Paris Peace Conf. 184.00101/13

Minutes of the Daily Meetings of the Commissioners Plenipotentiary, Saturday, February 15, 1919

  • Present:
    • Mr. Lansing
    • Mr. White
    • General Bliss
    • Mr. Herter

1. General Bliss stated that General de Goutte had come to him on behalf of Marshal Foch to discuss the terms of the new armistice conditions. General Bliss had received the impression that the French wished to reduce the German army to absolutely nothing at all, and that this was rather a dangerous move. He felt that Marshal Foch would not really take the same view as that expressed by General de Goutte. Mr. Lansing agreed with General Bliss that there would be grave danger of having hostilities renewed if we pressed Germany too hard and that this would be extremely bad policy. General Bliss added in this connection that at the present time the American army was the only army in condition to fight, and that if hostilities were renewed the entire burden would fall on us.

2. Mr. White read an article which appeared in this morning’s Paris Herald quoting certain remarks made by the President at an interview which he held yesterday with the American Press. Mr. White explained that the American Press was extremely angry about this interview, feeling that it was an absolute breach of faith. Mr. Hood of the Associated Press had recommended to Mr. White that immediate action be taken in this matter, and that the violator be very severely dealt with.

The Commissioners agreed that Mr. White should, at the meeting with the Press this morning take up the matter and ascertain who the individual was who violated the President’s confidence. He should then ask for a report by the Press Committee at [as to?] the nature of the punishment which should be meted out to the offender.

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3. Mr. Lansing stated that the time had now come when we should send Diplomatic agents to the Czecho-Slovak Republic and to Poland. He suggested that Mr. Hugh Gibson be sent to Prague and Mr. W. H. Buckler to Poland. He asked that these gentlemen be notified of their appointment and that this be effected through a letter which he would sign by authority of the President. General Bliss inquired what staffs these gentlemen should take with them, suggesting that if military agents were considered necessary, he was convinced that there were several very good men available. It was agreed that this whole question should be referred to Mr. Grew and that his report in the premises would be acceptable to the Commissioners.

4. The question of the transportation of troops and supplies across Holland was discussed. Mr. Lansing stated that he had received a telegram from The Hague stating that the Dutch government had approved General Pershing’s scheme for sending supplies through Holland. General Bliss explained that this proposal did not involve the sending of men through Holland as no real base was to be established. It would merely be a small number of supervising personnel to direct the trans-shipment of cargoes which were landed at Rotterdam. The whole proceeding would be analogous to any commercial transaction.

Mr. Lansing stated that he had received a draft of a note which it was proposed should be sent by the five Great Powers to Holland urging that the Dutch government permit the passage of British troops through its territory. It was explained that the British earnestly desired this privilege because of the fact that practically the entire British army of occupation would have to be replaced by volunteer troops in accordance with the scheme lately laid down by the British government. If this permission were accorded, it would of course be a breach of Holland’s neutrality, but then as Holland had already agreed in principle to General Pershing’s proposal, which in itself involved a breach of neutrality, the British scheme would really come in the same category. The Commissioners agreed that we should approve the note to Holland as it would undoubtedly give Holland a more secure feeling if the request had been made by all the great Powers rather than only two or three.

5. Mr. White mentioned the fact that the President had some time ago received a personal letter from the Queen of Holland, inviting him to come to Holland, and that up till the time of his departure he had left this letter unanswered in spite of its having been called to his attention several times by both Mr. White and Mr. Lansing. In fact Mr. Loudon, the former Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs of Holland had been waiting in Paris some time to receive this reply, and was undoubtedly feeling much disappointed because of his failure. Mr. Lansing observed that matters of this sort should be attended to very [Page 40] promptly, and that if only the President had an active Diplomatic Secretary such mistakes would not occur. He asked Mr. Herter to see that a wireless message was immediately prepared for the President urging him to immediately answer the invitation in question.

(Note) Mr. Herter has since ascertained that the President has replied to the Queen of Holland’s invitation by telegram, and that it is therefore unnecessary to take any further action in the premises.

6. Memorandum No. 75 was read in regard to Rear Admiral Bristol’s35 desire to make use of the American Embassy at Constantinople and his desire to coordinate the work of all the agencies of the American government at Constantinople under his supervision. It was pointed out that Mr. Heck was American Commissioner to Constantinople, and that undoubtedly this request of Admiral Bristol’s was based on some division of authority which might perhaps have caused trouble. The Commissioners desired to ascertain exactly what sort of a commissioner Mr. Heck was, and the details of his appointment. At the same time they felt that the recommendations on this memorandum were not wise, and that they would like to review it in the light of any information which would be obtained in regard to Mr. Heck’s appointment.

7. Memorandum No. 76 was read. The desire of the Esthonian Delegation in Paris to have Esthonia recognized an independent state, and the statement of that Delegation that it would not consider itself bound by any decision that should be taken at the Prinkipo investigation with regard to its independence was considered. The draft of the telegram to the Department of State in this connection indicating that the Commissioners did not have sufficient information upon which to base any decision was approved.36

8. Memorandum No. 77 was read. The request of the President of the Lithuanian Delegation in Paris regarding the independence of Lithuania and the mission of its representatives to the Peace Conference was considered. The Commissioners felt that with the incomplete information at their disposal, they would be unwilling to take any action in the premises, and therefore approved the draft of the telegram attached to this memorandum.37

9. Memorandum No. 78 was read. The new bulletin issued by the office of the Secretary38 was brought to their attention. The Commissioners observed that although this bulletin had not previously been brought to their attention, they considered it an excellent idea and that in future they would watch its contents with great care and [Page 41] from time to time inform the Secretariat of such additions as they might consider advisable.

10. Memorandum No. 79 was read. It was explained that Mr. Grew had taken the responsibility of allowing Mr. Gompers to have two automobiles for his trip to Brussels this week end in spite of the decision of the Commissioners on Memorandum No. 72. In view of the facts presented, the Commissioners highly approved Mr. Grew’s decision in the premises.

11. Memorandum No. 80 was read. The proposal of the French government that the agricultural machinery to be required of Germany should be divided between France and Belgium in a proportion of ⅘ to France and ⅕ to Belgium was considered. The Commissioners felt that they were not in any position to render a decision in this matter and rather doubt whether it is a question that the United States should pass on at all. In making a decision one way or another they felt that we would merely be borrowing trouble. They suggested that we telegraph to the Department of State indicating that we had no facts on which to render a decision and that we presumed that Washington had none either.

12. Memorandum No. 81. Mr. Herter brought up the recommendation made by Messrs. Baruch, Davis and McCormick as stated in Memorandum No. 81 in regard to the Secretary of the Reparation Committee, Mr. Jerome D. Greene. The Commissioners stated that as they did not know Mr. Greene they were unable to make a fair decision in the premises. Mr. Lansing, however, stated that he thought it very essential that a Diplomatic Secretary should be attached to the Reparation Commission but would be very glad to discuss this matter with Mr. Baruch or Mr. McCormick in order to ascertain just what Mr. Greene’s qualifications for the position are. The Commissioners were, however, definite in disapproving the suggestion that the Secretaries of Committees and sub-committees should be allowed to act as heads of little bureaus of their own, but that when they wish to ask for supplies or assistants, they should do so through their chiefs.

13. Mr. Herter read a letter addressed to Mr. Grew by Mr. Beer in regard to the financing of the Liberian Peace Delegation. The Commissioners felt that it would be impossible to finance this mission from the funds at the disposal of the Peace Commission but that it might be possible for the Liberian delegates to obtain a private loan which would be secured by the expectations of eventually receiving an advance of 5 million dollars in accordance with American plan of November 19, 1918.39

14. Mr. Herter brought up for consideration the possible assignment of Messrs. Bundy and Chesbrough to the Commission, to be [Page 42] utilized on an expedition which is planned for Turkey. The Commissioners felt that pending the arrival of Mr. Dominian, and in view of the possible return to the United States of the two above mentioned gentlemen, it would be well to have them come to Paris as soon as possible.

15. Mr. Herter again brought up the question of having American representatives serve on the Inter-Allied Aviation Committee in the light of an explanation which Mr. Grew furnished. The Commissioners felt that they were not in a position to decide this matter outright, but they would be glad if it could be submitted to General Bliss for his careful study and consideration. They will then be glad to abide by any decision that he may make in the premises.

16. Mr. Herter read the President’s letter in regard to Prof. Herron’s appointment and the Commissioners felt that it would be advisable to have Prof. Herron come to Paris at once. At the same time Mr. Herter took up with them a memorandum which General Bliss had given him regarding the sending of some financial expert to Prinkipo with the American delegates. The Commissioners requested that Mr. Davis be consulted in regard to Mr. Crosby’s recommendation in that memorandum, and be asked if he approved to name the expert who would be available to go on this mission. At the same time they requested that the matter be brought to the attention of Mr. White and Prof. Herron in order that it might not seem as if the Commission were trying to add members to their party whom they did not wish to take.

17. Memorandum No. 83 was read and the Commissioners asked whether Minister Caldwell40 had any connection with the Peace Commission. They stated so far as they were aware he had absolutely no connection with the Commission, and that we were under no obligation whatever to furnish him with motor transportation.

  1. Mark L. Bristol, commanding the United States naval forces in Turkey.
  2. See telegram No. 769, February 15, 1919, from the Commission to Negotiate Peace to the Acting Secretary of State, Foreign Relations, 1919, Russia, p. 668.
  3. See telegram No. 768, February 15, 1919, from the Commission to Negotiate Peace to the Acting Secretary of State, ibid.
  4. Usually referred to as the “SH–Bulletin.”
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1918, pp. 505 ff. and ibid., 1919, pp. 464 ff.
  6. J. L. Caldwell, Minister to Persia.