Paris Peace Conf. 180.03501/95


Notes of a Meeting of the Heads of Delegations of the Five Great Powers Held in M. Pichon’s Room, Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Tuesday, November 18, 1919, at 10:30 a.m.

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • Hon. F. L. Polk
    • Secretary
      • Mr. L. Harrison
    • British Empire
      • Sir Eyre Crowe
    • Secretary
      • Mr. H. Norman
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
      • M. Pichon
    • Secretaries
      • M. Dutasta
      • M. Berthelot
      • M. de Saint Quentin
    • Italy
      • M. de Martino
    • Secretary
      • M. Trombetti
    • Japan
      • M. Matsui
    • Secretary
      • M. Kawai
Joint Secretariat
America, United States of Capt. G. A. Gordon
British Empire Capt. G. Lothian Small
France M. de Percin
Italy M. Zanchi
Interpreter—M. Mantoux

The following were also present for items in which they were concerned:

  • America, United States of
    • Admiral McCully, U. S. N.
    • Captain Madison, U. S. N.
    • Lt-Commander Koehler, U. S. N.
    • Dr. J. B. Scott
    • Mr. A. W. Dulles
  • British Empire
    • Mr. A. Leeper
    • Commandant Dunne, R. N.
    • Captain Fuller, R. N.
    • Commandant MacNamara, R. N.
    • Mr. H. W. Malkin
  • France
    • M. Loucheur
    • M. Arnavon
    • Commandant Du Chayla
  • Italy
    • Admiral Cagni
    • M. Vannutelli-Rey
    • Captain Ruspoli
    • Commandant Ingianni
    • M. Pilotti
  • Japan
    • M. Shigemitsu

[Page 213]

1. (The Council had before it a note from the Reparation Commission dated November 17th on the observations presented by the Serb-Croat-Slovene Delegation November 5th on the subject of the distribution of Austro-Hungarian mercantile tonnage.1 (See Appendix “A”). Report of the Reparation Commission on the Demands Presented by the Serb-Croat-Slovene Delegation on the Subject of the Distribution of Austro-Hungarian Mercantile Tonnage

M. Loucheur felt that a certain confusion had arisen on this question. The note which the Council had before it came from the old Reparation Commission which had prepared the Peace Treaties. The Committee on Organization of the new Reparation Commission, over which he presided, had also had the question put before it, but had not yet considered it. As it was a question concerning the application of the Treaty, he thought that the Committee over which he presided was alone competent, and he asked that the discussion be adjourned. He believed he would be in a position to present a report to the Council on the following day at noon.

(The discussion of this subject was adjourned until the following meeting.)

2. M. Pichon observed that this question depended on the decision to be taken on the previous question, which had been adjourned. He proposed likewise to adjourn the discussion of this point to the following meeting. Signature of the Austrian Treaty by the Croat-Slovene Delegation

(This was agreed to.)

3. M. Clemenceau stated that it was necessary to fix a date for signing the Treaty with Bulgaria. Signature of the Bulgarian Treaty

M. Berthelot pointed out that certain questions of detail had still to be settled before the signature could take place. The signature of Serbia was dependent on a prior settlement of the question of distribution of Austro-Hungarian mercantile tonnage. Within eight days the Council would know whether or not it could count on obtaining the signature of Roumania. Moreover, the Council had decided, upon the request of Switzerland, to insert in the Bulgarian Treaty articles guaranteeing Swiss neutrality.2 As far as the Bulgarians were concerned, no difficulties would be raised in this connection, but it would still be necessary to inform them of this matter upon the arrival of their delegates in Paris, which would take place the following day. These various considerations made it evident that the signature of the Bulgarian Treaty could not take place before the following Wednesday or Thursday.

(After a short discussion, Thursday, November 27th, was settled upon as the date for the signature of the Bulgarian Treaty.)

[Page 214]

4. M. Clemenceau felt inclined simply to reply to M. Venizelos that the Council adhered integrally to the text of the letter it had sent him on November 12th.3 M. Berthelot could undertake the preparation of this letter. Consideration of Letters of November 15th and 17th From M. Venizelos Relative to the Situation in Smyrna. (See Appendices “B” and “C”)

M. de Martino agreed entirely with M. Clemenceau’s suggestion. He wished to correct a misleading phrase in M. Venizelos’ letter of November 15th, (See Appendix “B”). It was there said (See page 2) that the Commission on Greek Territorial Claims had categorically approved the Greek claims on Smyrna and the neighboring region. He felt obliged then to point out that the Italian representative on that Commission had always contested the Greek claims.

It was decided:

that M. Berthelot prepare a letter to be sent to M. Venizelos informing him that the Supreme Council adhered integrally to the point of view set forth in its letter of November 12th;
that the above letter be signed by the President in the name of the Supreme Council and despatched immediately.

5. (The Council had before it a telegram from Sir George Clerk dated November 16th (See Appendix “D”).) Situation in Hungary

Sir Eyre Crowe read and commented upon this telegram. He pointed out that the information contained therein was less satisfactory, that arrests of certain political leaders were taking place at Budapest, and that if the situation did not improve, Sir George Clerk might be obliged to carry out the threat which he had already several times made of leaving Hungary.

(Discussion of this question was adjourned pending the receipt of more precise information.)

6. M. Clemenceau stated that as a result of the conversation he had had that morning with the French Naval Expert it had become apparent that the point of view set forth in the latest British proposition was an entirely new one.3a He found it difficult to reach immediately a decision on such an important point in the absence of the Minister of Marine who was at that moment not in Paris. He felt that the Minister of Marine would not be disinclined to agree with the British proposals. Up to that time his own point of view had been somewhat different, but the new arguments presented to him had rather shaken his convictions and he was quite ready to change his previous point of view in order to arrive at an agreement. Nevertheless he wished time for reflection. He could not indeed pretend that the idea of destroying the vessels would not be very unfavorably received by French public opinion. [Page 215] If a solution of that nature were adopted, at the very least it would be necessary to draw up a statement clearly setting forth the reasons which militated in favor of that solution. Unfortunately the present state of the French navy was so regrettable that French public opinion would not understand why the navy should not use the share of German ships which were allotted to it. At any rate it would be necessary to act with due consideration for French public opinion which was acutely interested in this question. Distribution of Enemy Warships

(The discussion of this question was adjourned).

7. Mr. Polk wished to call attention to the fourth paragraph of the decision relative to German Oil Tank Ships in the Minutes of the preceding meeting (H. D. 94, Minute 2),4 which did not entirely conform to what he had said. What he had actually said was that he would undertake to transmit to his Government Sir Eyre Crowe’s proposal, recommending its adoption, and that in the ships meantime the 9 oil tank ships of the Deutsch-Amerikanische Petroleum Gesellschaft should be retained without being used. Correction of the Minutes of the Meeting of the Council of November 17, 1919, (H. D. 94) Relative to the German Oil Tank Ships

M. de Percin asked if the remaining tankers could at once be used, as was set forth in the preceding paragraphs of the decision in question.

Mr. Polk replied in the affirmative.

It was decided:

that paragraph 4 of the decision relative to German Oil Tank ships (meeting of November 17th, 1919, H. D. 94, Minute 2), should be modified to read as follows:

“(4) that Mr. Polk would transmit to his Government the foregoing proposals of Sir Eyre Crowe and recommend the adoption thereof, and that in the meantime the 9 oil tank ships claimed by American interests should be retained without being used.”

8. M. Fromageot explained that the question of German ships transferred to Dutch Navigation Companies had been brought up by a note of the Council demanding that the Germans retain the 5 vessels in course of construction which they claimed to have legally transferred to Holland in 1915 and 1916.5 The Dutch Government had protested against this note and maintained that the Dutch Navigation Companies were legal owners of the vessels in question.6 The Dutch note had been replied to7 and Germany had replied to the note which had been sent it. The question raised was the validity of a change of flag during the course of a war of a vessel belonging to [Page 216] a belligerent country. That question had not been juridically decided in an identical manner by all the Allied and Associated Powers. In France a very ancient rule was followed which had been laid down at the time of the war of American Independence by an Ordinance of 1778. That ordinance settled that no ship could avail itself of a neutral flag if that neutral flag had been acquired in the course of the war. The French had never ceased to apply that rule. In America and England the system followed was apparently different, and a transfer made in good faith was considered valid in principle; but if account were taken of the jurisprudence of prize courts it would be seen that in practice decisions were in general similar to those arrived at in France. In any case, as it might well be embarrassing to ask their Allies to adopt a course that would not be fully consistent with the juridical principles which they accepted theoretically, he thought, in agreement with his colleagues, that it would be preferable not to reply to the German note until the Treaty had come into force. The Treaty specified (See Part VIII, Annex III, paragraph 7) that Germany must secure for herself the full title to the property in all those ships that were transferred during the war. Basing their position upon that very definite text, the Allied and Associated Powers would be legally justified in demanding from the Germans delivery, pure and simple, of those vessels, without needing to engage in theoretical and obscure discussions upon the validity of the transfers. German Ships Transferred During the War to Dutch Navigation Companies

(After a short discussion

It was decided:

not to reply before the Treaty came into force to the German note upon the German vessels transferred during the war to Dutch navigation companies.)

(The meeting then adjourned).

Appendix A to HD–95

[Report of the Reparation Commission on the Demands Presented by the Serb-Croat-Slovene Delegation on the Subject of the Distribution of Austro-Hungarian Mercantile Tonnage 8]

The Serb-Croat-Slovene Delegation asks that the fishing boats and other commercial shipping belonging to the ex-Austrian owners of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on November 4, 1918, should be attributed to the said Kingdom.

[Page 217]

The Reparations Commission of the Peace Conference is of the opinion:

That Austro-Hungarian fishing boats and other Austro-Hungarian ships of less than 2,000 tons might be left in the Adriatic ports to which they were respectively attached; and that the value fixed by the Reparations Commission of the German, Austrian, Hungarian, Bulgarian or Turkish interests represented by these boats shall be charged to each of the states whose nationals are owners of such boats;
That, although under the principle of ton-for-ton distribution the Serb-Croat-Slovene State would not have any right to reparations in shipping because no maritime losses were sustained by it during the war, that State may nevertheless, like other Allied and Associated Powers, claim that recognition be granted the property rights in tonnage belonging to its nationals, rights which are entirely safeguarded by paragraph 20 of Annex II of Part VIII of the Peace Treaty; and that, with a view to regulating the question of tonnage in accordance with the rights and interests of the other states concerned, the Serb-Croat-Slovene State may be admitted to such arrangements as may be made in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Council of May 22, 1919, which arrangements should be submitted to the Reparations Commission.9

Appendix B to HD–95

Letter From the President of the Greek Delegation, Dated, November 15, Regarding the Situation in Smyrna

greek delegation to the peace congress

From: M. E. K. Veniselos.

To: M. Clemenceau.

I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of the letter which Your Excellency was kind enough to send me on November 12,10 relative to the Commission of Inquiry of Smyrna.

Owing to the spirit of friendly confidence inspiring the answer of the Supreme Council to the written claims and verbal reserves which I had the honor to set forth, I think it my duty not to insist on the errors in the investigation, consequent to the incontestable irregularities committed in the course of the procedure adopted by the Commission.

But it would be a slight on the respectful sincerity of the sentiments which I always expressed to the Supreme Council, to not point [Page 218] out to the benevolent attention of the Council the reflections suggested to me, on two points, by the answer given.

In the first place, the Supreme Council expresses the hope that the dangerous tension, which seems still to exist on the boundaries of the zone of Greek occupation, will be, little by little, reduced by the wisdom and justice of the Greek administration and, thanks to the work of delimitation recently terminated by General Milne, Commander of the Allied Forces in Anatolia.

The Supreme Council may entirely rely upon the maintenance of a perfect order in the zone of occupation of the Greek Army. But it would be a misunderstanding of the reality of the facts which provoked this dangerous tension, existing on the boundaries of the zone of occupation, to expect its reduction by the effects of Greek administration. In fact, its vigilance is all exercised within these boundaries while the tension referred to above results from attacks launched from outside. Their authors are not only free to organize them, but they were under the impression of being encouraged to do so by the procedure of the investigation in which they discerned disfavor for the Greek regime. Therefore, they continued their powerless aggressions again and again, as the risks were reduced by the fact that Greek troops had to limit themselves to repulsing them without authority to pursue them.

An objective examination of the facts leads to the conclusion that the good order existing in the zone of Greek occupation, will be as well assured beyond its limits, as soon as the Turks, deprived of the hope of finding support in instigating trouble, will really become conscious of their defeat. This result will certainly be obtained by the definite decisions of the Peace Conference.

In the second place, the Supreme Council notices that the occupation of Smyrna was only decided for political reasons, and constitutes no new right in the future. May I point out that, whatever be the reasons for the decision to send Greek troops to Smyrna, the Supreme Council could not be mistaken as to the interpretation given it, with good reasons, by the Greek Government and people. The Greek claims on Smyrna and the neighboring region were not only well-known, but they had been officially formulated to the Conference, defended at length before the Supreme Council, and frankly approved by the Commission on Greek Territorial Claims. In occupying Smyrna, Greece knew that [although?] she was not yet legally, she was at least morally, entitled to it. She did not simply send her troops as executive instruments to a foreign country, as she had previously done in Russia, but as organs most interested in the success of an international mandate, with a view to maintaining order in an essentially great country. Therefore, although the occupation of Smyrna [Page 219] did not constitute, from a strictly juridical point of view, a new right to the benefit of Greece, in fact, it has created a new situation which should not be disregarded. It does not extend the rights which Greece previously had in Smyrna, and already recognized by the Commission on Greek Affairs, but at least it corroborates them and strengthens the legitimate confidence of the Greek nation in the final decision of the Peace Conference.

I entirely share this sentiment, as I am convinced that the rights of my country in Smyrna are in full accord with the general situation of the world, and with the wishes and interests of the population.

Please accept, etc.

E. K. Veniselos

Appendix C to HD–95

Letter From the President of the Greek Delegation, Dated November 17, Regarding the Situation in Smyrna

greek delegation to
the peace congress

The President of the Council

From: M. Veniselos.

To: M. Clemenceau.

Pursuant to my letter of November 15, I have the honor to reply to the passage of your letter of November 12 referring to the desire of the Supreme Council to obtain from me information relative to the conditions under which Greek troops crossed the line of demarkation, as fixed by the Interallied High Command at Soma.

I hastened to submit this question (sic) and the High-Commissioner of Greece at Smyrna has just furnished by despatch the following information:

In conformity with the proposals of General Milne approved by the Supreme Council, the Greek troops, after having occupied their new positions in the Pergamum sector, were obliged to cross the line in the direction of Soma, because of an aggression by Turkish bands, to pursue and disperse the assailants. Having achieved this purpose, they hastened to return to their original position. This action took place by virtue of a new authorization from General Milne by the terms of which Greek troops may, in defending themselves, counter attack and pursue the enemy beyond their line to a distance of three kilometers, under the obligation of returning to their original line after having dispersed the enemy.

Mr. Sterghiadis adds that the use made of this authorization was brought to the attention of General Harboury, representative of General Milne, who formulated no observations nor reserves.

Please accept, etc.

[No signature on file copy]
[Page 220]

Appendix D to HD–95

Telegram From Sir G. Clerk, Budapest, to Supreme Council

No. 8

Order has so far been completely maintained and general life of city is quite normal but there have occurred instances of unauthorized arrests and attempted arrests of prominent socialists and social democrats. These are people who have been in consultation with me and in negotiation with present Government in regard to formation of a coalition. I have made strongest possible representations to Government who assures me incidents are completely unauthorized acts of individual officers or soldiers. This may be so but instances are all the more significant of lack of authority of Government. I have said that I can only regard arrests of political leaders with whom both I and government are in consultation as deliberate insults to Allies and that unless I have formal and definite guarantees that no one will be molested in this way I shall leave Budapest at once.

  1. For the note of November 5, see appendix B to HD–89, p. 103.
  2. See HD–88, minute 3 and appendix B, pp. 78 and 89.
  3. Appendix A to HD–90, p. 131.
  4. Appendix 0 to HD–94, p. 201.
  5. Ante, p. 188.
  6. Appendix A to HD–70, vol. viii, p. 649.
  7. Appendix G to HD–82, ibid., p. 929.
  8. Appendix E to HD–83, ibid., p. 951.
  9. Appendix B to HD–89, p. 103.
  10. CF–24/1, minute 5, vol. v, p. 834.
  11. Appendix A to HD–90, p. 131.