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Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/18½

CF–18B

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.

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

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.

Appendix I to CF–18B

Mr. Gibson, American Minister at Warsaw, to the American Commission to Negotiate Peace

(Telegram—Paraphrase)

Mr. Gibson states that the following is a confidential message which Mr. Paderewski sends for President Wilson.

That everything should be done according to the wishes expressed by you has been my most earnest desire since my arrival here from Paris. In compliance with the request made by you two divisions of the army under General Haller which were on the Volhynian front and marching to assist in defending Lemberg, have been stopped.

Again having convinced myself that the Ukrainians are far removed from being what they have pretended and what the Conference desires to consider them, I must bring this information to your attention and to that of your colleagues. General Oskilko, Commander in Chief of the Second Ukrainian Army, with two of his superior [Page 712]officers, has deserted, and asking protection, has surrendered to the Polish Army. He gives as a reason for this conduct the contamination of the Ukrainian Army by Bolshevism and the necessity of quitting in order that his own life might be saved. General Oskilko is now under the escort of Polish soldiers at Lublin.

Desirous of meeting your wishes, and the wishes of your colleagues, I looked thoroughly into the situation, and I found that the whole of the East Galician country is unanimous in a demand for decisive and energetic action, owing to the numerous crimes which the Ukrainians daily commit in East Galicia, massacres and slaughters which can only be compared to the Turkish crimes in Armenia. Before my arrival, plans had been made and orders had been issued for an offensive without General Haller’s co-operation; May 12th was the date set for the beginning of the action. At my insistence, however, action was withheld. On the 11th, General Pavlenko telegraphed a reminder that in Paris the armistice was being concluded, and announced the cessation of all military operations. We credited them with being sincere in their intentions. But they attacked us at two new points on the 12th,—at Vatrzyki they entered our entrenchments, and they bombarded the city of Sanok, hitherto outside of military operations. The Government is now rendered powerless by the excitement throughout the country by the indignation expressed by the most reasonable of the leading people; indeed, it is not possible to ask quiet and patience of a people at the same moment they are being murdered ruthlessly by Ukrainian soldiers who have turned against their own chiefs, by bandits organized in the hope of plunder, with whom Poland is asked to negotiate as with equals. The defence and protection of a population of 1,700,000 is the sacred duty of the military and civilian authorities, is the view held by them, for a portion of this population has practically been exterminated, and any resistance to the just and legitimate conclusion reached by those authorities would immediately bring about a revolution covering the whole country. While I am willing to tender at any moment the resignation of my Government, the situation hardly would be improved by this action. Allied military observers to attend the operations would gladly be received by the chief command. Your sure insight, based on your sublime sense of justice, I am confident, will grasp the tragedy of the situation, and your opinion is hopefully and impatiently awaited.

I. J. Paderewski
[Page 713]

From Mr. Gibson, American Minister at Warsaw, to the American Commission to Negotiate Peace

(Telegram—Paraphrase)

Mr. Gibson states that the early attention of the Conference should be given to the situation which has arisen in Poland since the return of Mr. Paderewski from Paris. Mr. Gibson, and the French and British diplomatic representatives have in independent actions pointed out to Mr. Paderewski and to the Foreign Office members the serious attention which the Conference already has given to the Lemberg situation. Upon returning from Paris, and finding that all arrangements for attacks on the Lemberg and Volhynian fronts had been made, Paderewski energetically took the matter up, stating that he had promised upon his honor that no offensive on the Lemberg front should be made with Haller’s army, and that he would resign unless the orders were changed. On May 12th the orders were withdrawn, and immediately thereafter Paderewski was attended by a delegation from the Diet and informed that the tales of atrocities committed by the Ukrainians caused the feeling in the country to be so outraged that it was necessary to go ahead with the operations. Paderewski, while striving to maintain views expressed by him, has small hopes of success. He now limits himself to the statement that he will endeavor to obtain the release of the Allies to the promise made by him, but failing in that course and unless the Diet adheres to his viewpoint he would be compelled to resign. On the 15th another conference with the Diet leaders is to be held, and in an effort to bring the situation under control Paderewski will propose the following arrangement:

  • One. Complete independence of the Lithuanians and White Russians to be formally recognised by the Diet.
  • Two. The granting of Eastern Galicia to Poland with complete local autonomy to be urged upon the Peace Conference by Paderewski.
  • Three. For the purpose of maintaining order and obviating additional outrages Paderewski is to ask the Peace Conference that he and General Pilsudski be permitted discretionary powers in connection with the use of Polish forces. Failure of claims on points mentioned, would place Paderewski government in untenable position, and his adherents claim that to overthrow him would bring about immediate revolution and disorder. Mr. Gibson says that his information indicated that even the opponents of Paderewski do not claim that complete order would be maintained. Mr. Gibson further says should the government not yield, a general strike of railroad, post office and telegraph employees would threaten, and that this movement compared to some forms of political upheaval would invoke more danger. Mr. Gibson [Page 714]adds that any of these developments undoubtedly will find the internal situation ripe, and that it appears to be plain that unless the dark and more or less hysterical conditions now existing can be taken into consideration at their whole value, no sound conclusions can be arrived at in regard to Polish matters. Mr. Gibson further adds that two alternatives may be offered to us, and outlines them as follows:
    • First. Paderewski’s personal responsibility to which he is held on account of the promise made by him in Paris to be modified, in order to secure his continuance in office, and assure the continuance of his wholesome and sincere restraining influence at a time when there does not seem to be any one of similar characteristics to take his place.
    • Second. Paderewski to be held strictly to the fulfillment of the promise made by him, which would carry with it the possibility of his enforced retirement, without gaining our point, and with the loss of the strong personal influence which he has wielded on behalf of our ideas. This action would permit the government to come into the control of any of the factions now only too anxious to seize it, on Chauvinistic grounds, which in the present excited state of public opinion readily appeal to the crowd. Mr. Gibson says that he cannot think of anyone who might control a majority in the Assembly, and replace Paderewski with any likelihood of holding it in an orderly manner.

Public feeling has been aroused by various happenings. The belief is current that in certain Galician villages the entire Polish populace has been exterminated by the Ukrainians, and various additional excesses are attributed to them. General Oskilko’s surrender (to which Paderewski referred in his telegram to the President) together with the apparent reasons for same, have been the cause of further excitement. In addition, there has been the recent surrender to the Poles of several regiments composed of Russian soldiers from the Tula Division, which in April allied themselves with Ukrainian forces in order to support [suppress?] Bolshevism. They say that they want to join Poles so as to down the Ukrainians, who themselves are the advocates of Bolshevism. No matter what the foundation for these stories may be, their effect is definite, giving rise to a situation which we cannot ignore. The opponents of Paderewski in the Diet and elsewhere make use of this situation to influence public opinion in favor of advancing into Galicia in order to protect the lives of over a million Poles, and cause the downfall of Paderewski, who is denounced as submitting to the murder and torture of citizens and soldiers of Poland rather than incur the displeasure of American, British and French statesmen.

Late to-night, accompanied by his British Colleague, Mr. Gibson called on Paderewski and made an appeal that he would endeavour to dominate the situation by a supreme effort, and bring Poland to support [Page 715]and carry out his promises. Mr. Gibson urged the matter on the ground of Polish interests; he stated that if in the face of all obstacles he definitely determines to put an end to offensive operations and carry out the armistice, he will go back to Paris with his prestige greatly augmented; on the other hand, despite the sincerity of his efforts, his position in Paris will be impaired if an advance is made into Galicia. Paderewski admitted to Mr. Gibson the truth of this, and promised to maintain a stiff front and do all he could to fulfil the wishes of the President, but he entertained small hope that a change of heart on the part of the Diet and the people could be forced.

Mr. Gibson adds that he will continue to endeavour to carry out the desires of the Peace Conference according to his understanding of them, and requests that the mission cable him a full expression of its views.

  1. For the text of Dr. Nansen’s letter, see Foreign Relations, 1919, Russia, p. 111. For the Bolshevist reply, see ibid., p. 111; also enclosure 1 to appendix III to CF–20, p. 743.