Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/18½
Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s Residence in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Monday, May 19, at 11.30 a.m.
- America, United States of
- President Wilson.
- British Empire
- The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
- M. Clemenceau.
- Sir Maurice Hankey Secretary.
- Prof. P. J. Mantoux Interpreter.
- America, United States of
1. News From Berlin Mr. Lloyd George read a telegram received from the British General Haking at Spa, communicating a telegram he had received from Berlin. According to this information, some German troops marching past the British Embassy, where the British Military Mission was quartered, had called out “Down with England” but the demonstration had been half-hearted, and the men had been grinning at the time. There had been a protest against the terms of peace, in which 8,000 to 10,000 people had taken part, but they had made no demonstration in passing the Embassy. There was no indication of serious movements of troops westward, and the informant doubted whether the Germans would make any attempt to re-take Posen, which would mean starting the war all over again, except in case of great desperation. Great depression was reported in all parts of Berlin.
M. Clemenceau said that his information was of a very similar nature.
2. The Polish Ukrainian Armistice President Wilson read two telegrams he had received from the American Minister at Warsaw, one containing a message from M. Paderewski. Paraphrases of both these telegrams are reproduced in the appendix.
Mr. Lloyd George’s comment on this was that it was extremely difficult to establish the facts. General Botha, on review of all the facts in his possession as Head of the Armistice Commission, had taken the very opposite point of view to that taken in these telegrams. Clearly, therefore, it would be very dangerous to come to a conclusion without further advice. He considered that General Botha should [Page 706]be asked to summon the Armistice Commission, and to advise the Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers on the subject.
President Wilson and M. Clemenceau agreed.
(Later in the Meeting, it was ascertained that General Botha had been called to London, but messages were sent asking him to return at once.)
3. The Bolshevist Reply to Dr. Nanson’s Letter Mr. Lloyd George said that the Bolshevist reply to Dr. Nansen’s letter was another instance of the extraordinary difficulty in eliciting The facts.1 To read this reply gave the impression that the Bolshevists refused Dr. Nansen’s offer because they did not wish to compromise their prospects of military success. All the information he had received, however, was that the Bolshevists were collapsing in a military sense.
4. Hungary President Wilson read a dispatch from a very experienced United States representative, who had visited Buda-Pest. The gist of this was that Bela Kun’s Government wished to avoid bloodshed and murder, but was unable to control its agents, with a result that the “Red Guard” were pillaging, and there was great chaos in the country. The Roumanian advance had increased the disorders, and the failure of the Roumanians to continue their advance had again caused further disorders and attacks on the alleged counter-revolutionaries. Some bad instances were given of murders, including that of the President of the late Hungarian Parliament. Attention was also called to Italian intrigues in Hungary. The dispatch concluded by a recommendation that military intervention by the Allied and Associated Powers was essential. It stated that there would be no difficulty in this, because the mass of the people condemned the present Government. Failing intervention, there would be anarchy. The French were at Belgrade, and ready to occupy Buda-Pest, and claimed to have sufficient troops. It was stated that the occupation of Buda-Pest would not be a formidable enterprise. The second recommendation was that simultaneously with the advance, an Allied Mission should be sent under some man like General Smuts.
M. Clemenceau asked if Buda-Pest was occupied, what would happen next?
Mr. Lloyd George said the difficulty was to get out after an occupation like this.
M. Clemenceau said he would study the possibilities of a French advance in concert with the Koumanians. He did not want the French troops carrying out this operation alone.
President Wilson said he would not trust the Roumanians, who had local interests and would excite the hostility of the Hungarian [Page 707]population. He was very doubtful whether an advance was a wise thing to do.
M. Clemenceau said a good deal would depend upon what happened at the expiration of the fortnight given to the Germans, next Thursday. He undertook to have the situation studied from a military point of view, and to report on the following day as to the possibility of occupying Buda-Pest.
5. Probable Attitude of the Germans M. Clemenceau communicated some confidential information he had received as to the probability of the Germans agreeing to sign. This indicated that the Germans would probably ask for further delay. He believed, however, that Herr Brockdorff-Kantzau knew the Treaty would have to be signed in the end, and would sign it himself if he could not get someone else to do so. He thought the Germans ought to be given more time if they required it.
President Wilson agreed, and considered that on the whole a demand for delay would be a good sign.
6. The Italian claims Mr. Lloyd George reported a visit he had received from M. Orlando on the previous day. One significant point was that M. Orlando had been accompanied by his own chef-de-cabinet and not by Count Aldrovandi, who was Baron Sonnino’s chef-de-cabinet. M. Orlando had shown him the proposals he had made to Dr. Miller of the American Delegation, and he had shown clearly how much he was affected by the question of Fiume. He had ended by making an appeal for the mandate for the whole of Anatolia. Mr. Lloyd George had replied to him that that was quite hopeless. At last M. Orlando had let out that he really did not care a scrap about Asia-Minor if he could get Fiume. Italian public opinion was not really concerned with Asia-Minor, and the Italian Government only wished to have that as compensation if they could not secure Fiume. M. Orlando had admitted that he would rather have Fiume than anything in Asia-Minor. Mr. Lloyd George asked him whether, supposing Italy got Fiume, he would drop Asia-Minor; and he had replied that he would. He had kept reverting all through the interview to the question of Fiume, and had said that Italian public opinion was very much engaged in it. Mr. Lloyd George had asked if the Yugo-Slavs could have the use of Fiume while a new port was being constructed at Italian expense.
The more he thought of the problem presented by the presence of the Italians in Asia Minor, the more full of mischief the scheme seemed. The Mohammedan deputation, who had given evidence on Saturday, were very alarmed about the whole outlook. They had only been persuaded to come with great difficulty. They had discussed the question until 2 a.m. on Saturday morning and their opinion had been that [Page 708]the whole Mohammedan world would be so upset by what was being done in Turkey that it would be better for them to avoid being mixed up with it. The Turks, while respecting the British, French and Americans, the two former of whom had beaten them, absolutely despised the Italians. To put the Turks under the Italians when they thought themselves better men than the latter, would put the whole Mohammedan world in revolt. At the risk of appearing to vacillate, he would like to reconsider the provisional decision already taken.
President Wilson said he did not in the least mind vacillating, provided the solution reached was the right one.
Mr. Lloyd George said that his present attitude was that it would be best to get the Italians out of Asia Minor altogether. Frankly, he had changed his mind on the question of dividing Anatolia. He thought that it would be a mistake to tear up this purely Turkish province.
President Wilson said that what had impressed him in the evidence of the Mohammedan deputation was what they had said about Turkish sovereignty. He, himself, had forgotten that he had used the word in the 14 points. These 14 points now constituted a sort of Treaty: in fact in the case of Germany, as Mr. Lloyd George pointed out, they were the basis of the Treaty with Germany. However, it was impossible to work on different sets of principles in the different Treaties of Peace. He was impressed by the fact that the sentiment of the sovereignty of the Sultan was closely connected with the sentiment of Khalifate. He had derived the impression that if the Mohammedan troops, who had fought against the Turks, had thought they were doing more than break the alliance of the Turks with Germany, they would not have fought. They would not have continued fighting to destroy the sovereignty of the Sultan over the Turkish people. Moreover, he and Mr. Lloyd George had said they would not destroy Turkish sovereignty. He had forgotten this until reminded of it on Saturday. (Mr. Lloyd George said he had also forgotten it). It was true that he had written the 14 points when the situation was altogether different and when there had been a close combination of the four enemy powers, but, nevertheless, this did not affect the essential principles on which they were based. He asked if some way could not be discovered for finding a solution on the following lines? He had not thought it out in detail but this was his idea:—Could not the Sultan be left his sovereignty over Anatolia and merely required in certain specific matters to take the advice of, say, the French Government? For example, he might have to take their advice in regard to financial and economic matters and perhaps in regard to international relations. He was not sure that this would not be managed by retaining the Turks in Constantinople, although exercising no sovereignty there. Just [Page 709]as the Pope of Rome lived in Rome without sovereignty and issued his orders to the Roman Catholic Church. Inasmuch as the Mandatory Power at Constantinople would only be responsible for local matters, he saw no reason [that] there should be any clash.
Mr. Lloyd George said he had been thinking of some similar scheme.
President Wilson said his idea would be to assign some residential district in Constantinople to the Sultan. He would not, of course, be confined there any more than the Pope of Rome was confined to Vatican for it was of his own volition only that the Pope confined himself. The Sultan would then be separated from his Kingdom merely by a narrow strip of water and territory.
Mr. Lloyd George said that in this case France—and he had no objection to France being entrusted with this—should, in his view, be confined to guiding the Sultan in regard to finance, concessions, and commercial matters. He was opposed to interference with matters of Government as it would only cause great anger in the whole Mohammedan population.
M. Clemenceau said that the terms would have to be drawn very carefully as the Turkish Government was a very bad one.
Mr. Lloyd George said he was reminded that the matter of Gendarmerie would be a difficult one. It had always been found necessary to maintain an International Gendarmerie for the purpose of keeping order. In this case, however, the main Greek and Armenian populations were being withdrawn from Turkish rule and there would only be relatively unimportant minorities under the Turks.
M. Clemenceau suggested that the scheme should be put in writing and examined.
Mr. Lloyd George said he had arranged for a meeting in the afternoon of members of the British Cabinet who were in Paris.
President Wilson said that the Mohammedan deputation who had been received on Saturday had, he had observed, pricked up their ears when something was said about a mandate. It would be difficult for the Turks to distinguish between one sort of mandate and another. What he was suggesting was in effect to give a mandate to France without calling it a mandate. That is to say, France would not be responsible to the League of Nations, she would be in a similar position as an independent friendly country advising the Turkish Government under treaty stipulations. The terms of the Treaty, therefore, would be more limited than the terms of the mandate.
Mr. Lloyd George said that if France took a position of this kind towards the whole of Asia Minor, which would be a very important trust, he would have to ask for a re-examination of the whole question of mandates in the Turkish Empire.
President Wilson pointed out that this solution would leave the Italians out entirely. This brought him back to the question of Fiume. [Page 710]He was inclined to think that this matter had better be left for a few days. He understood that there was a tendency towards changes of opinion in Rome which might take shape in a few days’ time. He had heard that the Italians and Jugo-Slav shipping people were getting together on the question of shipping in the Adriatic.
Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that this was at the expense of the British Empire. The Italians were trying to make a negotiation with the Jugo-Slavs to divide the whole of the Austro-Hungarian shipping. It was a most shabby scheme. Great Britain had probably lost hundreds of thousands of tons of shipping in Italy’s interest and now Italy was trying to exclude her from any share. Italy would have starved but for the risk that British and French ships had run.
President Wilson said that M. Orlando, in his conversation with Dr. Miller and other American representatives, had, in the end, acceded to the idea of an independent Fiume. If he, himself, were in a position to offer friendly advice to M. Orlando, he would tell him to say to the Italian people that it was not to the interest of Italy to destroy her friendship with the United States. The Americans were willing to take up this position that Italy could have any territory in dispute, the population of which would vote for Italian sovereignty. If Italy declined this offer it would show that she was not sincere in what she had said about the unredeemed Italian peoples.
Mr. Lloyd George said that if the Italians could be got out of Asia Minor altogether it would, in his opinion, be worth giving them something they were specially concerned in, even if it involved the Allies swallowing their words.
President Wilson hoped that Mr. Lloyd George would not press this point of view. He was bound to adhere to his principle that no peoples should be handed over to another rule without their consent.
Mr. Lloyd George said he had assumed that the agreement of the Jugo-Slavs could be obtained. After all, Fiume was a Town with an Italian flavour and an Italian name. Aga Khan had said that no-one who knew Fiume could think of it as anything but an Italian city. It was true that if the suburbs were included there would be a small majority in favour of the Jugo-Slavs. If, however, the Jugo-Slavs were willing to accept another harbour to be constructed by the Italians somewhere else, would it not then be possible to hand Fiume with their consent to the Italians. Surely, this would be worth while if by these means the Italians could be bought off Dalmatia—and in this respect he and M. Clemenceau were in a difficult position owing to the Treaty of London—and if they could also be bought off Asia Minor. This latter was, in his view, most important to the peace of the world.
President Wilson said that this was virtually the proposition that had been put to the Italians by the American group. Their proposal [Page 711]had not been to hand Fiume to the Italians but to have a plebiscite if the Italians had constructed a port at Buccari. This, of course, was subject to the people of Fiume still desiring to become Italian. The difficulty he foresaw was in the Italians being able to finance the construction of a port.
Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that Italy had an abundance of good engineering labour and he thought they could carry out the scheme.
President Wilson said that in his view the weakest part of the Italian case was their insistence on an Army sustained by compulsory service. In France, conscription, he understood, was both a habit and a preference. This, however, was not Italy’s argument. The Italians said they could not get a voluntary Army because they would have to pay so little.
Mr. Lloyd George again insisted on the importance of getting the Italians out of Asia Minor. If this were not done there would always be trouble there as well as in Armenia where America would have the mandate.
Mr. Lloyd George said that the Mohammedan deputation were also very strongly opposed to an Italian mandate in the Caucasus.
(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to invite M. Venizelos and Baron Sonnino for a meeting at 4–30 p.m.)
Villa Majestic, Paris 19 May, 1919.[Page 713]