Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/10½


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House, Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Tuesday, May 13, 1919, at 4 p.m.

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

1. The Germans and the Peace Treaty M. Clemenceau said that three of the German Plenipotentiaries had left for Berlin, saying that they would not sign, but Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau, according to his information, said there was no way of avoiding it.

Mr. Lloyd George drew attention to the speech by Scheidemann, reported in the French newspapers, from which, however, he said it was difficult to draw a conclusion as to whether he intended to sign or not.

2. Italian Problems. The Adriatic President Wilson said that he had invited his experts to make a further study of the Italian claims. A proposal had been put before him, which he thought would, at any rate, be acceptable to the Jugo-Slavs, and which was based on the idea of a plebiscite all down the Dalmatian Coast. He then produced some suggestions for the solution of Adriatic problems, which, he understood emanated from the British Delegation. It so happened that their line, drawn quite independently, corresponded very closely to the line drawn by the United States experts. He then explained on a map the line proposed by the United States experts, the principal features of which (so far as could be gathered) were a departure from the Treaty of London in favour of the Italians in the region of the Sexten Valley; the proposal being to straighten the line and avoid a curve, thus closing up the only open valley through the Alps; the allocation of the railway junction of Villach to Austria, of Tarvis to the Italians, and of Assling to the Jugo-Slavs. The line continued thence along the crest of the mountains across the Istrian Peninsula, differing [Page 580] from the Italian claim; which took in the southern slope of the mountains. The Treaty of London, President Wilson continued, had laid down that the line should be drawn along the point where the rivers flow eastward. As a matter of fact, they flowed underground in this region, and the Italians drew the line at where the rivers emerged from underground. For this area between the line of the crest and the line of the outflow of the rivers, the United States experts proposed a plebiscite. In order to surmount the objection that the island of Cherso in Italian hands would strangle the Port of Fiume, the United States experts proposed that this island should be Jugo-Slav, but that a group of islands south of it, which they stated were ethnologically Italian should go to the Italians. In the portion of Dalmatia claimed by Italy, they proposed that a plebiscite should be held on the understanding that any part should be Italian that declared in favour of Italy They proposed further, that a plebiscite should be held at Fiume, the population of Fiume being told that they would only assume Italian nationality after Italy had constructed an efficient port in Buccari, which was a good port a few miles to the southward of Fiume, rather enclosed by mountains.

Mr. Lloyd George said that would settle the question of Fiume, as they would never create a rival port so close.

President Wilson, continuing, said there was some reason to believe that the capitalists who controlled shipping, wanted to kill Fiume as a port. He did not see how the Italians could decline so favourable a plebiscite as one in which parts could elect to become Italian. His object was to find a formula by which a decision could be postponed and put into another process than the present Peace Conference.

M. Clemenceau said he would like to find a formula also, but he was not sure of this plan. He thought the Italians would agree to accept Zara and Sebenico without the islands, but the Jugo-Slavs wanted the islands above all.

President Wilson said that the decision from which he could not depart was that the Conference had no right to hand over people to a sovereignty they did not wish. If, by hook or by crook, the Italians obtained Fiume how were the British and French then bound to give them Dalmatia?

Mr. Lloyd George said that if the Italians obtained Fiume, the British and French were entitled definitely to say that they must give up Dalmatia.

President Wilson said the difficulty was that public opinion in Italy was far more inflamed about Fiume than about Dalmatia. He read an interesting document, giving both the Jugo-Slav and the [Page 581] Italian version of the declaration made at Fiume in favour of annexation to Italy. From both accounts, it was clear that it was no general popular demand, but merely a declaration formed by a group of private persons, who, according to the Italian account, did get some kind of a meeting to endorse it. His view was that if Fiume was allowed to become Italian after the creation by Italy of an efficient Croatian port at Buccari, the Treaty of London would no longer be binding.

Mr. Lloyd George describes a conversation he had had with the Aga Khan, the head of an Indian Mohammedan sect, a man of immense wealth and vast knowledge. In the course of the conversation, the Aga Khan had said that the mistake made in the Treaty of Peace with Germany was in the handing over of so many Germans to the Poles, whom they regarded as an inferior race. He had also said that he knew Fiume well, and that it was in all respects an Italian town.

President Wilson said he had been informed by an American officer, who was thoroughly sympathetic to the Italians, that if he were in the place of the Italian Government and secured Fiume, the first thing he would do would be to clear out the so-called Italians and replace them with real Italians. They were like citizens of other countries, who had long resided abroad and had lost the real qualities of their nationality.

Mr. Lloyd George said he wished to explain the conception he had formed of the Italian case, which he thought, had never been quite understood. Italy had a good deal of national pride. The feelings they had, sprang not merely from their treatment in regard to Fiume, but over the whole field of the Treaty of Peace. They were not being treated quite as a great first class power. In fact, not quite as equals of the other great Powers. They realised that there were a certain number of backward people to be taken in hand by more efficient nations. They knew the question had arisen, for example, as to whether the United States could take in hand certain parts of Turkey, an onerous and difficult task. No one however, was asking Italy to undertake this burden. Consequently, their pride of race was hurt. They knew that the Japanese were being allowed to accept a mandate in the Pacific, but no one was saying to Italy “will you not take this backward people in hand.” It would be much better to settle the question of Fiume in this sort of atmosphere. The principal Allied and Associated Powers were the real trustees of the League of Nations looking after the backward races, and for a long time, they would remain the trustees of the League of Nations.

(President Wilson agreed.)

We were saying to Turkey “we cannot leave you to run alone any longer; you have got into a rut; and you will remain in it until some [Page 582] big country comes along and pulls you out.” Gaul and Britain would have remained in such a rut if Rome had not come along and pulled them out. Asia Minor was now in exactly the same situation. The question now arose as to whether Italy should not be asked to take charge. The Italians, he pointed out, were an extremely gifted race. It was curious in this war, how they had developed some of the qualities for which the Romans had been famous. For example, they were amazingly good engineers and had created the most wonderful roads.

President Wilson agreed that it was marvellous how they had maintained the war in the mountains.

Mr. Lloyd George, continuing, said that this showed what gifts the Italian people had. Italy was a very poor country. It contained no coal and no iron. Yet it had produced a vigorous and manly race.

M. Clemenceau referred to the remarkable emigration from Italy to the two Americas.

Mr. Lloyd George said he had been trying to give his colleagues a picture of what was in his mind. Why should we not say frankly to the Italians “we have not quite worked you into the picture yet.” He thought that the Italians had been underrated. Consider, for example, the question of police. The Greeks had asked the British Government to organise the police forces for them in the towns, and he believed that they were right, because the British were very good police. In the mountains, however, the Greeks had not gone to the British Government, but to the Italians for police. In Asia Minor, the Italian police would be working under conditions similar to those that had once prevailed in Italy, which had been infested with bandits. He was not proposing that Italy should be offered a mandate for the whole of Anatolia, but why, he asked, should they not be invited to police, and develop a part of Anatolia, where they would find a country not dissimilar from their own. He understood that inland, there were great patches of desert but they contained lakes, and, as in Mesopotamia, there were possibilities of irrigation. He was told that before the war, Italian emigration had been as great as 800,000 to 900,000 a year. Why should these not be diverted to Turkey, which had not the population to develop Anatolia. He felt that the whole frame of mind of the Italian representatives would change if the questions could be discussed as a whole. There was Somaliland. He knew there were difficulties in regard to this. Directly the question was raised, the French said they could not live without Djibouti, and the British said much the same. Turning to M. Clemenceau, he said that if France could not give up something here, neither could we. He thought, however, something might be done here. The British [Page 583] experts claimed that there were coal and oil, but Great Britain had plenty of coal and oil elsewhere. Moreover, there was a difficulty about Aden, which was dependent on Somaliland for its supplies of fresh vegetables and food. To this he had replied, that the Italians would probably produce far more food than anyone else.

President Wilson agreed that Mr. Lloyd George had stated the case on right principles. He would like, however, to set out the plan in parts. Considering first the part of Anatolia which needed supervision, he would like Smyrna and the adjacent district, as proposed in the report of the Greek Commission, to be united to Greece, in complete sovereignty. The same would apply to the Dodecanese. In addition, he would like to give Greece a mandate for the remainder of the territory claimed by M. Venizelos.

(Mr. Lloyd George at this point left the room to fetch a map.)

President Wilson explained his proposals on the map.

Mr. Lloyd George then made a suggestion on the following lines. The United States should take a mandate for Armenia; France should take a mandate for Northern Anatolia; Italy for Southern Anatolia; and Greece should be dealt with as proposed by President Wilson. The United States, he earnestly hoped, would also take a mandate for Constantinople.

President Wilson said he could not settle this question until he had returned to the United States and definitely ascertained whether the United States would accept a mandate. He reminded his colleagues that it had been represented to him that certain influential and important elements in Turkey were very anxious that Turkey should not be divided, but that it must be subjected to guidance. There should be a single mandate for the whole. The principle was the same as that which he had contended in the case of the Arabs, namely, that the mandate should not be divided. He felt there was much to be said for this proposal.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he did not think this could be done in practice.

President Wilson said that his idea was that the southern parts of Anatolia should be economically developed, involving a question of administration. In northern Anatolia, however, the mandate should be limited to advice and guidance.

M. Clemenceau said that to be frank it was not so easy to distinguish between a mandate for development and administration, and a mandate for mere guidance.

President Wilson thought there was a great difference between guidance and administration.

Mr. Lloyd George then turned to the map of Anatolia attached to the report of the Greek Commission. He pointed out that there [Page 584] was no very convenient port in the Italian sphere, and he urged it would be necessary to give them part of Makri.

President Wilson said it would be easy to draw the line so as to leave Makri to the Italians. He again repeated that he thought the Greeks ought to have a mandate outside the purely Greek zone. He felt that the whole district included in the western slope of the mountains should be treated as one geographical unit, and ought not to be divided.

Mr. Lloyd George said he understood the Italians attached importance to including Scala Nuova.

Sir Maurice Hankey, in reply to a question by Mr. Lloyd George, said he had visited Ephesus, which was a short distance inland from Scala Nuova, and had also anchored in the Bay of Scala Nuova in a battleship. His recollection of it was a flat, alluvial plain, where the sea had receded, low-lying, with slight undulations, surrounded by hills. There was a railway, as well as a road, running from Ephesus to Smyrna, but he could recall no road across the plain, which was only traversed by mules. The population was scanty, and so far as he could remember, the villages were miserable collections of hovels, inhabited by Turks, although the hotels and better class people were Greek.

President Wilson said that the Greeks had hitherto never been taken, as it were, into the family of nations. He thought that if they were given what Venizelos had claimed—which he stated very frankly, and with great ability—he felt that a new spirit would be put into the Greek nation. He felt that under leaders such as Venizelos, they might make a success. It was, he thought, true of nations as of men, that when given a big job, they would rise to the occasion.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that they were very good traders in all parts of the world.

President Wilson said it would add a good deal if some cession could be made to the Italians in Somaliland.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he personally would like to add Cyprus to Greece, although there were considerable difficulties. He thought that such an act would deprive the whole transaction of any atmosphere of “grab”.

President Wilson said it would be great thing if Mr. Lloyd George could accomplish that.

Mr. Lloyd George said that of course the Turks had a right to be in Turkey, but they had no right to make it a wilderness.

President Wilson said that people who knew the Turks well said that the body of the population were really docile people. They were all right so long as they were not put in authority. Under the guidance of a friendly power, they might prove a docile people.

[Page 585]

M. Clemenceau agreed, but said he was very anxious not to cheat anyone out of what belonged to him.

President Wilson said that his conception of a mandatory for Turkey was a guide, but a guide who must be obeyed. If advice was rejected, it might be necessary to exercise pressure. Normally, the position should be one of guiding.

M. Clemenceau said that the United States would not have an easy task in Armenia.

President Wilson said he had at the present moment before him reports on affairs in Armenia of such an appalling nature that he found it difficult to read them.

M. Clemenceau said that the first thing to be done was to decide what was to be allotted to Italy.

Mr. Lloyd George asked whether the Turks would stand the Italians as mandatories. The Italians, he thought, were a more efficient executive race than the Greeks, and always had been in history. The Greeks had had more ideas, but the Romans had been the superior executive nation.

President Wilson said that he was rather anxious about putting a superior executive race as mandatory round the Greeks at Smyrna. The effect might be ruinous.

M. Clemenceau said a decision ought to be taken about Scala Nuova.

Mr. Lloyd George undertook to make enquiries about the possibilities of creating a port at Makri. He asked M. Clemenceau to make enquiries also. If no port could be constructed at Makri, it might be necessary to give the Italians Mersina. What the Italians wanted was Heraclea, where there were some coal mines. Italy had no coal and no fuel. He understood that the Italians would be satisfied if, as part of their reparation from Germany, they could receive the German shares in the mines of Heraclea and Zunguldak. He asked M. Clemenceau to consider this.

M. Clemenceau undertook to do so.

President Wilson asked if Mr. Lloyd George could draw up a complete picture of the settlement.

Mr. Lloyd George agreed that this would be the best plan. If President Wilson would draw up a scheme for Dalmatia, he would draw up a scheme for Asia Minor.

President Wilson said his idea was that if the Italians should get Fiume under the plebiscite he had proposed that they should surrender all claims to Dalmatia and the islands, except one group of islands inhabited by Italians South of Cherso, and the island of Lissa. The getting of Fiume could depend upon the Italians consenting to restrict the boundary to the crest of the mountains on the Istrian Peninsula. He asked if his proposal for a Greek mandate over the [Page 586] territory in the hinterland of the Smyrna region to be assigned to the Greeks, was acceptable.

Mr. Lloyd George said his only fear was that the Mahommedan population was a very fierce one, and he doubted if the Greeks could handle it.

M. Clemenceau said that in Crete a very strange thing had happened. Although there could be seen in Crete any number of Greek villages which had been destroyed by the Turks, and of Turkish villages destroyed by the Greeks in the past, when he had visited Candia he had been received by a Turkish mayor who was on the best of terms with the Greeks, and the two populations seemed to live in accord.

(Mr. H. Nicolson was introduced.)1

Mr. Lloyd George told Mr. Nicolson he had been invited in to hear the general lines of the proposals that had been made, in order that he might draft a proposition in regard to them.

President Wilson explained that his proposal was to unite to Greece in full sovereignty Smyrna and the surrounding district, as proposed in the report of the Greek Commission (as subsequently modified by agreement between the British and American experts so as to exclude the valley of the Meander and the country South of it), and in addition to give Greece a mandate over the larger area claimed by M. Venizelos. Mr. Lloyd George, however, had suggested that in order to give the Italians a harbour, the line should be drawn so as to leave Makri to them. The Dodecanese should be united to Greece in full sovereignty. Italy should have a mandate for the remainder of the Southern part of Anatolia, for which the Council would be glad if Mr. Nicolson could draw a line on an economic basis.

Mr. Nicolson, referring to a line drawn on the map which Mr. Lloyd George had produced, said that this had only been very hastily drawn, and he could no doubt find a more logical basis if given a little more time. This line had been drawn so as to exclude the Baghdad railway from the Italian zone.

Mr. Lloyd George said there was no reason to exclude the railway, because in any event the railway would have to pass through the territory included in several mandates, and arrangements would have to be made for it to become an international line.

(Mr. Nicolson withdrew.)

[Page 587]

President Wilson said that the Italians had always asked for a comprehensive proposal. He hoped, therefore, that the result of the present meeting would be to produce one. It would be a great advantage if something could also be said about Somaliland. He proposed that M. Clemenceau should see M. Simon,2 and that the French should take the initiative in some proposal.

M. Clemenceau undertook to see M. Simon on the subject.

Mr. Lloyd George repeated the objections which the British Colonial experts had to the cession of Somaliland.

3. Bulgaria It was agreed that the Council of Foreign Ministers should be asked to consider and make recommendations in regard to the territorial boundaries of Bulgaria. They should be authorised to consult the representatives in Paris of the various nations concerned in this settlement.

4. Prisoners of War. Letter From Count Brockdorff-Rantzau M. Clemenceau handed round a letter from Count Brockdorff-Rantzau on the subject of Prisoners of War,3 together with a draft reply.4

5. (It was agreed that the Indian Delegation should be heard in regard to Constantinople at the end of the present week.)

Hearing of the Indian Delation Mr. Lloyd George undertook to endeavour to find someone who could state the Mohammedan case in regard to Constantinople in addition to the statement by the Maharajah of Bikaner and Lord Sinha. He thought possibly some Mohammedan expert might be attached to the Indian Delegation.

6. Serbian Claim for Reparation Sir Maurice Hankey handed to M. Clemenceau a communication from the Secretary-General of the Peace Conference,5 enclosing a copy of a letter addressed by M. Pachitch to M. Clemenceau, requesting that two milliards of francs out of the 20 milliards required from Germany as an instalment in respect of reparation for damage should be allotted to Serbia.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that Serbia was acquiring very large new territories.

(It was agreed that the question should be referred in the first instance to the Committee considering the question of Reparation in the Austrian and Hungarian Treaties.)

[Page 588]

7. Commission on Ports Waterways and Railways (It was agreed that on the following day the Council should meet the principal Members of the Commission on Ports, Waterways and Railways, in order to discuss and Railways the clauses prepared by them for the Austrian and Hungarian Treaties.)

8. Peace With Turkey Mr. Lloyd George asked whether the Turks were to be invited to Paris, or whether they should be met somewhere else.

President Wilson said that as only some of the Allied and Associated Powers had been at war with Turkey, it might be better to agree on terms and then send a Commission to meet the Turks. His own position in the matter was that as a member of the League of Nations, the United States would have to guarantee the arrangement.

Mr. Lloyd George said that their position was a good deal more than that, since he hoped the United States would accept the Mandate.

(It was agreed that in view of the pressure of work on the Drafting Committee, the Treaty with Turkey should not be put in hand just yet.)

Villa Majestic, Paris, May 13, 1919.

  1. Harold Nicolson, assistant to the British representative, Sir Byre Crowe, on the Commission on Greek and Albanian Affairs.
  2. Henry Simon, French Minister of Colonies and representative on the Commission on Colonies.
  3. Appendix III to CF–9, p. 574.
  4. Appendix I(B) to CF–13, p. 609.
  5. Appendix VB to CF–20, p. 752.