Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/139


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Saturday, 3 May, 1919, at 10 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. Italy: The Letter to M. Crespi M. Klotz was introduced by M. Clemenceau and read the letter which was to be sent to M. Crespi, in reply to the latter’s letter referred to in the Minutes of the previous day.1 This reply, is identical with the draft approved on the previous day, except for an introduction in the following sense:—

“I already had the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your letter etc.”

M. Klotz’ letter was approved.)

(M. Klotz withdrew.)

2. Situation as Regards Italy Mr. Lloyd George suggested that the Foreign Ministers should be introduced for the discussion on the subject of Italy.

M. Clemenceau said he was willing.

President Wilson said it was not a matter of foreign affairs but rather for the Conference. There was no technical reason why the Foreign Ministers should be present.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the decision to be taken was so important that he would like to have the presence of Mr. Balfour, who had come over under the impression that the question of submarine cables was to be discussed at 10:00 o’clock.

(This was agreed to.)

(Mr. Balfour entered, and M. Pichon was telephoned for.)

President Wilson read a despatch from the United States’ Ambassador in Rome, who, he said, was sympathetic to the Italians but thoroughly understood his own point of view. The gist of it was that [Page 427] May Day had been quiet in Rome; that excitement had largely subsided; that the Italian Government had realized the dangerous position; that the troops as well as the gendarmes had been removed from the American Embassy; that there was a real desire for a settlement, but that the only possible settlement was a concession by the Allied and Associated Powers in regard to Fiume; if this could be agreed, everything else could be arranged; but that nothing would content Italy which left out Fiume.

He pointed out that the Italian Government had only themselves to blame for this result, as they had worked up public opinion.

Mr. Lloyd George said that Mr. Erskine, the British Chargé des Affaires, had telegraphed that he had seen Baron Sonnino; that the latter had said he was doing his best to quiet excitement; but had ended by saying that the next move ought to be from Paris.

President Wilson said that these telegrams showed that the things that Baron Sonnino had contended were not popular items. What the public wanted [was?] the items Signor Orlando had contended for, namely, those outside the Pact of London. Mr. Baker, who was in charge of the press arrangements for the United States Delegation said that his Italian colleague had not latterly come to see him, but yesterday he had seen him and he had asked when the Italians were going to be invited back to Paris. His reply had been: “Who invited you to go”?

M. Clemenceau was handed a despatch from M. Barrère, the French Ambassador in Rome, which had just arrived. M. Barrère said that he was telegraphing at midnight and had just received a letter from Baron Sonnino, commenting more particularly on the fact that the Delegates of Austria and Hungary had been asked to Paris without consultation with the Italians. This compelled him to give to some observations he had forwarded the character of formal protest.

(At this moment a message was received by Mr. Lloyd George from the Marquis Imperiali, who telephoned to the effect that he had received a cipher despatch from Rome and would postpone his visit to Mr. Lloyd George until it had been deciphered.)

President Wilson said that Baron Sonnino did not state the whole of the facts. The Italians had been informed of what was intended before they left for Rome.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that the decision to invite the Austrians and Hungarians had been taken after the Italian Delegation had left. How, he asked, could the Italians have been consulted?

M. Clemenceau said that they had been informed immediately the decision was taken.

President Wilson asked if the telegram drafted by Mr. Balfour to which Mr. Lloyd George had alluded in conversation before the meeting, might be read.

[Page 428]

Mr. Lloyd George read the first draft, which had been prepared by Mr. Malkin, a legal expert, and did not pretend to give more than a rough outline of the legal position in which Italy would be if she did not sign the Treaty of Peace with Germany (Appendix I). The gist of this was if Italy broke the Pact of London, the Allies were no longer bound by the Treaty of London.

Mr. Balfour said that his own draft (Appendix II) was based on the idea that there would be great disaster to the world if Italy did not come back to meet the Germans. The breach between Italy and her Allies would become wider. There would be one Power outside the grouping of Great Powers and it might be impossible for that Power to come back. His idea was to give Italy a bridge, or at least the means of coming back.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out the difference between the effect the document would produce if signed simply by the British Government as a friendly warning and its dispatch as a formal warning from France, Great Britain and the United States of America. He then read Mr. Balfour’s draft. (Appendix II.)

President Wilson said that the first document (Appendix I) was not adequate since it did not recite Italy’s participation in all these transactions. For example (a) the Armistice; (b) the basis on which the Peace negotiations were undertaken and (c) Italy’s share in drawing up the Peace Treaty itself, and (d) finally, Italy’s withdrawal.

M. Clemenceau then produced a document that he had prepared which, at his request, President Wilson read. (Appendix III.)

(During the reading of this document M. Pichon entered.)

President Wilson pointed out that each step of this kind tended to emphasize the isolation of the United States of America.

M. Clemenceau said the document had been prepared by M. Tar-dieu under his instructions entirely from the point of view of the signatories of the Treaty of London.

President Wilson pointed out that in effect this document (Appendix III) did indicate that if Italy came back on the basis of the Treaty of London, some agreement might be reached. The world knew, however, that the United States could not be a party to an agreement based on the Treaty of London and he would have to say so. This document amounted to a virtue of [virtual] promise to stand with Italy and the isolation of the United States would become more serious than ever. He wished to add that he was saying this in the most friendly spirit.

Mr. Lloyd George said he had put precisely the same difficulty to his colleagues and had pointed out that we were in danger of a quarrel either with the United States or with Italy. The former would be far the more serious of the two. Putting the matter at its [Page 429] lowest, Germany would not sign the Peace in the former event so that this was a very serious possibility. This made him almost more afraid of the return of the Italian Delegates than if they stayed away.

Mr. Balfour said that this was his view.

Mr. Lloyd George said that Mr. Bonar Law,2 who had been in contact with elements in England that were perhaps less imbued than [with] the principles on which the Peace was being based, was inclined to take a somewhat different view. He asked Mr. Balfour what the feeling was in England according to his information.

Mr. Balfour said he had shown Sir Rennell Rodd3 the memorandum handed by Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau to M. Orlando. His view had been: “Are you really going to quarrel with Italy over a thing like that?” Sir Rennell Rodd had, however, rather changed his view after their conversation.

Mr. Lloyd George said he did not wish to put M. Orlando in the position of being able to cast the responsibility on his Allies for their remaining away. Unless France and Great Britain said clearly: “We stand by the Treaty of London” M. Orlando could say: “You threw me over.”

President Wilson thought that the same object could be secured in a different way although he was not prepared there and then to say exactly how. As he told M. Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George on the previous day, the whole trend of the Press was to show that France and Great Britain were not acting with the United States and that he had not the support of the Heads of these States. This was why he wanted the memorandum to Mr. Orlando to be published so as to show clearly that their views were similar to his own. This would show United States’ opinion that he was not standing in isolation in this matter. It had been stated in Rome that President Wilson’s declaration had been inspired by M. Clemenceau. He was informed that the French Embassy had issued an official denial to this. One Italian newspaper had said that M. Clemenceau had neither inspired or knew of his declaration.

M. Clemenceau asked M. Pichon if this was correct.

M. Pichon said he had no information.

President Wilson said that it had only been in one newspaper. Whichever way, however, his statement was taken, it was news to him that his colleagues did not know, or that he had sent out his statement arbitrarily. He wanted to warn his colleagues that if they were not careful an impression would be given that there was a serious rift [Page 430] between France and Great Britain on the one hand and the United States on the other. The effect of this would be that United States’ opinion would say: “We will get out of this.”

Mr. Lloyd George said it was necessary to speak very frankly in the intimacy of these conversations. It must not be forgotten that there was a growing feeling that Europe was being bullied by the United States of America. In London this feeling was very strong and that matter had to be handled with the greatest care. Any such rift would be the saddest possible ending to the present Conference. It would put an end to the League of Nations. He understood that the London Press had behaved extremely well and had not gone as far as British public opinion. The position was one of real danger and wanted to be handled with the greatest care, otherwise we might have the worst catastrophe since 1914.

President Wilson said he did not speak with authority [in?] regard to British public opinion. Nevertheless, he was sure of the fact that the so-called bullying was recognized by the common man as based on the principles which inspired the Peace. In his view, it was indispensable clearly to show Italy that in all essentials Great Britain, France and the United States were united, otherwise the Italians would continue to be troublesome.

Mr. Lloyd George said that in fact they were not completely united. In regard to Fiume they were united. M. Clemenceau and he, however, were not in the same position as President Wilson, owing to the fact that they were bound by the Treaty of London.

President Wilson pointed out that Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau had both signed the memorandum to M. Orlando. This showed that they were united with him in judgment even though not in position.

Mr. Lloyd George said that it was no use being united in judgment when a decision was wanted. France and Great Britain were bound by the Treaty of London. If Italy insisted he was bound to stand by the Treaty. He could not possibly help that. This was the bottom fact of the whole situation.

President Wilson thought that this was a position which could not be got out of. Moreover, it was an indefensible position. The Treaty had been entered into when only a little group of nations was at war. Since then half the World had joined in. There could be no right in coercing other Parties to this Treaty which were just as much bound by conscience as Great Britain and France were by the Treaty. It was neither good morals nor good statesmanship.

Mr. Lloyd George said that Great Britain had been brought into the war largely in protest against the breach of a Treaty. She could not contemplate herself breaking a Treaty at the end of the war [Page 431] when the other partner of the Treaty had lost half a million lives in giving effect to it. This had been worrying him for several days past.

President Wilson said this made it the more important to find some way out. The stage ought to be so set as not to encourage the Italians to come back. M. Clemenceau’s document (Appendix III) was more than an invitation for them to return. It was a challenge. He would prefer the first document that had been read (Appendix I) with a recital of the facts added. A clear narration should be given of the facts and a very important statement in M. Orlando’s letter to M. Clemenceau dated April 23rd in which he stated that:

“The terms of Peace with Germany may henceforth be considered a settlement in their essential elements” should be referred to. Then the case would be clear that if Italy were to break off the responsibility would be theirs.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the Italians would then formulate a long reply, and a controversy would be commenced. He agreed to every word that President Wilson had said but he was really afraid that they might come back.

Mr. Balfour said that as he understood the matter the policy that we wished to pursue was the same policy as the United States of America wished to pursue, and vice versa. Our difficulty arose from the fact that we were bound by a formal treaty, which, however, it was true, had been concluded in entirely different circumstances from those now applying. The difficulty was how to get a real agreement in conformity with our treaties. The only way seemed to be to get the Italians to admit that they had broken the treaty which they really had done.

President Wilson said that Italy had broken both treaties, because her demands were more than the Treaty of London gave her. He had never for a moment given the smallest indication that he agreed to the Treaty of London.

Mr. Lloyd George said he could not altogether accept any suggestion that President Wilson’s statement voiced the British view. He thought that Italy had a real case connected with her security in demanding the Islands in the Adriatic. President Wilson had agreed that the ethnic principle was not the only one that could be adopted by admitting that Italy should have great part of the Tyrol. He himself would apply the same principle to the Islands, in default of which, Italy’s east coast would be seriously menaced.

President Wilson agreed that against Austria-Hungary this was the case.

Mr. Lloyd George said the same applied if Austria-Hungary had allies. If we were to say “you have broken the treaty”, there would [Page 432] be an end of the matter. In M. Clemenceau’s document (Appendix III) we said “you will have broken if you do not come back”. If there must be a break, a break with Italy would be bad enough, but not a disaster; a break with the United States would be a disaster.

President Wilson asked why the Treaty of London should be mentioned in the Note, Mr. Lloyd George had been almost brutally frank with M. Orlando on this point. He wished that the memorandum to M. Orlando might be published. (M. Clemenceau interjected that this was his view.) All that was now necessary was to show that Italy was breaking the Pact. The first document read (Appendix I), however, did not prove the case sufficiently.

Mr. Balfour explained that the first document was only a very hasty draft in which his legal adviser had jotted down his view on the legal point.

Mr. Lloyd George adverted to a matter of drafting in M. Clemenceau’s document (Appendix III). It called attention to the fact that the Treaty of London assigned Fiume to the Croats. In his view, it was imperative to point out that this meant Serbia—another Ally. He asked if the Serbs had known of this Treaty.

Mr Balfour thought not.

President Wilson said that that had been argued and set before the Italians sufficiently.

Mr. Lloyd George said it was not quite sufficient to say that Fiume had been given to the Croats. There was no feeling for the Croats in the United Kingdom, but there was very strong feeling for the Serbs.

M. Pichon said that the Treaty of London had not been communicated to the Croats. At one of the conversations at the Quai d’Orsay, M. Vesnitch4 had said that he did not know the Treaty of London, and took no cognizance of it.

M. Clemenceau said he would prefer to publish the memorandum signed by Mr. Lloyd George and himself first. If any other document were published first, the public would not understand the situation, which could not be made clear without the memorandum. There were certain objections, but by this means alone could the position be fully explained. He and Mr. Lloyd George had all along approved of the general lines of President Wilson’s statement, and it must be made clear that they had not differed from it. On the eve of very serious events, it must be shown that Great Britain and France had always stood with the United States of America, otherwise if some other document were published first, it would be said that they had wavered. It was true that M. Orlando did not want the memorandum published, [Page 433] but this was a case of a choice between two evils and the least disadvantageous was to publish the memorandum.

Mr. I loyd Gecrge said he must make it clear that President Wilson had not put the view of the British Government in his statement, and that was why he had wanted a separate document to be sent to M. Orlando. Without it, M. Orlando would not know what the British attitude was.

President Wilson said that memorandum showed clearly what the British and French view was as matter stood. He said that he had to keep his private secretary in the United States reassured that there was no difference between him and Great Britain on this point.

Mr. Balfour confirmed this by stating that he had received a telegram from Lord Reading5 who was about to make a speech in New York, and who had indicated that there was this idea of a separation between the American view and the British and French view. He had telegraphed back that there was not the smallest difference in policy between them.

President Wilson said that his private secretary, Mr. Tumulty, had an almost uncanny appreciation of public opinion in the United States. He himself had had to keep Mr. Tumulty reassured that there was no difference between himself and his British and French colleagues. If this opinion continued to gain ground American public opinion would be asking what he was going to do.

Mr. Lloyd George asked what action was contemplated if Italy did not come back? “What would be done if Italy remained in Fiume: Would she be left there? It would be no use sending her letters, in which we should merely have to say that the Austrian Peace had been settled on certain principles and that Fiume was to be a free port. Should we have to say to her, you must clear out?

M. Clemenceau said not at present.

Mr. Lloyd George said he was not shrinking from the results of our policy. The League of Nations, however, would be finished, if the first Power that defied it did so with impunity. Moreover, if Italy was left in Fiume, there would be fighting between her and the Jugo-Slavs. Were we to allow the Italian armies to march to Belgrade? He only said these things to show that we were really determining a great policy at the present time.

President Wilson suggested that Mr. Lloyd George had been arguing that if the memorandum were published, it would prevent the Italians coming back.

Mr. Lloyd George said he was, because the indications at the present time were that if the Italians came back, they would ask for [Page 434] impossible terms. He, himself, hoped that Italy might still be willing to accept the compromise that he had proposed, namely, that Fiume should remain an absolutely free port; that they should evacuate Dalmatia, perhaps with some provision for free cities; and that they would take the Islands. M. Clemenceau doubted if this was possible.

(The Meeting then adjourned to the room upstairs for the Meeting on Cables, reported in the other series of Minutes.)6

Villa Majestic, Paris, May 3, 1919.

Appendix I to IC–180A

[Draft by Mr. Malkin, British Legal Expert, of a Communication To Be Sent to the Italian Government]

The French and British Governments have been loyally endeavoring to carry out the provision of the Pact of London under which the signatories agreed not to conclude a separate peace. For several months discussions have been proceeding with the object of reaching an agreement as to the terms on which peace could be made in common. The action of the Italian representatives in withdrawing from these discussions, if persisted in, obviously makes it impossible for peace to be concluded in common; it renders the fulfilment of the promise in question by the French and British Governments impossible, and constitutes a breach by the Italian Government of the Pact of London.

Appendix II to IC–180A

[Draft by Mr. Balfour of a Communication To Be Sent to the Italian Government]

We are not sure that you fully realize the serious effects on the unity of the Allies and the settlement of Europe which must be produced by your absence from Versailles while peace with Germany is being arranged. It is true that we have no suggestion to make about Fiume, and the Adriatic, beyond those with which you are already acquainted. But these problems are not directly connected with the conclusion of peace with Germany, and their solution, if a solution is possible, will certainly not be hindered by the presence of Italian plenipotentiaries at Versailles. On the other hand, if Italy refuses her concurrence and cooperation she will not only be in our opinion violating the Pact of London, but she will be taking a step which will render future unity of action a matter of the extremest difficulty. To us such a result seems little short of disaster to civilization.

[Page 435]

Appendix III to IC–180A

[Draft Presented by M. Clemenceau of a Communication To Be Sent to the Italian Government]

1. The Governments of Great Britain and France had received no answer to the letter sent on the . . . . April by Mr. Lloyd George and Clemenceau to Signor Orlando, in which the Prime Ministers of both countries urged their Italian Colleague to reconsider the situation.7 Since then the German Plenipotentiaries, in compliance with the invitation forwarded to them on the 17th April, notwithstanding Signor Orlando’s reservations, by the Supreme Council of the Allied and Associated Governments, have arrived at Versailles. It is therefore necessary, in the common interest, that the situation thus created should be cleared up, and that it be known whether, as the Allies heartily trust, Italy will stand at their side to sign Peace with Germany at the same time as they will.

2. The letter of Signor Orlando to M. Clemenceau dated April 23rd stated that “the terms of Peace with Germany may henceforth be considered as settled in their essential elements.” The London agreement of April 26th, 1915 providing that “none of the Allied Powers shall lay conditions of Peace without previous agreement with its Allies,” has consequently been complied with, as regards Peace with Germany. The Governments of Great Britain and France therefore like to think that Italy will be ready to sign with them the Treaty which she has had an ample share in preparing, and with which, according to the above-mentioned letter, she has declared herself satisfied.

3. As regards the other agreement of April 26th, 1915 concerning the boundaries between Italy and Austria Hungary, the Governments of Great Britain and France, still prompted by the same spirit which had inspired their conduct in the negotiations of the last few months, recall the fact that the said Treaty, which they constantly declared themselves ready to carry out, assigns Fiume to the Croats. They consequently renew their regret that the claim laid to Fiume by the Italian Government—signatory of the Treaty which ascribes that town to the Croats—should make it impossible to execute an agreement by whose terms the said Governments are bound to abide, with respect to all parties concerned.

4. This being the case, the Governments of Great Britain and France, feeling they have faithfully fulfilled their obligations, on the one hand by preparing together with Italy the terms of peace with Germany, on the other hand by declaring their readiness to stand by their engagements of the 26th April, 1915 as regards Italy as well [Page 436] as the Croats, are under the obligation to request the Italian Government to acquaint them with their final decision.

Were Signor Orlando, contrary to all their expectations, to come to a negative decision, the two Governments should have to hold the opinion that it would be owing to Italy that the two kinds of engagements taken in London on April 26th, 1915 would lapse.

In the latter case, Italy by withdrawing her consent to the conditions of peace with Germany, settled in agreement with the Italian Delegation, as well as to the arrangements regarding the Adriatic, would, in so doing, renounce being a party to the Treaty which is going to be considered at Versailles and benefiting by the provisions agreed upon in 1915 in the matter of the Adriatic.

5. The Governments of Great Britain and France still fervently hope that the Italian Government will be fully alive, as they are, to the danger of such a solution for that future of peace and justice for which Italy, in full solidarity with the Allied and Associated countries, has sacrificed so much of her blood. The present circumstances and the fact that the German Plenipotentiaries are now in Versailles make it a duty for Great Britain and France to ask Signor Orlando for an answer at the earliest possible moment.

They beg him to forward it to them and while heartily appealing to the high sense of the Italian interests and of the general weal entertained by the Government of Italy, they hereby bear witness to the unfailing affection of Great Britain and France for the Italian Nation.

  1. See IC–179B, p. 408.
  2. A. Bonar Law, British Lord Privy Seal; plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference.
  3. British Ambassador in Italy.
  4. Milenko R. Vesnitch, Minister in France of the Serb-Croat-Slovene State; plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference.
  5. British Lord Chief Justice; High Commissioner and Special Ambassador to the United States.
  6. IC–180B, p. 437.
  7. For the text of this letter, see appendix I to IC–176C, p. 223