Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/117


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Thursday, April 24, 1919, at 11 a.m.

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

1. The Situation With Italy Mr. Lloyd George reported a conversation that he had had with M. Orlando that morning, in which he had pointed out the whole of the difficulties in which M. Orlando was placed. M. Orlando had said that he was contemplating a reply to President Wilson’s manifesto.1 Publication of President Wilson’s manifesto had been held up and it would only be published together with M. Orlando’s reply. This reply M. Orlando had promised would be couched in moderate language and would not close the door to further negotiations. Mr. Lloyd George had specially pressed that it should not commit the Italians in regard to Fiume. M. Orlando had agreed on this point. M. Orlando had said that he was willing to leave Baron Sonnino in Paris. Mr. Lloyd George’s impression, however, was that M. Orlando would like to stay. He had intimated that it would help him if a communique could be issued in the Press to the effect that at the request of M. Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George, as representing the countries signatory to the Treaty of London, he had agreed to defer his departure.

President Wilson pointed out that this would place him in an invidious position. The issue was fundamental to him as to whether the United States could take part in any part of the Treaty of London referring to districts south of Istria. The impression had already been conveyed in the Press that the Signatories of the Treaty of London were divided from the United States of America. It had not been possible for him to let the Italian people get their version of what had occurred from a poisoned Press; consequently, he had been [Page 203] bound to issue his manifesto. It was a friendly message to set out the case to the Italian people. If only some time were gained, he thought that the Italian people would realise their position and that the present ferment would settle down. Hence, he would be glad if M. Orlando could remain in Paris at least a week.

Mr. Lloyd George asked M. Clemenceau whether he were satisfied with Mr. Balfour’s draft letter to M. Orlando.1a

M. Clemenceau said that with a few verbal alterations he was satisfied. He said he would bring these in the afternoon.

President Wilson said he had not seen the latest version of the draft.

Mr. Lloyd George promised him a copy.

After some further discussion, the following conclusions were reached:—

1. Mr. Lloyd George should ask M. Orlando if he would issue the following communique:—

At the request of President Wilson, Monsieur Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George, Signor Orlando has agreed to defer his departure to Italy with a view to seeing whether it is not still possible to accommodate the difficulties which have arisen about Fiume and the Dalmatian coast.

2. Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau should arrange for the final draft of the letter to M. Orlando and sign it jointly.

3. Mr. Lloyd George should send President Wilson a copy of the proposed letter to M. Orlando.

Mr. Philip Kerr was sent by Mr. Lloyd George with the draft communique to M. Orlando but the latter did not consider publication desirable. At the very end of the meeting, at the moment of adjournment, Count Aldrovandi arrived with a message from M. Orlando to the effect that he and his colleagues had come to the conclusion that the best plan would be for them to meet the Supreme Council that afternoon at President Wilson’s house.

This was agreed to.

2. Admission of Enemy Journalists to the Peace Conference M. Clemenceau said that since the discussion of previous day the Germans had announced officially that seven journalists would accompany their Delegation. He asked what attitude he was to take.

President Wilson pointed out that although he did not much care to have the journalists present, nevertheless, they would be confined by the same restrictions as the Plenipotentiaries.

M. Clemenceau said that he could not have them free to move about in Paris.

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Mr. Lloyd George thought that, so long as they were restricted in the same manner as the Plenipotentiaries, the German papers were entitled to receive such information as they could obtain from them.

It was agreed that:—

Journalists should be allowed to accompany the German Delegation but should be confined by the same restrictions as the Delegation itself.

3. Publicity Mr. Lloyd George again reverted to the question of publicity on which he said he felt very strongly, so strongly, indeed, that he would almost have to make a protest. Since the previous discussion, he had seen Captain Gibson, an Officer just returned from Berlin, who had expressed the view that if the terms were published it might be impossible for the Germans to sign, as publication would strengthen the hands of the extremists. He himself felt that it would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the Allied and Associated Powers to give way on points that really were not of very great importance. There was a long discussion on this subject, which followed much the same lines of the discussion on the previous day, and it is only very briefly summarised below.

M. Clemenceau’s point of view was that publication was quite unavoidable. If the Allied and Associated Powers did not publish the Germans would. He had had to grant them free telegraphic and telephonic facilities; the German Delegation would be accompanied by 40 telegraphists; and it was certain that within three days the whole Peace Treaty would be published by the enemy. The Allied peoples ought not to learn the contents of the Peace Treaty first from enemy sources. Public opinion would, in a few days, compel publication of the Peace Treaty. In any cases there would be leakages.

Mr. Lloyd George’s view was that leakages were not of very material consequence. In Great Britain the public did not attach much importance to leakages. Once everything was announced officially they knew it to be true and it would be extremely difficult to recede from any position taken up.

President Wilson’s point of view was that although publication was undesirable it was, he believed, also unavoidable. He quoted some information that he had received from an Officer in the United States 3rd Army, who had had a talk with Brockdorff Rantzau. The latter expressed surprise at receiving an invitation to Versailles and assumed that it meant that Germany would be asked to sign practically an imposed Peace. He had considered the terms, as published, to amount to slavery for Germany and had referred particularly to the Saar Valley and Silesia. He said that he should never consent to a Peace giving up these districts, even temporarily, and that the German Ministry could not agree to such terms. He had believed that the German people would support them in not signing [Page 205] such terms. When asked as to how Germany could continue to exist without outside relief, in the event of her not signing, he had given no reply, though he had thrown out the suggestion that they might turn towards Russia. The American Officer had gathered that there would be no strong protest against the provisions as regards Alsace-Lorraine and Indemnity, although some difficulty would be made over Danzig. The serious points of the Treaty, however, would be the Saar Valley and Silesia. Brockdorff Rantzau had appeared very depressed. The same informant had stated that the idea of a plebiscite was being discussed a good deal in Germany and might be carried out. The independent socialists would accept it. President Wilson interpreted this telegram to mean that Brockdorff Rantzau typified the extreme point of view. In the background he believed there was a more submissive body of opinion. His informant had suggested that the German people ought to know that a certain amount of discussion would be permitted. He himself was inclined to agree in the proposal that the discussion should take place in writing. As regards publicity, he inclined towards Mr. Balfour’s view that a summary rather than the actual text should be published in the first instance. The preparation of the summary was a matter of the very first importance.

M. Clemenceau said he would consult M. Tardieu in regard to this. He asked how long the summary should be.

Mr. Lloyd George thought it should be as short as possible.

4. Kiel Canal President Wilson read a report from the Ports and Waterways Commission, which had been asked to consider the question of the Kiel Canal. (Appendix 1.) The only controversial point was Article 7. in regard to which two versions had been submitted, one by the United States of America, British, Italian and Japanese Delegations, and one by the French.

M. Clemenceau said he was particularly anxious that Admiral de Bon2 should be heard on the subject of the fortification of the Canal.

President Wilson said that his feeling on this matter was that if Germany had no fortifications, she might be unable to carry out her obligation to keep the canal open if she ever became involved in war with any power. The provision for no fortification was not consistent with the provision for keeping the Canal open.

(It was agreed that Admiral Hope,3 Admiral Benson,4 and Admiral de Bon should be seen that afternoon.)

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Note: This was subsequently cancelled in consequence of the receipt of a communication from M. Orlando. (Minute 1.)

5. Saar Valley Mr. Lloyd George read a memorandum which had been presented to him by Mr. Headlam-Morley on the subject of the Saar Vslley. (Appendix 2.)

(After a short discussion, it was agreed that the United States. British, and French experts should be authorised to visit the Saar Valley, in order to advise on the question.)

6. Economic Terms Sir Maurice Hankey stated that the report of the Economic Commission had been circulated. He learned by telephone from Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith that some of the principal delegates on the Commission, namely; M. Clémentel, M. Crespi, Mr. Baruch, and himself, had met on the previous evening, and after a very long discussion, had agreed to four out of the five outstanding points.

(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to summon the Economic experts for 4.30 p.m. in the afternoon.)

Note: This was subsequently cancelled, owing to the receipt of a communication from M. Orlando, (see minute 1).

Appendix I

Draft Articles Concerning the Kiel Canal for Insertion in the Preliminary Treaty of Peace With Germany

Article I

The Kiel Canal and its approaches shall be maintained free and open to the vessels of commerce and of war of all nations at peace with Germany on terms of entire equality.

Article II

The nationals, property and vessels of all States shall, in respect of charges, facilities, and in all other respects, be treated on a footing of perfect equality in the use of the Canal, no distinction being made to the detriment of nationals, property and vessels of any State, between the latter and the nationals, property and vessels of Germany or of the most favored nation.

No impediment shall be placed on the movement of persons or vessels other than those arising out of the police customs, sanitary, emigration or immigration regulations, and those relating to the import or export of prohibited goods.

Such regulations must be reasonable and uniform, and must not unnecessarily impede traffic.

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Article III

Only such charges may be levied on vessels using the canal or its approaches as are intended to cover in an equitable manner the cost of maintaining in a navigable condition, or of improving, the canal or its approaches, or to meet expenditures incurred in the interests of navigation. The schedule of such charges shall be calculated on the basis of such expenses and shall be posted up in the ports. These charges shall be levied in such a manner as to render any detailed examination of cargoes unnecessary, except in the case of suspected fraud or contravention.

Article IV

Goods in transit may be placed under seal or in the custody of customs agents; the loading and unloading of goods, and the embarkation and disembarkation of passengers, shall only take place in the ports specified by Germany.

Article V

No charges of any kind other than those provided for in the present regulations shall be levied along the course or at the approaches of the Kiel Canal.

Article VI

Germany shall be bound to take suitable measures to remove any obstacle or danger to navigation and to ensure the maintenance of good conditions of navigation. Germany shall not undertake any works of a nature to impede navigation on the canal or its approaches.

Article VII

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(English, American, Japanese and Italian Proposal) (French Proposal)
In the event of violation of any of these conditions, or of disputes as to the interpretation of the present Convention, any interested State can appeal to the jurisdiction instituted for the purpose by the League of Nations and can demand the formation of an International Commission. The Kiel Canal and its approaches shall be under the control of an International Commission which shall include:—
  • 2 representatives of Germany.
  • 1 representative of Great Britain.
  • 1 representative of France.
  • 1 representative of Poland.
  • 1 representative of Denmark.
In order to avoid reference of small questions to the League of Nations, Germany will establish a local authority at Kiel qualified to deal with disputes in the first case and to give satisfaction so far as possible to complaints which may be presented through the Consular representatives of the Interested Powers. This International Commission shall meet within three months from the signature of the Preliminary Peace Treaty and shall proceed immediately to prepare a project for the revision of the existing regulations; this project shall be drawn up in conformity with the General Convention on International Navigable Waterways should such Convention have been previously concluded. In the absence of such Convention, the project for revision shall be in conformity with the provisions of the preceding Articles.

Article VIII—(French and Italian Proposal)

The following shall be demobilised or suppressed under the direction of the Allied and Associated Powers and within the period fixed by such Powers:—

All fortified works situated within fifty kilometres of either bank of the Canal or of the mouth of the Elbe, and of all means of obstruction the object or effect of which might be to interfere with the liberty and the entire security of navigation.

Germany shall be prohibited from erecting any new fortifications, from installing any battery within the zones specified above and from placing any obstruction in the approaches or in the canal.

Appendix II

Memorandum by the American and British Representatives in the Matter of the Saar Basin

Our attention was yesterday called to new information which had reached our French colleague bearing on the proposed frontier of the Saar Basin. It appears that the proposed north-west frontier in the Valley of the Saar itself does not extend quite to the natural geographical and economic boundary which is formed by the narrows of the river and the hilly district extending to the north and west. In order to rectify this, it would be necessary to add a district comprising about 32 square kilometres (12 square miles) with a population of [Page 209] slightly over 5,000. The district has its natural centre in the adjoining towns of Mettlach and Keuchingen with a joint population of 2,500. The population of these towns is industrial and they are connected by daily workman’s trains with the Saar Basin; on the other side they are partially cut off from any easy connection with the German territory lying towards Trèves.

The American and British Representatives are agreed that it is beyond their power to accept proposals for an extension of the frontier which has been definitely accepted by the Council of Four; they consider it however their duty to call attention to this new information.

The members of the Committee are prepared to pay a visit to the spot on Sunday next. Meanwhile, an alternative description of the frontier has been prepared for insertion in the text of the Treaty if the proposed modification were approved either before or after an inspection on the spot.

(Intd.) { C. H. H[askins]
J. W. H[eadlam-] M[orley]


  1. Baker, Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement, vol. iii, p. 287.
  2. The text of the letter as delivered to Orlando on April 24 appears as appendix I to IC–176C, p. 223.
  3. Chief of the French Naval General Staff; representative on the Interallied Military and Naval Committee.
  4. Deputy First Sea Lord, at times British representative in place of Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss on the Interallied Military and Naval Committee.
  5. United States representative on the Interallied Mllitary and Naval Committee.