Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/49½


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Friday, June 6, 1919, at 11 a.m.

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

1. M. Clemenceau said he had arranged to send General Hallier to Carinthia. He asked what his mission would be.

President Wilson said merely to be present when the Armistice was patched up between the Austrians and the Jugoslavs. Carinthia: Armistice

2. M. Clemenceau handed to Sir Maurice Hankey the first part of a reply from Admiral Koltchak, to be translated and circulated. Russian Policy: Koltchak’s Answer

3. President Wilson said he had received a letter from M. Orlando, in the sense that, in the course of his conversation with the President, M. Orlando had assumed that M. Tardieu’s proposal did not exclude Italy from advising what frontiers it considered to be advisable and fair for the new State of Fiume to have. This, of course, was an impossible proposal. He himself had understood M. Orlando to say that he assumed that the map did not show the final drawing of the frontier in detail and had thought he only referred to the establishment of the details of the boundaries by the Boundary Commission, or some body of that kind. He had never thought he had alluded to serious changes in the boundaries. This showed the inconvenience of having to work through an interpreter. Earlier in the discussions when his colleagues of the American Delegation had met the Jugo-Slavs to put the Tardieu proposal to them, M. Orlando had come and said that it would ease the situation if Fiume were made an independent city. President Wilson had replied that in that case there was no object in having a Free State. M. Orlando’s only argument had been that it would make it easier with public opinion in Italy. He only mentioned this to show that at [Page 211] present there was apparently nothing fixed in M. Orlando’s mind, which was quite fluid on the subject. Italian Claims

President Wilson then produced a map1 showing the Jugo-Slav counter-proposals to the Tardieu scheme, which are described in the attached memorandum (Appendix I).

He said that this proposal by the Jugo-Slavs was in line with the other settlements made in the Treaty of Peace, whereas the Italian proposals were not. M. Orlando, he continued, in the course of subsequent conversation, insisted that the junction of Assling must go to Italy. He then produced an Italian ethnographical map prepared by the Italian expert Marinelli(?) before the war. According to this map the Southern portion of Cherso and one spot on the island of Veglia were Italian. The island of Lussin was entirely Italian. This was a non-partisan map, prepared before the present war. He personally was of opinion that the Jugo-Slav proposal seemed fair. He had been much impressed on the previous day of a Slovene Delegation that had come to see him on the subject of Klagenfurt. They had pointed out that in former days, in spite of the oppression of Austrian rule, nevertheless the Slovene population had succeeded in maintaining itself as a unit. Now it was to be divided relatively into small pieces. Those Slovenes who lived on the western side of the Italian Alps were coming under Italian rule. This they had realised was unavoidable. Then an additional number in the Tarvis region were placed under Italian rule. Further to the north a pocket of Slovenes was placed under Austrian rule. And now they said it was to be debated as to whether Klagenfurt was to be under Austrian rule. He had explained what was proposed about Klagenfurt, and thought they were satisfied on that point. Nevertheless, he had been touched by their humility. Their attitude made him feel that the liberation of the Jugo-Slavs must be a real liberation. What Italy really cared for was not the islands but only Fiume.

Mr. Lloyd George thought that the Adriatic coast was of real military importance to Italy. During the war they had only been able to run the railway along the eastern coast of Italy for military purposes, and with the risks that soldiers always had to run. Civilian traffic had practically been brought to a standstill, because the Austrian Navy, though inferior to the Italian, was able to send fast vessels across to make raids on the coast.

President Wilson said the Italians were not afraid of the Jugo-Slav fleet. What they were afraid of was that Jugo-Slavia might form an alliance with a Naval Power. The only possible Naval Powers were France and Great Britain.

[Page 212]

Mr. Lloyd George said there was one Power which was constantly overlooked in this Conference, namely, Russia. At the moment it had gone to pieces but in five years who could tell what it would be.

President Wilson suggested that Russia would be bottled up, owing to the fact that some other Power would hold the straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles.

Mr. Lloyd George said that France was most afraid of the Teuton, but his view was that the Teuton was largely done for. The nation he feared was the Slav, which was an incalculable factor, capable of following the instructions of a dictator or becoming Bolshevik. If some powerful, capable, ambitious man arose in Russia the Slav race might become a great danger. Moreover, there was a very close feeling between Russia and the Southern Slavs. Serbia had always been treated as a younger brother by Russia. If he were Italian he would feel much happier if the islands in the Adriatic were not Slav. He thought this was a factor that ought to be taken into account.

President Wilson agreed that all arguments ought to be taken into account. The Slavs, however, had nowhere shown the organisation that made the Teuton so dangerous. The German had been the best trained instrument that the world had ever seen for carrying out German policy. Behind it all was a full generation of thorough education. Russia could not get that for years and years. He himself had been trained with people who had had their training in Germany. They had re-visited Germany and had been horrified. They had found that the old intellectual freedom of the German University was gone. There had been a systematic direction of the whole education of the country, down to the primary schools always inculcating and promoting the policy which was aimed at. They had even gone to the length of teaching false facts in the schools. If Russia were ever to get an educational system comparable to that of Germany and should impregnate the whole country as Germany had done with Slav ambitions, she might become very dangerous. At present, however, Russia was entirely illiterate.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that Napoleon, with an illiterate population had marched to every capital in Europe.

President Wilson said also that a great industrial development was necessary for the creation of a native-built fleet. We knew that Russia could not place orders for any great naval development in Western countries. The United States had had a great development of mercantile ship-building during the war, and was full up with orders for years to come. Russia was not developed as a shipbuilding country, and the development could not take place within a generation. The central fact was that the population of mujiks was so [Page 213] ignorant that communications to it could only be made by word of mouth. The United States had sent out Y. M. C. A. men as propagandists, the only effective means of propaganda being pictures and conversations through interpreters. He thought it would be necessary to watch the development of the Russian people very carefully. But it would be a mistake to assume this possible development as the basis of the present treaty, and this would only cause exasperation with the Slavs.

Mr. Lloyd George said he was satisfied that the transfer of the islands contemplated in the Treaty of London to Italy would not involve the transfer of any large population. The only danger to Italy was that these islands and ports might become nests for submarines. Russia was not in the League of Nations, and there was no control over her. He recalled that twice within modern times Great Britain had been in danger of war with Russia, first in Lord Beaconsfield’s time—but, of course, he was very Turcophile—and later when Gladstone was Prime Minister. In spite of the fact that Mr. Gladstone was very pro-Russian, the Penjdeh incident had almost brought on war, and Mr. Gladstone had had to go to the House of Commons for a vote of credit. This showed the danger of Russia, when in the hands of dangerous bureaucrats. Now new great Slav States were being created, and Russia might eventually dominate 160 millions of people. If Koltchak got to Moscow this year, the situation might even begin to develop. The Teutons had at best 70,000,000. He hoped that the danger which M. Clemenceau had mentioned on the previous day would not be under-estimated, namely that the organising ability of the Teutons would be brought to re-organise Russia. Nothing in the Treaty could stop this. In Germany there were hundreds of thousands of men trained for war and nothing else, for whom in the collapse of German industry it would be difficult to find anything to do. These people would seek employment in Russia and with the Teutonic gift of organisation behind her Russia might become very formidable. This was why Italy had reason to apprehend the proximity of great Slav States. Bigger things than these Islands were being given away.

President Wilson said not for strategic reasons. Even in the case of the Alps the reason was not strategic. A great barrier like the Alps forced a certain economic unity. He recalled that the Council had spent hours in arguments in favour of giving the Rhine as a frontier of France, and from the strategic point of view the various arguments of Marshal Foch were unanswerable, but at one time he recalled that M. Clemenceau had wanted to create a buffer state for strategic reasons between Germany and France. But when he came to view the whole situation after talking it over with [Page 214] his colleagues M. Clemenceau had agreed that this would not be consistent with the principles on which peace was being made. When in this much more important case to France, strategic principles had been cast aside, how could the principles be applied in a different way now?

Mr. Lloyd George said that it only involved a very small transfer of population. In reply to M. Clemenceau he said he was in favour of the Tardieu proposal. This got over a difficulty in which France and Great Britain were as regards the Treaty of London.

President Wilson said that the moment M. Orlando refused to give Fiume to the Jugo-Slavs, they were free of the Treaty of London. He said that the Jugo-Slavs urged that if strategical considerations applied for Italy, they applied equally for Jugo-Slavia.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that they did not apply to the same extent. In the present war a possibility had been carefully studied of entering Austria from the Adriatic, but it had not been found possible to do so, even from Ragusa where there was some sort of a railway. The country was too steep and difficult.

President Wilson pointed out that if the Italians were given the Island of Cherso, the Jugo-Slavs contended that it would bottle up Fiume. The Italian commercial interests of Trieste were determined to stifle Fiume and that was the basis of the argument for the Assling Junction.

Mr. Lloyd George urged the importance of a settlement, as M. Orlando had to go back to Italy next week. If some settlement could not be reached it was doubtful if he could remain in office.

M. Clemenceau asked if any figures were available as to the population of the Islands.

President Wilson produced a map which gave the population of Cherso as, Italian 2,200; Jugo-Slav 5816. As regards Sebenico the town contained 858 Italians and 9031 Jugo-Slavs, while the judicial district contained 873 Italians and 36,177 Jugo-Slavs.

M. Clemenceau said he was willing to give Zara to the Islands [Italians], but he would object to Sebenico. He thought if this plan were adopted both sides would be satisfied. Sebenico should, of course, go to the Slavs.

President Wilson suggested that Sebenico should be Slav and that Zara should be a free city represented in its foreign relations by Italy. The Italians spoke vaguely of a hinterland for Zara.

Mr. Lloyd George said he would not give any hinterland.

M. Clemenceau said he would not either.

President Wilson urged the importance of insisting on free and un discriminating access by railway to the port of Fiume on the same terms for all the countries concerned. He was afraid attempts might be made to colonise the state of Fiume with other nations.

[Page 215]

Mr. Lloyd George said that the Jugo-Slav population said that this would be impossible.

President Wilson said that the Italians were insisting on what was called the corpus separatum for the town of Fiume. As far as he could learn the Italian majority in Fiume was not an influencial majority. The Italians consisted of small shopkeepers, and the rank and file of the population, whilst the big interests, including the bank and shipping interests were Jugo-Slav. M. Trumbitch had given him information to this effect, which was confirmed from independent sources.

Mr. Lloyd George urged that it was important not to cripple the development of the new state. If the result of the creation of the new state was a great increase in business, the Italians might refuse to carry out the necessary technical works, such as the provision of wharfs and cranes.

President Wilson said the most important thing was to lengthen the existing mole. It already ran out into 100 feet of water, and consequently it was a big work to extend it.

Mr. Lloyd George said this showed Fiume was a bad port. Buccari seemed more promising, and he thought the Jugo-Slavs could probably make a port there.

President Wilson said the difficulty there was that the mountains were so steep that the terminus of the railway would actually have to be hewn out of the rock. It was a choice between the construction of the very difficult breakwaters of Fiume and elaborate tunnels and railway works at Buccari.

(President Wilson undertook to draft iu general terms proposals based on the discussion of that morning which he would communicate to Experts to formulate in more precise terms. His proposals would include the creation of a free state in Fiume commencing in the north from the point where the line of the Treaty of London joined the American line, and extending the Tardieu line so as to include the islands of Cherso as well as Veglia.)

[4.] Mr. Lloyd George read a telegram from the British High Commissioner at Constantinople, of which a paraphrase is attached (Appendix II). This telegram pointed out that the French High Commissioner when communicating, as instructed by M. Clemenceau, on behalf of the Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, their acceptance of the Grand Vizier’s proposal to come to Paris, conveyed the impression that this was done as a result of his own representations and those of the French Government. And further, that it had been followed up by a special message from the President of the Republic to the Crown Prince of Turkey forwarded by M. Pichon conveying the same impression. Turkey: Visit of the Grand Vizier

[Page 216]

M. Clemenceau recalled his own share in the transaction. He was first told that the Turks wished to come to Paris. He had given instructions that the French High Commissioner was to be instructed not to discourage them. Then he brought the Despatch to the Council and Mr. Lloyd George had drafted an answer which had been agreed to.

M. Pichon had sounded him as to whether he should take the attitude that the French were in favour of it. He had told M. Pichon that no special advantage was to be taken of this by France. He asked Sir Maurice Hankey to give him a paraphrase of the telegram, and he undertook to enquire into the matter.

(The Meeting then adjourned.)

Appendix I to CF–49A

To: The President.

From: Douglas Johnson.2

re: Adriatic problem.

In a conversation held Monday afternoon, June 2nd, Mr. Trumbic3 informed me:

That he would renounce his claim to have portions of central Istria, and part of the Pola-Trieste railway, included in the proposed free state, and would accept the “American line” as the western boundary of that state. Under no condition would he consent to having the island of Cherso and the districts of Volosca and Albona, east of that line, excluded from the free state.
That he would insist on having Susak excluded from the free state; and that only in the last extremity, in case it alone formed a stumbling block to a solution, could he recede from his position that Veglia should be excluded from the free state. This for the reason that in the possible event that the free state voted for annexation to Italy, Jugo-Slavia must have at least the remnant of a port at Susak and protection in Veglia for an exit from that port for coastwise trade.
That Zara and Sebenico would be given the fullest measure of autonomy desired, under Jugo-Slav sovereignty. But under no condition could he admit Italian sovereignty over either state.
That he would accept either of the following solutions for the islands:
Place all the islands claimed by Italy in the last compromise proposition (i. e. those marked pink)4 excepting Cherso, under the League of Nations, with provision for a plebiscite at the expiration of a reasonable period,—preferably three years, and not over five years,—the group to vote as a whole and not by islands separately.
Place the Lussin group and the Lissa group under the League of Nations without reserve, to be disposed of by the League of Nations when and how it deems wise and just.

Appendix II to CF–49A

Telegram From the British High Commissioner at Constantinople to His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

I only received on June 3rd in the evening your telegram of the previous day, whereas my French colleague appears to have received the corresponding telegram addressed to him as early as June 1st.

As I have already reported, he communicated its contents at once. This he did personally and alone to the Grand Vizier. Later on, he published in the Press a statement to the effect that the steps which he had taken had been the cause of permission being granted. He insisted on doing this in spite of my protests. His organ in the Press, commenting on his communication to the Grand Vizier, expressed pride that, at the time of Turkey’s greatest misfortune, it should be France who had extended a helping hand towards her. The Paper observed that it had often emphasised the community of interests between Turkey and France and their ancient relations of friendship, and affirmed that France had never failed to manifest generous sentiments towards Turkey. It bade Turkey to be of good cheer, since France was incapable of betraying her high traditions.

The newspapers this morning, moreover, publish the reply of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs to a telegram addressed by the Turkish Crown Prince to the President of the French Republic, in which Turkey’s friendship for France is asserted. In his message Mr. Pichon instructs my colleague to thank the Crown Prince for his telegram and to assure His Imperial Highness that France will neglect nothing which can further Turkey’s interests and that she will be true to her traditions.

This message shows that the French Government itself, and not merely its representatives here, has left its place on the united front [Page 218] which the Powers have hitherto presented to Turkey, and has inaugurated a return to the old system of frantic competition for Turkish favours, whereas, till the Supreme Allied Council at Paris has pronounced its verdict, that front should undoubtedly be maintained intact. I therefore regard Mr. Pichon’s message as a step of utmost gravity and one profoundly regrettable from every point of view.

My French colleague has, moreover, mobilised all the agents, and is employing all the means, at his disposal to start on these lines a campaign of propaganda which he is no longer at any pains to conceal.

  1. No map accompanies the minutes.
  2. Maj. Douglas W. Johnson, specialist on boundary geography, Division of Territorial, Economic, and Political Intelligence, American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
  3. Ante Trumbic, Jugoslav Minister for Foreign Affairs; plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference.
  4. No map accompanies the minutes.