Notes of a Meeting of the Heads of Delegations of the Five Great Powers Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Thursday, July 31, 1919, at 3:30 p.m.
- America, United States of
- Hon. H. White
- Hon. F. L. Polk.
- Mr. L. Harrison.
- British Empire
- The Kt. Hon. A. J. Balfour.
- Mr. H. Norman.
- Sir Ian Malcolm.
- M. Clemenceau
- M. Pichon.
- M. Dutasta.
- M. Berthelot.
- M. de St. Quentin.
- M. Tittoni.
- M. Paterno.
- M. Matsui.
- M. Kawai.
- America, United States of
|America, United States of||Capt. Chapin.|
|British Empire||Captain Abraham.|
|France||Captain A. Portier.|
|Italy||Lt.-Col. A. Jones.|
|Interpreter—Professor P. J. Mantoux|
(1) M. Tardieu explained the report of the Central Committee on territorial questions regarding the frontiers of Bulgaria in the south. He explained the divergent points of view of the American and Italian Delegations on the one hand and of the British, French and Japanese Delegations on the other (See App. A to H.D. 121). If he were asked to argue his own point of view, he would argue it on three grounds—ethnological, political and moral. If Western Thrace were not given to Greece, 92,000 Greeks would be excluded from the Hellenic Kingdom. As the exclusion of Western Thrace from Greece would be followed by the exclusion of Eastern Thrace another 145,000 Greeks would be denied Greek citizenship. In the whole of Thrace, north and west of the Enos-Midia line there were 237,000 Greeks. In any case 1,835,000 Greeks would remain outside Greek Sovereignty. Unless Thrace were [Page 435] made Greek the Treaty which claimed an ethnological basis would leave more than 2 million persons of Greek race subject to non-Greek States. The whole Greek race only numbered 7 millions. This was a paradoxical result of a policy which claimed to be based on nationalities. It also appeared to him to be quite unjust. Greece no doubt would receive a good many things but if Bulgaria obtained free access to the Aegean, obvious difficulties would ensue for the Greeks. Their communications with the Islands and with Asia Minor could very easily be intercepted, especially in time of war. Greece had taken the side of the Allies in the war of her own free will. She had incurred a war debt of 2½ billion francs, borrowed no doubt from the Allies, but most States after all were in a similar condition. She deserved some consideration for the part she had played in the war. It was sometimes said that Western Thrace belonged to Bulgaria in law and in right. Frontiers of Bulgaria
When the Treaty of San Stephano was signed in 1878,2 it was made according to the wishes of Russia which at that time was entirely pro-Bulgarian. The frontier laid down by that Treaty was almost the same as that proposed by the French, British and Japanese Delegations. Bulgaria had obtained Western Thrace by the Treaty of Bucharest.3 It was argued that if M. Venizelos raised no claim to it then, he had forfeited any claim to it now. This was not so, for at that time M. Venizelos was ready to do anything to establish the Balkan League. He had failed in this and after him the Allied Powers had also failed. It was clear that the Bulgarians would not be pleased, but nothing would please them save the establishment of Bulgarian authority over 9 million people, only 4 million of whom would be Bulgarian. It was not right to say that Bulgaria would be very harshly treated in this Treaty. Germany, by the terms imposed on her, lost one fifth of her population. Bulgaria, according to the terms proposed would only lose one eighteenth. The other clauses were not very severe. She was asked to pay 2½ billion francs, but on easy terms which could be made even more easy by the Reparations Commission. Moreover her debt to Germany was abolished, a provision which had not been made in favour of any other enemy State. Though she lost access to the Aegean Sea, she still preserved access to the Black Sea and to the Danube and the opening of the Straits would be to her advantage. The restitution clauses were also light. For instance, she was to restore to Greece only 1500 milch cows out of 4500 taken, 2200 horses out of 9000, 1800 oxen out of 19,000 and 6,000 sheep and goats out of 260,000. He saw no particular advantage in offering Bulgaria a premium on aggression, violence and crime. The Bulgarians [Page 436] had no right to keep the fruits of the robbery committed by them in 1913 and again in 1915 with the help of Turkey, especially if to do this, 300,000 Greeks were to be kept out of Greece and as a final result 34% of the Greek race were to be kept under alien domination.
Mr. White said that M. Tardieu had made constant allusion to Eastern Thrace. He understood, however, that Western Thrace was the subject under discussion. The main point was whether or not Bulgaria should have access to the Aegean Sea. Mr. White then made the following statement:—
“In regard to the statement by M. Venizelos before the Supreme Council on July 29th,4 it need only be said that the statement contained no arguments which the American delegation has not heard repeatedly and weighed carefully, unless exception be made of his references to the telegram of the American Charge d’Affaires at Sofia and his quotations from the American Red Cross report on Bulgarian atrocities. As for the telegram (which I may remark parenthetically contained no charges of any nature against M. Venizelos or his Government, but merely referred to an active Greek propaganda, and large expenditures of funds in the district, without implication as to the source of either), it must be admitted that M. Venizelos’ suggestion that the eight Mussulman Deputies merely denied that they had asked for Greek sovereignty, but did not repudiate the document upon which he places so much weight, does not carry conviction. Our information is explicit and unequivocal to the effect that they denied fore-knowledge of any such document and declared their signatures thereto to be forgeries. However, we do not care to stress this point, as even were it valid the American Delegation would not give it much weight as a reliable indication of the real sentiments of the mass of the Mohammedan population in Western Thrace. We merely point out that one of the chief arguments presented by the Greek Committee in support of their finding rests on evidence which, to express it mildly, needs verification.
As regards the long reading of citations of Bulgarian atrocities, we fail to see the relation between Bulgarian atrocities committed in one place and the drawing of frontiers in another. If I thought such arguments valid, I might read at length the descriptions of Greek atrocities contained in the well known Carnegie Report,5 and cite them in support of the American opinion that Western Thrace should not be given to the Greeks. The American opinion, however, rests on no such feeble basis. It is founded on certain facts which are not subject to dispute on certain principles which have guided this [Page 437] Conference in its labours hitherto, and on one and only one ambition: namely, to contribute loyally and unselfishly to the great end we all have in view:—a just and enduring peace in Europe.
There is here no question of giving territory to Bulgaria. The only question before the Council is: shall we take territory away from Bulgaria and give it to Greece?
It is not denied that Bulgaria had a good and valid title to this territory when she entered the present war. She acquired it not by conquest, but through a peace imposed upon her when she was beaten and helpless. Greece and her Allies, although conquerors, saw the wisdom of according to vanquished Bulgaria an outlet to the Aegean Sea. What was wise in 1913 is doubly wise in 1919, when we are endeavoring, more earnestly than ever before, to prepare a peace which will endure.
If Bulgaria’s legal title to Bulgarian Thrace does not admit of discussion, what are the grounds upon which we are asked to deprive her of this territory and hand it over to Greece? Certainly no serious argument for such procedure can be based on ethnic grounds. It is scarcely open to doubt that following the cession of this territory to Bulgaria, and before Bulgaria entered the war, the Bulgarian population outnumbered the Greek population, while Turks constituted, as always, the overwhelming majority. It does not invalidate this fact to argue that many Greeks were atrociously expelled from the region. When we remember that according to M. Venizelos’ own figures there were, before the Balkan wars, only 70,000 Greeks in the area as against 60,000 Bulgars, we must admit that, expulsions or no expulsions, the feeble Greek superiority in numbers must inevitably give place to a Bulgar superiority as soon as the territory was ceded to Bulgaria. Greece knew, when she agreed to give Western Thrace to Bulgaria, that with the incoming Bulgarian administration, the development of Bulgarian commercial interests at the ports and elsewhere, and the migration of Bulgarians from new Greek territory into this new Bulgarian territory, the Greek population would most certainly and altogether naturally drop to third place in the proportion of races. In such a case, evidence as to atrocities and expulsions becomes wholly irrelevant. The vital fact remains that in any case the valid occupation of the region by Bulgaria must inevitably have brought about the ethnic preponderance in Bulgaria’s favour which actually intervened.
Nor do we believe that there is reliable evidence to show that the Turkish majority of Western Thrace prefers Greek to Bulgar rule. Many of these Turks speak Bulgarian as their native tongue, while comparatively few of them speak Greek. In the absence of convincing evidence to the contrary, it is natural to assume that this population would be better off under the government of those who speak their own [Page 438] language. The evidence to the contrary thus far presented is at least open to suspicion, and is off-set by the declarations of the Chief of the Mohammedan Church in Bulgaria to the effect that his people preferred to be left under Bulgar rule. Assuredly we cannot find in the principle of self-determination any sound argument in favour of annexing Bulgarian Thrace to Greece.
Is it sought to take this territory from Bulgaria and give it to Greece as a punishment for Bulgaria’s action in joining our enemies? If this be the pretext for the proposed annexation, we must observe that while the wisdom and the method of administering punishment may be matters for discussion, there can be no doubt of the fact that punitive annexations of territory are in flagrant contradiction with the principles upon which we agreed to make peace in Europe, and with the principles which have hitherto guided the deliberations of this Conference. The honour of the Entente will be gravely compromised if in order to punish an enemy and to pay a friend we take from the one and give to the other territory to which only the present possessor has a valid legal, ethnic and economic title. Never has the American Government approved territorial changes for punitive reasons; and it cannot now adopt a principle of procedure so fraught with danger to the future peace of the world.
The fact that Germany, Austria, and Hungary are being deprived of large tracts of territory does not constitute a reason for taking territory from Bulgaria. In the first place the cases are not analogous, for Germany and Austria Hungary had long been wrongfully annexing territory from their neighbours, whereas Bulgaria has recently been defeated and had stripped from her such territories as her neighbours saw fit to appropriate. In the very nature of events less remained to Bulgaria which can rightfully be taken from her; and the American Delegation has, in fact, agreed to deprive her of small areas at four different places along her frontiers. But far more important is the fact that all territories taken from Germany, Austria and Hungary were taken for valid reasons, and in the interests of justice and future peace. Such reasons do not exist in the case of Western Thrace, and we do not believe that to take this territory from Bulgaria would be in accord with justice or in the interest of a future peace.
On the contrary, we believe that to deprive Bulgaria of Western Thrace is to cut her off from her only direct and convenient territorial access to the Aegean Sea, to inflict upon her a loss of territory which cannot be justified by the principles according to which we stand pledged to execute this peace, will be to render impossible the conciliation of the Balkan peoples, to sow the seeds of future trouble in South-Eastern Europe, and seriously to endanger the edifice of peace we have laboured so long and painfully to construct. It is for this reason that the American Delegation is unable to accept the proposal of the [Page 439] Greek Committee, and for this reason that its representatives on the Central Territorial Commission have recommended the formula contained in the Report of that Commission as submitted to the Supreme Council.”
Mr. Balfour said that as he took a different view to that expressed by Mr. White, he thought he had better make a statement. He felt that he need not add much to the very clear explanation given by M. Tardieu. He accepted the general proposition that a punitive adjustment of frontiers was wrong. Nevertheless, when other circumstances balanced one another evenly it had been the practice of the Conference to give the benefit of the doubt to friends rather than to foes. If he were forced to appeal to this practice he would do so, but in this case he thought that the theoretical merits lay entirely on the side advocated by M. Tardieu. It was clearly both wrong and inexpedient to allow nations which embarked on aggressive and acquisitive wars to find this practice pay[ing?]. In the whole war there had been no action more cynical and more disastrous than that undertaken by the Bulgarians. Had the Bulgarians not behaved as they had, Turkey would not have entered the war; the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign would not have taken place; the war would have ended years sooner, and needless suffering would have been saved. The most plausible objection raised was that if Western Thrace were taken from Bulgaria a lasting peace in the Balkans would be jeopardised. Bulgaria, if she obtained Southern Dobrudja which he hoped she would, would actually be larger than before the war. Mr. White had avoided any mention of the Greeks in Eastern Thrace. This question, however, was intimately connected with that of Western Thrace. If it was desirable that the Greeks in Eastern Thrace should be included within the limits of Greece, the attribution of Western Thrace to Greece was a means to that end. He had been rather shocked at Mr. White’s theory about massacre. Mr. White appeared ready to accept the results of massacres with great equanimity. The American Delegation had been greatly influenced by the theory that every country should have direct access to the sea. He could not believe, however, that it was good policy to allow Bulgaria to retain territory obtained from Turkey as a bribe for declaring war on us. In any case, Dédéagatch was not the only port which could serve Bulgarian ends. The opening of the Straits added greatly to the value of Bulgarian ports on the Black Sea. The value of the opening of the Straits could be inferred from the outcry there would have been in Bulgaria had the Straits been open before the war and had the result of war closed them for Bulgarian traffic. In any case the port of Dédéagatch had never been and would never be a good port. He hoped that the arrangements that were to be made at Salonika or Cavalla would suit Bulgarian purposes far better. For these reasons he supported M. Tardieu. He might also quote the [Page 440] earlier views of the American Delegation. These views had changed while the views of the other Delegations had not.
M. Tardieu said that he would like to make a brief reply to some of Mr. White’s remarks. It was probable that the real value of the letter written by the Mohammedan Deputies of Western Thrace could never be estimated. At a time when Thrace was not occupied by the Bulgarians these Deputies had written to General Franchet d’Esperey. Since the Bulgars had occupied the country the signatories had felt impelled to recant. It was reasonable to believe that their first mood was more sincere than the second.
M. Clemenceau suggested that perhaps neither was sincere.
M. Tardieu said that the argument that because the Turks in Western Thrace spoke Bulgarian, they would prefer a Bulgarian to a Greek Government, was not to be relied on. Experience had disproved this many times. As to the diminution of population as a result of massacres, it could hardly be maintained that this should redound to the advantage of the authors of the massacres. He did not suggest that a punitive territorial arrangement should be made, but he did not think that it was good morality to recompense the Bulgarians for wrong doing. As to the legality of Bulgaria’s title to Western Thrace, he would point out that Roumania’s title to Southern Dobrudja was equally good, yet the American Delegation wished to restore South Dobrudja to Bulgaria. The same legal argument could not justify the retention of Western Thrace by Bulgaria and the cession to her of Southern Dobrudja. If Bulgaria were given Southern Dobrudja, Eastern and Western Thrace and were only asked to contribute two and a half billion francs, this would amount to an invitation to begin again. As to a lasting peace, when Bulgaria possessed Western Thrace she was not prevented from embarking on an aggressive war. She was not more or less likely to do so after being deprived of it.
M. Tittoni said that the population in Western Thrace was mainly Turkish and Greek. In Eastern Thrace to the south it was Greek and to the North Bulgarian. Assuming, therefore, the Enos-Midia line to be a line beyond which neither Bulgaria nor Greece could extend, he thought that a line dividing Eastern Thrace according to the national distribution of the population would be the most satisfactory.
M. Tardieu said that in 1913 when the Bulgars possessed Dédéagatch they had wearied all the chancellories of Europe to obtain Cavalla, as they considered Dédéagatch an inadequate harbour. It was unlikely that if left with this port only they would be satisfied.
M. Laroche observed that they had gone to war to obtain Cavalla.
M. Tittoni said that if they had had Cavalla they would have made war to obtain Salonika.[Page 441]
M. Clemenceau said that according to M. Tittoni’s plan Adrianople would be Bulgarian instead of being either Greek or part of the territory of Constantinople.
M. Tittoni said that Adrianople was on the line of demarcation between the Bulgarian and Greek populations. It might be assigned to either. This was a question for the Experts to decide.
Mr. Balfour asked whether the Italian Delegation had ever made this proposal in the Commissions.
M. Tittoni said that the Italians had always supported the American view.
Mr. Coolidge observed that the railway to Dédéagatch had been snatched from Bulgaria by Turkey after her defeat by the Greeks and Serbs. At that time the Great Powers had protested very strongly, and among them Great Britain.
M. Tittoni corroborated this statement.
Mr. White explained that he was not so hard-hearted as Mr. Balfour had made him appear. He thought that the Greeks had withdrawn from Western Thrace rather because they feared massacre, than because they had suffered it. Doubtless the Bulgarians would withdraw from any territory invaded by Greeks as a consequence of similar apprehensions. In the East fluctuations of population commonly had this cause. As to Dédéagatch, he thought it could be converted into a good port. Access to the Mediterranean from a port in the Black Sea was obviously more circuitous and less desirable. He wished to state that at the instance of his colleagues he had communicated with President Wilson and explained the difficulty in which the Council found itself. President Wilson, as a possible way out of the difficulty, had suggested the following:—
“Bulgaria recognises the right of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers to transfer to the proposed International State of Constantinople the territory of Bulgarian Thrace as herein defined, and agrees to accept and cooperate in the effectuation of such transfer whenever it is made.”
M. Clemenceau said that if the territory of the future State of Constantinople were increased to this extent, its attribution to any mandatory power would become impossible. There might be agreement if only Constantinople and the Straits were in question, but he saw no chance, if large territories were added.
M. Tardieu said that Internationalised States had been invented for a definite general advantage. The State of Constantinople was considered desirable in order to safeguard the freedom of the Straits. If a large hinterland, including Thrace, were added to it, the result would be that it would include 760,000 Turks, 650,000 Greeks, and 75,000 Bulgars. On what pretext could a mass of 650,000 Greeks [Page 442] at the very frontier of Greece be made subject to another State? This would clearly be contrary to the principle of nationality adopted by the Conference. He thought perhaps the experts might attempt to work out M. Tittoni’s idea.
M. Tittoni said that his proposal was based entirely on ethnographical considerations.
M. Clemenceau said that in his opinion it was impossible to dissociate Eastern and Western Thrace.
Mr. White said that he could not decide without further reference to President Wilson.
M. Tardieu said that the future State of Constantinople could be easily imagined if it were restricted to the Straits, the Sea of Marmora and the populations who made their living by the sea, but if large territories were added to it, and Adrianople and Maritza had to be administered as well, the task would be impossible.
M. Clemenceau said that a very clear and restricted programme must be made for Constantinople, otherwise no mandatory would be found.
M. Tardieu said that the proposal made by President Wilson showed one concession at least to the opinion of the other Delegations. It denied Bulgaria direct access to the Aegean. He took note of this concession. M. Tittoni’s proposal gave Western Thrace to Greece, some of Eastern Thrace to Bulgaria, and the rest to Greece, making both Greece and Bulgaria coterminous with the new State of Constantinople. He thought that it might be possible to work on this thesis, and to obtain some agreement.
Mr. Polk asked how many Greeks inhabited the part of Thrace south of the Enos-Midia line.
M. Tardieu said that there were 420,000 Turks and 408,000 Greeks, and 5,000 Bulgarians.
Mr. Balfour observed that the Enos-Midia line had been introduced into the discussion not as the final boundary of the State of Constantinople, but as the limit beyond which the recommendations of the Commission on Greek and Bulgarian Affairs should not extend.
M. Tittoni said that the Enos-Midia line had been invented at the London Conference of 1913. Had not the Bulgarians attacked the Greeks and Serbians, this line would have become a final frontier line.
Mr. Polk suggested that the discussion be adjourned.
(It was decided to adjourn the discussion on Bulgarian frontier to Saturday, August 2nd, at 3.30. The Experts were requested to consider the suggestion made by M. Tittoni, for an ethnographical partition of Eastern Thrace, and to submit a report in time for the Meeting on Saturday.)[Page 443]
2. General Belin read the report of the Military and Naval Representatives (See Appendix “A”). Military and Naval Measures To Be Taken for the Occupation of Dantzig and Memel
(After some discussion of the implications of Article 101 and 103 of the Treaty of Peace with Germany, the following resolution was adopted:—
“Respecting the report of the Military Representatives on the Military and Naval measures to be taken for the occupation of the territories of Dantzig and Memel, it was decided:—
- To forbid Polish forces from entering the territory of the free city of Dantzig.
- To compel the evacuation of German forces from this territory.
- To postpone the question of military forces to occupy the territory.
- To ask the Commission on Baltic Affairs to examine the question of the occupation of Memel.
It was further decided that during the intermediate period pending the nomination of a High Commissioner by the League of Nations, the Commission provided for in Article 101 of the Treaty, should receive instructions to report to the Council of any measures necessary for the maintenance and order in the territory of the free City of Dantzig.”)
3. The Council had before it a request from the Swedish Legation to be heard on the subject of the Aland Islands by the Peace Conference. (See Appendix “B”) Demand of the Swedish Legation To Be Heard on the Subject of the Aland Islands
(After a short discussion it was decided:—
That a favourable answer should be given to the request of the Swedish Legation for a hearing by the Conference regarding the Swedish views on the question of the Aland Islands.)
(The Meeting then adjourned).
Villa Majestic, Paris, July 31, 1919.[Page 445] [Page 446]
- Ante, p. 242.↩
- Foreign Relations, 1878, p. 866.↩
- Treaty between Bulgaria and Greece, Montenegro, Roumania, and Serbia, July 28/August 10, 1913, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cvii, p. 658.↩
- HD–18, minute 9, p. 378.↩
- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Report of the International Commission To Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars (Washington, 1914).↩
- The Peace Treaty with Germany stipulates in Articles 99 and 100 that Germany renounces in favour of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers all rights and claims to the territories of Dantzig and Memel. [Footnote in the original.]↩
- FM–25. minute 2. vol. iv, p. 833.↩
- This option carries with it the obligation that those who avail themselves of it shall remove to Germany within a maximum period of 12 months. [Footnote in the original.]↩
- Translation from the French supplied by the editors.↩