world depended so much on these three nations standing [Page 151] together. The danger of uniting the whole of the Slavs in a possible Bolshevist regime was also commented on.

Attention was also drawn to the fact that Italy had, on the 26th April 1915, adhered to the Pact of London of the 5th September 1914,2 thereby engaging herself mutually with Great Britain, France, and Russia, not to conclude a separate peace in the course of the War, and that when there was a question of discussing the terms of peace none of the Allied Powers should propose conditions of peace without previous agreement with each of the other Allies.

2. Attitude of German Delegates Mr. Lloyd George said that he had just seen Captain Gibson, an officer who had returned from Berlin and who had given us consistently very valuable information. Captain Gibson said that the best of the German Delegates was named Melchior, who desired peace. Melchior was very much in with the industrialists, who desired peace. Rantzau, whom he did not think very much of, was, he believed, opposed to peace.

M. Clemenceau doubted if the present German Government could make peace.

3. Credit Scheme for Re-starting Industry Raising of Blockade Mr. Lloyd George said that Captain Gibson had explained that the most important factor inducing the Germans to sign peace was their desire to re-start their national life. This brought him to the question of a scheme for re-starting Europe. No trade was at present moving anywhere in Europe. In Belgium there were many unemployed, and the same was true of other countries and particularly of Germany. Mr. Keynes had prepared a scheme, the broad outline of which was that the first thousand million pounds which Germany had to pay should be taken and guaranteed by all the Powers. Cash should be raised on it in order to enable all countries, including Germany, to get raw material and re-start their industries. Unless something of the kind was done, Melchior would not be able to make peace.

President Wilson said he had given Captain Gibson’s paper to Mr. Hoover, who had some 40 agents travelling about in Europe in connection with relief work. Mr. Hoover had said that the paper was extraordinarily correct, but he thought nothing could be done unless the people could get food and start their industrial life. At present, they were in a hopeless position. The ordinary life could not grow on the present soil and Bolshevism was the only system it could. Hence, he thought that the blockade ought to be raised.

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Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that there was the same paralysis in countries that had no blockade.

M. Clemenceau thought it would be a great mistake to raise it.

President Wilson pointed out that it could be reimposed.

M. Clemenceau said that the moment was bad for raising the blockade. The Germans were about to arrive for the purpose of signing peace and we must not appear to be weakening.

4. Admission of Enemy Journalists to the Peace Conference M. Clemenceau read information which showed that the German Delegation contemplated bringing journalists to Versailles. He asked whether the French ought to allow them to come to Versailles. His own view was strongly opposed, and he would like authority not to admit them. His information was more and more in the direction that Rantzau was coming to cause a breakdown in the negotiations.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that Melchior was not coming with this object.

5. Economic Terms President Wilson considered that, in view of Melchior’s presence, the attitude of the Germans would depend largely upon the economic terms. If the Germans found that chains were to be imposed on them, they would not sign, but if a fair basis were offered, they would. He had talked to the United States experts on the subject and the attitude they took was that the Allied and Associated Powers should only require that there should be no discrimination by Germany against any particular belligerent. That is to say, all should have the most favoured nation terms.

6. The Transport of General Haller’s Army to Poland: German Interference M. Clemenceau read a telegram from the Chief of the Military Mission at Warsaw to Marshal Foch, reporting that by midnight of the 20th, 12 trains had passed through Warsaw conveying a portion of General Haller’s Army. He reported a number of incidents where the Germans had molested the trains and broken open wagons and taken foodstuffs, such as biscuits, preserved meat and sacks of oats and clothing. These incidents had mainly taken place at Glogau.

Mr. Lloyd George said he was surprised that the troops had got through with so little trouble. He thought the attention of Marshal Foch ought to be called to the matter and that he should be directed to make representations.

President Wilson agreed.

(It was agreed that M. Clemenceau should instruct Marshal Foch to call the attention of the Germans to the molestation of trains conveying General Haller’s Army to Poland and should insist on their carrying out their engagements.)

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7. Persia President Wilson said he had received an appeal from Persia, who had sent a Delegation to the Peace Conference, and complained that [not] only had she not been admitted or heard at the Peace Conference but that no reply had even been made to communications addressed to the Bureau of the Conference.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he was informed by Sir Maurice Hankey that Mr. Balfour was opposed to the admission of Persia to the Conference, though he did not know the reasons. He asked that the matter might be postponed until he had consulted Mr. Balfour.

8. Plenary Conference President Wilson said the time had come for holding a Plenary Conference. Lord Robert Cecil had written to him about the desirability of discussing the League of Nations Covenant there. He proposed that the Covenant should be laid before the Plenary Conference without any further speech making, although he would make a statement to the effect that the last revision which had been made to consider such criticisms as had been offered only clarified certain points. After this, anyone who wanted to discuss the question could do so. There would probably be only a few speeches. There were also several other reports which had been called for by the Plenary Conference which should be laid before them.

Mr. Lloyd George agreed that there must be a meeting.

M. Clemenceau also agreed.

(After some further discussion, it was decided:—

That a plenary meeting of the Preliminary Peace Conference should be held on Monday, April 28th, when the following reports should be considered:—
  • The League of Nations Covenant
  • The Labour Clauses
  • Responsibility and Breaches of the laws of War.
That the clauses being drafted by the Drafting Committee to give effect to the conclusion of the Supreme Council on the subject of the Responsibility and Breaches of the laws of war should be circulated for the meeting.
That a second plenary meeting of the Conference should be held on the day preceding the night on which the Germans were due to arrive at Versailles. The object of this meeting would be to communicate the contents of the Peace Treaty.)

9. The question of publicity was discussed several times during this meeting.

Publicity of the Peace Treaty M. Clemenceau strongly urged that the Treaty should be published when it was communicated to the Germans. It would not be fair to our own people to let the Germans see the Treaty and to conceal it from them. His [Page 154] own position would be an impossible one if the Treaty were not published. It was absolutely certain that the Germans would publish it, particularly if they wished to make mischief for us and it would make a very bad impression in the countries of the Allied and Associated Powers if the public first learnt of the terms of the Treaty of Peace from the German wireless.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that the Germans might not want to publish the Treaty and that negotiations would be easier for all concerned without publicity.

Both Mr. Lloyd George and President Wilson laid the utmost stress on the preparation of a good summary for publication.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that the reception of the Peace Treaty would depend largely on the first impression made.

M. Clemenceau said he was preparing a summary for communicating to the Preliminary Meeting and he thought this might also serve for the Press. He undertook to communicate it to and to discuss it with his colleagues.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that a notice ought to be issued to the Press of the Allied and Associated Powers to the effect that the moment for publication would be after the communication of the Treaty to the Germans and that premature publicity might have very serious effects.

(M. Clemenceau undertook to draft a preface notice on the subject.)

Appendix I

Italian Proposals


The line of the Alps (Brenner) to the sea, East of Volosca.


Fiume under the sovereignty of Italy.

Italy will establish in the port of Fiume free zones in accordance with the terms of articles 8, 9 and 10 of the Peace clauses drawn up by the Commission of Ports, Waterways, and Railways and will extend to Fiume those facilitations which may be arranged for later on in a general convention with reference to free ports.


Italy will have all the islands mentioned in the Pact of London except Pago.


Zara and Sebenico will be placed under the League of Nations with Italy as Mandatory Power.

  1. The text of the manifesto of April 23, 1919, is printed in Ray Stannard Baker, Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement, (Garden City, N. Y., 1922), vol. iii, p. 287.
  2. The text of the memorandum as delivered to M. Orlando on April 24 appears as appendix I to IC–176C, p. 223.
  3. Great Britain, Cd. 7737, Treaty Series (1915) No. 1: Declaration Between the United Kingdom, France, and Russia, Engaging Not To Conclude Peace Separately During the Present European War, Signed at London, September 5, 1914.