Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/13


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House, Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Wednesday, May 14, at 12:15 p.m.

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

1. Responsibility for the War, and Breaches of the Laws of war M. Orlando said that two questions had been raised by the Drafting Committee in regard to the Austrian and Hungarian Treaties. One of these questions concerned responsibilities for the breaches of the laws of war. Naturally, the clause in the German Treaty applying to the Kaiser, was not applicable to Treaty Austrian and Hungarian Treaties, and there was no equivalent Article. Where, however, some alteration was required was in the case where subjects of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire had committed crimes and had subsequently assumed some fresh nationality, such as Czecho-Slovak, or one of the other nationalities. Provision should be made that such persons should not escape trial.

President Wilson pointed out that no provision inserted in the Austrian and Hungarian Treaties could compel the Czech-Slovak Government to surrender people accused of crimes.

Mr. Lloyd George drew attention to a mistake in Article 227 of the German Treaty, where it was stated that the special tribunal “will be composed of four judges, one appointed by each of the following Powers; namely, United States of America, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan”. The number four should, apparently, be five.

Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to call the attention of the Secretary-General to the above mistake, in order that the Germans might be notified.

2. Language of the Treaty of Peace M. Orlando said that there was a second point to which he wished to draw attention, namely, the language of the Austrian and Hungarian [Page 606] Treaties. He had consented to the German Treaty being drafted in the English and French languages, to the exclusion of Italian. In view, however, of Italy’s special position towards Austria and Hungary, he asked that the Austrian and Hungarian Treaties might also be drafted in the Italian language.

M. Clemenceau said he had no objection.

President Wilson said he had no objection, provided that the Italian representatives of the Drafting Committee were fully qualified to prepare the necessary drafts.

M. Orlando said that they were amply qualified.

(It was agreed that the Austrian and Hungarian Treaties should be prepared in the Italian, as well as in the English and French languages.)

3. Prisoners of War: Letter From Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau The Council had before it a letter from Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau, dated May 10th, on the subject of German Prisoners of War and Interned Civilians, together with a draft reply (Appendix I. (A) & (B)).

Mr. Lloyd George said that he had no objection to the substance of the draft reply, but thought it might be couched in more sympathetic language, particularly in regard to the portion relating to the graves of the fallen.

M. Clemenceau asked if Mr. Lloyd George would prepare a revised draft.

Mr. Lloyd George undertook to do this.

4. International Agreement on Labour. Latter From Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau With reference to C. F. 9, Minute I,1 the Council had before it a letter from Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau, transmitting a draft International Agreement on Labour Law,1a prepared by the German Government, together with a draft reply prepared by the Committee to which the question had been referred. (Appendix II.)

Mr. Lloyd George said it was worth considering whether it would not be desirable to admit the Germans to the Labour Organisation before they were admitted to the League of Nations.

(It was agreed that before the draft reply was approved, the Committee should be invited to express their views on this question.)2

5. M. Clemenceau read the attached résumé of three German Notes which had arrived in the night of 13th/14th May, 1919 (Appendix III).

[Page 607]

(It was agreed that these notes should be referred to the appropriate Committees set up by the Peace Conference to consider such questions.)

(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to place himself in communication with the Secretary-General on the subject.)

6. Claims by China President Wilson read the following letter which he had received from Mr. Lansing, relating to two pamphlets received from the Chinese Delegation:—

“The Mission has received from the Chinese Delegation direct and also through the Secretariat-General two pamphlets, one of which sets forth China’s claim submitting for abrogation by the Peace Conference the Treaties and Notes by and between China and Japan of May 25, 19153 and the other presents for readjustment by the Conference a number of important questions, among which may be mentioned ‘the withdrawal from China of Foreign Troops and Police, the withdrawal of Foreign Post Offices and the Abolition of Consular Jurisdiction’.

The first pamphlet deals with a question growing out of the war, and one affecting not only American rights but those of other associated Governments, but it seems unlikely that the Claim can have consideration by the Conference.

The second pamphlet has to do with questions not directly related to the war and questions therefore still more unlikely to be considered by the Conference.

But in view of the present feeling in China in consequence of the decision in the Kiaochow Question, I beg to suggest that the Council of Four send the Chinese Delegation a written statement pointing out that it will be impossible for the Peace Conference to consider these matters, whose importance is fully recognized, and suggesting that they be brought to the attention of the Council of the League of Nations as soon as that body is able to function.”

(Mr. Lansing’s proposal was agreed to, and Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to draft a letter for the signature of the President of the Conference.)

7. Berne Labour Conference and the Peace Terms Mr. Lloyd George said that Mr. Arthur Henderson, as Chairman of the Berne Labour Conference, had approached him and asked if the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers would receive a deputation from the Conference in regard to the Peace Terms.

He had replied to him that as Chairman of the Labour Conference he had already received a summary of the Peace Terms; that these Peace Terms had now been delivered to the Germans; and that consequently no useful purpose would be served by the deputation. He asked if an official reply might now be sent in the same sense.

[Page 608]

(This was agreed to, and Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to draft a letter, either from the President or from the Secretary-General of the Peace Conference.)

8. Luxembourg President Wilson said that since the communication which he had been asked to send to Luxembourg through the medium of an American Officer, no action had been taken in regard to the future status of Luxembourg. He then read a document, the gist of which was that the people of Luxembourg wanted the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers to receive a delegation, and did not wish to hold a plebiscite until after that.

M. Clemenceau said it would be impossible to refuse.

Mr. Lloyd George agreed.

President Wilson said the communication had no doubt been addressed to him, rather than to the President of the Conference, because he had been the medium for transmitting the previous communication from the Supreme Council.

(It was agreed that President Wilson should reply that the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers would be glad to receive a deputation from the people of Luxembourg.)

9. Russia Mr. Lloyd George said that he had received from the British Representatives in Siberia reports as to the risk of trouble between the United States forces in Siberia and the Russian troops. The view of the British Representatives, which of course he could not confirm, was that the Russian General Ivanoff4 had done his best to smooth matters, and that the trouble was largely due to General Graves.

President Wilson said that General Graves was a man of most nnprovocative character, and wherever the fault might lie, he felt sure it was not with him. The British representatives were, he would not say partisans of, but at any rate friendly to, Koltchak.

Mr. Lloyd George said they might fairly be termed partisans.

Villa Majestic, Paris, 14 May, 1919.

Appendix I (A) to CF–13

Letter From Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau to M. Clemenceau on the Subject of Prisoners of War

[Same as appendix III to CF–9, printed on page 574.]

[Page 609]

Appendix I (B) to CF–13

[Draft Reply to German Note on Prisoners of War]

Mr. President: I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of May 10,5 relating to prisoners of war.

1. Prisoners of war and civilian prisoners who have been guilty of crimes or penal offences cannot be allowed to return to their native country. As such crimes have been committed on the soil of the Allies, the cases have been dealt with by the proper authorities in the various territories and punishment carried out accordingly. To say the least, it would seem strange that the perpetrator of a particular crime should receive punishment according to his nationality, i. e. that he should be set at liberty if he be German, whilst an Englishman, an American, a Frenchman or an Italian in a similar case would have to undergo the maximum penalty. This would imply the according of specially favoured treatment to the Germans, an idea which cannot be entertained.

How could we undertake to liberate such a malefactor as the German prisoner Hoppe who was sent to work on a farm in the Seine-Inferieure? This prisoner at night broke into the farmer’s house and murdered him and his wite in cold blood with a bill-hook.

For this double murder Hoppe was sentenced to death on June 11th 1918 by a regularly constituted Court-Martial. The Berne conventions6 have suspended the execution of the sentence until peace has been signed. Would justice be satisfied if, as a consequence of the Peace Treaty this murderer was reprieved. We cannot conceive that the terms relating to prisoners of war should guarantee immunity to those guilty of murder and other penal offences.

According to the terms of the Treaty of Peace all Germans who have committed actions contrary to the laws of the countries of the Allied and Associated Powers, are to be handed over to those Powers, wherever those actions were committed.

How then is it possible to demand at the same time that those Germans in the Allies territory who have committed crimes most severely punished by the Penal Code, should be released by those Powers?

For cogent reasons, it was prescribed in the Armistice terms of Nov. 11th 1918, that civil and military prisoners belonging to the Allied and Associated Powers should be returned unconditionally. Now the fate of the German criminals awaits decision. Justice [Page 610] cannot be robbed of her imprescriptible rights by the inclusion in the Peace Treaty of an Amnesty for crimes committed by prisoners.

2. There is no special point in the improvement of conditions asked for on behalf of prisoners of war. Unlike the Germans in their treatment of the subjects of Allied and Associated Powers, these latter to their honour have invariably assured to German prisoners of war treatment in keeping with the laws of humanity and international agreements.

3. The restitution of personal property constitutes a legal right. But as Germany has not fulfilled her undertakings and as she still withholds the personal property belonging to repatriated prisoners, the Allied and Associated Powers are under the necessity of calling upon Germany to respect her obligations. It is to this end that Art, 223 has been framed.

4. As regards search for the missing, the Allied and Associated Powers have invariably supplied the Germans with such information as was in their possession. Their attitude in this respect will not undergo any modification.

In Germany on the other hand a considerable number of the subjects of the Allied and Associated Powers have been deprived of the right of communicating with their relatives. This violation of international agreements has been the occasion of poignant anguish and uncertainty to many families. The measures enumerated in Art. 222 aim at putting an end to all such uncertainty.

5. As regards places of burial, articles 225 and 226 of the Treaty have doubtless escaped your attention. Your demand is fully met by them.

6. The Allied and Associated Powers cannot in any way contemplate the cession of clothing and underwear.

The steps to be taken for repatriating prisoners will be determined immediately after the signing of Peace Preliminaries.

Believe me [etc.]

Appendix II to CF–13

[Same as appendix I to CF–9, printed on page 571.]

Copy of Draft Letter to the German Delegation

M. 143

Sir: I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of May 10th in regard to International Labour Legislation, together with draft of international agreement on Labour Law.

[Page 611]

The reply of the Allied and Associated Governments is as follows:—

“I. They take note of the declaration made by the German Delegates that domestic peace and the advancement of mankind depend upon the advancement [adjustment] of labour questions and they are convinced that such adjustment will be rendered easier in the future than in the past as men’s minds are free from the fear of war, and industry relieved of the burden of armaments which German Militarism has laid upon it.

Part 13 of the Draft conditions of Peace provide the means by which such adjustment can be made, and Section 2 of that part lays down the principles which will progressively guide the labour organisation and the League of Nations.

Article 427 indicates clearly that the enumeration of the principles set forth is not exhaustive. The purpose of the Labour Organisation is that it should promote the constant development of the International Labour Regime.

II. The Labour Convention has been inserted in the Treaty of Peace and Germany will therefore be called upon to sign it. In the future the right of your country to participate in the Labour Organisation will be secured so soon as she is admitted into the League of Nations in accordance with Article I of the Treaty.

III. It has not been thought necessary to summon a Labour Conference at Versailles. The conclusions of the syndical Conferences at Berne which are reproduced in the Draft of the International Agreement on Labour Law referred to in the first paragraph of your letter of the 10th instant had already been studied with the closest attention. Representatives of the trade unions had taken part in the preparation of the Articles relating to Labour. As appears, moreover, from the annex to Section 2 of Part 13, page 200, the Agenda of the first session of the International Labour Conference comprises the most important of the questions raised at the Syndical Conference at Berne. This Session will be held at Washington in October next. Trade Unions will be invited to take part and it will be held under definite rules, which provide for due effect being given to conclusions, subject only to the assent of the competent authorities of the countries represented.

IV. The Draft International Agreement on Labour Law prepared by the German Government is deficient in that it makes no provision for the representation of Labour at the International Conferences. It is also inferior to the prorisions submitted in Part 13 in the Peace Conditions in the following respects:—

(a) Five years is suggested (Article 7) as the maximum interval between Conferences.

The Peace Conditions lay down one year (Article 389).

[Page 612]

(b) Each country (Article 7) has one vote.

The Peace Conditions give a vote to each delegate, whether representing the Government, employers or workers. (Article 390.)

(c) Resolutions are only binding if carried by a majority of four-fifths of the voting countries (Article 7)

The Peace Conditions provide that a majority of two-thirds only of the votes cast shall be necessary on the final vote for the adoption of a recommendation or Draft Convention by the Conference. (Article 405.)

The Allied and Associated Governments are therefore of opinion that their decisions give satisfaction to the anxiety which the German Delegation professes for social justice, and that they ensure the realisation of reforms which the working classes have more than ever the right to expect after the cruel trial to which the world has been subject during the last five years.

G. N. B[arnes]

Appendix III to CF–13


Résumé of Three German Notes Received During the Night of May 13–14, 1919

  • The first note12 relates to the delivery of German tonnage, to the surrender of the colonies, to the loss of agricultural areas in the East, and to the delivery of three-quarters of the German production of ore. The note states that Germany would be so deprived of raw materials that she would be able to supply herself with neither food nor work. Those who sign the treaty, the note states, will sign the death warrant of millions of men. The note declares that Germany is able to furnish statistical proof on this subject.
  • The second note13 relates to reparations. It protests against the article of the treaty which declares that Germany and her allies are responsible for the war. It states that the German people did not want the war and would never have engaged in a war of aggression. It requests a copy of the report of the Commission which established the responsibility of the makers of the war.
  • The third note14 is a reply to the letter of the Allied Governments which stated that they were governed constantly by the principles upon which the Armistice was concluded. The note protests against the cessions of territory, reserving a special reply for the question [Page 613] of Kehl and Alsace-Lorraine. It also separates out the questions of Poland and Schleswig. It protests especially against the articles of the treaty relating to the Saar Basin. It states that the Germans would be ready to consider possible arrangements concerning the replacement of coal which could be furnished to France. It declares that Germany is also ready to give satisfaction to Belgium in this connection. It states that the German plenipotentiaries reserve the right to make a further declaration concerning the eastern areas.
  1. Ante, p. 565.
  2. See appendix to German proposals for a League of Nations, vol. vi, p. 774.
  3. The text of the reply as sent, May 14, was identical with the draft reply in appendix II, p. 610, except for the substitution of the signature of M. Clemenceau for Mr. Barnes’ initials on the draft.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1915, pp. 171, 197.
  5. Maj. Gen. Ivanov-Rinov, commander of all the Russian troops in Eastern Siberia supporting the Kolchak government.
  6. Appendix III to CF–9, p. 574.
  7. For the agreement between France and Germany concerning prisoners of war, April 26, 1918, see British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxi, p. 713; for the agreement between France and Germany concerning the liberation or repatriation of civilians, and the treatment of the population in occupied territories, April 26, 1918, see ibid., p. 721.
  8. Translation from the French supplied by the editors.
  9. Appendix IA to CF–20, p. 738.
  10. Appendix II to CF–19. p. 727.
  11. Appendix II to CF–23, p. 817.