Paris Peace Conf. 180.03501/115


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 Monday, December 22, 1919, at 10:30 a.m.

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • Hon. Hugh Wallace
    • Secretary
      • Mr. L. Harrison
    • British Empire
      • Sir Eyre Crowe
    • Secretary
      • Mr. H. Norman
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
    • Secretaries
      • M. Dutasta
      • M. Arnavon
      • M. de Saint Quentin
    • Italy
      • M. de Martino
    • Secretary
      • M. Trombetti
    • Japan
      • M. Matsui
    • Secretary
      • M. Kawai
Joint Secretariat
United States of America Captain Winthrop
British Empire Captain Lothian Small
France M. Massigli
Italy M. Zanchi
Interpreter—M. Mantoux

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

  • United States of America
    • Mr. Rathbone
  • Great Britain
    • Capt. Fuller, R. N.
    • Cdt MacNamara, R. N.
    • Mr. Malkin
    • General Mance
  • France
    • M. Leygues
    • M. Loucheur
    • M. Cambon
    • Gen’l Le Rond
    • C. Amiral Levavasseur
    • M. Fromageot
  • Italy
    • M. Ricci-Busatti
    • C. Amiral Grassi
    • Cdt. Fea
  • Japan
    • M. Nagaoka
    • M. Osumi

[Page 626]

Mr. Clemenceau suggested that before dealing with the agenda he would like to raise a question which he hoped would not cause any difficulty. The Council had decided some weeks previously to give a 25-years mandate to Poland for the administration of Eastern Galicia.1 That decision had occasioned lively protest in Poland, and the Polish representatives had insisted that the question should be examined anew. According to them a resolution of that nature would have a very favorable effect on public opinion, and to some extent, keep their army free from Bolshevist propaganda. On his visit to London he had interviewed Mr. Lloyd George on the question; later he had asked Sir Eyre Crowe to request Mr. Lloyd George to be good enough to put before them a text which they could adopt; the English Prime Minister had proposed that very day the following formula: 1. Status of Eastern Galicia

“The decision recently taken at Paris, granting to Poland a mandate of 25 years over Eastern Galicia, ought to remain in suspense and be the subject of a new examination to be conducted later.”

Mr. de Martino approved the text, all the more for the reasons adduced by the Polish Delegation which seemed to him not without foundation.

Mr. Matsui also approved of the proposal.

It was decided:

That the execution of the recent resolution which accorded to Poland a 25-years mandate for Eastern Galicia should be suspended and that the question should be re-examined later.

Sir Eyre Crowe informed the Council that his Government was pressing for the Council to take a definite decision upon the mandates for former German colonies. The mandates were ready for South-East and South-West Africa, as also for the Pacific Islands; they could also be ready for Togoland and the Cameroons since the only litigious question had been settled, namely, the employment of native troops.2 2. Mandates

Mr. Clemenceau suggested that that last question had not been completely settled for Mr. Polk had stated that he must make a reservation on behalf of his Government and he (Mr. Clemenceau) anticipated no difficulty on the point, but agreed with Sir Eyre Crowe that the question ought to be put upon the agenda for an early meeting.

Sir Eyre Crowe was glad to be in a position that day to acquaint the Council of the opinion of his Government. In conformity with the view of the majority of the Council, the British Government considered [Page 627] it preferable not to modify the protocol4 but thought that it would be well, nevertheless, to settle some procedure for acquainting the Germans that concessions were possible. It had, for example, already been established that in the Allies’ calculations there was an error of 80,000 tons. Under those circumstances the British Government believed that there were grounds for reducing the Allied demands from 400,000 tons to 300,000 tons, the Allied experts having to agree among themselves the nature of the material to be handed over and the conditions of its delivery. The protocol would then be signed by the Germans alone and in its present form; at the same time the latter would be informed that the Allies were ready to make such concessions as were recognized by their experts to be legitimate. 3. Reply to the German Note.3 Settlement of Scapa Flow incident

Mr. Clemenceau asked whether Sir Eyre Crowe meant discussion between Allied experts alone or between those and the German experts.

Sir Eyre Crowe explained that he meant between Allied experts.

Mr. Leygues said that in those circumstances he accepted the British proposition: the protocol to be signed as it stood but no note would be taken in the application of admitted errors.

Mr. Loucheur asked whether the British Government meant to accept the immediate delivery of the 300,000 tons or did it agree that a part only of that materiel ought to be handed over, the remainder to be delivered later.

Sir Eyre Crowe explained his Government was of the opinion that they should ask for immediate delivery. The second procedure that namely which had in view the handing over of new docks constructed specially, presented, as a matter of fact, numerous disadvantages even from the point of view of reparations. It was preferable that the Germans should give at once what they could and afterwards set themselves to work in their own interest as well as in that of the Allies to supply the remainder. If the Allied demands were excessive it was for the Germans to furnish the proof; if that proof were forthcoming they could have to take action correspondingly. The case was for that matter anticipated in a perfectly unambiguous phrase of the protocol.

Mr. Leygues considered it certainly probable that a mistake in calculation had been made; but it was the more necessary to have proof of it, since the Allied estimates had been founded upon German figures.

Mr. Clemenceau asked to have matters made still clearer. Was he to write to the Germans that they maintained in principle the stipulations [Page 628] of the protocol but that the Council was ready to take into account any error that they might have made and reduce its demands in consequence?

Sir Eyre Crowe considered that a question of procedure: In principle he did not think it necessary that the declaration be made in writing; but it was important that the Germans should know that in the event of their supplying proof of mistake in calculations the extent of their demands would be immediately diminished.

Mr. Loucheur thought it necessary to be still more precise. The Germans claimed that there was a miscalculation of 160,000 tons in the Allies figures—over the Dantzig docks, and that other of 80,000 tons which, according to the Allied contention, existed at Hamburg and which was identical with that already appearing on the Allied statement as two docks—one of 37,000 tons and another of 43,000 tons. But the German experts pointed out further the existence of 60,000 to 80,000 tons of docks which did not appear upon the Allied estimates, the result being that the difference between the German and the Allied calculations made a total of 80,000 tons. Should they then say to the Germans that they would agree to a reduction of 160,000 tons, or only 80,000 tons, and admitting that they would reduce the demands by 100,000 tons, were they going to specify that they already agreed to the reduction of 100,000 tons under reserve of verification of figures? Again, was Sir Eyre Crowe prepared to go further still? Apparently, the Germans were going to stick to the 192,000 tons which they had proposed. Were they agreed to go beyond that and demand 300,000 tons, or would they, on the contrary, agree to make ultimately a new concession upon that last figure?

Mr. Clemenceau, looking at the matter from the point of view of procedure, preferred the method proposed by Sir Eyre Crowe. According to his information the Germans were ready to sign; were indeed troubled at the delay that had intervened. He thought, therefore, that for the moment it would suffice to stick to Sir Eyre Crowe’s proposal to maintain their demand, indicating to the Germans that they would be prepared ultimately to reduce them if error in their calculations were proved. If, in these conditions, the Germans did not agree to sign they could fall back upon the proposition of Mr. Loucheur and discuss figures, but he felt, that there would be no real controversy, especially if at the time of handing over the note Mr. Dutasta made a verbal communication also.

Mr. de Martino believed, as he had indeed pointed out at a previous meeting,5 that at the actual moment they must before all else have the treaty come into force. To attain that essential end the means were [Page 629] comparatively unimportant. In those circumstances he associated himself with the proposition which the President had just formulated.

Mr. Matsui likewise gave his approval to the proposition.

Sir Eyre Crowe suggested that in the verbal communication to be made to Baron von Lersner, Mr. Dutasta could perfectly well indicate that if an error of 80,000 tons in the calculations were definitely established the Allied demands would be reduced by the 100,000 tons. In that way the Germans would have complete reason for giving their signature.

Mr. Clemenceau pointed out that the question of the immediate handing over of tonnage remained. Would they start by taking the 192,000 tons which the Germans offered, or would they await, before taking anything whatever, the definite establishment of the figures?

Sir Eyre Crowe thought they might well commence by taking delivery of what had been actually offered.

Mr. Loucheur suggested that there would, therefore, be grounds for saying in the verbal communication: Let the Germans sign the protocol as it stands; they stated, it was true, that in the Allied calculations there was an error of 80,000 tons; they would verify; if the German information were exact their demands would be reduced by 100,000 tons. Let the Germans then start at once the delivery of the 192,000 tons they had offered. If they showed that the Allied demands were excessive the Allies would reduce them to the degree considered necessary.

Sir Eyre Crowe pointed out that such an affirmation was, for that matter, already in their last note, but there were grounds for inserting in their reply a paragraph maintaining that they did not recognize any sales that Germany had made. They undertook not to paralyze German economic life but that undertaking had another side, namely that Germany did not get rid of the docks she possesses.

Mr. Loucheur said he would go further: they ought to prohibit the Germans for a period of one or two years from selling any dock whatever; the concessions they were able to make now were not for the purpose of allowing the Germans to sell any part of the materiel.

Mr. Leygues thought that it was not necessary to insist too much in the verbal or written communication upon the possibility of further concessions. The Germans would take advantage of it; indeed, it was important to be on their guard against figures the Germans supplied. He would remind the Council that the Commissions of Control had discovered in German ports 30 submarines more than they had declared.

Mr. Clemenceau summarized. They were agreed upon the general lines of the reply and he thought the Council was unanimous in considering [Page 630] that they should be sent with the least possible delay. He would be unable himself to be present at a meeting of the Council the following day: in these circumstances he proposed that the Heads of Delegations meet that evening at 7 o’clock in his cabinet to decide upon the terms of the note.

That proposition was adopted.

Sir Eyre Crowe added that the reply ought to take account of the position of the prisoners of Scapa Flow, as also of the question of the five cruisers. On the matter of the prisoners his Government made no difficulty about handing them over, it being understood that it should retain those who were guilty of a crime.

Mr. Loucheur asked whether the destruction of the vessels would be considered a crime.

Sir Eyre Crowe said that obviously it would not. As for the cruisers, it was a case of maintaining purely and simply the demand formulated in the protocol.

Mr. Leygues said that in order not to delay agreement he would not insist upon the proposition formulated by the French Delegation. He would, however, take the liberty of indicating that their proposition satisfied France and Italy and in general all the Allies. By 1920, if they adhered to the protocol and the terms of the Treaty, the Germans would have three cruisers that had reached the age limit and which, consequently, they would be entitled to replace. In 1923 they would have three more. The Allies were then going to oblige them to demolish at once ships which they had under construction and to let them build others immediately afterwards, since they were entitled to replace those cruisers which were left to them as soon as those had attained the age limit. That was a situation that seemed really to have very little justification. The other system would have been more satisfactory. The Germans would have handed over five cruisers. Just as the ships which were actually on the slips had been completed they would have handed over these to the Allies who could have given back to them in exchange the cruisers already surrended. Now those last ships, by the terms of the Treaty, could only be replaced in eleven years.

Sir Eyre Crowe perfectly recognized the force of the arguments developed by Mr. Leygues. It was none the less true that the adoption of his proposition would render a modification of the Treaty necessary—a very grave matter. Further, nothing obliged the Germans to replace immediately ships that had reached the age limit; they might very well wait some time before doing that.

Mr. Clemenceau pointed out that it was unnecessary to deal with that point in their reply since the German note made no mention of cruisers.

[Page 631]

Mr. Loucheur agreed but pointed out that the Germans had affirmed that their reply had been misinterpreted and that their intention from the beginning had been to ask for the non-surrender of the cruisers; that was the reason for specifying in its letter that it refused this concession.

Sir Eyre Crowe thought that it would be a good plan for the naval experts and the Drafting Committee to consult.

Mr. Clemenceau summed up that it was understood that a meeting would take place at 4 o’clock to prepare the text and that that text would be presented at the 7 o’clock meeting of the Heads of Delegations that night.

Mr. Loucheur explained that when the Serbian Delegation had acquainted him with their demand he had replied that the question could only be examined by the Reparation Commission when that had been constituted, namely, after the coming into force of the Treaty: the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission was not qualified to grant their request. 4. Demand of the Serb-Croate-Slovene Delegation for Priority of Treatment in the Matter of Reparations

Sir Eyre Crowe asked whether, in those circumstances, they had to change anything whatever in the Hungarian Treaty, what mattered most at the moment being contained therein.

Mr. Loucheur replied that they had not. The Serbian demand concerned the Treaty with Germany and bore upon sums to be collected from Germany, for the Serbian Delegates considered that there would be very little to collect from Hungary. In the matter of Hungary, the Serbian demands concerned only the mines of Pecs.

Mr. Fromageot: The Drafting Committee had been under the impression that the demand of the Serbian Delegation had in view the Treaty with Hungary, but he must acknowledge that they had never received a copy of any note on the subject.

Mr. de Martino, for his part, understood that it was a request for priority in regard to reparations due by Germany, and he felt obliged to say at once that the Italian representatives considered the demand to have slight justification.

Sir Eyre Crowe concluded that there was, therefore, nothing to prevent the Drafting Committee giving the Treaty with Hungary definite form.

Mr. Loucheur added that the question of the mines of Pecs remained and that its text would be drafted within 24 to 48 hours.

The Council had before it two draft letters prepared by the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission. (See Appendices “A” and “B”.)

Mr. Loucheur said that the drafts were unanimously approved by the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission. After a short discussion it [Page 632] was decided to adopt the draft letters prepared by the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission to be sent to the German Delegation concerning the collection of custom duties in gold marks. 5. Draft Letters to the German Delegation on the Subject of Collection by German of Custom Duties in Gold Marks

Sir Eyre Crowe stated that he had already indicated the very strong desire of the British Government to see raised the blockade measures which had been adopted towards Roumania;6 it felt, however, unable to do so until Roumania had replied to the ultimatum of the Supreme Council.7 6. Restrictions Upon Commerce With Roumania

Mr. de Saint Quentin said that, in consideration of a decision taken at a previous meeting of the Supreme Council,6 Mr. Berthelot had called General Coanda and indicated to him the importance that the Powers attached to receiving a prompt reply from the Roumanian Government; the Allied representative at Bucharest had been acquainted with this step to enable him on his side to act to the same end.

Mr. Clemenceau said that, for his part, he must admit having thought, perhaps wrongly, that after the signatures of the Treaties by Roumania the resumption of commercial relations presented no difficulties and so far as France was concerned, he had authorized that resumption. Naturally, he would have no objection whatever to the British Government doing the same. From the legal point of view he recognized that Sir Eyre Crowe was perfectly right.

Mr. de Martino asked whether the President, therefore, was of the opinion that all Powers could resume commercial relations with Roumania.

Mr. Clemenceau stated that that was his opinion.

It was decided:

To authorize the resumption of commercial relations with Roumania;

That whatever has been the formula adopted, Mr. Wallace would refer the resolution to Washington for instructions from his Government.

The Council had before it a note from the British Delegation, dated December 20 [13], 1919, (Annex “C”), also a draft letter to the President of the Roumanian Delegation, adjoined to that note (Annex “D”).

General Mance read and commented upon the note of the British Delegation.

Mr. de Martino suggested the advisability of specifying in line five of the draft letter that the inventory referred to the rolling stock of the railways. 7. Letter to Roumanian Delegation on the Subject of an Inventory of the Rolling Stock on the Roumanian Railways

[Page 633]

Mr. Clemenceau said it would suffice to adopt the following text: “To have prepared an inventory of the rolling stock on all their railways.”

Mr. de Martino asked exactly what was the bearing of the proposal leading to that inventory: “Sunday, 4th January, 1920, and thereafter every fourth Sunday.”

General Mance explained that they believed these periodical inventories necessary to enable them to establish definite statistics, but that they did not expect that there would be need to adopt that procedure for more than three or four months.

It was decided:

To address to the President of the Roumanian Delegation the letter appearing in Annex “D” on the subject of an inventory of the rolling stock on the Roumanian Railways.

(The meeting then adjourned).

Appendix A to HD–115

[Draft Letter to the German Delegation]

“To The President of the German Peace Delegation,

I have the honor to inform you that the Allied and Associated Powers have agreed to authorize Germany to immediately increase the amount of specified pre-war customs duties expressed in marks in such a proportion as the Reparation Commission shall deem it to be a just equivalent to the depreciation of German currency.

The negotiations necessary with various Powers for prohibition of importations into Germany, as well as for exportation, shall be opened or continued.

If, within a period of three months these negotiations have not given a result deemed satisfactory by the said Powers, the question shall be entirely examined anew.

Please accept, etc.”

Appendix B to HD–115

organization committed of
the reparation commission

To the Supreme Council.

Following our letter C. R. 460, dated December 19, 1919,8 regarding the collection, by Germany, of customs duties in proportion to [Page 634] the depreciation of German currency, we have the honor to enclose herewith a draft letter explaining the interpretation which the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission gives, for the time being, to the expression “in such a proportion as the Reparation Commission shall deem it to be a just equivalent to the depreciation of German currency.”

The Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission expresses the desire to have this draft sent at the same time as the first draft, C. R. 460, or within the shortest time possible.

By Order of the Committee,
The Interallied Secretaries

“To the President of the German Delegation.

By my letter No. … of December . . . ., 1919, I had the honor to inform you that Germany is authorized to immediately increase the amount of specified pre-war customs duties expressed in marks in such a proportion as the Reparation Commission shall deem it to be a just equivalent to the depreciation of German currency.

It therefore becomes the duty of the Reparation Commission to establish the rules according to which this equivalence is to be calculated.

Provisionally, and until the Reparation Commission informs you of what these rules are to be, Germany must take the steps necessary to ensure that the customs duties which she imposes are not superior to pre-war customs duties, expressed in marks, calculated at the rate of exchange on the dollar, the date of collection.

Please accept, etc.”

Appendix C to HD–115

Note From the British Delegation Regarding a Letter to Roumania on the Inventory of Rolling Stock

From: British Delegation, Paris.

My Dear Ambassador: Brigadier General Mance, British Delegate on the Committee of Ports, Waterways and Railways, President of the Communications Section of the Supreme Economic Council, informs me that he has sent Your Excellency a letter dated the 6th of this month from Sir Francis Dent, President of the Commission for the Distribution of Rolling Stock belonging to the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. In this letter, of which I am enclosing a [Page 635] copy9 (in case you should wish to refer to it), Sir F. Dent asks whether it would not be possible to ask the Roumanian Government, once more, to communicate the complementary details regarding the rolling stock as furnished by the other governments represented on the Commission.

This step has become necessary owing to the fact that so far no representative of Roumania has been present at the meetings of the Commission, although at my request the Roumanian Government was invited, about a month ago, to choose this representative at once.

Furthermore, the Director of the Roumanian railroads declared that he could not furnish the desired information unless he were previously authorized to do so by his Government.

As the first inventory of rolling stock takes place January 4, 1920, the question is of an urgent nature. For this reason General Mance has prepared in this sense the enclosed minute of a note which he proposes to send to the Roumanian Delegation by the President of the Peace Conference.10 The object of this note is to make sure that the necessary measures will be immediately taken by Roumania. I have the honor to propose that this minute, which after having been examined, was approved by the Communications Section of the Supreme Economic Council, be submitted to an early meeting of the Supreme Council.

I add that General Mance is asking by telegram, Sir F. Dent to send directly to Bucarest the necessary documents, in care of the French officer who assures the liaison between the Roumanian Government and the Commission in Vienna.

Please accept, etc.,

H. Norman

Appendix D to HD–115

Proposed Letter to the President of the Roumanian Delegation, Paris

In order to facilitate the re-establishment of normal conditions in Central Europe, the Communications Section of the Supreme Economic Council have requested the countries of Central Europe, through its liaison officers, to have made an inventory of all their railroads belonging to the state or to private persons. This request, to which was joined a request for complementary details, was simultaneously communicated to the representatives at the Commission for the Distribution of Rolling Stock of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, but owing to the absence of the Roumanian Delegate it could not be brought to the attention of the Roumanian Government in this [Page 636] way. The proposed inventory was to take place Sunday, January 4, 1920, and the following Sundays every four weeks, these being the dates on which inventories should take place in France and Belgium. All the other countries have agreed to proceed with this inventory.

The French representative of the Communications Section, however, has been advised by his Liaison Officer in Roumania that the Director of the Roumanian Railways did not believe he could proceed with this inventory without the authorization of his Government.

Owing to the early date of the inventory, the Supreme Council begs the Roumanian Delegation at the Peace Conference to kindly telegraph its Government, dwelling on the advantages of the proposed inventory, the facilities which will thereby accompany exchanges at the frontier, and the repercussion on economic conditions of Central Europe and requesting it to authorize this inventory.

Examples of the forms for inventory which it is desired to have have been sent to the French Railroad Officer in charge of the liaison at Bucarest. Details as to the complementary information requested by the President of the Distribution Commission was forwarded at the same time.

  1. HD–98, minute 1, p. 285.
  2. HD–110, minute 6, p. 541.
  3. Appendix C to HB–80, vol. viii, p. 865.
  4. Appendix A to HD–111, p. 567.
  5. HD–112, minute 3, p. 582.
  6. HD–113, minute 2, p. 596.
  7. Appendix A to HD–93, p. 182.
  8. HD–113, minute 2, p. 596.
  9. Supra.
  10. Does not accompany the minutes in Department files.
  11. Infra.