Parts Peace Conf. 180.03401/23


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Thursday, May 22, 1919, at 11:45 a.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.

Members of the Committee which drew up the draft replies to the German letters on the Saar Valley.

  • America
    • Dr. Haskins.
  • British Empire
    • Sir Eyre Crowe.
    • Mr. Headlam-Morley.
  • France
    • M. Loucheur.
    • M. Tardieu.

1. Hungary. Resolution by the Supreme Economic council Approved While the Council was assembling, the Resolution in Appendix I authorising the Supreme Economic Council to announce that the blockade on Hungary would be suspended as soon as supreme Economic a Government is installed there which gives some assurance of settled conditions, was approved.

Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to forward it to the Secretary General with instructions to arrange for the Supreme Economic Council to take the necessary action.

2. Saar Valley The Council had before them the following documents relating to the Saar Basin:—

Letter from Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau to M. Clemenceau dated 13th May (Appendix II).
Letter from Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau to M. Clemenceau dated 16th May (Appendix III).
Draft reply to the letter dated May 13th (Appendix IV).
Draft reply to letter dated May 16th (Appendix V).

Mr. Lloyd George drew attention to the passage in Appendix II, in which the German Delegation take exception to the fact that the [Page 814] restitution of the Saar Valley at the end of fifteen years is made to depend on the ability of the German Government to re-purchase from the French Government, in gold, all the coal mines of the territory and that if this payment is not made, France would acquire the territory permanently even if the population should unanimously vote for Germany. He read the following extract from clause 36 of the Annex to Part III, Section 4 of the Treaty:—

“If within the six months following the decision of the experts the price above referred to has not been paid by Germany, the said territory will be finally acquired by France.”


This meant that if the Germans could not pay the people of the Saar would remain in servitude. If they could remain independent he would not object to this clause so much, but he felt that at present this was quite wrong.

President Wilson pointed out that the difficulty might be met by providing that if the people of the Saar Valley elected for Germany and the German Government could not pay, they might at least be permitted to remain independent.

M. Tardieu drew attention to paragraph 6 of Appendix IV from which he read the following extract:—

“If, on the one hand, the direct agreement authorised by paragraph 38 came to nothing and if, on the other hand, as you fear, the Commission on Reparations forbade the payment in gold provided for in para. 36, it would then be the duty of the League of Nations to consider the consequences resulting from that refusal both for Germany and for the population of the region under consideration—on condition, of course, that the provisions of para. 37 were carried out.”

He then read a text which would meet Mr. Lloyd George’s objections.

President Wilson pointed out that the Germans were not so much afraid that they would not have the money, but that the Reparation Commission would not allow them to use it. He understood that the object of this new proposal was to prevent that. No doubt the Germans could borrow the money on the security of the mines if the Reparation Commission allowed them to. President’Wilson thought that some special representation should be made to the Reparation Commission on the subject. He then read the following alternative draft handed to him by Dr. Haskins:—

“Substitute for the final paragraph of Article 36 on page 38 the following:—

The price above referred to shall be paid by Germany within one year after the decision of the experts.

[Page 815]
No provision of the present Treaty shall in any way prejudice the right and obligation of Germany to make any payment pursuant to the provisions of this Annex, particularly the provisions of this paragraph and of paragraph 38 thereof. The obligation of Germany to make such payment shall be taken into account by the Reparation Commission and for the purpose of the payment Germany may create a prior charge upon her assets or revenues, upon such detailed terms as agreed to by the Reparation Commission.”Mr. Lloyd George preferred this to the other text.

Mr. Headlam-Morley said he felt that some action of the kind was required, and that if it was not taken there would be a serious situation. The fact of Article 36 quoted above being in the Treaty was producing a bad effect on neutral countries where it was being said “If Germany cannot pay the sovereignty will be transferred to France”. He felt that the Allied and Associated Powers ought to get out of this situation and to propose a fresh Article on their own initiative.

President Wilson agreed.

M. Clemenceau said he was of the same opinion.

President Wilson suggested that the words quoted by Mr. Lloyd George should be omitted.

Mr. Lloyd George said that Germany must have some guarantee that this action should not be taken since it constituted something equivalent to servitude for debt.

President Wilson suggested that the best plan would be to leave it to some authority to decide at the end of 15 years, and this authority had best be the League of Nations.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that the experts should retire and draft a clause to meet the case.

(The Experts withdrew.)

(After an interval the experts returned with a draft clause which was accepted.)

After a short further discussion the meeting was adjourned in order that the Expert Committee might reassemble and revise the two draft letters in the light of the discussion.

Note. The various documents referred to, not being available at the time when these Minutes were drafted, they will be contained in the Minutes of the next discussion on the subject.1

3. The Economic Effect of the Treaty of Peace M. Clemenceau reported that he had signed and dispatched the reply approved on the previous day2 to Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau’s letter dealing with the economic effect of the Treaty of Peace.

[Page 816]

4. Prisoners of War. Reply to Herr Brockdorff-Rantzan’s Letter M. Clemenceau reported that he had signed and dispatched a reply3 to Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau’s letter on the subject of prisoners of war.

5. Covenant of the League of Nations. Omission of References to the Air Service Sir Maurice Hankey reported that the Head of the Aerial Section of the British Delegation had strongly urged that wherever the Naval and Military Services were mentioned in the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Air Service should also be mentioned. General Groves had pointed out that elsewhere throughout the Treaty of Peace the Air Service was mentioned whenever the Naval and Military Services were mentioned and he considered that this omission from the Covenant of the League of Nations thereby became conspicuous and might lead to the inference that Aerial warfare was excluded.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that the change could not be made without summoning a Plenary Meeting of the Allied and Associated Powers represented at the Peace Conference.

President Wilson pointed out that Aerial warfare in its belligerent forms was included either in the Naval or in Military warfare and he did not think that any misunderstanding could arise from this omission. He thought it was unnecessary to introduce the change which, as Mr. Lloyd George had pointed out, could only be effected by a Plenary Conference.

Sir Maurice Hankey pointed out that the British Air Service was entirely separate from the Naval and Military Services and he was under the impression that the same was true in Germany. He also understood that the French were contemplating a separation of their Air Service from the Naval and Military Services.

(It was agreed that the alteration in the Covenant of the League of Nations should not be made.)

6. Committee on New States. Clause for Insertion in the Treaties With Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria The Council had under consideration the following clause, submitted by the Committee on New States for insertion in the Treaty with Austria, together with corresponding clauses for insertions in the Treaties with Hungary and with Bulgaria:—

“The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes accepts and agrees to embody in a Treaty with the Principal Allied and Associated Powers such provisions as may be deemed necessary by the said Powers to protect the interests of inhabitants of Serbia, who differ from the majority of the population in race, language, or religion.

“The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes further accepts and agrees to embody in a Treaty with the said Powers such provision as they may deem necessary to protect freedom of transit and equitable treatment of the commerce of other nations”.

[Page 817]

(The above clause was approved and initialled by the Four Heads of Government.)

(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to forward it to the Secretary General for communication to the Drafting Committee together with an intimation that the initials to the clause for the Austrian Treaty would cover the clauses for Treaties with Hungary and Bulgaria.)

Villa Majestic, Paris, 22 May, 1919.

Appendix I to CF–23


The French Minister of Commerce, Industry, Posts, and Telegraphs to the Secretary General of the Peace Conference

No. 609 S.C.I.

I have the honor to bring it to your attention that the Supreme Economic Council at its meeting of May 19 had before it an English proposal relating to the blockade of Hungary of which the text is as follows:

“It is desirable to let it be publicly known that the blockade of Hungary will be suspended as soon as a government is installed there which gives some assurance of settled conditions.”

The Council adopted this proposal, which it decided to submit to the Council of Heads of Governments.

Appendix II to CF–23

saar basin

Letter From Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau to M. Clemenceau


M. le President: The German Peace Delegation has learnt from Your Excellency’s letter of the 10th inst.,5 that the Allied and Associated Governments, in drawing up the conditions of the Treaty of Peace, have been constantly inspired by the principles in accordance with which the Armistice and the peace negotiations were proposed. The German Delegation does not of course, wish to throw any doubt on this statement, but it must reserve the right [Page 818] to set forth the conditions which, in its opinion, are in contradiction with the intentions of the Allied and Associated Governments. This contradiction is most obvious when those conditions of the draft Treaty are considered which concern the cession of different parts of the territory of the Empire inhabited by a German population.

Leaving aside the restitution of Alsace-Lorraine to France and the occupation of Kehl, the articles concerning which I reserve for later treatment, Germany is required to resign to a foreign domination, temporary or permanent, the following territories:—the district of the Sarre, the circles of Eupen and Malmedy with Prussian Moresnet, Upper Silesia some German parts of Middle Silesia, of Posnania and of West and East Prussia. The provisions concerning the administrative district (Regierungsbezirk) of Slesvig are equivalent to a cession of parts of German territory.

The German Delegation does not fail to recognise that in favour of a number of provisions relative to territorial changes, contained in the Draft Treaty of Peace, the right of the self determination of peoples can be adduced, seeing that some populations which till now were under German domination, as, for example, the Polish population, do not consider themselves German. National reasons can also be adduced in the case of the question of Slesvig, though the German Delegation is unaware of the powers by virtue of which the Allied and Associated Governments make this—a frontier question for settlement between Germany and Denmark—the subject of peace negotiations. The neutral Government of Denmark well knows that the present German Government has always been disposed to come to an understanding with it for the delimitation of a new frontier corresponding with the principle of nationalities. If the Danish Government nevertheless prefers to push its claims by the devious method of peace negotiations, the German Government has no intention of raising objections.

This attitude of the German Government does not however, extend to territories of the Empire which are not undoubtedly inhabited by a population of foreign race. The German Government considers it most of all inadmissible that German territories should, by the Treaty of Peace, be made the subject of bargains between one sovereignty and another, as though they were mere chattels or pawns in a game, in order to ensure the satisfaction of the financial and economic claims of the adversaries of Germany.

This is especially true in the case of the Sarre Basin. Nobody could deny that this Basin is inhabited by a purely German population. The Draft Treaty nevertheless provides for a change of domination in this partly Prussian, partly Bavarian territory, which will bring about a complete amalgamation in matters of customs, coinage, [Page 819] administration, legislation and jurisdiction and which, at least in so far as those matters are concerned, will completely sever the connection between the territory of the Sarre and the rest of the Empire. The authorities of the occupying Power cannot be unaware that the whole population refuses with the greatest energy to be separated from its Fatherland. The few who, in order to flatter the occupying Power or to gain profit for themselves, pretend otherwise, need not be considered.

It will be vain to argue that an occupation of 15 years only is contemplated and that, at the end of that period, the future nationality of the population will be decided by a plebiscite, since the restitution of this territory to Germany is made to depend on the ability of the German Government to repurchase from the French Government in gold, in a short time, all the coal mines of the territory, and, if this payment could not be made, France would acquire the territory permanently even should the population unanimously vote for Germany. According to the financial and economic clauses of the Treaty, it seems impossible that, at the end of 15 years, Germany will be able to dispose of the necessary amount of gold and, moreover, even if she possessed it, the Commission on Reparations, which would then dominate the country, would probably not allow it to be used for this purpose. There is in modern history no example of a civilised Power binding another to subject its own nationals to a foreign domination as the equivalent of a sum in gold.

Public opinion in the enemy countries represents the cession of the territory of the Sarre as just compensation for the destruction of the mines of Northern France. The German Delegation also recognises that an indemnity in money alone would not offset the deterioration of the economic position of France. While the justice of the demand for an indemnity in kind is recognised, this indemnity should and can be found by other means than by a foreign domination which, notwithstanding the most humane intentions on the part of the authorities, will always remain odious.

The German Delegation is ready at once to enter into negotiations with the Allied and Associated Governments with a view to examine how to make good the deficiency of coal till the mines destroyed had been put back into working order, a task which Germany has undertaken to accomplish. In the course of these negotiations she would propose to find some more just arrangement than the primitive and unsuitable method of compensation involved in the surrender of the mining Basin of the Sarre. In the place of the deficient coal supply of northern France, it would be necessary to deliver coal from German mines, i. e., not only from the Sarre but also from the Ruhr. Leaving aside the fact that it would not be [Page 820] practical, on account of conditions of communication, to use as compensation only coal from the Sarre which, till now, has found its natural outlets in other directions, it seems indispensable to give to the country of the Ruhr a share in the deliveries of coal, because the damaged districts need the products of the Ruhr region as much as they do those of the Sarre.

The German Delegation feels sure that it would not be difficult to make on the subject of this delivery of coal an arrangement which would satisfy all the legitimate claims of France, provided only that the experts of the two parties enter into direct relations and work out the conditions of delivery on a commercial basis.

As regards Belgium, Germany is ready to repair to the full extent the damage inflicted on her. Germany therefore does not see why she should be forced to cede Prussian Moresnet and the circles of Eupen and Malmédy. It is impossible to furnish proof that these circles are inhabited by an undoubtedly non-German population. The plebiscite by means of which it is proposed to give to the population the apparent right to participate in the settlement of its own fate has therefore no basis in the agreed principles of the Peace. But according to the Draft Treaty of Peace the plebiscite will not even be decisive, but rather an appeal in which Germany would take no part and which decides arbitrarily the future of a territory even if the population expressed the wish to remain under German sovereignty. This provision is unjust in itself and in contradiction with the principle that no national aspiration should be satisfied if its satisfaction would create new discord and conflict.

The German Delegation reserves the right to express later in a special note its opinion on the provisions concerning the territorial changes in the East of Germany.

Accept [etc.]


Appendix III to CF–23

saar basin

Letter From Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau to M. Clemenceau


Sir: In my Note, dated 13th, inst.,6 on the territorial provisions of the Peace Draft relating to the West of Germany I pointed out, in the name of the German Delegation, that the guarantees which [Page 821] are required, especially for the reparation of the damages caused to the coal mines of Northern France, could best be given by economical agreements which should be discussed viva voce by the experts of both parties. It does not appear to the German Peace Delegation to be advisable that such agreements should be delayed to the extent provided for by paragraph 38 of the Annex to Articles 45 to 50 of the Conditions of Peace, i. e. till the fifteen years’ period of occupation, intended for the Saar Basin, has expired.

In connection herewith I beg to transmit to Your Excellency the enclosed draft of a proposal which has been elaborated by the experts of the German Peace Delegation, requesting You to submit the same to the experts of the Allied and Associated Governments for examination and to let us have a reply as to whether a viva voce discussion of the proposal can be taken into view.

The German Delegation would only contemplate to publish the experts’ proposal, if the Allied and Associated Governments should on their part attach value thereto.

Accept [etc.]


Proposal of the German Experts

According to article 45 of the Peace Treaty, the chief object of the measures proposed in part III, section IV, concerning the Saar Basin, is to furnish compensation for the destroyed coal-mines in the North of France and to make good in part the war-damages caused by Germany. According to article 46 the full freedom of exploitation is to be ensured by the provisions contained in chapter II of the annex.

The point at issue is therefore to satisfy and safeguard economic interests of France. In a like sense the provision of paragraph 38 of the annex could be taken, provided that the agreements therein mentioned between France and Germany are to be understood as being of an economic nature.

We are of opinion that this end could be attained by other measures than those mentioned above, namely by such as are conducive to an adjustment of the interests of both part[ie]s. We therefore propose the following:

1) Having in view the necessity of adequately supplying France with coal, it does not seem advisable to treat the question of the Saar territory without having regard to the coal supplies to France and some of her Allies, provided for in part VIII, Annex 5. In order to meet the interests in question as completely as possible the following questions must be answered:

Which quantities of the different kinds of coal are required to meet the total inland demand in France and Belgium?
Which quantities of coal are to be supplied to the different regions, in particular of France?

We are prepared immediately to ascertain to what extent we are capable of supplying the required quantities and for this purpose to draw up a plan of delivery. In so doing regard will have to be taken to the necessity of providing for increased transport by sea in view of the long expanse of time over which the obligation to deliver coal is extended.

It would be necessary to fix the details of delivery in viva voce negotiations between the experts of the Powers interested.

2) As to reparation of the war damages suffered by the coal-mines we propose the following: the concerns damaged in Northern France to be participated [to participate] by shares to an extent agreed upon in such German coal-mines as are charged with the delivery of coal to the regions mentioned.

The details of this transaction to be settled mutually by the German and French experts.

3) The object of the measures provided for in article 49 and in chapter II of the annex to part III. section IV. concerning the Saar territory is, just as that of the occupation of the territory to the left of the Rhine and of the bridge-heads provided for in Part 14, section I., to ensure the fulfilment of the obligations, which will be undertaken by Germany.

These measures as well as the measures of control carried out and contemplated up to now by the Allied and Associated Governments, measures which mean a restriction or cancellation of the liberty of German economic life would, apart from the heavy political danger, moreover paralyse the productive capacity of Germany, the entire maintenance of which is of the utmost importance also for her neighbours. In lieu of these measures we are ready to propose a system of guaranties of economic nature, perfectly on a par with the former. As far as supplies of coal enter into account we allow ourselves to be guided by the following principles:

The desired guaranties for regularity of production and of delivery may be given in the following way:

By the participation of French concerns (mentioned sub voce 2) which is to be realised to an extent insuring to them a considerable influence upon the administration of the German concerns in question;
By the grant of a right of precedence as to the surplus of the entire German output in coal over and above the home-requirements. Should this surplus not suffice for the discharge of the quantities of supply agreed upon, the consumption of coal from Germany, France and Belgium will be rationed in due proportion; for the purpose of superintending the putting into execution of the above mentioned measure a committee consisting of representatives of Germany, France and Belgium is to be established. This agreement would likewise have to take into account the interests of Italy.

[Page 823]

Appendix IV to CF–23

Draft Reply to the Letter of Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, Dated May 13, 1919, Relative to the Regime of the Basin of the Saar

I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of May 13th, 1919.7

The Allied and Associated Governments formally deny that any of the provisions alluded to in that letter have the effect of transferring people “from one sovereignty to another” as though they were mere chattels or pawns in a game. Public opinion will in fact be consulted in the case of all parties in question. The situation on the spot has in each case been kept in view in settling the methods by which this will be done.

As regards the Basin of the Saar, in particular, the Allied and Associated Governments, while maintaining their point of view have the honour to observe that:

The Reparation constituted by the cession of the mines is not only a special reparation limited to coal, but forms part of the general reparation due by Germany for the systematic destruction which she has wrought; Article 45 of the Treaty clearly lays this down.
The Allied and Associated Governments deny that the population of this Basin is purely German. It is on account of the mixed character of this population that special provisions have been made. The plebiscite which is to take place after 15 years will make possible an impartial judgment, not one favouring France or Germany, but one favouring the interests of the population as freely judged by it.
It is completely untrue that the change of Government would place the Basin of the Saar under the authority of France. The “dominations” called “odious” in your letter, of the 13th May is the administration of the League of Nations.
The Treaty secures to the inhabitants the maintenance of all their present safeguards and liberties; and moreover, as regards fiscal and social questions, provides for a number of special advantages.
There is no confusion in the Treaty between the commercial contracts of which coal from the Ruhr will be the object (Annex V, Part VIII) and the cession of the mines of the Saar. The two questions are essentially distinct, as stated above in para. 1.
Para. 38 of the Annex relating to the Basin of the Saar expressly reserves the possibility of a direct arrangement between France and Germany at the end of the fifteenth year. The fears which you express on the subject of the possible consequences of paras. 36 and 37 are not, therefore, justified in fact. If, on one hand, the direct agreement authorised by para. 38 came to nothing, and if, on the other hand, as you fear, the Commission on Reparations forbade the payment in gold provided for in para. 36, it would then be the duty of the League of Nations to consider the consequences resulting from that refusal both for Germany and for the population of the [Page 824] region under consideration—on condition, of course, that the provisions of para. 37 were carried out.

As regards the cession of territory allowed to Belgium, perfect liberty is secured for popular opinion to express itself within six months in the case of the circles of Malmedy and Eupen. The only exception made relates to the part of the territory of Prussian Mo-resnet, which lies to the West of the road from Liege to Aix-la-Chapelle the population of which is under 500 and the woods of which have been transferred to Belgium as partial reparation for the destruction of forests wrought by Germany on Belgian territory.

As regards Slesvig, the Peace Conference took cognisance of the question at the request of the Danish Government and of the population.

Accept, etc.

Unanimously adopted on May 15th by the Committee composed of:—

Dr. S. E. Mezes (United States of America)
Sir Eyre Crowe (British Empire)
M. André Tardieu (France)
Marquis della Torretta (Italy)
M. H. Ijuin. (Japan)

Appendix V to CF–23

Draft Answer to the Letter of Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, Dated May 16, 1919

M. 172

I have the honour to acknowledge Your Excellency’s letter of 16th May,8 enclosing a memorandum from German Experts which makes a proposal with respect to supplying France with coal other than by the transfer of the mines of the Saar.

The Allied and Associated Governments maintain their letter of . . . . . in answer to your letter of . . . . .

The proposal of the German Experts rightly notes that the transfer to France of the coal mines of the Saar Basin is to be made “as compensation for the destruction of the coal mines in the north of France and as part payment towards the total reparation due by Germany for the damage resulting from the war.” It does not, however, keep these ends clearly in view in the alternative arrangements which it proposes and which it seeks to assimilate to the right of option on the purchase of certain amounts of German coal, provided for in Part VII, Annex V, which is a quite distinct matter.

[Page 825]

Any such arrangement as proposed for the supplying of a quantity of coal other than the amounts provided in Part VIII, Annex V, inevitably involves a still greater degree of uncertainty than contemplated at the end of Clause 2 of that Annex. No possible arrangement of this sort could give France the security and the certainty which she would receive from the full ownership and free exploitation of the mines of the Saar.

Similarly, the proposed handing over of shares in German coal mines, situated in German territory and subject to German exploitation, would be of doubtful value to French holders. The full and immediate transfer to France of mines adjacent to the French frontier, with proper credit upon the reparation account due from Germany, constitutes a more prompt, secure and businesslike settlement of the matter of compensation for the destruction of French coal mines, while at the same time it makes full use of those mines as a means of payment on the general account of reparation.

The object of the measures provided for in Article 49 and in Chapter II of the Annex to Part III, Section IV, to which the note of the German experts refers, is stated in Article 46, namely “to assure the rights and welfare of the population and to guarantee to France complete freedom in working the mines”. These measures are quite independent of the occupation provided in Part XIV, Section I.

With regard to Paragraph 38 of the Annex to the Treaty, relating to the Saar, it has already been said and it is hereby confirmed that this paragraph only applies to the particular eventual agreements to intervene between France and Germany, as to the re-purchase of the rights of property of France in case the League of Nations, after a plebiscite, should decide in fifteen years the union to Germany of all or part of the territory of the Saar Basin.

The resort to the procedure provided for by the said paragraph is therefore at present out of the question.

As for the quality of the coal and to the places of delivery, it is, as has already been said a question distinct from that of the Saar and settled by Part VIII of the Treaty.

Your economic propositions are therefore in the opinion of the Allied and Associated Governments inoperating. They provide none of the necessary guarantees mentioned in Articles 45–46–47. Finally, in a general way the Allied and Associated Governments state that the particular form of reparation was chosen, as it was felt that the destructions of the mines in the North of France was an act of such a nature that a definite and striking retribution should be exacted, different from the mere provisions of a specified or unspecified amount of coal.

  1. See appendix to CF–24, p. 827.
  2. See appendix I to CF–22A, p. 802.
  3. See appendix IV to CF–20, p. 749.
  4. Translation from the French supplied by the editors.
  5. Appendix to CF–8, p. 564.
  6. Appendix II, supra.
  7. Appendix II, p. 817.
  8. Appendix III, p. 820.