Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/118


Notes of a Meeting Held at Mr. Lloyd George’s Residence, 23 Rue Nitot, Paris, on Thursday, April 24, 1919, at 4 p.m.

  • Present
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
    • The British Empire
      • Mr. Lloyd George
    • Italy
      • M. Orlando
      • Baron Sonnino
    • Secretaries
      • Mr. Close, for the United States of America.
      • Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B., for the British Empire.
      • M. Mantoux, for France (also Interpreter).
      • Count Aldrovandi, for Italy.

1. Mr. Lloyd George asked M. Orlando to put his view.

The Italian Position M. Orlando said that he must declare that he had most carefully reviewed the situation, which was undoubtedly very serious. Already he had had two conversations with his colleagues at Rome and he must declare the situation to be a very painful one. There was one very difficult aspect of the situation which came before the territorial difficulty, namely, the effect produced by President Wilson’s declaration. He must state at once that his esteem and admiration and personal friendship towards President Wilson, to which he had always given testimony, had not been in the least altered by the declaration. Before he heard what President Wilson had to say he wished to assure him that he realised his intentions towards M. Orlando, himself, and his country to be only that of a friend. In politics, however, the public impression of circumstances often had an importance surpassing their actual substance. Thus the impression of this document, which he himself declared had nothing in it that was not friendly and courteous, nevertheless was that of an appeal to the people of Italy and to the people generally. The consequence of this was that it put in doubt M. Orlando’s own authority, as representative of the Italian people. That was the impression that he had received and, consequently, it was necessary for him to return to consult the source of his authority, that is to say, the Italian Parliament. The situation, therefore, was a very delicate one [Page 211] and it was only after much reflection that he had decided to return to Rome; his doing so had no connection with the territorial arrangements. There was no rupture of negotiations but his conscience compelled him to return to his people, and to call Parliament together within 48 hours so as to consult as to his position and establish his authority. For the moment the territorial situation was, for him, in the background. If his colleagues were to repeat to him the proposals that had been suggested yesterday, even so, it would be necessary for him to reply “I must return to Italy”. His difficulty was as to the plenitude of his powers.

President Wilson said that M. Orlando had made a very frank and, if he might say so, an admirable statement of the position. The feelings expressed towards himself were most heartily reciprocated. He felt nothing but respect and consideration for him and his motives. Nothing should mar their relations and he felt it a very gracious act of M. Orlando to express himself as he did. There was one aspect of the question that had not been in his mind. He had never thought of his statement as going behind the back of M. Orlando and appealing to the Italian people. If that were the effect, he, personally, regretted it. He welcomed this opportunity to say why he had published the statement. He would remind M. Orlando that his attitude in this matter had been the same from the first. Through all these months there had been a misunderstanding in the public mind as to the nature of the controversy and its basis. Things had been said, not once only, but often, in the Press both of France and Italy that put the attitude of himself and his Government in so false a light that it had become necessary to let his own people know, not only the position that the Government took up, but the basis of its attitude. It was necessary to state the grounds of the principles on which all the attitude of the United States Government was based. It was necessary to clear the mists which had arisen concerning the conditions of the Conference. The state of mind of other nations also was affected (as he had had evidence of this very day) in regard to the position of the Government of the United States of America. He was reassured by M. Orlando’s statement that he was going back to Italy to seek instructions from his people and that there would be no rupture from the Conference. It would not only be serious, but perhaps fatal, if Italy were to withdraw and he was very happy to have M. Orlando’s assurance on this point. He hoped that M. Orlando would make it evident to the world that his errand was to seek the instructions of Parliament, and not what the public believed a withdrawal from the Peace Settlement.

M. Orlando said he owed his thanks to President Wilson for his noble declaration for what he had spontaneously said that he [Page 212] recognised that M. Orlando excluded every intention and thought that was not kindly towards him. He felt that President Wilson would appreciate the reasons why he had to go to Rome. In the circumstances, it was absolutely essential for him to seek contact with his people and he recalled the moment when President Wilson himself had suggested that he (M. Orlando) ought to return and explain the situation to the Italian people. It was the more necessary since it had appeared not only in these conversations but was realised by the masses of the people that there had been some differences. It was necessary, therefore, to explain this situation to his people. He would explain to Parliament the result of these conversations, namely, the choice that Italy had to make. Speaking among friends, the fact was that Italy had made Fiume a national question. On that point not only the United States of America but also Italy’s allies had declared quite specifically that they could not consent. In these circumstances to continue the conversations was useless. The people must decide when he explained the situation to them.

President Wilson said he would ask M. Orlando to be kind enough in explaining the situation to call attention to the fact that, in the view of the United States of America, the Treaty of London was not in the interest of the relations that ought to prevail between Italy and the Yugo-Slavs, nor to the peace of the world.

M. Orlando said that, in making his declaration to Parliament, he would explain openly the reasons put forward by President Wilson not only in his published statement but also in the memorandum he had sent him and which President Wilson had authorised him to read to the Italian Parliament and which accordingly he intended to read.1

M. Clemenceau asked M. Orlando to explain his point of view which he thought was also Mr. Lloyd George’s point of view about Fiume. This was that the same treaty which bound the Allies to Italy also granted Fiume to the Slavs. If they could not fail in their word to Italy, neither could they fail in their word to the Slavs.

Mr. Lloyd George agreed, but said that beyond this there was no use in pretending that a new element had not been introduced since the signature of the Treaty of London. There was the advent of the United States of America into the war unbound and free not only from treaties but from the necessity that had compelled us to sign treaties and covenants all the world over. He would not say that this modified his views in regard to the Treaty of London, but, in certain circumstances, it would necessitate a reconsideration in regard to Fiume as well. In the circumstances, he felt justified in [Page 213] modifying the Treaty in regard to Fiume. The treaty gave Fiume to the Croatians. If it was modified in part with the assent of Italy in regard to Dalmatia, we should be free to make a modification also in regard to Fiume. This modification would be to make Fiume a free port controlled by its own population, Italians, Hungarians and Slavs, with free and equal access to all parts served by the port. To that extent he felt free to assent to a modification of “the treaty if his Allies agreed. He did not feel free to challenge the decision of M. Orlando to go to Rome. He, himself, had felt it necessary to go to London in much less serious circumstances, so he could understand M. Orlando’s position. Meanwhile, he asked what was the position of Italy? If this were an ordinary week, the absence of M. Orlando would not be so very serious. But on Tuesday next, the Germans would most likely be coming to Versailles. Would Italy be represented there? M. Orlando could hardly reach Rome before Saturday. When could he meet the Italian Parliament?

M. Orlando said on the 28th.

Mr. Lloyd George asked when the Germans would be at Versailles? He presumed it would be on Tuesday. Between today and Tuesday was Italy not to be consulted? Only yesterday very important questions had been discussed on which the British and Italian experts had taken the same view, but the Italian experts had not attended. He referred to the question of indemnities. This afternoon, the economic question ought to have been under consideration. He thought that the people as a whole were more interested in economic than in territorial questions, which mainly concerned the newspapers and special persons who interested themselves in foreign politics. Then there was the question of coal. Would M. Crespi be here? Was Italy to be unrepresented altogether? There were great questions regarding the export of German coal. Had the Allies the right to put forward demands on behalf of a country that was not represented? Or was Italy ready to put herself in the hands of the Allies? Would she agree to what they accepted for her or would she say that they had no right to accept? Was Italy to be present when questions affecting her own economic life were under consideration? There was also the question of a joint credit for re-establishing life in Europe. Would Italy be in or out of this scheme? Who was to discuss it on Italy’s behalf? Were we to put forward Italy’s demands? Because Italy was not satisfied about the prospective peace with Austria, was she to have no peace with Germany? These were practical questions on which he wanted to have an answer.

M. Clemenceau said he wished to add that after the events of the last few days, the Germans would say that there was a schism among the Allies and, if the Italians were not represented at Versailles [Page 214] the situation would be very serious. This would make peace much less probable.

President Wilson said he hoped that the Italian Delegation would remain and he understood that to be the object of what Mr. Lloyd George had said.

Mr. Lloyd George said that was the object.

M. Orlando said he took note of the declarations of M. Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George in regard to the Treaty of London. This was, however, not a moment to enter into a detailed discussion of it. He would expose to the Italian Parliament the different points of view. In regard to Mr. Lloyd George’s observations on the practical side, there seemed to him two questions. The first question related to the days between now and the discussions with Germany. During the last few weeks the Treaty had been discussed, and Italy was satisfied at the decisions taken, and had no objection to accepting. Without doubt many questions remained to be settled, including some of grave importance. Nevertheless, he felt confidence in his Allies that Italy’s interests would be considered all the more fairly because she was not represented. He trusted them as a judge, who is on his guard to be just in the case of a prisoner who has no advocate. He would discuss this matter with his colleagues, and find some practical way of settling it. He would leave M. Crespi, who could be consulted by the Allied experts on technical questions. The second question, which was a graver one, was that of the presence of Italy when the Germans came. He had read in the papers that the Germans were endeavouring to secure delay.

M. Clemenceau said he had no official news of this. They said they could not leave Berlin before May 28th at the earliest.

M. Orlando said he hoped he would be back before then. While accepting Mr. Lloyd George’s and M. Clemenceau’s remarks that we must not give the Germans the impression that the Allies were less solid than before, the fundamental questions at stake were so vital to Italy that he considered it preferable to encounter the difficulties that Mr. Lloyd George mentioned rather than to stay away.

M. Clemenceau asked whether Italy would be represented at the meeting with the Germans or not.

M. Orlando said it would depend on the decisions taken in Italy.

President Wilson said that, strictly speaking, the decisions in regard to the Italian frontiers did not affect the peace with Germany, but only with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hence, personally, he could see no inconsistency between Italy’s taking part in the Treaty with Germany and reserving the Treaty with Austria.

Mr. Lloyd George said he still maintained that if Italian representatives were not present, however much they might trust their [Page 215] Allies, their claims could not be put forward. If they were not present at the meeting on May 1st, and M. Orlando had not obtained the consent of his Parliament to participate, how could their claims be put forward?

M. Clemenceau said that we could hardly meet the Germans, for it would involve a change in the whole drafting of the Treaty.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the Germans would ask who were the representatives of Italy. We could not put forward claims for Italy unless they were present or unless M. Orlando wrote and asked the Allies to put in a claim on Italy’s behalf.

M. Orlando said that in his view if Mr. Lloyd George’s objection was considered by itself, he was right. He agreed that it was impossible to propose conditions on behalf of a Power that was not present. This question would have to be carefully examined and a decision would have to be taken according to the circumstances. He agreed with Mr. Lloyd George that if Italy was not present, she would not be entitled to make any claims on Germany. He did not agree with M. Clemenceau that the drafting of the articles would be much affected, because Italy was only concerned in a few questions in the German Treaty, mainly in regard to Reparation. Mr. Lloyd George’s objection, however, must be considered in relation to the suggestion that President Wilson had made,—that Italy could make peace with Germany and postpone the Treaty with Austria. To this he had two answers. The first was that the general interpretation of the Pact of London of April, 1919 [1915], and the Treaty of September, 1915 [1914],—in fact, that the spirit of these two Pacts—was that there ought to be a general Peace. It would not be general, however, if the rest of the world were at peace and Italy still remained at war. Although President Wilson was not bound by these Pacts, he would put it to him that the question was one that must be regarded from the point of view of general equity, not only between the Allies, but also between the Associated Powers, that the peace ought to be a general Peace. On the other hand, he would remark to President Wilson that in signing the Treaty of Peace with Germany, the League of Nations Statute would also be signed. One clause of the League of Nations Covenant provided for mutual and reciprocal guarantees of territory among the signatories. The effect of this would be that Italy would engage herself to guarantee the territories of other countries without being guaranteed herself. Another difficulty was that the League of Nations Covenant included an arrangement for avoiding future wars, and for resolving difficulties between nations. If Italy adhered to the League of Nations, that would mean that the question of frontiers between Italy and the Yugo-Slavs would have to be resolved through the League of Nations [Page 216] instead of as the direct result of the war which had been won. This was a reason of grave difficulty in signing the peace with Germany, if questions affecting the peace with Austria-Hungary—that is to say, the question of the frontiers—was not also settled.

Mr. Lloyd George said that if M. Orlando left, a very carefully drawn communique would have to be sent to the press.

Baron Sonnino, starting from the basis of M. Orlando’s statement, said that it was proposed that M. Orlando should present to the Italian Parliament a statement of the question in general terms. It was difficult, however, to state the question if he had no clear idea of the intention of the other parties. He had thought that when they were invited to come here this afternoon, they would receive some suggestion of the latest point of view of the Allied and Associated Powers. Up to now this had not been given. President Wilson had made a statement as though the position was where it was a few days ago before certain additional proposals had been made. Mr. Lloyd George, in regard to Fiume for example, had said that he would not refuse to change in some degree the elements of the Treaty of London provided that concessions were made by Italy. M. Clemenceau did not take the same point of view, and said that Fiume had been promised to Croatia.

Mr. Lloyd George said he never went beyond what his colleagues had agreed to. The Treaty of London gave Fiume to Croatia. He now proposed that it should be a free port, or rather he should say a free city. He would take it from the Croatians and give it to its own inhabitants of all races. This was a serious modification of the Treaty from his point of view, but he would agree to it if Italy would modify the Treaty of London.

Baron Sonnino asked if M. Clemenceau agreed.

M. Clemenceau said he did. Mr. Lloyd George’s point of view was his own.

Baron Sonnino asked if that was President Wilson’s view also.

President Wilson said that in his memorandum he had expressed his readiness to the erection of Fiume into a free city, and he had accompanied his memorandum with a map.

Baron Sonnino said that in President Wilson’s memorandum other frontiers, for example in Istria, were not the same as in the Treaty of London. Did President Wilson consent to leave these frontiers as in the Treaty? He only asked the question to clear the situation.

President Wilson said that in his memorandum he had stated what he felt to be the position of the United States of America. From that he did not care to depart. He hoped that in any statement to the Italian Parliament, M. Orlando would limit himself to that memorandum.

[Page 217]

Baron Sonnino said that that raised a new difficulty.

M. Orlando said he would like to resume briefly Baron Sonnino’s idea. He himself was under the necessity of explaining the position to the Italian Parliament. His explanation must be a very clear one. He had the memorandum of President Wilson and the declaration of the Governments which adhered to the Treaty of London. Then, he thought, Baron Sonnino asks:—Can we tell Parliament what is the middle situation in which all parties are agreed? He would like to be able to state that. If his colleagues could not tell him this tonight, perhaps they could tell him tomorrow. He could say at present that his Allies adhered to the Pact of London. Then he would be asked: Have you the signature of President Wilson?

President Wilson said that if he agreed to any middle course, it would be contrary to what his people expected and had given him authority for.

Mr. Lloyd George said that his impression was not that President Wilson had proposed a middle course, but the exact contrary. He himself and M. Clemenceau had suggested a middle course, which did not commend itself to President Wilson, but which, as he understood the matter, President Wilson was prepared to accept if his Italian colleagues would agree. He himself had taken the liberty to tell the Italians that this was the position. If he had been wrong in this, he regretted it. He put it to the Italian representatives that if they would be prepared to abandon their rights in Dalmatia, leaving Zara and Sebenico as free cities, and would content themselves with the islands other than those which form practically part of the mainland, he thought an agreed basis might be arranged.

President Wilson said he had never committed himself in this arrangement. All he had done was to ask Mr. Lloyd George to ascertain if the Italians would be ready to discuss on this basis, and the reply he had received was that they were not. He had reserved his judgment in every case. He regretted if there had been any failure on his part to make his position clear.

Mr. Lloyd George said he had understood that if the Italians saw their way to assent, President Wilson would not have stood in the way.

President Wilson said his point of view was that he did not want his Italian friends to think that he would not discuss any aspect of the question. He was willing to go over the ground a hundred times if necessary.

Mr. Lloyd George said he thought from the way that President Wilson had pressed for Spalato and the inner islands to be left out, that he would have been willing to agree.

[Page 218]

Baron Sonnino recalled the course of events.* On the previous afternoon, the Italians had sent proposals which would have given the line of the Alps to the Sea east of Volosca to Italy, and would have put Fiume under the sovereignty of Italy, and provided for the establishment by Italy in the port of Fiume of free zones. Italy would also have received all the islands mentioned in the Pact of London except Pago; and Zara and Sebenico would have been placed under the League of Nations with Italy as Mandatory Power. If that had been accepted, Italy would have had some assurance. An answer was received in regard to the sovereignty of Fiume, namely:—that this could not be a basis of discussion, but, as regards the rest, it had been understood that if Italy gave up Fiume, it would form a basis of acceptance in a general way. This had been the impression received.

President Wilson asked if it was an impression of a joint agreement.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he had understood this to be the case, except as regards the question of Mandates, which was a point that he had overlooked. He understood, however, that the remainder was generally agreed.

Baron Sonnino said the reply had been that Fiume was not acceptable, but that the rest might be acceptable. The Italian Delegation had sent word to say that if Italian sovereignty over Fiume could not be accepted, no explanation was available as to what would be substituted for it. He then asked Count Aldrovandi if any answer had been received.

Count Aldrovandi said that the Marquis Imperiali2 had seen Mr. Lloyd George, who had informed him that the League of Nations would take the place of Italy.

President Wilson said that Mr. Lloyd George had returned to the room where they were discussing with the experts the question of Reparation, and had told him what the message meant. He had, however, not consulted him as to any reply to be given to the message.

Baron Sonnino said that the impression that he had formed was that Fiume was to be a free city with a wide contour.

Mr. Lloyd George said that that was the proposal contained in President Wilson’s document.

President Wilson said that Baron Sonnino’s contention was that a message had been sent to them during the afternoon when they were consulting with the experts on Reparation. All that he could remember was that Mr. Lloyd George had left the room to see the Marquis Imperiali, and had returned and merely told M. Clemenceau [Page 219] and himself what the Marquis had said. Baron Sonnino, however, said that he had received a message.

M. Clemenceau said that he had never agreed to any message.

Mr. Lloyd George said that in the morning the question had been discussed at great length, and he himself had said nothing that was not in accordance with what had then been agreed to. The only point of difference was in regard to Mandates, and on this there had been a misunderstanding. It had not been Count Aldrovandi’s fault, but he himself had overlooked the mention of Mandates in connection with Zara and Sebenico. Everything else that he had said resulted from the conversation of the morning. All that had happened with the Marquis Imperiali was that he had asked where the sovereignty of Fiume would lie if it was not vested in Italy. He himself had replied: In the League of Nations. The other question raised had been one of the diplomatic responsibility in regard to Fiume.

Baron Sonnino said that on the Marquis Imperiali’s return he and his colleagues had just begun to discuss the question, when they had received a copy of President Wilson’s statement. They had then felt that the whole position was changed, and it was no use discussing details any more. He expressed his thanks for Mr. Lloyd George’s intervention. He had narrowed the gulf between them to some extent, and he had hoped that they might learn to what extent their three colleagues could agree on a basis for discussion. If they had such a basis, things could be stated in a clear way. It was no use telling Parliament that two of the Allies would do one thing, and the third another.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he was in his usual disagreeable role of trying to effect a conciliation when both sides were inclined to refute him. Nevertheless, he would again endeavour to make a suggestion. He understood, however, that whatever was suggested the Italian Delegates were not in a position to accept it.

Baron Sonnino said that they were in a very difficult position. If they only knew the gulf that separated them it would be better.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he fully understood the difficulty President Wilson was in to say that he agreed when he could not reconcile agreement with his principles. The Italian representatives might return to Italy with a proposal agreed to by their three colleagues, but they might then find themselves in an entirely different atmosphere where only one point of view was understood. He therefore fully understood President Wilson’s difficulty in telling the Italian representatives before hand what he could agree to. He, himself, had a good deal of experience of industrial disputes. He always said “Will you, the workmen take the responsibility of recommending [Page 220] this proposal if the other party will do the same?” He now said the same to the Italian representatives. Would they take the responsibility of recommending an arrangement?

Baron Sonnino said if it were acceptable they would.

M. Orlando said he would not have the power to accept any proposition whatever it was. To do so would be contrary to his original declaration at the beginning of the meeting. He had to put his position before Parliament. He had asked the three Powers, two of whom were allied and the other associated, whether they were agreed. The reply was in the negative. This was all he wanted to know. In their latest proposal, as he understood it, they had spoken of making Zara and Sebenico free cities and of handing over the islands to Italy and making Fiume a free city, but they had overlooked one point, namely Istria. It was essential to Italy that the frontiers should go right down to Volosca.

Baron Sonnino recalled that Mr. Lloyd George had asked whether the Italian Delegation would be prepared to accept a proposal if the three were in accord. He had asked if they were in a position to recommend acceptance. He had replied that if the proposals were acceptable they would recommend them to Parliament. Mr. Lloyd George had explained President Wilson’s difficulties in making a precise proposal. The chance, however, was not great if the whole case had to be presented to the Italian Parliament without receiving a detailed proposal.

Mr. Lloyd George said that unless the Italian Ministers were prepared to take the responsibility of recommending the proposal to Parliament, it was idle to discuss the matter further.

Baron Sonnino said that if proposals could be made to them that were acceptable they would undertake to recommend them with all their weight. Up to the present, however, he had not received an offer.

President Wilson said that M. Orlando would explain the difficult position of the several nations. Great Britain and France were bound by the pact and the United States by principles. He would put this position to the Italian Parliament and say to them “Have I authority to go back and settle as best I can?” He did not think it would be right to make a proposal for M. Orlando to present to Parliament.

Baron Sonnino asked what would happen if they asked Parliament for authority to find a settlement between the two positions, and should obtain the necessary authority and then go back and fail? Our position would be quite hopeless. They would then come back with a mandate and would have no chance of success. Their position [Page 221] would be much better if they had some idea of an acceptable middle course now.

M. Orlando said that he agreed with President Wilson that the best course was to go back and explain the situation to Parliament and ask for a general authority. Why, he asked, should we exercise this pressure on President Wilson to make a proposal that he was not prepared to make? He, himself, remained in the same position as he had been at the beginning. He would go back to Parliament and ask them to take their decision. He realised, however, that he must give Parliament his own opinion. If Parliament would not accept it, the Government would be confided to other hands. He hoped, however, that the generous feelings of the Italian people would enable him to find a solution. At any rate the result would be a clear cut situation.

President Wilson said he thought this was an admirable position to take up. Supposing M. Orlando were to say that President Wilson, having published his statement, was now ready to abate it, what would be the opinion in Italy?

Baron Sonnino asked what was the danger of attempting some application of principles? He could not go as President Wilson suggested and simply say “Give us confidence for any plans we like to adopt”. It would be much harder to make a compromise after going before Parliament. If only a compromise could be agreed to now, Parliament could be asked to accept it.

Mr. Lloyd George said that unfortunately there was a conflict of principles in this case. There were President Wilson’s principles, in which he agreed to and which he had defended in spite of a certain amount of opposition. There was also the principle of International engagements and standing by the signature of treaties. He could not see the danger of a compromise. In such a case it was best to make the best arrangement and the best compromise possible. The proposal he had made did not give way on any of the principles. If the Dalmatian coast were free, President Wilson’s principles were not impugned. He did not know the best way of getting things through the Italian Parliament, but he knew the British Parliament, having been 30 years a member, and there he would want to know where he stood and what to make for in dealing with such a question.

M. Clemenceau agreed.

Mr. Lloyd George said that in the question of reparation for example, he could not have gone to Parliament and asked for a free hand.

Baron Sonnino said that was exactly what he had maintained.

President Wilson said that as a matter of fact this was what Mr. Lloyd George had done.

[Page 222]

Mr. Lloyd George said this was not the case. He had been able to reassure Parliament exactly as to where he stood. If it had been otherwise Parliament would not have given him its confidence. They would not have done so unless he had confidence in himself.

President Wilson said that the Italian representative could go to the Italian Parliament and tell them that neither the Allied nor Associated Powers could consent to give them Fiume. The British and French felt bound to stand by their agreement as allies. In regard to the agreement they could state that he, himself, understood the difficulty of his colleagues and was ready to agree with anything consistent with his principles, although he had no proposal to make.

M. Orlando re-stated what President Wilson had said in almost identical terms.

Mr. Lloyd George said that President Wilson’s position seemed to be that he was unwilling to propose any arrangement but that he insisted that it must be made clear that Fiume was not to go to Italy.

President Wilson said he must remind his colleagues that the Italian Parliament has never known the position of the United States Government which had been set forth in his Memorandum. His proposals in that Memorandum had been not merely negative, they had also been positive. It included measures necessary for providing the security of the eastern coasts of Italy in the Adriatic. It called attention to the necessity of providing for this and included the limitation of armaments, the destruction of fortifications, etc. to meet these difficulties. Hence it was constructive as well as negative. He wanted the Italian Parliament to know what he did say in this respect.

At this moment M. Orlando said it was time for him to go as he had to catch his train.

Before leaving Sir Maurice Hankey, on behalf of Mr. Lloyd George, handed M. Orlando a letter signed by M. Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George. (Appendix I.)

2. A Press communique A Press communique was agreed to in regard to the afternoon’s meeting.

3. Kiachow and Shantung President Wilson read the report of the Committee that had been set up to consider the Chinese position in regard to Shantung.3 (Appendix II.)

Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to ascertain from the Chinese Delegation whether any written note was being sent in regard to the question that had been put to them by the Supreme Council.

[Page 223]

The Meeting adjourned until 4 p.m. on the following day when the Economic and Financial Clauses were to be considered.

Villa Majestic, Paris, April 24, 1919.

Appendix I

[The Heads of the French and British Delegations (Clemenceau and Lloyd George) to the Head of the Italian Delegation (Orlando)]

Fiume and the Peace Settlement

We learn with a regret which it is difficult to measure that, at the very moment when Peace seems almost attained, Italy threatens to sever herself from the company of the Allied Nations, through whose common efforts victory has been achieved. We do not presume to offer any opinion as to the effects which so momentous a step would have upon the future of Italy herself. Of these it is for the Italian people and its leaders to judge, and for them alone. But we, who have been Italy’s Allies through four anxious years, and would gladly be her Allies still, are bound to express our fears as to the disastrous effects it will surely have upon us, and upon the policy for which we have striven.

When in 1915 Italy threw in her lot with France, Russia, and the British Empire in their struggle against the Central Powers, Turkey and Bulgaria, she did so on conditions. She required her Allies to promise that in case of victory they would help her to obtain in Europe the frontier of the Alps, the great ports of Trieste and Pola, and a large portion of the Dalmatian coast with many of its adjacent islands. Such accessions of territory would enormously strengthen Italy’s power of defence, both on land and sea, against her hereditary enemy, and would incidentally result in the transfer of over 200,000 German-speaking Tyrolese and over 750,000 Southern Slavs from Austrian to Italian rule. Under this arrangement Fiume was retained by Great Britain, France and Italy herself for Croatia.

Such was the situation in April, 1915. In November, 1918, it had profoundly changed. Germany was beaten; the Dual Monarchy had ceased to exist: and side by side with this Military revolution, the ideals of the Western Powers had grown and strengthened. In 1915 the immediate needs of self-defence, the task of creating and equipping vast Armies, the contrivance of new methods for meeting new perils, strained to the utmost the energies of the Allies. But by 1918 we had reached the double conviction that if the repetition of such calamities was to be avoided, the Nations must organise themselves [Page 224] to maintain Peace, as Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey had organised themselves to make war; and that little could be expected, even from the best contrived organisation, unless the boundaries of the States to be created by the Conference were framed, on the whole, in accordance with the wishes and lasting interests of the populations concerned.

This task of re-drawing European frontiers has fallen upon the Great Powers; and admittedly its difficulty is immense. Not always, nor indeed often, do race, religion, language, history, economic interests, geographical contiguity and convenience, the influence of national prejudice, and the needs of national defence, conspire to indicate without doubt or ambiguity the best frontier for any State:—be it new or old. And unless they do, some element in a perfect settlement must be neglected, compromise becomes inevitable, and there may often be honest doubts as to the form the compromise should take.

Now as regards most of the new frontier between Italy and what was once the Austrian Empire, we have nothing to say. We are bound by the Pact of London, and any demand for a change in that Pact which is adverse to Italy must come from Italy herself. But this same Pact gives Fiume to Croatia, and we would very earnestly and respectfully ask whether any valid reason exists for adding, in the teeth of the Treaty, this little city on the Croatian coast to the Kingdom of Italy? It is said indeed, and with truth, that its Italian population desire the change. But the population which clusters round the port is not predominantly Italian. It is true that the urban area wherein they dwell is not called Fiume; for it is divided by a narrow canal, as Paris is divided by the Seine, or London by the tidal estuary of the Thames, and locally the name, Fiume, is applied in strictness only to the streets on one side of it. But surely we are concerned with things, not names; and however you name it, the town which serves the port, and lives by it, is physically one town, not two: and taken as a whole is Slav, not Italian.

But if the argument drawn from the wishes of the present population does not really point to an Italian solution, what remains? Not the argument from history; for up to quite recent times the inhabitants of Fiume, in its narrowest meaning, were predominantly Slav. Not the arguments from contiguity; for the country population, up to the very gates of the city, are not merely predominantly Slav, but Slav without perceptible admixture. Not the economic argument; for the territories which obtain through Fiume their easiest access to the sea, whatever else they be, at least are not Italian. Most of them are Slav, and if it be said that Fiume is also necessary to Hungarian and Transylvanian commerce, this is a valid argument for making it a free port, but surely not for putting it under Italian sovereignty.

[Page 225]

There is one other line of argument on this subject about which we would ask leave to say a word. It is urged by some, and thought by many, that the task of the Great Powers is not merely to sit down and coldly re-arrange the pieces on the European board in strict, even pedantic, conformity with certain admirable but very abstract principles. They must consider these great matters in more human fashion. After all (so runs the argument), the problems to be dealt with arise out of a Great War. The conquerors in that War were not the aggressors: their sacrifices have been enormous; the burdens they have to bear seem well-nigh intolerable. Are they to get nothing out of victory, except the consciousness that State frontiers in Europe will be arranged in a better pattern after 1918 than they were before: and that nations who fought on the wrong side, or who did not fight at all, will have gained their freedom through other people’s losses? Surely the victors, if they want it, are entitled to some more solid reward than theoretical map-makers, working in the void, may on abstract principles feel disposed to give them.

There is something in this way of thinking which at first sight appeals to us all; and where no interests are concerned but those of the criminal aggressors, it deserves respectful consideration. But in most cases of territorial redistribution it is at least as important to enquire what effects the transfer will have on the nations to whom the territory is given, as upon those from whom it is taken: and when, as in the case of Jugo-Slavia, the nation from whom it is taken happens to be a friendly State, the difficulty of the problem is doubled.

We do not presume to speak with authority on the value of the strategical gains which Italy anticipates from the acquisition of the islands and coastline of Dalmatia. They seem to us to be small; though, small as they are, they must greatly exceed the economic advantages which will accrue to Italian trade from new opportunities, or to the Italian Treasury from new sources of revenue. We cannot believe that the owners of Trieste have anything to fear from Fiume as a commercial rival, or the owners of Pola from Fiume as a Naval base.

But if Italy has little to gain from the proposed acquisition, has she not much to lose? The War found her protected from an hereditary enemy of nearly twice her size by a frontier which previous Treaties had deliberately left insecure. Her Eastern sea-board was almost bare of harbours, while Austria-Hungary possessed on the opposite side of the Adriatic some of the finest harbours in the world. This was her condition in 1914. In 1919 her Northern and Eastern frontiers are as secure as mountains and rivers can make them. She is adding two great ports to her Adriatic possessions; and her [Page 226] hereditary oppressor has ceased to exist. To us it seems that, as a State thus situated has nothing to fear from its neighbours’ enmity, so its only interest must be to gain their friendship. And though memories belonging to an evil past make friendship difficult between Italians and Slavs, yet the bitterest memories soften with time, unless fresh irritants are frequently applied; and among such irritants none are more powerful than the constant contemplation of a disputed and ill-drawn frontier.

It is for Italy, and not for the other signatories of the Pact of London, to say whether she will gain more in power, wealth and honour by strictly adhering to that part of the Pact of London which is in her favour, than by accepting modifications in it which would bring it into closer harmony with the principles which are governing the territorial decisions of the Allies in other parts of Europe. But so far as Fiume is concerned the position is different Here, as we have already pointed out, the Pact of 1915 is against the Italian contention; and so also, it seems to us, are justice and policy. After the most prolonged and anxious reflexion, we cannot bring ourselves to believe that it is either in the interests of Jugo-Slavia, in the interests of Italy herself, or in the interests of future peace—which is the concern of all the world—that this port should be severed from the territories to which economically, geographically and ethnologically it naturally belongs.

Can it be that Italy on this account is prepared to separate herself from her Allies? The hope that sustained us through the perilous years of War was that victory, when it came, would bring with it, not merely the defeat of Germany, but the final discredit of the ideals in which Germany had placed her trust. On the other hand, Germany, even when she began to entertain misgivings about the issues of the campaign, felt sure that the union of her enemies would never survive their triumph. She based her schemes no longer on the conquest of Europe, but on its political, and perhaps also on its social disintegration. The Armistice might doubtless produce a brief cessation of hostilities; but it would bring no repose to a perturbed and over-wrought world. Militant nationalism would lead to a struggle between peoples; militant internationalism to a struggle between classes. In either event, or in both, the Conference summoned to give us peace would leave us at war, and Germany alone would be the gainer.

This, or something like this, is the present calculation of a certain section of German politicians. Could anything more effectually contribute to its success than that Italy should quarrel with her Allies, and that the cause of quarrel should be the manner in which our common victory may best be used? We are calling into being a [Page 227] League of Nations; we are daily adding to the responsibilities which, under the approaching Treaty, it will be called upon to assume; yet before the scheme has had time to clothe itself in practical form, we hasten to destroy its credit. To the world we supply dramatic proof that the association of the Great Powers, which won the War, cannot survive Peace: and all the world will ask how, if this be so, the maintenance of Peace can safely be left in their hands.

For these reasons, if for no other, we beg our Italian colleagues to reconsider their policy. That it has been inspired by a high sense of Patriotism we do not doubt. But we cannot believe either that it is in Italy’s true interests, or that it is worthy of the great part which Italy is called upon to play in the Councils of the Nations.

  • G. Clemenceau
  • D. Lloyd George

Appendix II

Report of Committee on Shantung and Kiachow

We are directed to express an opinion as to whether it would be more advantageous for China if Japan were merely to inherit the rights possessed by Germany in Shantung and Kiachow or if she were to accept the position created by the Sino-Japanese Treaties and Agreements of 1915 and 1918.

We find that either course presents serious disadvantages for China.

In the first case China would not recover her rights of sovereignty over Kiachow Bay and the leased territory until the termination of the lease in 1997, i. e. for another 78 years.

Under the terms of the lease the Japanese would have the right to erect fortifications, to use the port as a naval base and to exercise rights of administration in the ceded territory. The rights in the railways, mines and presumably the other ex-German concessions in the Province of Shantung would persist after the termination of the lease of Kiachow.

In the second case China would recover from Japan possession of the leased territory of Kiachow but not of the railway and mining rights in the Province of Shantung. It is presumed that the restoration of the leased territory to China would take place immediately after the ratification of the Treaty of Peace, provided that that Treaty gives Japan the free disposal of the German rights. The retrocession of the leased territory to China by Japan is, however, made dependent upon certain conditions and especially upon the establishment of an exclusive Japanese residential Concession in the town and port of Tsingtao. This Concession presumably would be [Page 228] permanent and if, as is understood to be the case, it is intended that this exclusive Japanese area shall include the greater part of the business portion of the town of Tsingtao, the docks, quay, and the railway terminus, its effect, in our opinion, will be to diminish to a great extent the value of the immediate restoration to China of the leased territory. Moreover the Sino-Japanese Agreement of the 24th September 1918 gives Japan the right to maintain a contingent of Japanese troops at Tsinanfu, which is in the centre of the Province of Shantung and is a place of strategic importance as the junction of the Kiachow-Tsinan and Tientsin-Pukow Railways. The Agreement further provides for the employment of Japanese at the headquarters of the Chinese police force charged with the policing of the Kiachow-Tsinanfu railway. Japanese are also to be employed at the principal railway stations and at the police training school. We venture to call attention to the fact that these rights, which would appear to constitute an infringement of China’s sovereignty and independence, were not enjoyed or exercised by Germany under the 1898 Convention or any subsequent Agreement with China.

In these circumstances we are of opinion that it would be more advantageous for China to accept the first alternative and to agree to Japan succeeding to the rights and the position which Germany possessed in Kiachow and in the Province of Shantung in 1914 on the outbreak of the war, provided that Japan’s rights, both in the leased territory and in the Province, are confined strictly to those secured to Germany by the Treaty of March 6th, 1898, and by subsequent Sino-German Agreements in regard to mines and railways.

We desire to call special attention to the fact that these Sino-German Treaties and Agreements did not confer upon Germany the right to establish outside the leased territory any form of civil administration in the Province of Shantung, or to maintain troops in any district or town of the Province, or to employ German troops or police to guard the Kiachow-Tsinanfu railway. It is further to be noted that, in accordance with the terms of the Agreement concluded between Germany and China on the 31st December 1913,4 the two railways in the Province of Shantung, which Germany obtained the concession to build in place of the lines originally contemplated in the 1898 Convention, were to be constructed as Chinese Government railways, i. e., they would become the property of the Chinese State and not of the Concessionaires.

  • Jean Gout
  • E. T. Williams
  • Ronald Macleay
  1. Text in Baker, Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement, vol. iii, p. 274.
  2. The Secretary was out of the room during a portion of this statement. [Footnote in the original.]
  3. Italian Ambassador in Great Britain.
  4. Appointed on April 22 and consisting of Jean Gout, E. T. Williams, and Ronald Macleay as French, American, and British representatives respectively.
  5. John V. A. MacMurray (ed.), Treaties and Agreements With and Concerning China, 1894–1919 (New York, 1921), vol. ii, p. 1094.