Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/12
Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Wednesday, May 14, 1919, at 11:45 a.m.
United States of America
- President Wilson.
- Mr. McCormick.
- M. Clemenceau.
- M. Clementel.
- The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
- The Rt. Hon. Lord Robert Cecil, M. P.
- Lt. Commander Arnold Forster.
- M. Orlando.
- M. Crespi
- United States of America
|Sir Maurice Hankey.|
Proposals With Regard to the Blockade of Germany
1. Lord R. Cecil stated that there were two subjects for consideration; viz., (a) A Public announcement indicating the present position of the Blockade of Germany and stating that it would be raised in the event of signature of the Peace Treaty (Annex 1), (b) a plan of the measures to be taken in the event of its being decided to re-impose the blockade. (Annex 2.) In referring to this plan Lord Robert Cecil drew attention to the proposal in the last paragraph that the Governments of the neutral countries contiguous to Germany should now be invited to consent to prohibit trade with Germany if called upon to do so. This would make it possible to exercise a more immediate and more effective pressure on Germany, if such pressure should become necessary.
2. Statement with regard to the present position of the blockade (Annex 1).
Mr. Lloyd George drew attention to the words in the first sentence of the statement “as soon as the German representatives have signed the Treaty of Peace.” He suggested that after the signature of the treaty the German assembly might repudiate it.
M. Clemenceau asked whether it would be necessary to wait for the approval of the Treaty by the Allied Parliaments, before raising the blockade. It was agreed that this would be unnecessary.[Page 600]
President Wilson proposed that the words quoted above should be amended to read:—
“as soon as Germany has formally accepted the Treaty of Peace.”
It was agreed that the Statement should be published, subject to this amendment.
3. Measures to be taken in the event of reimposition of the blockade.
President Wilson stated that this was not the time to discuss whether we should or should not reimpose the blockade in the event of Germany refusing to sign the Peace Treaty. In his judgment the most suitable means of pressure would be some kind of military occupation rather than blockade measures which would tend to reduce her population to starvation and despair. To have our armies in an area thus starved would not be an edifying spectacle. Blockade would be more terrible than military occupation and presents many inhumane features; if it were reimposed it would presently become distasteful to the world The President expressed grave doubts whether the blockade should be reimposed unless no other course were open.
Mr. Lloyd George was of opinion that in any case the application of the blockade would only be necessary for a fortnight or three weeks. An excuse was wanted in Germany for signing the Peace Treaty. The fear of the reimposition of the blockade would provide such an excuse. Haase,1 for example is afraid of the blockade. There is a pressure in Germany against signing the Treaty, which is a very painful Treaty to sign.
Mr. Lloyd George expressed himself as all in favour of a military occupation as a demonstration but not as the only means of pressure. Some parts of Germany would not mind a military occupation. After only a fortnight of the reimposed blockade there would be a general cry to Scheidemann2 of “Sign, Sign”.
4. On the question of the declaration of a formal blockade.
Lord R. Cecil drew attention to the statement of the British Admiralty as to objections to such a declaration; he understood that the Admiralty view was that the ships now in commission were insufficient for the maintenance of a strictly “effective” blockade.
President Wilson said that the United States had never admitted the legality of the existing form of blockade. The Admiralty caveat was thus a little inacceptable.
Lord R. Cecil said that whether the blockade was absolutely effective or not did not matter, what mattered was the general stoppage of trade.[Page 601]
President Wilson added that there was a difference between blockade breaking and blockade running. Under the conditions indicated by the Admiralty there might be cases of blockade running: but a definite breach of blockade, such as would render it legally ineffective, would require a naval force which Germany does not now possess.
It was agreed that if blockade measures have to be reimposed a formal blockade should be declared. No definite decision was arrived at as to whether blockade measures should or should not be taken in the event of Germany refusing to sign the Peace Treaty: but it was understood that such preparations would now be made as would render it possible to give effect to the blockade measures proposed, in the event of its being necessary to take such action.
In particular it was agreed that the Demarche to Neutral Governments referred to by Lord E. Cecil (see general note at end of Annex 2) should be made now.
5. Lord R. Cecil referred to the possibility of exercising economic pressure on countries, which were appealing to the Allies for assistance and supplies, and were at the same time fighting with their neighbours in defiance of the wishes of the Council.
He cited the case of Poland which is at present engaged in operations against the Ukraine. He referred also to the food supplies withheld by Serbia in the Banat.
He suggested that the Council might on occasion think it desirable to notify the Supreme Economic Council that economic pressure should be applied in such cases.
It was agreed that this should be done and that the Supreme Economic Council should be free to take such action as seemed to them desirable in such cases.