Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/133
Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Wednesday, April 30, 1919, at 4.30 p.m.
- United States of America
- President Wilson.
- Dr. C. H. Haskins.
- Dr. A. A. Young.
- British Empire
- The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
- Mr. J. W. Headlam-Morley.
- Dr. O. T. Falk.
- M. Clemenceau.
- M. Klotz.
- M. Tardieu.
- M. de Lasteyrie.
- M. Lyon.
- Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B. Secretary.
- Professor P. J. Mantoux. Interpreter.
- United States of America
The Council had before it Articles prepared by the experts present, with others, on the subject of Alsace-Lorraine. (Appendix.)
M. Tardieu said that the only points in dispute were Articles 12, 24 and 30.
Article 12 After M. Tardieu had explained the object of Article 12, Mr. Lloyd George withdrew the reservation which had been made by the Representatives.
Article 12 was accepted.
Article 24 M. Tardieu, in explanation of Article 24, said that the balance of the property in Alsace-Lorraine under the general economic clauses of the Peace Treaty ought to be used for satisfying the economic claims of the pre-war period. This balance, according to the general rule, should be part of the general fund for reparation.
The French Government asked for a special privilege in the case of Alsace-Lorraine, because of the economic situation of the German private properties which was the result of the systematic germanisation of Alsace-Lorraine. They asked that the balance of the property should be attributed to Alsace-Lorraine itself.
Mr. Lloyd George said that this was not the proposal. It was that the balance should be handed over to the French claim for reparation.
Mr. Klotz did not admit this.[Page 374]
Mr. Lloyd George said he was afraid he must contest this clause very strongly. Its effect was to give priority to special claims in Alsace-Lorraine, which, though of low category, were in reality general claims. He only asked for the application of the usual rule that the surplus should go into the general pool. The balance should go into the pool and be distributed according to the principles of distribution adopted. Under the present proposal the Alsace-Lorraine claims, though of low category, would have priority over our reparation. M. Tardieu had spoken of germanisation. This was true to the extent that German skill and brains had greatly increased the wealth of these provinces. Nevertheless, the balance ought to go into the general pool. He was informed that one effect of this clause would be that pensions would be given to German officials in front of pensions to Allied soldiers.
M. Clemenceau withdrew the proposal.
It was agreed that Article 24 should be suppressed.
Article 30 M. Tardieu said that Article 30 referred to reparation to Alsatians and Lorrainians. France asked that they should be treated in the same way as other French citizens under Annex I of the Reparation Clauses. The first article of the Reparation clauses declared Germany to be responsible for losses. Article 2 provided for reparation for the civilian population. It was impossible to say that Alsatians and Lorrainians were not French citizens and part of the French population. He felt he was entitled to put forward claims for them on the same ground as for other French citizens. Otherwise, France would have two classes of citizens. It was a matter of sentiment for France, and he asked that these people should be put on the same footing as other French citizens.
Mr. Lloyd George said that the principle had already been considered and decided in respect to Poland and Czechoslovakia.
There had been considerable devastation in Poland, but Poland had nominally been at war against us, even though it had been against the will of the Polish people. Poles had actually taken part in the devastation of France. Similarly, soldiers from Alsace-Lorraine had taken part in the devastation of France. It had been decided against the Polish claim. If, however, it were now granted to Alsace-Lorraine, it must be granted to the Czechs, Poles and Yugo-Slavs.
The French Government stood to lose a good deal by this.
The second point was that the destruction in Alsace-Lorraine had been mainly wrought by the French armies when redeeming these provinces. He doubted if much destruction had been done by the German Armies. In these circumstances, he felt the claim was not one that could be justified.[Page 375]
M. Tardieu said that the material devastation in Alsace-Lorraine was insignificant. What they wanted was pensions for widows, orphans and mutilated.
Mr. Lloyd George said that these were due to French bombardments and British bombing. It was rather difficult in these circumstances to allow any claim.
President Wilson pointed out that many of them would be widows and orphans of German soldiers. He said his advisers took the same view as Mr. Lloyd George. He could see the sentimental importance of the matter for France, but to agree would be to upset the general principles of reparation.
The French Representatives withdrew the proposal, and it was decided that Article 30 should be suppressed.
Article VII President Wilson said he was informed that the missing Article VII affected Belgium and the redemption of marks. Its object was to provide for the redemption of German marks.
Mr. Lloyd George said he understood it had been only discussed on the possible assumption that the Belgian claim in regard to the redemption of marks was accepted. That claim had been refused.
Mr. Tardieu said that the Article had only been adopted on that assumption.
Mr. Young said the Germans only acknowledged by this clause their mark debt. By it they would have to agree to redeem the marks at some future time under a convention to be concluded between France and Germany.
President Wilson said that if this Article was passed, it ought to be applied to Belgium also.
Mr. Falk pointed out that the Belgians could sell marks on the market. This clause provided little more than this for France. France was entitled either to sell marks on the market, or to make an arrangement with Germany.
President Wilson said that this Article would make the public impression that it authorised the French Government to secure a redemption of the marks at a better rate than the market rate. The same advantage would have to be provided for Belgium.
Mr. Falk suggested that it would be better to suppress the Article altogether.
Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that the Article did not really amount to anything. It would give the impression to the Germans of some advantage being given to France, and make difficulties in their signing the Treaty of Peace without corresponding advantage.
M. Klotz said that the Article merely contained a statement of fact. It would be an advantage to Germany that France should not [Page 376] keep marks in hand, otherwise they were in a position to destroy the exchange. It merely provided for a Convention between the German and French Governments. In the course of the armistice discussion, the Germans had told M. Lasteyrie that they were afraid to let so many marks remain in French possession, and they had offered to buy them back at the rate of 70 centimes. The Belgians would not agree, in which they made a mistake, and the plan had fallen through.
President Wilson pointed out that France could enter into a Convention with Germany on this subject at any time, there was no need to authorise it in the Treaty of Peace. What was the object of inserting a clause that really added nothing to France’s power, but gave the impression of something disadvantageous to the Germans?
Mr. Lloyd George agreed and pointed out that it would also cause difficulties with the Belgians.
(It was agreed that Article VII should be dropped except the last paragraph.)
Note. Article VII will be found in the French printed copy of these Articles.1
Villa Majestic, Paris, 30 April, 1919.
The French text of article VII is:
“Le Gouvernement allemand s’impose de ne prendre aucune disposition tendant, par un estampillage ou par toutes autres mesures legates ou administratives qui ne s’appliqueraient pas an reste de l’Allemagne, à porter atteinte à la valeur légale ou au pouvoir libératoire des instruments monétaires ou monnaies allemandes ayant cours légal à la signature du présent Traité et se trouvant à la dite date en la possession du Gouvernement francais.” (Paris Peace Conf. 185.1135/34.)
“The German Government undertakes not to take any action, either by means of stamping or by any other legal or administrative measures not applying equally to the rest of Germany, which may be to the detriment of the legal value or redeemability of German monetary instruments or monies which, at the date of the signature of the present Treaty are legally current, and at that date are in the possession of the French Government.”↩
- British and Foreign State Papers, vol. lxii, p. 59.↩
- Ibid., p. 77.↩