Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/58


Notes of a Meeting of the Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Wednesday, June 11, 1919, at 4 p.m.

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

[1.] The Council had before them a re-draft of the proposed reply incorporating the alterations agreed to at the morning’s meeting. (Appendix I.)1

Mr. Lloyd George read the following paragraph proposed by Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith as an alternative to the second paragraph on page 6.—1a Reparation: The Reply to the German Note (WCP–950 revise)

“The resumption of German industry is of interest to the Allied and Associated Powers as well as of interest to Germany. They fully recognise this fact, and they have no intention whatever of pursuing any policy based on the withholding from Germany of the commercial intercourse without which the resumption of her industries cannot take place. Subject to the paramount necessity of safeguarding their essential economic interests and of ensuring the revival of their own industrial life, which has so grievously suffered during the war, the Allied and Associated Powers have no desire or intention to put hindrances in the way of German trade or to close to Germany any markets or sources of supply”.

Continuing, he said that Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith had reported to him that the present Draft was capable of being construed to mean what was not intended, and he considered it very dangerous.

President Wilson pointed out that Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith’s redraft was a mere negation.

[Page 302]

Mr. Lloyd George said that his point was that every country without exception had arrears to make up.

President Wilson suggested that Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith had probably not seen the latest draft.

Mr. Lloyd George undertook to show him the latest draft and ask his view.

Sir Maurice Hankey said that Lord Sumner had objected to the words “the commercial facilities” in the paragraph under discussion. He had pointed out that the Germans might insist that this gave them the right to send commercial travellers and open accounts etc. Lord Sumner had less objection, however, if the word “the” was omitted, but he himself had not felt justified in making this alteration without the approval of the Council.

President Wilson pointed out that if Peace were signed, it would be impossible to keep out commercial travellers, although they might not find a welcome and might prefer to stay away.

Mr. Lloyd George said he was under the impression that both Great Britain and the United States had legislated rather stiffly against Aliens during the next few years. At M. Clemenceau’s request he re-read the paragraph.

It was generally agreed that the position was sufficiently safeguarded by the existing phraseology and particularly by the words “subject to conditions and within limits which cannot be laid down in advance and subject also to the necessity for having due regard to the special economic situation created for Allied and Associated countries by German aggression and the war”.

At a later stage of the meeting President Wilson suggested the addition at the beginning of this paragraph of a phrase indicating the need of the German people for food supplies.

This was accepted and it was also agreed to omit the word “the” before “commercial facilities”.

The final text of this paragraph therefore was agreed to in the following terms:—

“The Powers will, however, make a declaration on another point as follows:—the resumption of German industry involves access by the German people to food supplies and by the German Manufacturers to the necessary raw materials and provisions for their transport to Germany from overseas. The resumption of German industry is an interest of the Allied and Associated Powers as well as an interest of Germany. They are fully alive to this fact and therefore declare that they will not withhold from Germany commercial facilities without which this resumption cannot take place, but that subject to conditions and within limits which cannot be laid down in advance, and subject also to the necessity for having due regard to the special economic situation created for Allied and Associated countries by German aggression and the war, they are prepared to offer to Germany facilities in these directions for the common good”.

[Page 303]

2. President Wilson then brought forward some further verbal criticisms by the United States Delegation, and the following alteration in addition to the one mentioned above, was accepted. Page 4, paragraph 22—omit the words “in writing” after “arguments”.

3. M. Clemenceau said that he himself was opposed to the idea of a Plebiscite, but to meet his colleagues he had accepted it. Upper Silesia: The Question of a Plebiscite

President Wilson said that he also did not think in principle that a Plebiscite was necessary. No. 13 of the 14 points was quite explicit on the point. There might be a part of the area in which a Plebiscite ought to be considered and this was why he had been willing to agree to the Plebiscite. There were, however, two distinct sides to the question, and only that afternoon Mr. White of the American Delegation had called at his house and left him a message to the effect that he had evidence that the German Roman Catholic priests were exercising the strongest influence in that region against the Poles.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the Poles, like the Irish, were specially good at propaganda. The Allies were only hearing one side of the case. Wherever Mr. White had obtained his information he was sure he had not heard the German side. When he had talked to the Poles about the Jews they had given the impression that they were treating them like angels of light although it was notorious how they really treated them. He had no wish to act on one-sided information. At present we only had the information of violent partisans. If the Germans should break off negotiations on this point he would not feel justified in ordering British soldiers to fight simply because a Plebiscite had been refused, and he would have to say so. He did not believe the troops of other nations would fight either in such circumstances.

M. Clemenceau said that was one of the reasons which had induced him to assent to the Plebiscite.

President Wilson said that Mr. White obtained his information from American citizens who had been in Upper Silesia before and during the war. As a matter of fact the Germans were far more subtle propagandists than the Poles. No one could induce him to believe that the Poles who were in no political position would be better propagandists in Upper Silesia than the Germans, who were. As against the Germans he was pro Pole with all his heart.

Mr. Lloyd George said he was apprehensive of the troops not being willing to advance simply because a Plebiscite had not been taken.

President Wilson pointed out that the reply to the Germans on reparation had been whittled down so that all sacrifice by the Allies [Page 304] had been abandoned. Now it was proposed to place the sacrifice on the Poles.

Mr. Lloyd George said he could not admit either of these statements. The only point in regard to Upper Silesia was that he did not wish to put a population under the Poles against their will. He could not forget that up to the last moment of the war the Poles had been fighting against us. Were we, he asked, to sacrifice our soldiers in order to force under Polish sovereignty peoples who did not desire it without even ascertaining their desires? He was convinced that all the trouble with Germany would relate to the Eastern front. He did not want to belittle any particular nation, but for the moment there was no doubt that the Germans had a higher civilization than the Poles. As a matter of fact they rather despised the Poles. To force a race of that kind against their will under a race that they regarded as inferior was not to promote peace. He was afraid of prolonging the war for unjustifiable reasons. If we said to the Germans “You must clear out to make way for the Poles” he was convinced they would refuse. If, however, we said “Clear out because we want to hold a Plebiscite” he did not believe they would refuse.

President Wilson pointed out that the Commission were unanimous in their belief that Allied troops would have to be put into Poland during the period preceding the Plebiscite. The serious aspect of this was that the Germans would say “your troops would bias the Plebiscite”.

Mr. Lloyd George said there was a great difference between Polish or German troops and Allied troops.

M. Clemenceau said that there were 350,000 Germans at present in Upper Silesia. They were concentrating there even from Dantzig. Probably this was not for the purpose of fighting, but in order to show that they had no intention of evacuating.

President Wilson asked if Mr. Lloyd George thought British troops would fight for a Plebiscite.

Mr. Lloyd George thought they would.

M, Clemenceau, in reply to Mr. Lloyd George, said that French troops would not fight to drive the Germans out of Upper Silesia when they demanded a plebiscite, but the question would never be posed in that way. Either the Germans would sign, or they would not sign, and there would be other considerations besides Upper Silesia.

President Wilson thought that if American soldiers were told that Germany had refused the decision of the Conference, they would march.

Mr. Lloyd George implored his colleagues not to put themselves in a situation where they might have trouble with their troops. As [Page 305] an indication of opinion in Great Britain he mentioned that even the Northcliffe press, which was attacking him personally, and for that reason exaggerated the proposals that he was alleged to have made, said that a Plebiscite for Upper Silesia was right.

(At this point there was an adjournment upstairs to meet the Experts of the Polish Commission.)

Appendix to CF–58

WCP–950 (revised)


Reply to German Counter Proposals

Approved by the Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, 11th June, 1919 [11 a.m.]

The Allied and Associated Governments, consistently with their policy already expressed, decline to enter into a discussion of the principles underlying the Reparation Clauses of the Conditions of Peace, which have been prepared with scrupulous regard for the correspondence leading up to the Armistice of November 11th, 1918, the final memorandum of which dated 5th November, 1918, contains the following words:—

“Further, in the conditions of Peace laid down in his address to Congress of the 8th January, 1918, the President declared that the invaded territories must be restored as well as evacuated and freed, and the Allied Governments feel that no doubt ought to be allowed to exist as to what this provision implies. By it they understand that compensation will be made by Germany for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies and their property by the aggression of Germany by land, by sea, and from the air.”

To the extent that your reply deals with practical phases of the execution of the principles enunciated in the Conditions of Peace, you appear to proceed on the basis of a complete misapprehension, which is the more difficult to understand as the inferences you draw and the statements which you make are wholly at variance with both the letter and the spirit of the Treaty Clauses For purposes of clarification, however, and in order that there may be no possible ground for misunderstanding, the Allied and Associated Governments submit the following observations:—

The vast extent and manifold character of the damage caused to the Allied and Associated Governments in consequence of the war, has created a reparation problem of extraordinary magnitude and complexity, only to be solved by a continuing body, limited in personnel and invested with broad powers to deal with the problem in [Page 306] relation to the general economic situation. The Allied and Associated Powers, recognising this situation, themselves delegate power and authority to a Reparation Commission. This Reparation Commission is, however, instructed by the Treaty itself so to exercise and interpret its powers as to ensure in the interest of all, as early and complete a discharge by Germany of her reparation obligations as is consistent with the due maintenance of the social, economic and financial structure of a Germany earnestly striving to exercise her full power to repair the loss and damage she has caused.

The provisions of Article 241 by which the German Government is to invest itself with such powers as may be needed to carry out its obligations, are not to be misconstrued as giving the Commission power to dictate the domestic legislation of Germany. Non does Paragraph 12 (b), of Annex II, give the Commission power to prescribe or enforce taxes or to dictate the character of the German budget, but it is to examine the latter for two specified purposes. This is necessary in order that it may intelligently and constructively exercise the discretion accorded it in Germany’s interest particularly by Article 234, with regard to extending the date and modifying the form of payments. The provisions of Article 240 with regard to the supply of information are similar in character and purpose and there should be little occasion for the exercise of these powers when once the amount of the liability of Germany is fixed, if Germany is in a position to, and does, comply with the schedule of payments which then will have been notified to her and with the specific provisions of the several Annexes relative to reparation in kind It is further to be observed that the power of modification accorded by the said Article 234 [234] is expressly designed to permit of a modification in Germany’s interest of a schedule of payments which events may demonstrate to be beyond Germany’s reasonable capacity The Allied and Associated Powers vigorously reject the suggestion that the Commission, in exercising the power conferred by Article 240 and by Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of Annex IV, might require the divulgence of trade secrets and similar confidential data.

The observations of the German Delegation present a view of this Commission so distorted and so inexact, that it is difficult to believe that the clauses of the Treaty have been calmly or carefully examined. It is not an engine of oppression or a device for interfering with German Sovereignty. It has no forces, which it commands; it has no executive powers within the territory of Germany; it cannot, as is suggested, direct or control the educational or other systems of the country. Its business is to fix what is to be paid; to satisfy itself that Germany can pay; and to report to the Powers, whose Delegation it is, in case Germany makes default. If Germany raises the money [Page 307] required in her own way, the Commission cannot order that it shall be raised in some other way; if Germany offers payment in kind, the Commission may accept such payment, but, except as specified in the Treaty itself, the Commission cannot require such a payment. The German observations appear to miss the point that the Commission is directed to study the German system of taxation for the protection of the German people no less than for the protection of their own. Such study is not inquisitorial, for the German system of taxation is not an object of curiosity to other Powers, nor is a knowledge of it an end in itself. If any plea of inability which the German Government may advance, is to be properly considered, such a study is necessary. The Commission must test whether a sincere application is being given to the principle, accepted in the observations, “that the German taxation system should impose in general on the taxpayer at least as great a burden as that prevailing in the most heavily burdened of the States represented on the Reparation Commission.” If the German resources are to be properly weighed, the first subject of inquiry, and perhaps the first ground for relief, will be the German fiscal burden.

It is understood that the action necessary to give effect to the provisions of Annex IV, relative to reparation in kind, will be taken by Germany on its own initiative, after receipt of notification from the Reparation Commission.

The provisions of the Treaty are in no wise incompatible with the creation by Germany of a Commission which will represent Germany in dealings with the Reparation Commission and which will constitute an instrumentality for such co-operation as may be necessary. The Treaty specifically and repeatedly provides opportunities for the German Government to present facts and arguments with respect to claims and modes of payments, within the limits of the principles and express provisions of the Treaty. This may be done through a commission and no reason is perceived why such a commission could not work in harmony with the Reparation Commission. Certainly this is greatly to be desired. The Allied and Associated Powers are therefore ready to agree to such a procedure as the following:—

Immediately after the Treaty is signed, Germany may present and the Allied and Associated Powers will receive and examine such evidence, estimates, and arguments in writing, as she may think fit to present. Such documents need not be final but may be presented subject to corrections and additions.

At any time within four months of the signature of the Treaty, Germany shall be at liberty to submit, and the Allied and Associated Powers will receive and consider such proposals as Germany may choose to make. In particular, proposals will be acceptable on the [Page 308] following subjects and for the following purposes: Germany may offer a lump sum in settlement of her whole liability, or in settlement of her liability under any of the particular categories which have been decided upon and laid down. Germany may offer to undertake to repair and reconstruct part or the whole of any damaged district, or certain classes of damage in each country or in all the countries which have suffered. Germany may offer labour, materials or technical service for use in such work, even though she does not undertake to do the work herself. She may suggest any practicable plan, category by category, or for the reparations as a whole, which will tend to shorten the period of enquiry and to bring about a prompt and effectual conclusion. Without making further specifications, it may be said in a word that Germany is at liberty to make any suggestion or offer of a practical and reasonable character for the purposes of simplifying the assessment of the damage, eliminating any question or questions from the scope of the detailed enquiry, promoting the performance of the work and accelerating the definition of the ultimate amount to be paid. Suitable facilities for inspecting the damage done will be afforded to Germany’s agents at reasonable times. Three conditions and three only are imposed upon the tender of these proposals. Firstly, the German authorities will be expected before making such proposals to confer with the representatives of the Powers directly concerned. Secondly, such offers must be unambiguous, and must be precise and clear. Thirdly, they must accept the categories and the reparation clauses as matters settled beyond discussion. The Allied and Associated Powers will not entertain arguments or appeals directed to any alteration. The Allied and Associated Powers have to remark that in the Observations submitted the German Delegation has made no definite offer at all but only vague expressions of willingness to do something undefined. A sum of £5,000,000,000 is indeed mentioned, and this is calculated to give the impression of an extensive offer, which upon examination it proves not to be. No interest is to be paid at all. It is evident that till 1927 there is no substantial payment but only the surrender of military material and the devolution upon other Powers of large portions of Germany’s own debt. Thereafter a series of undefined instalments is to be agreed, which are not to be completed for nearly half a century. The present value of this distant prospect is small, but it is all that Germany tenders to the victims of her aggression in satisfaction of their past sufferings and their permanent burthens.

Within two months thereafter the Allied and Associated Powers will, so far as may be possible, return their answer to any proposals that may be made. It is impossible to declare in advance that they will be accepted, and if accepted, they may be subject to conditions, [Page 309] which can be discussed and arranged. The Allied and Associated Powers, however, declare that such proposals will be seriously and fairly considered; no one could be better pleased than they, if, in the result, a fair, a speedy, and a practical settlement were arrived at. The questions are bare questions of fact, namely, the amount of the liabilities, and they are susceptible of being treated in this way. Beyond this, the Powers cannot be asked to go.

The Powers will, however, make a declaration on another point, as follows: The resumption of German industry involves access for German manufacturers to the necessary raw materials and provision for their transport to German factories from overseas. The resumption of German industry is an interest of the Allied and Associated Powers as well as an interest of Germany. They are fully alive to this fact and therefore declare that they will not withhold from Germany the commercial facilities without which this resumption cannot take place, but that, subject to conditions and within limits, which cannot be laid down in advance, and subject also to the necessity for having due regard to the special economic situation created for Allied and Associated countries by German aggression and the war, they are prepared to afford to Germany facilities in these directions for the common good.

Even if no settlement were arrived at, it must be evident that the early production of the German evidence would greatly abbreviate the enquiry, and accelerate the decisions. The information at present at hand comes from one side only. The German Authorities have had long occupation of a large part of the damaged areas and have been over the ground, forwards and backwards, within the last twelve or fifteen months. Their information must be extensive and exact. The Allied and Associated Powers have as yet had no access to this mass of material. The mere comparison of the evidence forthcoming on the one side and the other must greatly narrow the field of dispute and may eliminate dispute altogether. It is obvious that, if the class of damages done in the devastated areas can be dealt with in this fashion, the liability under the other categories can be quickly established, for it depends on statistics and particulars of a far simpler character. By giving a satisfactory covenant to execute the work of rebuilding themselves, the Germans could at once dispose of the only difficult or long subject of inquiry.

Meanwhile, the draft Treaty must be accepted as definitive and must be signed. The Allied and Associated Powers cannot any longer delay to assure their security. Germany cannot afford to deny to her populations the peace which is offered to them. The Reparations Commission must be constituted and must commence its task. The [Page 310] only question open will be how best to execute the provisions of the Treaty.

The foregoing should suffice to demonstrate the reasonableness of the conditions under which Germany is to discharge her reparation obligations, and how utterly unfounded are the criticisms of the German reply. These are, indeed, explicable only on the theory that the German plenipotentiaries have read into the Conditions of Peace, in clear defiance of their express terms, an intent which it would be not unnatural to see evidenced by victorious nations which have been the victims of cruelty and devastation on a vast and premeditated scale. The burdens of Germany undeniably are heavy, but they are imposed under conditions of justice by peoples whose social well-being and economic prosperity have been gravely impaired by wrongs which it is beyond the utmost power of Germany to repair.

  1. There is only one appendix to CF–58.
  2. Beginning “The Powers will, however …”
  3. Beginning “Immediately after the Treaty …”