Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/22½
Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Wednesday, May 21, 1919, at 6:15 p.m.
United States of America
- President Wilson.
- The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
- M. Clemenceau.
- Secretary—Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B.
- Interpreter—Professor P. J. Mantoux.
- United States of America
President Wilson read the draft of a reply to the German Note on the Economic Effect of the Treaty of Peace which had been prepared at the request of the Council by Lord Curzon: (Appendix I.)
1. Reply to the German Note on the Economic Effect of the Treaty of Peace Subject to a few alterations in detail, the Note was approved.
Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to forward it to the Secretary-General for translation into French for the signature of M. Clemenceau.
It was agreed that the letter should be published after it had been signed and despatched.1
2. Verbal Discussions with the Germans President Wilson said he would like to intimate to the Germans that the Experts of the Allied and Associated Powers were now ready to discuss with their Experts in regard to Financial and Economic Conditions.
M. Clemenceau thought it would weaken the Allied and Associated Powers.
President Wilson said that his object was to demonstrate to Europe that nothing had been left undone which might have induced the Germans to have signed. If they did not sign it would involve sending troops into the heart of Germany and their retention there for a long period. Germany could not pay the costs of this occupation which would pile up the expenses to people who were already protesting against the burden of occupation. People would ask if there was anything reasonable left undone which might have averted this. There would be no loss of dignity by carrying out this plan. The experts of the Allied and Associated Powers would merely explain the meaning of some parts of the Treaty of Peace which, in his view, the Germans [Page 801] had failed to understand. If our Experts could show that no heavier burden had been laid on the German people than justice required, it might make it easier for the German Delegates to explain to their own people.
M. Clemenceau thought that this would serve the objects of the Germans. He agreed that they would probably leave without signing, but when troops began to move, they would sign soon enough. They wanted some excuse with their own people to make them sign.
Mr. Lloyd George thought that sufficient excuse would be given if some concession could be gained. He had nothing particular in mind but there might be some concession which did not matter very much which could be made. The question would not be decided until the German answer to our proposals was available. He had in his mind that they would make proposals perhaps about coal.
M. Clemenceau said we had a very strong answer on this. He had seen some extraordinary effective figures of M. Loucheur’s.
Mr. Lloyd George thought they might also make proposals about restoration. He thought before deciding this question, it would be better to await the German reply and to keep an open mind on the subject.
President Wilson said that the letter which had just been considered gave a conclusive reply to the German letter but provided no ray of hope. It merely said that the Treaty was right and nothing more. He had understood that the experts who had discussed with the German Financial Experts at Villette found Herr Melchior a very sensible man. Melchior was now one of the German Delegates, and he was a representative of the kind of people in Germany who wanted to get their industries going again, and he wanted to avoid the chaos and confiscations of property and looting which had occurred elsewhere. These people wanted to get their country started again, and they would listen to what our experts had to say. The United States Experts had, all along, said that the present scheme of reparation would not yield much. This was Mr. Norman Davis’ view, and Mr. Keynes, the British expert, shared it. He himself wanted the Allies to get reparation. He feared they would get very little. If it could be shown to Melchior that the Reparation Commission was allowed to consider the condition of Germany and to adjust the arrangements accordingly from time to time, it might enable him to persuade the German people.
M. Clemenceau said that President Wilson was right, but he did not want to be placed in the position of a man who was begging a favour. He preferred Mr. Lloyd George’s idea, of waiting until the German comprehensive reply was received. This would be our “mor-ceau de resistance”.[Page 802]
President Wilson said he was afraid ten years hence we should find that nothing had been got out of the Treaty of Peace, and this would cause a reaction in Germany’s favour.
3. Prisoners of War: The Reply to Brockdorff-Rantzau’s letter M. Clemenceau informed his colleagues that he had postponed signing the reply to Brockdorff-Rantzau’s letter on the subject of Prisoners of War1a because he wished to attach to it an admirable report he had received showing the equipment of German Prisoners of War. He hoped to have this on the following day.
4. Telegram to General Pilsudski The attached telegram to General Pilsudski, was approved. (Appendix II.)
(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to forward it to the Secretary-General with instructions to translate it into French; to despatch it to General Pilsudski; and to arrange for a copy to be to General sent to the French Liaison Officer, or any other Officer on the Staff of General Haller, for the information of General Haller.)
Villa Majestic, Paris, 21 May, 1919.