Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/137


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Friday, May 2, 1919, at 11 a.m.

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

1. Caucasus President Wilson said that the representatives of Azerbaijan were anxious to come to Paris. They had had a deputation at Constantinople for a long time, waiting for permission to come to Paris. He understood that the French Government had not given the necessary authorisation. The Georgians and other representatives of the Caucasus republics were all in Paris, and there seemed to be no reason for this exception.

M. Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George undertook to look into the matter.

2. The Italian Situation. Action To Be Taken M. Clemenceau urged that the letter signed by Mr. Lloyd George and himself, and handed to M. Orlando on April 24th (I. C.–176. C)1 should be published. He suggested that it should be published with a preamble somewhat as follows:—

“In order that there may be no misunderstanding about the attitude of Great Britain and France in regard to Fiume, M. Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George have authorised the publication of the following letter to M. Orlando in regard to these matters:—”

Mr. Lloyd George said he had received a letter from the Marquis Imperiali, which he proceeded to read. The gist of it was that M. Orlando thought it better that the memorandum presented by M. Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George should not be published, as it would not help public opinion in Italy in its attitude towards Great Britain and France. M. Orlando had been begged by a very able French diplomatist in Rome not to read the memorandum. He felt sure that this was right, as it had made a very painful impression on the Parliamentary Commission to whom he had read it. The Marquis Imperiali urged, in these circumstances, that the memorandum should not be published.

[Page 408]

President Wilson urged that it should be published.

M. Clemenceau said that the Drafting Committee did not know whether to insert Italy or not.

Mr. Lloyd George said he understood that the Drafting Committee had been instructed on this subject.

Sir Maurice Hankey said that he had not been authorised to make any formal communication to the Drafting Committee on the subject. Under Mr. Lloyd George’s instructions, however he had asked Mr. Hurst, the British member of the Drafting Committee, to try and arrange throughout the Treaty to avoid mentioning either the word “Italy”, or the words “The five Allied and Associated Powers”. At an interview he had had with the Drafting Committee yesterday, however, he had gathered that they had not been able to do this.

He had one other item of information he ought to mention, namely, that it had come to his knowledge that one of the Commissions, either the Economic Commission or the Commission on Ports, Waterways and Railways had sent a telegram warning the Italian representative that Austrian questions would be considered on Monday.

(The view was generally expressed that this ought not to have been done in the present situation with Italy, without authority.)

M. Clemenceau said that M. Pichon had carried out his instructions the previous evening to see the Italian Ambassador, and had told him that the Germans were to be met next Tuesday, and that the Austrians and Hungarians were being asked to Paris. M. Bonin did not like it at all.

Reverting to Sir Maurice Hankey’s information about the communication by a Commission to Italy, he said that M. Klotz had reported the receipt of a letter from M. Crespi, dated April 30th (which M. Clemenceau proceeded to read), in which he had made a number of criticisms about the reparation decisions, and had made unqualified reservations in the name of the Italian Government. Was this sort of thing to continue? M. Clemenceau asked.

Mr. Lloyd George asked how M. Crespi had received word of those decisions. He wondered whether he had yet learnt of the decision that in reckoning claims for reparation against Germany, account should be taken of the proportion of the German effort on the particular front.

M. Clemenceau asked what was to be done regarding M. Crespi’s letter.

President Wilson said it would be sufficient if M. Klotz’s secretary were to acknowledge receipt. He would not do more than this.

Mr. Lloyd George said he would ask him the straight question as to whether he was a member of the Conference or not. He should say he wished to know because other decisions affecting Italy were being taken.

[Page 409]

Sir Maurice Hankey mentioned that whenever he had known that reparation, economic, or ports, railways and waterways, or financial questions were to be considered he had sent a telephonic communication to M. Crespi, just as he had done to the other experts. M. Crespi had usually replied that he was unable to be present. This did not apply, however, to the meeting at which the decision referred to by Mr. Lloyd George had been taken, because that had not been a meeting specially organised for the subject. The experts had been present in connection with another question, namely, that of Alsace-Lorraine, and advantage had been taken of their presence to settle this question.

Mr. Lloyd George said it was necessary to be very careful over this matter; if a break—and by break he did not mean hostilities—occurred with Italy it would be a very serious matter. In these moments small matters and the methods in which things were done were apt to tell. We must avoid even the appearance of incivility. He would give an air of over-courtesy. He thought that M. Klotz was entitled to write and say that other amendments were being made to the reparation clauses which affected Italy, and that he thought he ought to afford an opportunity to M. Crespi to be present.

President Wilson fully agreed as to the importance of courtesy. He thought, however, under all the circumstances, the only proper course was for M. Klotz’s secretary to send a courteous acknowledgment of the receipt of the letter. At the present time M. Klotz’s relations with the Italian representative were undefined. It would be as irregular for M. Klotz to make an official communication as undoubtedly it had been for M. Crespi to do so.

Mr. Lloyd George thought that nevertheless M. Klotz was entitled to ask if M. Crespi was a member or not.

President Wilson said he would not answer.

M. Clemenceau said he would at once telegraph to the Italian Government.

Mr. Lloyd George said he had not been feeling comfortable about the decision on the subject of joint and several responsibility which had been taken in the absence of Italy, though it was to the detriment of Italian interests. He thought undoubtedly that both France and Great Britain would make a good deal out of this decision at Italian expense; France twice as much as Great Britain, and the decision had been taken the moment the Italians left.

President Wilson said we ought not to be too soft-hearted about the Italians, who had withdrawn from the negotiations with Germany because they could not get what they wanted about the negotiations with Austria, which were a separate matter.

Mr. Lloyd George thought the decision looked rather like sharp practice.

[Page 410]

President Wilson suggested that a letter should be drafted for M. Klotz to send.

(Mr. Philip Kerr was then invited into the room, and was given an outline of the question, and asked to draft a reply. Mr. Kerr retired.)

Mr. Lloyd George thought that before a decision was taken as to the publication of his and M. Clemenceau’s memorandum to M. Orlando, it should be carefully studied.

(Sir Maurice Hankey handed him the memorandum, which he proceeded to read.) (I. C.–176.C, Appendix I.)

M. Clemenceau said he thought we could not abstain from publishing the letter.

President Wilson reminded that the original understanding was that some document was to be published by Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau on the morning following the publication of his own statement. The impression had been created that the United States of America stood alone, in their attitude and M. Poincare’s declaration had rather heightened the impression that Great Britain and France were not with him. In these circumstances he felt that the memorandum ought to be published.

Mr. Lloyd George said the effect must be very carefully considered. If the Italians did not want to come back, they would be glad of some excuse which would throw the blame on to their Allies.

President Wilson felt sure they wanted to come back.

Mr. Lloyd George said that might be the case, but you did not want to put them in a position of saying President Wilson drove them away from the Conference, and M. Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George prevented them from coming back.

President Wilson said it was not fair to the world to abstain from publishing. The idea had been put about that Italy was expecting some arrangement to be offered them about Fiume, such as some form of independence under the League of Nations. The world needed some assurance that the Allied and Associated Powers collectively intended to do the right thing.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the first thing was to patch up an arrangement with Italy if it could be patched up honourably. He would like Italy to be represented at the Council if this could be arranged without any sacrifice of principle. (President Wilson agreed.) The second point was that if they did not come back the responsibility must not be with the Allied and Associated Powers. He was afraid that publication would prejudice the position. He was not sure that publication would not make it impossible for the Italians to return. It was well known that a letter had been written, and he and his colleagues, with whom he had discussed it, took the view that the longer the declaration was withheld, the greater would be the effect. [Page 411] British public opinion was not with the Italians in this matter, but it really had no great interest in it. It wanted it patched up. It was not indifferent to principle, but it really did not know the question or understand it.

President Wilson said that public opinion in the United States was intensely interested. It could not understand why the United States was apparently left in isolation. United States public opinion was much more important than Italian. If the United States again became isolated it would break up the whole scheme on which the Peace Conference was working. He himself had less contact than Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau with Italian opinion, but his experts, with whom he had discussed the matter, assured him that the only way was to show Italy that she was in an impossible position. Once Italy realised that, a result was much more likely. If Italy was kept in a state of hope as regards Flume, she would go on scheming, and putting her views in the Press, and would get no further. M. Clemenceau’s and Mr. Lloyd George’s memorandum was unanswerable. It would show clearly to Italian public opinion that Italy was in an impossible situation and must get out of it if she wanted to be in the great world movement. In the meanwhile, if nothing were done, work would have to be continued on the same difficult basis, that is to say, one of constant embarrassment in taking decisions adverse to Italy in the absence of its representatives, and not knowing whether Italy was in or out of the Peace Conference.

Mr. Lloyd George said he would put some considerations on the other side. He thought President Wilson was wrong in assuming that the United States was regarded as standing alone. His opinion was that Italian public opinion regarded Great Britain as more hostile than she really was. They really thought that the British representatives had acted against them. This was undoubtedly a good deal due to the attitude of The Times, which was still regarded as an official or semi-official organ in Italy. Only the previous evening a British soldier had told him that British officers were insulted in the streets in Italian cities, and the feeling was running strong against us. It was assumed that Great Britain had stood with the United States of America. He thought that the contrary opinion had been disseminated in the United States mainly by Mr. Hearst’s papers, which were always trying to make trouble between Great Britain and the United States. It was assumed that Great Britain was pro-Jugoslav, but as a matter of fact British opinion knew and cared very little about the Jugo-Slavs. If he thought that public opinion would bring matters to a head and force Italy to take a decision, he would agree to it. But he feared it might only prolong the crisis by making it difficult for Italy to come in. Sooner or later, Italy must come in, [Page 412] and must do so voluntarily. Publication might cause a ministerial crisis in Italy, and bring back M. Giolitti and M. Tittoni, which would not be at all desirable. Moreover, to publish in the face of the Marquis Imperiali’s letter, which was based on information from M. Orlando, would, he thought, be a very serious matter.

President Wilson said he thought he was the best judge of opinion in the United States of America, and the impression there he had no doubt from daily communications was that the United States were getting no support.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested the publication of some semi-official communiqué that was obviously inspired.

President Wilson thought that we should prolong the present situation longer by the present method of leaving matters alone than by a drop in the test tube which was to produce precipitation. (Mr. Lloyd George interjected that he was afraid it might produce an explosion.) He believed that the only way to get the Italians back would be to make a declaration. We had now sent to the Austrians, and we should show them that if they did not come back they would be out of it altogether. He understood that they had sent a ship to Fiume and that they were increasing the number of troops in Fiume. He had learnt that very morning from Mr. Lloyd George that they had sent a battleship, two cruisers and a destroyer to Smyrna. This confirmed what M. Orlando had told the United States ambassador in Rome that they would not go into the League of Nations unless they got what they wanted. At Brest there was one of the latest United States battleships waiting to take him home, but this could be sent to Smyrna or Fiume.

M. Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George said they would send it to Fiume.

President Wilson said that of course the danger was if a force was sent, some incident might happen. The Italians seemed to be sending forces to several places.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he had sent Lieut. Harmsworth to M. Venizelos with a telegram that he had received from the Central Committee of unredeemed Hellenes at Athens, to the effect that recent events, especially in the Smyrna district, indicated that the Turks, stimulated by some outside power (this, no doubt, was Italy) were continuing their policy of oppression and massacre; and the telegram concluded by asking for forces to be sent. M. Venizelos had replied that the Italians were undoubtedly stirring up the Turks, and no doubt there was an understanding between them. This strengthened the view that an Inter-Allied force should be sent to Smyrna.

President Wilson said that the Italians would probably say they were sending battleships to Smyrna to protect their compatriots in Turkey.

[Page 413]

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that the three nations should all send forces. Great Britain had a battleship in the Black Sea.

M. Clemenceau said that France had battleships in the Black Sea also.

President Wilson said he would see Admiral Benson about it at once.

M. Clemenceau said that this was the application of the principle of the League of Nations. What he asked were we going to do about the Italians at Versailles.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the Germans knew the position.

M. Clemenceau said his information was that the Germans did not take much interest in the Italian position.

President Wilson said that this confirmed the information he had read yesterday.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the peace of the world really depended upon the United States of America, France and Great Britain hanging together.

M. Clemenceau said that the Italian policy was clearly to lead the Allied and Associated Powers to the point where they could not make peace in common because Great Britain and France were bound by the Treaty of London which President Wilson could not recognise. We ought to let them know beforehand that by not coming to Versailles they had broken the Pact of London to which they had adhered, and by which it was agreed not to make peace separately. We should show that if they broke the Pact of London we were not bound.

President Wilson pointed out that it depended upon how the promise not to make a separate peace was interpreted. The Italians had been a party to the Armistice, they had been a party to the preliminary peace, a party (as Mr. Lloyd George pointed out) to the basis of the peace, and a party to the discussions on the peace. On the very eve of the negotiations with the Germans, they had withdrawn on a matter that had nothing to do with those negotiations.

M. Clemenceau said that we should let them know that if they withdraw they are breaking the Pact of London, and we are not bound by the Treaty. We must let them know that if Italy breaks it, she must take the consequences.

President Wilson said it must be made clear that it was Italy and not France and Great Britain that were breaking the Treaty.

M. Clemenceau said the day was coming when this must be made known.

President Wilson doubted if it was necessary to let it be known before next Tuesday when the Germans came.

M. Clemenceau thought it should be made known before.

[Page 414]

President Wilson thought it would be sufficient to say that we had signed the Treaty of Peace whereby Italy not signing had broken the Pact of London.

M. Clemenceau recalled that when the decision had been taken to invite the Germans to Versailles, President Wilson and Mr. Lloyd George had agreed, but M. Orlando had written to him making all reservations. He had that correspondence. The communication had not been sent to the Germans with M. Orlando’s consent.

President Wilson said that except as regards certain matters of detail, the main elements of the Treaty with the Germans had been urged with the co-operation of the Italians. They now refused to sign this Treaty unless another Treaty was settled first.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that the Italians ought to be informed if the Drafting Committee were instructed to leave Italy out of the Treaty.

President Wilson said that if some communication was sent every day to Italy in this sort of way, she would only be encouraged in her attitude. Surely M. Klotz’s reply to M. Crespi was enough.

At this point Sir Maurice Hankey, under instruction, read extracts from the previous Minutes showing that Mr. Lloyd George had asked M. Orlando whether, in the event of Italy’s absence from the meeting with the Germans, the Allied and Associated Powers were entitled to put forward demands on Italy’s behalf, and that M. Orlando had made it clear that they were not. ([I. C] 176 C.)2

Mr. Lloyd George said he had told the Marquis Imperiali that if Italy abstained from being present it would be an end to the Pact of London. Unfortunately there was no note of this conversation.

President Wilson recalled that Mr. Lloyd George had told him.

(It was agreed that the question should be studied by M. Clemenceau and his advisers, and by Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Balfour, and that a form of communication to Italy should be prepared for consideration.
(The draft of a letter from M. Klotz to M. Crespi prepared by Mr. Philip Kerr was read and approved (Appendix I).

M. Clemenceau took the letter to communicate to M. Klotz.)

2[bis]. German ships in American Ports There was a short discussion on this question, in which reference was made to a scheme that had been drawn up between British and United States Experts.

3. Belgium and Reparation Mr. Lloyd George read the following telephone message from Mr. Keynes:—

“Mr. Keynes said that there had been a meeting with the Belgians at which were present M. Loucheur, an American representative and [Page 415] himself. The Belgians had made a number of new demands, the following being the most important:—

To waive all claims for repayment of loans to Belgium on the ground that we were going to get them out of Germany.
Out of the first £100,000,000 sterling that we were going to get as priority, we should make no claim for repayment of certain reconstruction loans which we and the United States (? French) had made to Belgium since the Armistice on condition that they were repaid out of the first money received by Belgium from Germany.
The Belgians wanted to get after the first £100,000,000, 15 per cent, of any monies paid over by Germany until their total reparation demand was satisfied.

In the end, the Americans, M. Loucheur and Mr. Keynes had agreed to recommend to their respective authorities one concession, namely, that in regard to number (2).”

President Wilson said that M. Lamont had given him rather a more hopeful message to the effect that an understanding might be reached.

4. Plenary Meeting. Powers to Whom Peace Terms Are To Be communicated The Note from the Secretary General of the Conference, dated May 1st, 1919 (Appendix II) was read and the following decisions were taken:—

To hand over to the Germans the credentials of the Delegations of Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay.
To place the aforesaid four Powers among the Powers to which the Treaties are to be communicated before being delivered to the Germans.

5. Guarantees Mr. Lloyd George handed to M. Clemenceau a memorandum by General Sir Henry Wilson, criticising the scheme of gradual withdrawal at intervals of five years from the German provinces west of the Rhine. General Wilson had considered that the scheme was worked out on a wrong basis, and the first withdrawal should be from the south and not from the north.

The Meeting then adjourned until 4 p.m. at the Quai d’Orsay.

Villa Majestic, Paris, 2 May, 1919.

Appendix I to IC–179B

Copy of Letter To Be Sent by M. Klotz to M. Crespi

Dear Signor Crespi: I have much pleasure in acknowledging receipt of your letter of April 30th in which you suggest certain amendments [Page 416] in the draft of the clauses of the Treaty with Germany relating to reparation. I feel somewhat at a loss as to how to deal with your request, because, as you remind me, the Italian representatives withdrew from our deliberations on April 22nd and have taken no part in them since. I am, however, very glad to note your criticisms and suggestions and have communicated them to the American and British representatives.

I should like further to take this opportunity to inform you that the representatives of America, the British Empire and of France have been obliged to take very important decisions in regard to the draft Treaty with Germany since they have been deprived of the advice and assistance of the Italian delegation. In particular I wish to bring to your notice the following important decision regarding the question of reparation:—

“Les dommages de guerre, conséquences des hostilités sur l’un des fronts de combat, sont réparés par l’Allemagne et ses Alliés au prorata de l’effort militaire et navale fourni par chacun d’eux sur ce front. Les proportions seront déterminées par la Commission des Réparations.”3

I am anxious to communicate this decision to you because it specially affects Italian interests.

Appendix II to IC–179B

[Note From the Secretary General of the Conference]


Guided by the preamble of the Treaty providing the “resumption of official relations” with Germany, the Drafting Committee have been of opinion that

  • Bolivia
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
  • Uruguay

should be included in the Allied and Associated Powers which are to resume those relations.

The above mentioned Powers, as is well known, did not declare war upon Germany but merely severed diplomatic relations with her. It will be noticed, however, that Uruguay has performed acts of war (Germany ships).

[Page 417]

According to Article I of the Regulations those Powers have been admitted to the work of the Conference and have since the beginning taken a part in it.

If the view of the Drafting Committee is correct it will be expedient:

—to hand over to the Germans the credentials of those four Delegations.
—to place the aforesaid four Powers among the Powers to which the Treaty is to be communicated before being delivered to the Germans.

  1. Appendix I to IC–176C, p. 223.
  2. Ante, p. 210.
  3. For translation, see footnote 1, p. 388.