Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/54
Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Monday, June 9, 1919, at 11:45 a.m.
- United States of America
- President Wilson.
- British Empire
- The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
- M. Clemenceau.
- M. Orlando.
- United States of America
|Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B.||}||Secretaries.|
|Prof. P. J. Mantoux.—Interpreter.|
1. Mr. Lloyd George said that he had received a report from Mr. Headlam-Morley to the effect that the Committee which was working out the details of the plebiscite for Upper Silesia had arrived at an impasse on the question of the time within which the plebiscite should be taken after the signature of peace. Consequently, he had asked that this Committee might attend to receive further instructions. Since then, however, he had seen Mr. Headlam-Morley and had suggested to him that the Committee should work out the conditions of the plebiscite, leaving the period within which it should be held blank to be filled in by the Council. Eastern Frontier of Germany: Plebiscite in Eastern Silesia
President Wilson said that the conditions of the plebiscite would, to some extent, depend upon the time.
Mr. Lloyd George said that he had suggested that the Committee should work it out on alternative hypotheses. He had told Mr. Headlam-Morley that it was not the business of the Committee to discuss policy but merely to work out the details, leaving the policy to the Council. In reply to President Wilson, he said that there were certain other difficulties, for example, some members of the Committee wished the clergy to be removed from the area during the time preceding the plebiscite, which was obviously impossible. He was inclined to leave all these details to the Commission to be set up by the League of Nations for the purpose of conducting the plebiscite.[Page 260]
(The above views were accepted, and, at the request of the Council, President Wilson retired to the next room to meet the Committee and give them verbally the Council’s instructions.)
2. M. Orlando said he had information that Klagenfurt had now been occupied by the Jugo-Slavs. Carinthia: The Proposed Armistice
3. Sir Maurice Hankey reported that M. Clemenceau had that morning handed him a fresh proposal on the part of the Delegation of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, in regard to the Klagenfurt question. He had at once sent it to be translated. Klagenfurt
4. Mr. Lloyd George reported that he had received a letter from the Esthonian Delegation, asking that action might be taken to bring to an end the German activities which were affecting their operations against Petrograd. Balkan [Baltic] Provinces
(It was agreed that the letter should be communicated to the Military Representatives at Versailles, for their consideration. Sir Maurice Hankey undertook to hand it to Major Caccia, the British Secretary.)
5. M. Clemenceau said that it was a good thing that the telegram had been sent to the Hungarian Government insisting on their desisting from attacks on the Czecho-Slovaks.1 He now had information that the invitation to the Hungarian Government to send delegates to Paris to make peace had at last been received and he expected to have a definite reply on the following day. Situation in Czecho-Slovakia Arising: From the Advance of the Hungarian Red Army
President Wilson suggested that the representatives of the Czecho-Slovak and Roumanian Governments in Paris should be sent for by the Council, who, without asking their advice, should say: “If you do not observe the conditions on which a final settlement is alone possible and which we have communicated to you”—which, in the case of the Roumanians, would be the armistice line—”we will withdraw every sort of support.”
Mr. Lloyd George suggested that there ought to be someone on the spot. It might be General Franchet d’Esperey, or possibly some other person might be found to summon all parties and make them agree on the lines on which fighting should cease. He had very little doubt that the Hungarians would withdraw from Czechoslovakia if the Roumanians could be made to withdraw from Hungary.
President Wilson asked if a position had not been reached where the Roumanians ought to be allowed to take no further part in the settlement. If they were allowed to advance, they would never evacuate the territory they had occupied.[Page 261]
Mr. Lloyd George hoped that this was no reflection on the Military Representatives. They had only been asked to report on the situation from a military point of view, and General Sackville-West had told him he had not felt at liberty to discuss the political consequences of their advice.
President Wilson said that no such reflections were intended. General Bliss said the military advice was good, but drew attention to the political risks.
M. Clemenceau said the political risks had already been taken when the telegram was sent to the Hungarian Government.
Mr. Lloyd George said that, by the following day, M. Clemenceau and he himself could ascertain how much war material was being sent to Roumania. General Sir Henry Wilson had informed him that a good deal of material was on its way and he had asked him to stop its delivery. He suggested that a report should also be obtained from the Supreme Economic Council.
(It was agreed:—
- That Mr. Lloyd George should ascertain the amount of British war material on its way to Roumania which could be stopped.
- That M. Clemenceau should obtain the same information as regards French war material. (He instructed M. Mantoux to initiate the necessary enquiries.)
- That Sir Maurice Hankey should obtain the same information from the Supreme Economic Council.)
6. President Wilson read a letter he had received from the Commission on Reparation, explaining the differences of opinion that had arisen. (Appendix I.)
(Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to circulate this document immediately.) Reparation in the German Treaty
Mr. Lloyd George said that there was a good deal to be said, in his opinion, for putting Germany in a position to re-start her industries again. Unless she was given raw material and the necessary credits, it would be impossible for her to pay reparation. But, on the question of fixing the amount, he was not in agreement with the United States experts. He had turned the matter over in his mind again and again, in order to try and meet their views. The conclusion he had come to was that if figures were given now they would frighten rather than re-assure the Germans. Any figure that would not frighten them would be below the figure with which he and M. Clemenceau could face their peoples in the present state of public opinion. He did not know how Italy felt towards it but he had no doubt about Great Britain. Mr. Bonar Law had been in Paris during the last day or two and was better in touch with British public opinion than he was himself. Mr. Bonar Law was also inclined to take the same [Page 262]view as the United States delegates, but the moment any possible figure was mentioned he began to shrink from it. The statement of a figure at the present time would also raise inconvenient questions between the Allies. France could not accept any figure at the present time which did not provide a very large sum for restoration. His own opinion was that the present French estimate was a good deal higher than the actual cost would be. He thought that France could take the risk of a lower figure, but of course they had not yet been able to make any detailed survey. In three or four months a preliminary survey would have been made, and it would be easier for France to state a figure. Another point was that he did not see how any member of the Council could apply his mind to the considerations involved in fixing a figure. They were faced with an infinity of subjects; for example, within the last day or two they had been considering the making of an armistice between the Hungarians and Czechs and between the Jugo-Slavs and Austrians in the Klagenfurt region and Polish questions. The topics were innumerable. To ask them now to fix a figure was like asking a man in the maelstrom of Niagara to fix the price of a horse. It was impossible, in these circumstances, for him to work out a figure which was fair to the British, French and Germans. He could not honestly say that it was possible for him to give his mind properly to this at the present moment and he required more time. Only this morning he had received information to the effect that the Germans were saying just the same thing. They really did not know what they could pay and would prefer to have more time to consider it. He would have thought that the proposal to allow three or, as Mr. Loucheur urged, four months for the Germans to make an offer of a figure would be preferable. This would enable an examination to be made of the conditions and a survey to be carried out and for the estimates and methods to be worked out in detail. He hoped, therefore, that four months would be allowed in which the experts of all the Governments concerned, including the Germans, would be able to meet. The matter could not be settled in an hour or two’s talk with German experts at Versailles, but if time were allowed it should be possible. M. Loucheur, who was a particularly able business man, said frankly that he did not know what would be a fair sum. He was, however, with the United States experts in their desire to give a guarantee to Germany that she should get raw materials.
President Wilson said his position was that he was perfectly willing to stand by the Treaty provided that it were explained to the Germans, but he had understood that the British and French Governments were desirous of making some concessions as a possible inducement to the Germans to sign. If we must make concessions then [Page 263]he was in favour of perfectly definite concessions. He was not very interested in the details because personally he was prepared to sign the Treaty provided it was understood by the Germans. If, however, concessions were to be made the difficulties must not be allowed to stand in the way. He admitted the full force of what Mr. Lloyd George had said, namely that no-one knew enough to enable the bill to be drawn up, or the capacity of Germany to pay, to be estimated. Consequently, he was prepared to admit that any sum fixed now would be quite arbitrary and we should not know whether it covered the claims or whether it was within Germany’s capacity to pay. He understood, however, that Germany was supposed to want a fixed sum. From his point of view the sole consideration was as to whether it would provide a serviceable concession or not. He was warned, however, by his Economic experts that if Peace was not signed very soon most serious results would follow throughout the world, involving not only the enemy but all States. Commerce could not resume until the present Treaty was signed and settled. After that it was necessary to steady finance and the only way to do this was by establishing some scheme of credit. He wished to say most solemnly that if enough liquid assets were not left to Germany together with a gold basis, Germany would not be able to start her trade again, or to make reparations. His own country was ready to provide large sums for the purpose of re-establishing credit. But Congress would not vote a dollar under existing circumstances and he could not ask the United States bankers to give credits if Germany had no assets. Bankers had not got the taxpayers behind them as Congress had and consequently they must know what Germany’s assets were. The United States War Corporation [War Finance Corporation] was prohibited by law from granting credits unless they were covered by assets. Hence, if commerce was to begin again, steps must be taken to re-establish credit and unless some credit could be supplied for Germany’s use, the Allies would have to do without reparation.
Mr. Lloyd George suggested that the question between establishing an immediate fixed sum for Germany to pay, and allowing four months within which the sum was to be fixed, could be discussed between experts on both sides. For example, before long Germany would want raw cotton, but until the Treaty was signed it was impossible to discuss the conditions with her.
President Wilson said that he had not the material wherewith to justify any particular sum.
Mr. Lloyd George said that neither had he.
President Wilson said that the only argument in favour of fixing a sum was to provide a basis for credit. Supposing, for example, the sum were fixed at twenty-five billion dollars, the financial world [Page 264]could then form a judgment. If it was thought that Germany could pay this sum, many would be willing to lend to her on the strength of the bonds to be issued under the reparation scheme in the Treaty. Otherwise, money would not be lent. To find some way of making the bond issue the basis for credit, was the whole question.
M. Clemenceau said he agreed in this last statement.
Mr. Lloyd George thought it was impossible to fix a sum before Peace was signed.
President Wilson then read a suggested reply on the subject of reparation which had been prepared by the United States Delegation. (Appendix II.) He undertook to have it reproduced at once and to circulate it to the Council.
Mr. Lloyd George said he liked “the crust and the seasoning but not the meat”. He did not think it was necessary to go as far as was proposed. According to his information this was not necessary. He would like President Wilson to see the man who had given him this information.
President Wilson said that the difficulty was that the information was so conflicting.
Mr. Lloyd George said it was necessary to act on some information.
President Wilson said he did not agree in this. At the meeting of the United States Delegation it had been proposed that all the Commissions should be instructed to consider the concessions that could be made to Germany. He had replied that our objects should be to show the reasonableness of the Treaty and to make it workable. That was what he had in view in the present discussion.
Mr. Lloyd George said that, as a former lawyer, before a litigation he would always try and find out what concession it was necessary to make in order to secure an agreement. This was his present attitude, and according to his information it was not necessary to make so large a concession as was proposed in the letter of the United States Delegation.
President Wilson agreed that for the moment it would be desirable to leave out fixing the sum to be paid.
Mr. Lloyd George agreed that this was important. But he thought it was unnecessary to make the concessions in regard to shipping. He was prepared to meet the Germans in regard to the gold assets.
The question was adjourned until the following day.
7. M. Orlando said that his reply was ready and he could discuss the matter at once. Italian claims
President Wilson suggested that M. Orlando should forward his reply in writing in order that the Council might consider it.[Page 265]
M. Orlando agreed to do this.
8. M. Clemenceau said that a repetition of the telegram containing Admiral Koltchak’s reply had been asked for.
(It was agreed that nothing should be published until the repetition had been received, as there were various important points still obscure, particularly the passage in which reference was made to the regime in force in Russia in February 1917. It was not clear as to whether the possibility of a return to this regime was or was not contemplated.) Russian Policy: Koltchak’s Reply
- See appendix I to CF–52, p. 246.↩
- Post, p. 795.↩
- This sum might be still further increased were Germany given credit for various property to be taken from her without payment (e. g. in the Colonies) and were Germany further given credit for portions of war debt attaching to ceded territory. To give such credits appears just in principle. [Footnote in the original.]↩