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.
America, United States of
- Hon. F. L. Polk
- Mr. L. Harrison
- Sir Eyre Crowe
- Mr. H. Norman
- M. Clemenceau
- M. Pichon
- M. Dutasta
- M. Berthelot
- M. de Saint Quentin
- M. de Martino
- M. Trombetti
- M. Matsui
- M. Kawai
- America, United States of
|America, United States of||Capt. G. A. Gordon|
|British Empire||Capt. G. Lothian Small|
|France||M. de Percin|
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
- Mr. A. Leeper
- Commandant Dunne, R. N.
- Captain Fuller, R. N.
- Commandant MacNamara, R. N.
- Mr. H. W. Malkin
- M. Loucheur
- M. Arnavon
- Commandant Du Chayla
- Admiral Cagni
- M. Vannutelli-Rey
- Captain Ruspoli
- Commandant Ingianni
- M. Pilotti
- M. Shigemitsu
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).
- For the note of November 5, see appendix B to HD–89, p. 103.↩
- See HD–88, minute 3 and appendix B, pp. 78 and 89.↩
- Appendix A to HD–90, p. 131.↩
- Appendix 0 to HD–94, p. 201.↩
- Ante, p. 188.↩
- Appendix A to HD–70, vol. viii, p. 649.↩
- Appendix G to HD–82, ibid., p. 929.↩
- Appendix E to HD–83, ibid., p. 951.↩
- Appendix B to HD–89, p. 103.↩
- CF–24/1, minute 5, vol. v, p. 834.↩
- Appendix A to HD–90, p. 131.↩