Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/32


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Monday, May 26, 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.
    • Italy
      • H. B. M. Orlando.
Sir Maurice Hankey, K.C.B. } Secretarties
Count Aldrovandi.
Prof. P. J. Mantoux—Interpreter.

1. The Council had before them a letter addressed to Colonel House by Lord Robert Cecil, dated 24th May, on the subject of Aerial Navigation. (Appendix I.) In this letter, Lord Robert Cecil asked for certain amendments to the Covenant of the Nations which should be considered as drafting changes. Alteration in Covenant of League of Nations: Aerial Navigation

President Wilson expressed the view that these might be regarded as drafting alterations.

(It was agreed:—

That the Drafting Committee should be instructed to make the following amendments to the Covenant of the League of Nations:—

Art. I, Para. 2, last line. } for “military and naval” substitute “military, naval and air.”
Art. VIII, last para, last line.
Art. IX, last line.
Art. XVI, Para. 2, 3rd line, for “military or Naval” substitute “military, naval or air.”

Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to prepare an instruction to the Drafting Committee for the initials of the Four Heads of Governments.)

2. With reference to C. F. 30, Minutes 2 & 3,1 the attached errata to the Treaty of Peace with Germany (Appendix II) were initialled by the Four Heads of Governments. Errata in Economic clauses of German Treaty

(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to communicate them to the Secretary-General for the information of the Drafting Committee.)

[Page 26]

3. With reference to C. F. 31, Minute 1,2 Sir Maurice Hankey stated that the Japanese Delegation had agreed to the draft despatch to Admiral Koltchak (Appendix III), subject to two very small amendments, namely, in paragraph 2 instead of the words “they are now being pressed to withdraw etc.,” was substituted the following: “some of the Allied and Associated Governments are now being pressed to withdraw etc.,” and paragraph 4 instead of the words “the last year” was substituted “the last 12 months.” Russia: Policy of Allied & Associated Powers

(These alterations were approved and the letter was signed by the Four Heads of States. The letter was then taken by Mr. Philip Kerr to the Japanese Embassy, where it was signed by the Marquis Saionji. Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to communicate the letter to the Secretary-General with instructions to dispatch it, in the name of the Conference to Admiral Koltchak.

Note. The Marquis Saionji, when appending his signature, particularly asked that the letter should not be published until a reply was received. Sir Maurice Hankey made a communication in this sense to the Secretary-General.)

4. The general clauses, namely, Articles 47 to 50 of the military, naval and air clauses for inclusion in the Austrian Treaty, which had previously been initialled by the other three Heads of Governments, were initialled by M. Orlando, withdrew his previous objections. General Clauses of the Military, Naval & Air Terms With Austria

(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to forward them to the Secretary-General, for the information of the Drafting Committee.)

5. The letter from the Austrian Delegation at St. Germain contained in Appendix IV was read.

Mr. Lloyd George said he thought a different procedure ought to be adopted with Austria from that adopted with Germany. The two cases were not really comparable. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had broken up, one half was friendly, and the other half, consisting of Austria and Hungary, he believed at any rate was not unfriendly. They were not in the same category as Prussia. Consequently, would it not be worth while, he asked, to give a different reply to what had been given to Germany? In his view, the question of compensation and the question of the military terms could not be ready for some time, perhaps 9 or 10 days. But a good many parts of the Treaty were ready, for example, the boundaries with Austria and with Hungary. Letter From Austrian Delegation

President Wilson said that the southern boundary of Austria was not yet ready.

Mr. Lloyd George said it could be settled in a very short time. Ports, Waterways and Railways were ready, as were the Economic [Page 27] Clauses. He suggested that these should be handed to the Austrians, but that the question of reparation and the military clauses should be reserved and that the experts of the Allied and Associated Powers should be asked to meet the Austrian experts in regard to these. He did not mean that the Council of Four itself should meet the Austrians, but that our experts should meet their experts in regard to compensation and the military terms, which they should discuss with them on general lines.

M. Clemenceau said that the experts would require very precise instructions.

President Wilson said that we knew exactly what the experts thought on the subject. He then read a weekly list of outstanding subjects which had been prepared by Sir Maurice Hankey. He noted Sir Maurice Hankey’s statement that no communication had been made to the Drafting Committee about the boundaries between Italy and Austria.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that these should be settled today.

President Wilson said that, according to his recollection, there had been a general understanding that Austria should be treated somewhat differently from Germany. Consequently, he agreed with Mr. Lloyd George’s proposal to get the experts together.

M. Orlando asked if it would not be possible to have these questions roughly settled. He thought the outstanding questions could be arranged in 2 or 3 days, and then the negotiations could start. The difference of treatment to the Austrian Delegation would not be well understood in Italy, where Austria had always been regarded as the principal enemy. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had dissolved and the different States forming out of it were regarded with mixed feelings by Italy, some friendly and some otherwise. Austria, however, was regarded as the principal enemy. To adopt a different procedure would create a very painful impression in Italy. It would be felt there that the Italian contest with Austria was not taken very seriously. He agreed that in very rapid decision was necessary, but he did not see why one or two questions should not be left in suspense while proposals as to the remainder of the Peace Treaty were handed to the Austrians. To adopt a totally different procedure would create a very bad impression in Italy without any useful result. [If] In 3 or 4 days, a sufficient portion of the Treaty could be assembled and handed to the Austrians, so as not to give an impression of a piecemeal presentation, he would not object.

Mr. Lloyd George said that Italy must really understand the fact that the peace of Austria was entirely different from that of Germany. Supposing Bavaria and Saxony had broken off from Prussia before the war came to an end and had perhaps even fought against Prussia, it would have been impossible for the Allies to take the line [Page 28] they had. For one thing, there would have been no representatives of the German Empire to meet. Consequently, a different line must be pursued and he could not see why Italy should not agree to a different procedure. He doubted if either the question of the military terms or the compensation could be settled in 3 or 4 days. If so, the settlement would be a bad one.

M. Clemenceau said that he was ready to make every effort to meet M. Orlando, because he had learned from experience that, when the Allies were not in agreement with Italy, the immediate result was anti-French and sometimes even pro-German demonstrations in Italy that were extraordinarily disagreeable. He wanted, above all things, to avoid any differences with Italy. When, however, M. Orlando suggested that it had been agreed to adopt the same procedure for Austria as that for Germany, this was not the fact. M. Orlando had not been present when the decision had been taken, for reasons over which his colleagues had no control. It was in his absence that the new procedure had been agreed on. All he sought was a reasonable agreement in a reasonable way. The Austrian Peace was very different from, and, in many respects, much harder to arrive at, than the German, for the reason that the country had fallen to pieces, raising all sorts of questions of boundaries and there were conflicts arising on the Polish front and elsewhere in the late Austro-Hungarian Empire. In Istria, he learned that trenches and barbed wire were being put up by both sides. President Wilson had come to Europe with a programme of peace for all men. His ideal was a very high one, but it involved great difficulties, owing to these century old hatreds between some races. We had in Central Europe to give each what was his due not only between them, but even between ourselves. For example, to take the question of disarmaments. M. Orlando had been good enough to visit him on the previous day to discuss the question of Dalmatia; but the Yugo-Slavs would not agree to disarm themselves while Italy adopted her present attitude. He, himself, was not in a position to oppose Italy in this matter, because France had put her signature to the Treaty of 1915,3 but it was not a question that could be decided in two or three days. Referring again to M. Orlando’s visit, he said the principal subject for discussion had been the anti-French manifestations in Italy. M. Orlando said that there was an improvement, but since then he had received two despatches from M. Barrère,4 which indicated the situation to be worse. There was a pronounced pro-German propaganda in Italy, where [Page 29] enormous sums were being expended by Germany. All this ought to be stopped and there was only one way to stop it. It was necessary to have the courage to tackle and solve the most difficult questions as soon as possible. It was not at all easy to do so and could only be done if M. Orlando would take the standpoint that he must preserve the Entente with his Allies. He recalled that, in the previous weeks, he had a serious disagreement with Mr. Lloyd George on the question of Syria when both had spoken very frankly. Nevertheless, both had concluded by saying that they would not allow their differences to upset the Entente. The same was not said in certain quarters in Italy. Hence, he maintained that these questions could not be settled in three days. Consequently, it was impossible to meet the Austrians with a complete Treaty as had been done in the case of the Germans. If M. Orlando would agree, he thought a start might be made by getting discussions between the experts, which would gain time. It was very hard to settle all these extraordinarily difficult questions rapidly. President Wilson adhered to his principles as applicable to the Austrian Treaty. France and Great Britain admitted the principles, but also did not deny that they were bound by their signature of the Treaty of 1915. If M. Orlando wanted a settlement, he must discuss it with the supreme desire to maintain the Entente and meanwhile a plan must be found to keep the Austrian Delegation quiet. We should tell them that the Treaty was not ready, but that it would be useful to have certain discussions with their experts. He did not want to embarrass M. Orlando in Italy and if this would be the result, he would withdraw every word he had said, but he was very anxious that the Austrian Delegates should not return to Vienna.

M. Orlando thanked M. Clemenceau most sincerely for what he had said, which was absolutely frank and clear. He did not wish to refer in detail to the troubles in Italy. The impressions he had received from Italy differed from M. Barrère’s reports, which, according to his own account, were exaggerated. Nevertheless, he did not deny that the situation in Italy was extraordinarily grave. It could be excused and justified if it was recalled how Mr. Lloyd George before his visit to London had informed his colleagues that if he had to return to England without being able to show a considerable step towards peace, the position would be very serious. It was exactly the same now in regard to Italy. The trouble there arose from uncertainty. Once the Italian claims were settled, it would be found that Italy was as sincerely loyal to the cause of the Entente as before. He was absolutely sure that the present disquieting phenomena in Italy were due to anxiety and uncertainty. Like M. Clemenceau, he, himself, had decided to remain always with the Entente and to run all the personal risks involved. He felt he [Page 30] could not be accused of adopting too uncompromising a spirit. He had always made every effort to reach an agreement, including the recent conversations with Colonel House and Mr. Miller,5 where he had discussed proposals involving very grievous renunciations by Italy. He thanked M. Clemenceau for his courageous words in favour of tackling the main problems, difficult and complex as they were. But, having regard to the excitement of public opinion, he asked why this should be still further excited by questions of procedure. In the present exciting state of affairs and in view of the exasperation in Italy, if questions of procedure were added, an irritation would be caused which would produce an effect contrary to what was desired. This was his only reason for anxiety.

President Wilson asked whether M. Orlando in his remarks had not really suggested the way out. He had suggested to say to the Austrians that by Wednesday or Thursday all matters would be laid before them which could be settled directly, but that some questions that could not be settled directly would be reserved.

M. Orlando said that President Wilson had correctly interpreted his views and he would accept his suggestions.

Mr. Lloyd George said it only remained to divide the Treaty of Peace into two categories.

President Wilson said he had assumed that the only reserved questions would be the military terms and reparation.

Sir Maurice Hankey said that Mr. Headlam-Morley had come to him that morning and had told him that the Economic Clauses were based on the assumption that Austria was to be a continuation of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, but that the Financial Clauses were drawn on the assumption that Austria was a new state. He had urged that the whole Treaty of Peace wanted examination from this point of view.

Mr. Lloyd George questioned whether Mr. Headlam-Morley’s description of the Economic Clauses was correct.

(It was agreed:—

That the Treaty of Peace should be handed to the Austrians in the course of the present week, but that the military terms and reparation clauses should be reserved for discussion with Austrian experts.

Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to draft a reply to the Austrian Delegation to give effect to this decision.)

6. President Wilson drew attention to a copy of a letter he had [Page 31] received, which had been addressed by the Secretary-General to Mr. Barnes in regard to the participation of Germany in the new Organisation contemplated for Labour. From this letter he read the following extract:— Labour Organisstion. Admission of German Representatives

“Consequently, I would be grateful to you for informing the Washington Conference that Germany will be admitted after the closing of the Conference, and under conditions expressed in the letter of May 15th of the Labour Commission.”5a

This letter, President Wilson pointed out, did not carry out the decision of the Council, which had merely consisted in a recommendation to the Labour Conference at Washington that Germany should be admitted, but had left the final decision to the Conference.

(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to call the attention of the Secretary-General to this error.)

7. A letter was read from Marshal Foch somewhat in the Allowing sense:— Action in the Eyent of the Germans Refusing To Sign

At the Meeting of the 19th inst. the Council communicated to the Marshal a decision that after May 27th the Army under his command should be ready to advance, in the event of the German reply calling for immediate action. He was instructed to make his dispositions so that the advance might be in the best possible conditions. This implied the following:—

Administrative measures to ensure that the effectives were completed, by bringing back personnel on leave.
Tactical movements; that is to say, concentration of all the necessary forces.
Not to keep the troops waiting too long in expectation of movements; that is to say, it was desirable to take the last measures as late as possible, and not more than three days before they should be executed.

He recalled that he had been instructed to delay until May 30 the final measures so far as the French Army was concerned. Tactical measures, however, must begin on May 27th, hence it was necessary that he should receive orders before 4 p.m. today, so that he could either give a counter order or confirm his previous orders. Consequently, he asked to have May 30th confirmed as the date on which he was to resume his march, or otherwise.

President Wilson suggested the reply should be that three days’ notice would be given to Marshal Foch as soon as the Council knew if action was necessary.

Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau agreed.

(M. Clemenceau undertook to instruct Marshal Foch accordingly.)

[Page 32]

8. M. Clemenceau said he had received a letter from Dr. Benes, who wanted to be heard on the Military and Financial questions. Austrian Treaty; Military and Financial Questions. Application From Dr. Benes To Be Heard

(It was agreed that Dr. Benes should be heard, and Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to draft a reply.)

9. M. Clemenceau handed Sir Maurice Hankey a Note prepared for the Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers by the Council of Foreign Ministers, dealing with Boundaries in the Banat. Boundaries of the Banat

(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to translate and circulate the Note.)

10. M. Clemenceau handed Sir Maurice Hankey a letter received from the Marquis Saionji, asking that in ordinary circumstances Japanese Request Japan might be represented on the Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers. Japanese Request To Be Represented on the Council of Four

(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to draft a polite reply to the effect that Japan would be invited whenever questions particularly affecting her were under consideration.)

11. M. Clemenceau read a Note from the Secretary-General, suggesting that the letter forwarded by the German Delegation on May 17th5b concerning provisions contained in Article 438 of the Conditions of Peace (Religious Missions) should be referred to the Committee appointed to deal with political questions outside Europe, composed of Messrs. Beer (America), Macleay (British Empire), de Peretti (France), della Torretta (Italy), Chinda (Japan). German Letter in Regard to Religious Missions

(This proposal was approved, and Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to notify the Secretary-General accordingly.)

12. A letter from the German Delegation, dated May 24th, on the subject of responsibility for the consequences of the war and reparation, was read. (Appendix V). Letter From the German Delegation on the Subject of Responsibility and Reparation

(It was agreed that the letter should be sent to the Commission dealing with Reparations in the Austrian Treaty, which should be asked to advise the Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers as to the nature of the reply to be sent.)

Villa Majestic, Paris, May 26, 1919.

[Page 33]

Appendix I to CF–32

[Lord Robert Cecil to Colonel E. M. House]

Dear Colonel House: The Inter-Allied Aerial Commission now sitting in Paris has almost finished its work on a Convention which lays down a body of Air regulations and which establishes an International Commission for Air Navigation. I found on reading through the draft of their Convention that they had made no reference whatever to the League of Nations. This I consider most unfortunate and I have therefore pressed General Seely, who is the chief British representative on this Aerial Commission, to persuade his colleagues to adopt the following changes, to which I attach considerable importance:

  • Art. 35. “There shall be instituted, under the name of the International Commission for Air Navigation and as part of the organisation of the League of Nations, a Permanent Commission, etc. …”
  • Art. 38. “In the case of a disagreement of two or more States relating to the interpretation of the present Convention, the question in dispute shall be determined by the Permanent Court of International Justice to be established by the League of Nations. Until the establishment of this Court, such questions shall be determined by arbitration.”

General Seely has undertaken to secure the assent of his colleagues to these changes, but would be glad to be able to say that he puts them forward by the wish of President Wilson and myself. Knowing that the President shares my view of the importance of bringing all such international bodies into close connection with the League, I have ventured to tell General Seely that I think he may use the President’s name as well as my own in support of these changes. I should be glad to hear from you that I am not mistaken in what I take to be the President’s view, and that General Seely may have authority to use his name.

In return for doing this, however, General Seely wishes me to propose again some very small amendments to the Covenant which I personally think ought to have been made before as drafting changes. They are as follows:—

Art. 1 Para 2. last line. } for “military and naval” substitute “military, naval land air”.
Art. VIII. last para, last line.
Art. IX. last line.
Art. XVI. Para 2. 3rd line, for “military or naval” substitute “military, naval or air”.

I am sure that anyone who remembers the discussions of the League of Nations Commission on the point would agree that these are [Page 34] purely drafting amendments. But they cannot now be made without a decision of the Council of Four. Would you be good enough to ask the President, if he approves of them, to put them forward, and to secure the consent of the Council of Four to their insertion?

It is a small point, but one that has a special importance in view of the present political situation in England, and I should be most grateful if the President could see his way to do what I suggest.

Yours very sincerely,

Robert Cecil

Appendix II to CF–32

Errata in Economic Clauses of German Treaty

(a) Annex to Articles 297 and 298, add at the end of paragraph 1 the words:—

“nor to such of the above-mentioned measures as have been taken by Germany or the German authorities since the 11th November, 1918, all of which measures shall be void”.

(b) Annex to Articles 297 and 298, paragraph 14. Add, after the words “rate of exchange”, the words “of interest”.

(c) Article 282.

(i) Modify No. 19 as follows:—

“Sanitary Convention of the 3rd December, 1903, and the preceding Conventions signed on the 30th January, 1892, 15th April 1893, 3rd April 1894, and the 19th March 1897”.

(ii) Insert as No. 26,

“Convention of the 12th June 1902 as to the protection of minors”.

The object of this erratum was to include items which had been omitted from the German Treaty by an oversight.

(d) Article 286. Omit the words “the agreement of the 14th April 1891 regarding the suppression of false indications of origin of goods; the agreement of 14th April 1891 concerning the international registration of trade marks”.

M–190 (Final Revise)

Appendix III to CF–32

Despatch to Admiral Koltchak

The Allied and Associated Powers feel that the time has come when it is necessary for them once more to make clear the policy they propose to pursue in regard to Russia.

[Page 35]

It has always been a cardinal axiom of the Allied and Associated Powers to avoid interference in the internal affairs of Russia. Their original intervention was made for the sole purpose of assisting those elements in Russia which wanted to continue the struggle against German autocracy and to free their country from German rule, and in order to rescue the Czecho-Slovaks from the danger of annihilation at the hands of the Bolshevik forces. Since the signature of the Armistice on November 11th, 1918, they have kept forces in various parts of Russia. Munitions and supplies have been sent to assist those associated with them at a very considerable cost. No sooner, however, did the Peace Conference assemble than they endeavoured to bring peace and order to Russia by inviting representatives of all the warring Governments within Russia to meet them in the hope that they might be able to arrange a permanent solution of Russian problems. This proposal and a later offer to relieve the distress among the suffering millions of Russia broke down through the refusal of the Soviet Government to accept the fundamental condition of suspending hostilities while negotiations or the work of relief was proceeding. Some of the Allied and Associated Governments are now being pressed to withdraw their troops and to incur no further expense in Russia on the ground that continued intervention shows no prospect of producing an early settlement. They are prepared, however, to continue their assistance on the lines laid down below, provided they are satisfied that it will really help the Russian people to liberty, self-government, and peace.

The Allied and Associated Governments now wish to declare formally that the object of the policy is to restore peace within Russia by enabling the Russian people to resume control of their own affairs through the instrumentality of a freely elected Constituent Assembly and to restore peace along its frontiers by arranging for the settlement of disputes in regard to the boundaries of the Russian state and its relations with its neighbours through the peaceful arbitration of the League of Nations.

They are convinced by their experiences of the last twelve months that it is not possible to attain these ends by dealings with the Soviet Government of Moscow. They are therefore disposed to assist the Government of Admiral Koltchak and his Associates with munitions, supplies and food, to establish themselves as the government of all Russia, provided they receive from them definite guarantees that their policy has the same objects in view as that of the Allied and Associated Powers. With this object they would ask Admiral Koltchak and his Associates whether they will agree to the following as the conditions upon which they accept continued assistance from the Allied and Associated Powers.

[Page 36]

In the first place, that, as soon as they reach Moscow they will summon a Constituent Assembly elected by a free, secret and democratic franchise as the Supreme Legislature for Russia to which the Government of Russia must be responsible, or if at that time order is not sufficiently restored they will summon the Constituent Assembly elected in 1917 to sit until such time as new elections are possible.

Secondly, that throughout the areas which they at present control they will permit free elections in the normal course for all local and legally constituted assemblies such as municipalities, Zemstvos, etc.

Thirdly, that they will countenance no attempt to revive the special privileges of any class or order in Russia. The Allied and Associated Powers have noted with satisfaction the solemn declaration made by Admiral Koltchak and his associates that they have no intention of restoring the former land system. They feel that the principles to be followed in the solution of this and other internal questions must be left to the free decision of the Russian Constituent Assembly; but they wish to be assured that those whom they are prepared to assist stand for the civil and religious liberty of all Russian citizens and will make no attempt to reintroduce the regime which the revolution has destroyed.

Fourthly, that the independence of Finland and Poland be recognised, and that in the event of the frontiers and other relations between Russia and these countries not being settled by agreement, they will be referred to the arbitration of the League of Nations.

Fifthly, that if a solution of the relations between Esthonia, Latvia. Lithuania and the Caucasian and Transcaspian territories and Russia is not speedily reached by agreement the settlement will be made in consultation and co-operation with the League of Nations, and that until such settlement is made the Government of Russia agrees to recognise these territories as autonomous and to confirm the relations which may exist between their de facto Governments and the Allied and Associated Governments.

Sixthly, that as soon as a Government for Russia has been constituted on a democratic basis, Russia should join the League of Nations and co-operate with the other members in the limitation of armaments and of military organisation throughout the world.

Finally, that they abide by the declaration made by Admiral Koltchak on November 27th, 1918. in regard to Russia’s national debts.

The Allied and Associated Powers will be glad to learn as soon as possible whether the Government of Admiral Koltchak and his associates are prepared to accept these conditions, and also whether in the event of acceptance they will undertake to form a single Government and army command as soon as the military situation makes it possible.

  • G. Clemenceau
  • D. Lloyd George
  • V. E. Orlando
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Saionji
[Page 37]

Appendix IV to CF–32


[The Austrian Chancellor (Renner) to the President of the Peace Conference (Clemenceau)]

Prot. No. 92

Mr. President: By the note from the French Mission at Vienna of May 2, the Government of the German Austrian Republic was informed that the Supreme Council of the Allied and Associated Powers had decided to invite it to present itself at St. Germain-en-Laye on Monday, May 12, to examine the peace conditions.

The Government of German Austria—after having assured itself of the consent of the National Assembly—hastened to appoint its plenipotentiaries and to organize its delegation.

Considering the extreme importance of the peace negotiations to save the country and to re-establish the material life of the nation, the Government has appealed to the collaboration of important functionaries of the state, of jurisconsults and experts in political science, as well as of representatives of the provinces, without taking account of the vital interests of the administration which brought them into power.

The Delegation arrived on May 14, at St. Germain-en-Laye.

In conformity with the invitation of the President of the Peace Congress, the full powers were submitted on the 19th to the President of the Committee on Credentials, and on the 22d the full powers of the other Powers assembled at Paris, on recognition of the fact that they were in good and due form, were submitted to the Military Mission of the French Republic at St. Germain-en-Laye.

Since that time no communication on the opening of negotiations has come to the German Austrian Delegation.

Now, the long delay in the coming of peace raises in the mind of the people of German-Austria an uneasiness all the more serious as its prolongation seems incomprehensible to the masses and must necessarily provoke all sorts of rumors and fears. Such a state of public opinion gives rise to serious apprehensions on the subject of the maintenance of peace and order in our country, notably in the great industrial centers, as well as in the contested districts, either occupied by a neighboring state or exposed to military invasion. This condition of uncertainty may offer favorable ground for an irritation of the masses, in which unhealthy ideas may ferment.

The German Austrian Delegation wishes also to add that the expenses entailed by the long stay of a large number of functionaries in a foreign country are out of proportion to our economic situation, [Page 38] which is more than precarious and which is well known to the Allied Powers.

The German Austrian Delegation therefore appeals to the courtesy of the President of the Peace Congress to request the opening of negotiations with German Austria as soon as possible.

It seems, in fact, consistent with the intentions of this High Assembly not to adjourn before reaching a decision on which depends the fate and the future of a nation now suffering in uncertainty and anguish.

Please accept, Mr. President, the assurances of my high consideration.


Appendix V to CF–32


Translation of Note From Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau [to the President of the Peace Conference (Clemenceau)]

Sir: The contents of your Excellency’s note of 20th inst.7, concerning the question of Germany’s responsibility for the consequences of the war, have shown the German Peace Delegation that the Allied and Associated Governments have completely misunderstood the sense in which the German Government and the German nation tacitly gave their assent to the note of Secretary of State Lansing of November 5th 1918.8 In order to clear up this misunderstanding the German Delegation find themselves compelled to remind the Allied and Associated Governments of the events which preceded that note.

The President of the United States of America had several times solemnly declared that the world-war should be terminated not by a Peace of Might, but by a Peace of Right, and that America had entered the war solely for this Peace of Right. For this war-aim the formula was established:

“No annexations, no contributions, no punitive damages”. On the other hand, however, the President demanded the unconditional restitution of the violated Right. The positive side of this demand found expression in the fourteen points which were laid down by President Wilson in his message of January 8th 1918.9 This message contains [Page 39] two principal claims against the German nation: firstly, the surrender of important parts of German territory in the West and in the East on the basis of national self-determination; secondly, the promise to restore the occupied territories of Belgium and the North of France. Both demands could be acceded to by German Government and the German Nation, as the principle of self-determination was concordant with the new democratic constitution of Germany, and as the territories to be restored had by Germany’s aggression, undergone the terrors of war through an act contrary to the Law of Nations, namely by the violation of Belgium’s neutrality.

The right of self-determination of the Polish nation had, as a matter of fact, already been acknowledged by the former German Government, just the same as the wrong done to Belgium.

When, therefore, in the note the Entente transmitted by Secretary of State Lansing on November 5th 1918 to the German Government, a more detailed interpretation was given of what was meant by restoration of the occupied territories, it appeared from the German point of view to be a matter of course that the duty to make compensation, established in this interpretation, could not relate to territories other than those the devastation of which had to be admitted as contrary to Right, and the restoration of which had been proclaimed as a war-aim by the leading enemy statesmen. Thus President Wilson, in his message of January 8th 1918. expressly termed the reparation of the wrong done to Belgium as the healing act without which the whole structure and validity of international law would be for ever impaired. In a like manner the English Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, in his speech held in the House of Commons on October 22nd 1917 proclaimed:10

“The first requirement always put forward by the British Government and their Allies has been the complete restoration, political, territorial and economic, of the independence of Belgium and such reparation as can be obtained for the devastation of its towns and provinces. This is no demand for war indemnity, such as that imposed on France by Germany in 1871. It is not an attempt to shift the cost of warlike operations from one belligerent to another.”

What is here said of Belgium, Germany had to acknowledge also with regard to the North of France, as the German armies had only reached the French territories by the violation of Belgium’s neutrality.

It was for this aggression that the German Government admitted Germany to be responsible: it did not admit Germany’s alleged [Page 40] responsibility for the origin of the war or for the merely incidental fact that the formal declaration of war had emanated from Germany. The importance of State Secretary Lansing’s note for Germany lay rather in the fact of the duty to make reparation not being limited to the restoration of material value, but being extended to every kind of damage suffered by the civilian population in the occupied territory, in person or in property, during the continuance of warfare, be it by land, by sea or from the air.

The German nation was certainly conscious of the one-sidedness in their being charged with the restoration of Belgium and Northern France, but being denied compensation for the territories in the East of Germany which had been invaded and devastated by the forces of Russian Tsarism, acting on a long premeditated plan. They have, however, acknowledged that the Russian aggression must, according to the formal provisions of the Law of Nations, be placed in a different category from the invasion of Belgium, and have therefore desisted from demanding compensation on their part.

If the Allied and Associated Governments should now maintain the view that compensation is due for every act contrary to the Law of Nations which has been committed during the war, the German Delegation does not dispute the correctness in principle of this standpoint; they beg, however, to point out that in such case, Germany also has a considerable damage-account to set up and that the duty to compensate incumbent on her adversaries—particularly in respect of the German civilian population, which has suffered immeasurable injury from starvation owing to the Blockade, a measure opposed to the Law of Nations—is not limited to the time when actual warfare was still being carried on from both sides, but has special effect in regard to the time when a one-sided war was being waged by the Allied and Associated Powers against a Germany which had voluntarily laid down arms. This view of the Allied and Associated Governments, at any rate, departs from the agreement which Germany had entered into before the Armistice was concluded. It raises an endless series of controversial questions on the horizon of the Peace negotiations and can only be brought to a practical solution through a system of impartial international arbitration, an arbitration as provided for in Article 13, part [para.] 2, of the Draft of the Conditions of Peace. This clause prescribes:

“Disputes as to the interpretation of a treaty, as to any question of international law, as to the existence of any fact which if established would constitute a breach of any international obligation, or as to the extent and nature of the reparation to be made for any such breach, are declared to be among those which are generally suitable for submission to arbitration.”

[Page 41]

Your Excellency has further pointed out in your note of the 20th instant that according to the principle of international law no nation could, through an alteration of its political form of government or through a change in the persons of its leaders, cancel an obligation once incurred by its government. The German Peace Delegation is far from contesting the correctness of this principle; they also do not protest against the execution of the agreement introduced by the former government in their proposal of October 5th 1918,11 but they do take objection to the punishment, provided for by the Draft of the Peace Treaty, for the alleged offences of the former political and military leaders of Germany. The President of the United States of America on December 4th 1917 declared12 that the war should not end in vindictive action of any kind, that no nation or people should be robbed or punished because the irresponsible rulers of the country had themselves done deep and abominable wrong. The German Delegation does not plead these or other promises to evade any obligation incumbent on Germany by the Law of Nations, but they feel entitled to call them to memory if the German nation is to be held responsible for the origin of the war and made liable for its damages.

Whilst the public negotiations immediately preceding the conclusion of the Armistice were still going on, the German nation was promised that Germany’s lot would be fundamentally altered if it were severed from the fate of its rulers. The German Delegation would not like to take your Excellency’s words to mean that the promise made by the Allied and Associated Governments at that time was merely a ruse of war employed to paralyse the resistance of the German nation, and that this promise is now to be withdrawn.

Your Excellency has finally contended that the Allied and Associated Governments had the right to accord to Germany the same treatment as had been adopted by her in the Peace Treaties of Frankfort13 and Brest Litowsk.14 The German Delegation for the present refrains from examining in what respects these two Acts of Peace differ from the present Peace Draft, for it is now too late for the Allied and Associated Governments to found a claim of right on these precedents. The moment for so doing had come when they had before them the alternative of accepting or rejecting the fourteen points of the President of the United States of America as a basis of Peace. In these fourteen points the reparation of the wrong done in 1870/1871 was expressly demanded and the Peace of Brest Litowsk was [Page 42] spoken of as a deterrent example. The Allied and Associated Governments at that time declined to take a peace of violence of the past as a model.

The German nation never having assumed the responsibility for the origin of the war, has a right to demand that it be informed by its opponents for what reasons and on what evidence these conditions of Peace are based on Germany being to blame for all damages and all sufferings of this war. It cannot therefore consent to be put off with the remark that the data on the question of responsibility collected by the Allied and Associated Governments through a special Commission are documents concerning those Governments alone. This, a question of life or death for the German nation, must be discussed in all publicity; methods of secret diplomacy are here out of place. The German Government reserve to themselves the liberty of reverting to the subject.

Accept [etc.]

  1. Ante, pp. 45.
  2. Ante, p. 15.
  3. Great Britain, Cmd. 671, Misc. No. 7 (1920): Agreement Between France, Russia, Great Britain and Italy, Signed at London, April 26, 1915; a translation from the Izvestia which was transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in Russia on December 5, 1917, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1917, supp. 2, vol. i, p. 497.
  4. Camille Barrère, French Ambassador in Italy.
  5. David Hunter Miller, technical adviser on international law to the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
  6. Appendix III to CF–16, vol. v, p. 684.
  7. Post, p. 779.
  8. Translation from the French supplied by the editors.
  9. Appendix II (B) to CF–20, vol. v, p. 742.
  10. Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol. i, p. 468.
  11. Message to Congress, January 8, 1918, ibid., p. 12.
  12. The passage quoted is actually from the address of Lloyd George before the Trade Union Conference at London, January 5, 1918. For text, see ibid., p. 4.
  13. See note from the German Imperial Chancellor to President Wilson, Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol. i, p. 338.
  14. Address to Congress, ibid., 1917, p. ix.
  15. Treaty of peace between France and Germany, May 10, 1871, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. lxii, p. 77.
  16. Treaty of peace between Russia and the Central Powers, March 3, 1918, Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia, vol. i, p. 442.