Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/78


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Saturday, June 21, 1919, at 4 p.m.

  • Present
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson,
    • British Empire
      • The Rt Hon. A. J. Balfour, O. M.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
      • M. Klotz.
    • Italy
      • M. Sonnino.
    • Japan
      • Baron Makino.
Sir Maurice Hankey } Secretaries.
M. di Martino
M. Mantoux.—Interpreter.

1. The Council had before them a letter addressed by Marshal Foch to the President of the Council on the 18th June, 1919, No. 3051, (Appendix I) raising the following two questions:

Whether the United States of America would Military clauses be represented on the Commission of Control for Military Clauses. Commission of Control for Military Clauses
Whether Belgium should be entitled to be represented on this Commission.

President Wilson said he much regretted it would not be possible for him to make any appointments of United States’ officers to the Commission before the ratification of the Treaty. As soon as the Treaty of Peace was ratified by the Government of the United States however he would be prepared to make appointments.

Mr. Balfour suggested that it was not a matter of great moment, provided that the United States Government had means of knowing what was being done by their associates. They could do this by attaching liaison officers to the various Missions.

(It was agreed

That M. Clemenceau should reply to Marshal Foch:
That the United States of America would not be represented on the Commission of Control for the Military Clauses until after the ratification by her of the Treaty of Peace with Germany.
That he was inviting Belgium to be represented on the Commission.
That the President of the Council should send a communication to the Belgian Government inviting them to nominate a representative on the Commission.)

2. The Council had before them a Report of the Commission of Prisoners of War on the Commission and Sub-Commissions for the Repatriation of Prisoners of War under the Treaties of Peace.

M. Clemenceau asked that the subject might be postponed as he wished to examine the Report. Commission and Sub-Commissions for the Repatriation of Prisoners of War

3. Mr. Balfour read a draft letter to the Turkish Government which he had prepared at the request of the Council of Ten, made at a short unrecorded meeting after the hearing of the Turkish the Turkish Delegation on Tuesday, June 17th. (Appendix II.) Draft Letter to the Turkish Delegation

The draft letter was approved. He (Mr. Balfour) said that although this fully represented his own views, there were some people who did not share these. He mentioned in particular Mr. Montagu, the Secretary of State for India, who had sent him a long memorandum of criticisms. Mr. Montagu, however, represented an entirely different school of policy, and was strongly opposed to the removal of the Turks from Constantinople.

M. Sonnino pointed out that the Memorandum did not attack Moslems but only the Ottomans.

President Wilson said he had these points in his mind throughout the reading of the Memorandum, and he could not find anything against the Moslems. It was merely an indictment against the Turkish rule. He subscribed to the letter with great satisfaction.

The Memorandum was unanimously agreed to, subject to authority being given to Mr. Balfour to make such drafting alterations as he might consider desirable, and subject to a reservation which Mr. Balfour (particularly in view of Mr. Montagu’s objections) asked for; namely, that the reply should not be dispatched until it had been approved by Mr. Lloyd George.

(It was agreed that when Mr. Lloyd George had given his assent, the letter should be signed by M. Clemenceau on behalf of the Council, and sent to the Turkish Delegation.)

4. During the meeting M. Clemenceau received a dispatch to the effect that M. Nitti and M. Tittoni were forming a Government in Rome.

At this point the Council adjourned to the upstairs room for a discussion with experts in regard to Klagenfurt and Carinthia, which is recorded as a separate meeting.1 Reported Changes in the Italian Government

Villa Majestic, Paris, 21 June, 1919.

[Page 577]

Appendix I to CF–78



No. 3051

From:—Marshal Foch, Commanding-in-Chief, The Allied Forces.

To:—The President of the Council, President of the Peace Conference.

The Commission of Control for the Military Clauses provided for by the draft Treaty of Peace should be ready to begin its operations immediately the Treaty is signed.

For this purpose, I called a meeting of the Military representatives of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers. As the result of this meeting, at which representatives of these Powers, with the exception of the United States, were present, a draft was adopted laying down the conditions in which the Commission and various Sub-Commissions of Control for the Military Clauses, would be formed.

As regards the United States, General Bliss has informed me that no decision has yet been taken in regard to the participation of the United States in this Mission of Control.

On the other hand, Belgium, although not designated by the draft Treaty of Peace as having a right to representation on the Commission of Control, is clearly very specially concerned with the execution of the Military Clauses.

I therefore have the honour to request you to be so good as to raise this question with the Supreme Council of the Governments and to inform me:—

Whether the United States will be represented on the Commission of Control for the Military Clauses.
Whether Belgium should be invited to be represented on this Commission.

In view of the urgent necessity of preparing forthwith the entry into operation of the Commission of Control, I should be grateful if you would kindly acquaint me with your reply as soon as you can possibly do so.


Appendix II to CF–78


Draft Answer to the Turks

The Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers have read with the most careful attention the Memorandum presented to [Page 578] them by Your Excellency on June 17th,2 and, in accordance with the promise then made, desire now to offer the following observations upon it.

In your recital of the political intrigues which accompanied Turkey’s entry into the war, and of the tragedies which followed it, Your Excellency makes no attempt to excuse or qualify the crimes of which the Turkish Government was then guilty. It is admitted directly, or by implication, that Turkey had no cause of quarrel with the Entente Powers; that she acted as the subservient tool of Germany; that the war, begun without excuse, and conducted without mercy, was accompanied by massacres whose calculated atrocity equals or exceeds anything in record of history. But it is argued that these crimes were committed by a Turkish Government for whose misdeeds the Turkish people are not responsible; that there was in them no element of religious fanaticism; that Moslems suffered from them not less than Christians; that they were entirely out of harmony with the Turkish tradition, as historically exhibited in the treatment by Turkey of subject races; that the maintenance of the Turkish Empire is necessary for the religious equilibrium of the world; so that policy, not less than justice, requires that its territories should be restored undiminished, as they existed before war broke out.

The Council can neither accept this conclusion nor the arguments by which it is supported. They do not indeed doubt that the present Government of Turkey profoundly disapproves of the policy pursued by its predecessors. Even if considerations of morality did not weigh with it, (as doubtless they do), considerations of expediency would be conclusive. As individuals its members have every motive as well as every right to repudiate the actions which have proved so disastrous to their country. But, speaking generally, every nation must be judged by the Government which rules it, which directs its foreign policy, which controls its armies; nor can Turkey claim any relief from the legitimate consequences of this doctrine merely because her affairs at a most critical moment in her history had fallen into the hands of men who, utterly devoid of principle or pity, could not even command success.

It seems, however, that the claim for complete territorial restoration put forward in the Memorandum is not based merely on the plea that Turkey should not be required to suffer for the sins of her Ministers. It has a deeper ground. It appeals to the history of Ottoman rule in the past, and to the condition of affairs in the Moslem world.

[Page 579]

Now the Council is anxious not to enter into unnecessary controversy, or to inflict needless pain on Your Excellency and the Delegates who accompany you. It wishes well to the Turkish people, and admires their excellent qualities. But they cannot admit that among these qualities are to be counted capacity to rule over alien races. The experiment has been tried too long and too often for there to be the least doubt as to its result. History tells us of many Ottoman successes and many Ottoman defeats:—of nations conquered and nations freed. The Memorandum itself refers to the reductions that have taken place in the territories recently under Ottoman sovereignty. Yet in all these changes there is no case to be found, either in Europe or Asia or Africa, in which the establishment of Ottoman rule in any country has not been followed by the diminution of its material prosperity, and a fall in its level of culture; nor is there any case to be found in which the withdrawal of Ottoman rule has not been followed by a growth in material prosperity and a rise in the level of culture. Neither among the Christians of Europe, nor among the Moslems of Syria, Arabia and Africa, has the Ottoman Turk done other than destroy what he has conquered; never has he shown himself able to develop in peace what he has won by war. Not in this direction do his talents lie.

The obvious conclusion from these facts would seem to be that, since Turkey has, without the least excuse or provocation, deliberately attacked the Entente Powers and been defeated, she has thrown upon the victors the heavy duty of determining the destiny of the various populations in her heterogeneous Empire. This duty the Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers desire to carry out as far as may be in accordance with their wishes and permanent interests. But the Council observe with regret that the Memorandum introduces in this connection a wholly different order of considerations based on supposed religious rivalries. The Turkish Empire, is, it seems, to be preserved unchanged, not so much because this would be to the advantage either of the Moslems or of the Christians within its borders, but because its maintenance is demanded by the religious sentiment of men who never felt the Ottoman yoke, or have forgotten how heavily it weighs on those who are compelled to bear it.

But surely there never was a sentiment less justified by facts. The whole course of the War exposes its hollowness. What religious issue can be raised by a war in which Protestant Germany, Roman Catholic Austria, Orthodox Bulgaria and Moslem Turkey, banded themselves together to plunder their neighbours? The only flavour of deliberate fanaticism perceptible in these transactions was the massacre of Christian Armenians by order of the Turkish Government. But Your Excellency has pointed out that, at the very same time and by the [Page 580] very same authority, unoffending Moslems were being slaughtered in circumstances sufficiently horrible, and in numbers sufficiently large to mitigate, if not wholly to remove, any suspicion of religious partiality.

During the War, then, there was little evidence of sectarian animosity on the part of any of the Governments, and no evidence whatever so far as the Entente Powers were concerned. Nor has anything since occurred to modify this judgement. Every man’s conscience has been respected; places of sacred memory have been carefully guarded; the States and peoples who were Mahomedan before the War are Mahomedan still. Nothing touching religion has been altered, except the security with which it may be practised: and this wherever Allied control exists has certainly been altered for the better.

If it be replied that the diminution in the territories of a historic Moslem State must injure the Moslem cause in all lands, we respectfully suggest that in our opinion this is an error. To thinking Moslems throughout the world the modern history of the Government enthroned at Constantinople can be no source of pleasure or pride. For reasons we have already indicated, the Ottoman Turk was there attempting a task for which he had little aptitude, and in which he has consequently failed. Set him to work in a territory peopled by men of his own blood and faith, under new conditions less complicated and difficult, with an evil tradition of corruption and intrigue severed, perhaps forgotten, why should he not add lustre to his country, and thus indirectly to his religion, by other qualities than that courage and discipline which he has always so conspicuously displayed?

Unless we are mistaken, Your Excellency should understand our hopes. In an impressive passage of Your Memorandum, you declare it to be Your country’s mission to devote itself to “an intensive economic and intellectual culture”. No change could be more startling or impressive: none would be more beneficial. If Your Excellency is able to initiate this great process of development in men of Turkish race, You will deserve, and will certainly receive, all the assistance we are able to give you.

A. J. B.
  1. CF–79, p. 581.
  2. For the text of the Turkish statement presented on June 17, see BC–62, vol. iv, p. 509.