Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/143


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Saturday, May 3, 1919, at 4 p.m.

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

1. The Peace Treaty With Austria and Hungary M. Clemenceau raised the question of whether the invitation sent to the Austrian and Hungarian Governments to come to St. Germain should not be made public.

Mr. Lloyd George said he was in favour of publication, but he thought it should be discussed as part of the whole question of the situation with Italy.

2. Denunciation by Germany of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk Sir Maurice Hankey reported that he had had a letter from Mr. Hurst, the British Member of the Drafting Committee in regard to the Article approved on the previous afternoon on the subject of the denunciation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (I.C. 179.C, Minute 11).1 In this letter Mr. Hurst pointed out that the clause approved on the previous day had been less far-reaching than the clauses already included in the Financial and Economic Sections of the Peace Treaty. In view of these circumstances and in order to avoid any obvious divergence between the Economic Article (Article O of the Economic Clauses), the Financial Article (Article 12, (vi) of the Financial Clauses) and the new political Article, certain changes had been made. (The new draft submitted by the Drafting Committee was approved.)2

(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to forward it immediately to the Secretary-General for communication to the Drafting Committee.)

3. Guarantees for the Execution of the Peace Treaty. Article in Regard to the Baltic States Sir Maurice Hankey reported that he had received a letter from Guarantees for General Thwaites, the head of the British Military Section, enclosing a copy of the English draft of Repaid to the Clauses in regard to the Baltic States, to be inserted Baltic states in the Treaty of Peace under Guarantees. The French translation as approved by Marshal Foch was also attached.

[Page 452]

(These Articles were approved as a basis for an Article in the Treaty of Peace—Appendix II.)

(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to forward them to the Secretary-General for communication to the Drafting Committee with the least possible delay.)

4. The Situation in Regard to Italy Mr. Lloyd George described an interview he had had with the Marquis Imperiali, who had communicated to him the gist of a telegram he had received from Rome. The Marquis had refused to communicate a copy and Mr. Lloyd George had to rely entirely on his memory. No-one else had been present at the conversation, which the Marquis Imperiali had said was a private one, although he had said that he must communicate his impression of it to Rome. The first part of the telegram, so far as Mr. Lloyd George could remember was that M. Orlando had said that there was very little object in returning to Paris. There was no basis for an agreement in regard to Fiume. Moreover, he understood that Great Britain and France were not agreed with the United States. In the second part, M. Orlando had said, “you say you stand by the Treaty of London. How much better off are we? President Wilson will not accept it. What guarantees do our Allies propose to enforce the Treaty?” Mr. Lloyd George had then replied to the Marquis Imperiali, “what guarantees do you want? Do you expect us to declare war on the United States?” The Marquis Imperiali had replied “Oh, no.” Mr. Lloyd George had asked him what he would suggest, and he could not suggest anything. The Marquis Imperiali had then made a suggestion which Mr. Lloyd George characterized as an impudent one, that the Allies were not keeping the Pact of London, because they were making a separate peace with Germany, without Italy. Mr. Lloyd George had told him that Italy was already on the point of breaking the Pact, that we would be within our legal rights, and that we were advised by our legal advisers that this was the case, in considering that Italy would break it by not being present to meet the Germans. If Italy was not present on Tuesday then the Allies would no longer be bound by the Pact. The Marquis had replied that this was a very serious situation. Mr. Lloyd George’s rejoinder was that it was no more serious than he himself had in that very room warned the Marquis Imperiali that it would be. He had warned M. Orlando in exactly the same sense. He had also reminded him that M. Orlando had acted against the advice of M. Sonnino. The Marquis Imperiali had then said, “Won’t you make us some offer?” Mr. Lloyd George had replied, “To whom shall we make it? Can you receive an offer?” The Marquis Imperiali replied that he could transmit one. Mr. Lloyd George then said that it was impossible to deal with people who were hundreds of miles away, and had no responsible person with [Page 453] authority to act for them. If the Italian representatives did not come back, there was no official person with whom negotiations could take place. The Marquis Imperiali then said that the Italian representatives ought to know this. He was afraid that if they came back to Paris, and found that no agreement could be reached, the situation would be graver than ever. Mr. Lloyd George asked, “Why would it be more grave than it is now?” He had warned them a week ago. The Italians were in possession of Fiume contrary to the Treaty of London. He had asked what the position of the Italians would be, and what the general position would be if the Peace about to be secured with Austria gave Fiume to the Croats. The Marquis Imperiali had been somewhat perturbed at this and had said, “I suppose you could put the Germans off for a day or two if the Italian Delegation were returning?” Mr. Lloyd George then told him that the Italian Government would be under an entire delusion if they thought that they could get Fiume. The Allied and Associated Powers were absolutely united on that point. They were united quite apart from the question of principle, because the Treaty of London gave Fiume to the Croats. A compromise that had been suggested was that it might be arranged that Fiume should become a free port, instead of being given to the Croats, on condition that the Italians gave up to the Serbs-Croats the Dalmatian Coast. The Marquis Imperiali had asked Mr. Lloyd George if he would put this in writing, and Mr. Lloyd George had declined.

(In the course of the discussion below, it will be found that Mr. Lloyd George supplemented his statement from time to time, as the course of the discussion brought fresh points to his mind.)

M. Clemenceau said he had had a conversation with the Italian Ambassador, Count Bonin, which had been almost identical with Mr. Lloyd George’s, but he had had one opportunity which Mr. Lloyd George did not have. Count Bonin had asked him what his point of view was. He had replied that he certainly would give it, and he had given him a piece of his mind. He had told him that Italy had entered the war with a bargain. This bargain had not been kept yet. Italy had postponed for more than a year going to war with Germany. The bargain had been that Italy was to get the Tyrol, Trieste, and Pola, and that Fiume would go to the Croats. Now Italy asked him to keep his word about their part of the Treaty, and to break it in regard to Fiume. This was a point the Italians did not seem to realise. He had told him that he could see what was the game they were playing, but they could not get a quarrel between the Allies and President Wilson about Fiume. Italy had broken the Treaty, and he had the written opinion of a jurisconsult to that effect, which could be produced if it were wished. Count Bonin had said “Why do you not make a proposal?” M. Clemenceau had replied “we cannot, we [Page 454] have signed the Treaty.” Instead of asking to talk, the Italians wanted their Allies to break the Treaty. Count Bonin had then said “You are not in agreement with President Wilson.” M. Clemenceau had replied “I can discuss this with President Wilson and Mr. Lloyd George, but I will not discuss it with you.” Then Count Bonin had dropped this topic. Finally, Count Bonin had said “If we make a suggestion, would you help?” M. Clemenceau replied “Certainly, if it is a feasible suggestion, but I cannot commit myself in advance.” Then Count Bonin said that M. Orlando could not come back and conduct the negotiations, because he could not afford to fail. He added “I suppose we must hurry up”. M. Clemenceau replied, “Yes, you had better be as quick as you can”. Then Count Bonin said “Then you will help us”. M. Clemenceau replied “Certainly, if your proposal is a feasible one”. Count Bonin then referred to Fiume, and M. Clemenceau had replied that he had better not refer to that in any proposal, and that was the end of the conversation, as far as he could remember it.

Mr. Lloyd George recalled that the Marquis Imperiali had put forward a proposal that had appeared in the newspaper “Temps”, but he had answered that he could not look at that.

M. Clemenceau expressed the view that in 24 hours suggestions would come from Italy.

President Wilson then said that Count Cellere, the Italian Ambassador in Washington, who had accompanied him to Europe, just as Lord Beading had done, and who was a man with whom he was personally friendly, had asked for an interview. He had not had time to grant it to him yet, but he had no doubt he would have to do so in the course of the day. He had no doubt that the interview would be on exactly the same lines as those of his colleagues, and he did not anticipate that it would add anything of value.

Mr. Lloyd George recalled that he had impressed on the Marquis Imperiali that the Allied and Associated Powers had every intention of concluding a peace with Germany and Austria. The Marquis then asked whether they were going to do so without consultation with Italy, to which he replied that there was no-one to consult with in Paris. Italy, however, had been told the result of every decision immediately affecting her. Their intention was to press on with making these Treaties of Peace, and they could not delay simply because Italy would not settle on the subject of Fiume. He had impressed strongly on him that peace would be made.

President Wilson believed that the present line that was being adopted was the best. No proposal should be made to Italy. The only question which had to be decided was as to what sort of notice should be given to Italy of our intentions. He suggested that the [Page 455] two conversations that had been described this afternoon might be sufficient. M. Clemenceau’s conversation was more official perhaps than Mr. Lloyd George’s, since it had been carried out between the President of the Conference and the Italian Ambassador in Paris. Count Bonin’s visit had been an official one, whereas the Marquis Imperiali had described his as a private one. Surely M. Clemenceau’s statement gave sufficient notice to the Italian Government.

Mr. Balfour pointed out that even if the Marquis Imperiali’s visit was a private one, Mr. Lloyd George had not said that his remarks were private.

Mr. Lloyd George reverted to the fact that he had refused to give anything in writing, but the Marquis Imperiali had said he would report the conversation to his Government. On the whole he thought it could hardly be regarded as being so official as M. Clemeneeau’s conversation.

President Wilson pointed out that in any case, the two statements were practically identical.

Mr. Lloyd George said they were identical except in the respect that the Marquis Imperiali had never said a word about President Wilson. He himself, had had to say that he could not undertake that President Wilson was now prepared to agree to what he (Mr. Lloyd George) had thought he might be willing to agree to last week. The Marquis Imperiali had reminded him of the question of giving mandates to Italy for certain towns on the Dalmatian Coast and he had replied that this was the only point on which, perhaps, he had exceeded his authority from the Council.

President Wilson said the great point was as to whether the Italians had now received sufficient notice of the breach of the Pact of London.

Mr. Balfour suggested that the Prime Minister would be entitled, if he thought fit, to write a letter to the Marquis Imperiali, somewhat in the following sense:—

My dear Ambassador,

One point was raised at our conversation today which is of immediate importance, and on which there should be no misunderstanding. I write this line not to supersede or alter anything I said, but merely to state that the Allied and Associated Powers intend to meet the Germans next Tuesday, and we are advised that in all the circumstances, the absence of Italy will constitute a breach of the Pact of London.

President Wilson suggested that such a letter would come better from M. Clemenceau, as President of the Conference.

M. Clemenceau thought it would be better to prepare a document explaining the whole case.

[Page 456]

President Wilson asked if it would not be sufficient to confirm in writing what M. Clemenceau had already said at his interview with the Italian Ambassador.

Mr. Lloyd George thought a document putting an end to the Alliance would be a very serious one, and could not be treated in too formal a manner. He was inclined to take M. Clemenceau’s document read at the morning meeting. (Appendix III to I.C. 180.B. [180A])3

President Wilson said that this document had been too full of “ifs”. It should contain no “ifs”. The following phrase occurred to him as a suitable one: “Absence from signing the Treaty will constitute a breach.”

M. Clemenceau said the effect of this would be to bring the Italians back.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he had made the Marquis Imperiali realise that the Allied and Associated Governments would not give way on the subject of Fiume.

President Wilson said that there was no need to mention Fiume. If you did, it would be an indication that there were other things on which you were prepared to discuss.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the Italians would not trouble themselves much about anything except Fiume.

President Wilson said he did not believe a settlement could be reached without giving them Fiume.

Mr. Lloyd George said that from many points of view he would rather they did not come back.

M. Clemenceau recalled that Count Bonin had said that the only thing Italy could not accept was for Fiume to be Croat.

President Wilson pointed out that if the Italians insisted that Fiume should not be Croat, the British and French Governments would not be bound by the rest of the Pact. They could not free themselves from that part of the Treaty which gave Fiume to the Croats.

Mr. Lloyd George said they could only do so as a compromise. He himself had told the Marquis Imperiali that he could only consent to Fiume not being Croat on the condition that the Italians would give up Dalmatia to the Jugo-Slavs.

President Wilson said that if one item of the Treaty was departed from, the whole Treaty was upset.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out however, that the Croats did not sign the Treaty of London.

President Wilson said that, nevertheless, the British and French [Page 457] Governments would not be morally bound if that part of the Treaty was not carried out.

Mr. Balfour recalled that it was Russia who had made so strong a defence in the interests of the Slavs, when the Treaty of London had been concluded. This defence only broke down in the absence of Sir Edward (now Lord) Grey, when Mr. Asquith had been in charge of the Foreign Office, and had felt that in view of the general situation he must get Italy into the war and he had then forced the hands of the Czar.

Mr. Lloyd George said that this was not the whole story. About that time the Allies had been trying to induce the Serbians to give up to Bulgaria a portion of Serbia which they believed ought to belong to Bulgaria, their object being to bring Bulgaria into the war. They had told the Serbians that they would get the whole of Jugo-Slavia in the end, and Fiume had been inserted in the Treaty in order that Serbia might eventually receive it, since this was part of the inducement to try and get them to make the concession to Bulgaria.

After some discussion on the subject of the attitude of the Germans (in the recent meetings on the subject of credentials) the Italian question was again resumed.

President Wilson asked if Mr. Balfour had expanded the note prepared by his legal adviser (Appendix I to I. C. 180A).4

Mr. Lloyd George said that he thought M. Clemenceau’s document would be a better basis for a statement (Appendix III to I. C. 180A).

President Wilson considered it too long and argumentative.

M. Clemenceau said that he would like to make a suggestion. In his opinion the Drafting Committee would not be ready with the Treaty by Tuesday. He did not believe it could be ready to hand to the Germans before Thursday. He thought, therefore, that the best plan would be to leave the Italians alone for 24 hours, during which time they could consider the statements that he and Mr. Lloyd George had made to M. Bonin and the Marquis Imperiali.

Mr. Lloyd George agreed. Their statements, he said, had been very blunt ones.

M. Clemenceau said that M. Klotz had handed the reply to M. Crespi personally to M. Crespi, who had been very annoyed with the letter. He, himself, would try and reconsider the Memorandum he had submitted (Appendix III to I. C. 180A). In his view, any statement sent to the Italians should contain one part which was from Mr. Lloyd George and himself, and one part from the Three. In the meanwhile he suggested that he should be allowed to let M. Bonin know that a decision would be taken on Monday.

President Wilson begged him not to do this. It would be a challenge to the Italians to return.

[Page 458]

Mr. Lloyd George doubted this in view of his statement that it was useless for the Italians to return unless they were ready to give up Fiume. Mr. Lloyd George said there was a good deal to be said for Mr. Balfour’s plan of his writing a letter to the Marquis Imperiali confirming what he had said about the intention of the Allied and Associated Powers to meet the Germans next week. Two new factors had entered into the situation; one was that Mr. Orlando had said that it was no use coming back if the Allies would not enforce the Pact, and the second was his own statement that it was no use their coming unless they were prepared to give up Fiume.

President Wilson referred to the Marquis Imperiali’s question about guarantees and warrantees. Supposing the Italians came back and said: “We will give up Fiume but we insist on the Treaty of London”. The British and French Governments had said that they must give it them. Their guarantee was their word.

Mr. Lloyd George recalled that he had also told the Marquis Imperiali that the Italian troops must leave Fiume before they would even discuss the question of Fiume.

President Wilson said that if they agreed to that and came back, they could say: “We have your promise about the Treaty of London”; this was a moral guarantee. In that case it would make it impossible for the United States to sign the Treaty.

Mr. Lloyd George said that then we could not have peace with Austria.

President Wilson said that the Allies could sign the Peace. The Italians had their guarantee that Great Britain and France would fulfil their engagements regardless of what it involved. What better guarantee could they have? The Marquis Imperiali could have replied on the subject of guarantees: “We have your word”.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the Marquis had not answered on this point.

President Wilson said that a telegram from the United States Ambassador at Rome had been read to him on the telephone. The gist of it was that, some person of the first authority, not named, had asked if a compromise could not be reached on the following lines:—

Fiume to be made independent.
Susak, while free from Italian sovereignty, not to be under Slavonian sovereignty.

(At this point President Wilson produced a map of Fiume, showing how very difficult it was to distinguish the suburb of Susak from Fiume itself.)

It was agreed:— [Page 459]

That no immediate statement should be sent to Italy warning them that their failure to sign the German Treaty would constitute a breach of the Pact of London.
That M. Clemenceau, Mr. Lloyd George, and Mr. Balfour should prepare fresh drafts of statements to be considered at the next meeting.

5. The German Colonies. Belgian Claims M. Mantoux said that M. Clemenceau had asked him to arrange for the preparation of a reply regarding the decision of the previous day in regard to the Belgian request that the German colonies should be ceded, not to the Principal Powers, but to a named list of Powers, including Belgium and Portugal. In view of the later discussion about mandatories, he wished to know the precise nature of the reply to be sent. Were the mandates to be granted by the Allied and Associated Powers, or by the League of Nations.

President Wilson pointed out that the exact position was that, if the allocation of mandates was postponed until the League of Nations was in operation, the decision would rest with the League. It had been agreed, however, that the mandates should be assigned by the Allied and Associated Powers in the meanwhile.

Mr. Lloyd George said that to inform M. Hymans of this would be an incitement to him to obstruction. Lord Robert Cecil,5 with whom he had discussed the question in the morning, had begged him to get the question of the mandatories, and the nature of the mandates, settled.

President Wilson asked why, after deciding the mandatories, should the mandates also be immediately decided? The general lines of the mandates were provided for in the Covenant of the League of Nations, which contemplated various grades from virtual independence with advice, down to virtual dependence. It added certain provisions about liquor traffic, arms traffic, etc.

Mr. Lloyd George said he was being strongly pressed to insert a new condition, somewhat similar to that that had been discussed in regard to Poland dealing with the question of religious equality. The Missionary Societies were afraid that otherwise certain churches would exclude other churches.

President Wilson said that he wanted to decide the question of mandatories, and that he was willing to decide the question of mandates.

Mr. Balfour said his view was that the mandates should be worked out first.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that this was the opposite view of his own view.

[Page 460]

President Wilson pointed out that the mandatories was the only controversial part of the question.

Sir Maurice Hankey said that he believed that mandates had been discussed a good deal between the experts of the various countries.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the real difficulties would arise in giving mandates to possessions in Turkey.

President Wilson agreed, and thought Palestine would be especially difficult, owing to the Zionist question, on which the British and the United States, and he thought also the French, Governments were to some extent committed. There was, however, he pointed out, plenty of time, since the League of Nations would not be in operation until the Peace Treaty with Germany had been ratified, and that would take a long time.

6. Syria M. Clemenceau said that he had received very serious complaints of the action of the British in Syria. He undertook, at Mr. Lloyd George’s request, to send him a paper on the subject.

7. China. Communication of Clauses in Regard to Shantung Sir Maurice Hankey said that Mr. Balfour had received a request which he had passed on to him (Sir Maurice Hankey) from the Chinese Delegation, for a copy of the Clauses to be introduced in the Treaty of Peace in regard to China, as well as for the proceedings of this Council in regard to them. He presumed that the proceedings, being of a very intimate, personal, and confidential character, would not be communicated. There was no precedent for communicating these proceedings to persons who had not been present. He asked for instructions, however, as to the Articles.

M. Clemenceau said that he saw no objection to their receiving the Clauses.

President Wilson said that if they received the Clauses they should certainly receive a copy of the statement which the Japanese intended to make.

8. China & the Financial Clauses Sir Maurice Hankey read extracts from a letter he had received from the Chinese Delegation, enclosing a letter which had been addressed to the Chairman of the Financial Commission, drawing attention to the omission from the Clauses proposed by that Commission of a Chinese proposal to the following effect:—

“In cases where one of the High Contracting Parties has a silver standard of currency, payments of debts shall be made in the currency stipulated in the contract, and at the rate of exchange on the date of settlement.”

Sir Maurice Hankey, after reading further extracts from the letter, stated that Mr. Keynes, who was acting for Mr. Montagu (who had [Page 461] resigned from the post of Chairman of the Financial Commission) had replied in the sense that the exception could not be made in the case of one country.

President Wilson said he would be very glad if something could be done to meet China in this respect, as China was not coming very well out of the Peace Treaty.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that China was not really so badly treated.

9. German ships Captured in American Ports President Wilson showed Mr. Lloyd George a draft of an agreement in regard to the disposal of German ships captured in American ports.

In reply to Sir Maurice Hankey he said that this did not affect the Treaty of Peace.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he would be prepared to assent, if President Wilson would make an alteration in the Treaty so as to remove a reference to Congress. His objection to this Clause was that the British Parliament might protest against mention being made of the United States Congress and not of the British Imperial Parliament.

President Wilson said he would get over the difficulty by annexing a note to the Clauses on the subject.

(The Meeting then adjourned.)

Villa Majestic, Paris, 3 May, 1919.

Appendix I to IC–181A

[Draft Article With Respect to Russia]

Germany acknowledges and agrees to respect as permanent and inalienable the independence of all the territories which were part of the former Russian Empire.

In accordance with the provisions of Article … of Part IX and Article … of Part X Germany accepts definitely the abrogation of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, and of all treaties, conventions and agreements entered into by her with the Maximalist Government in Russia.

The Allied and Associated Powers formally reserve the right of Russia to obtain from Germany restitution and reparation based on the principles of the present Treaty.

Appendix II to IC–181A

Alternative “C”

Draft Clause

As a guarantee for the execution of Article by which the German Government undertakes to annul the provisions of the Brest-Litovsk [Page 462] Treaty, and in order to ensure the restoration of peace and good government in the Baltic Provinces and Lithuania, all German troops at present in the said territories shall return to within the frontiers of Germany as soon as the Allies shall think the moment suitable, having regard to the internal situation of these territories. These troops shall abstain from all requisitions and seizures and from any other coercive measures, with a view to obtaining supplies intended for Germany, and shall in no way interfere with such measures for national defence as may be adopted by the Provisional Governments of Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

No other German troops shall, pending the evacuation or after the evacuation is complete, be admitted to the said territories.

  1. Ante, p. 421.
  2. Appendix I, p. 461.
  3. Ante, p. 435.
  4. Ante, p. 434.
  5. British representative on the Commission on the League of Nations.