Paris Peace Conf. 184.00101/15

Minutes of the Daily Meetings of the Commissioners Plenipotentiary, Tuesday, February 18, 1919

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

1. Mr. Lansing stated that at the meeting at the Quai d’Orsay yesterday a solution in the Russian matter had not progressed very far.42 General Bliss observed that he was to meet General Wilson and the military leaders of certain other powers today in a conference on the whole subject. He would then read the memorandum which he had prepared yesterday, and would state clearly that in his opinion, from a military point of view it would be a piece of criminal folly to start another war on the other side of Germany until the present war had finished. He felt very strongly that the Bureau of Ten should decide the policy which was to be pursued in Russia and that then the military leaders should devise as to how this policy could be carried out. Evidently Winston Churchill wished to put the brunt of deciding a policy on the military leaders.

Mr. Lansing stated that in view of the fact that the Bureau of Ten had not been able to decide on any policy, it would be best for General Bliss to work purely on a hypothetic basis. This General Bliss agreed to do, and added that he would propose that certain hypothetic solutions be considered, and that then the military leaders work out different methods of pursuing these assumed policies.

2. Mr. Herter suggested that Mr. Fred Dolbeare, who is in charge of the active correspondence on Russian affairs, be allowed to attend the meetings at the Quai d’Orsay as a technical advisor when such affairs were being discussed. The Commissioners agreed that it would [Page 50] be most advisable for Mr. Dolbeare to attend these meetings when such affairs were the topic of discussion.

[3.] The question of the members of certain Albanian factions having been refused passports to proceed to Paris to present their claims was discussed. The Commissioners felt very strongly that the Italians and French were pursuing this policy of keeping from Paris persons of unsympathetic views too far. They requested therefore that a note be drafted to the American Embassy in Paris stating that the Commissioners felt that with a view to getting all sides of the Albanian question it would be most advisable to have Messrs. Tourtoulis and Midhat Bey Frasheri come to Paris at once. The Embassy should then bring to the attention of the French government the attitude of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace in this matter with a request that favorable consideration be given to the above named gentlemen’s applications to proceed to Paris.

4. Memorandum No. 85 was read. The draft of telegram attached to this memorandum regarding the question of the recognition of the Rumanian Minister to the United States was discussed. The Commissioners agreed that unless for some personal objections, the Rumanian Minister to Washington should be recognized, and therefore approved the telegram in question.

5. Memorandum No. 86 was read and the Commissioners considered the question of the movement which was probably being supported by both Hungary and Italy toward the formation of an autonomy state in Croatia. They agreed that this matter was serious, and that it would be well to receive Prof. Coolidge’s report in the premises. Mr. Lansing believed, however, that such a report had been received within the last day or two from Vienna, and asked that this matter be investigated. He added, however, that if he were mistaken in this belief, he would gladly join the other Commissioners in approving the telegram to Prof. Coolidge, attached to Memorandum No. 86.

6. Mr. Herter read a letter from Mr. Westermann. The Commissioners agreed that if Mr. Westermann were asked as to the attitude of the United States in regard to the London Agreement of April 191543 and the Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 1916,44 he should reply that we did not recognize either of these agreements as having any bearing upon the final settlement in the Dodecanese or in the Near-East. In fact, the United States intends to completely ignore these agreements in the discussion of these problems unless by chance, they happen to contain certain provisions which we consider [Page 51] to be just and proper, in accordance with our declared principles.

7. Mr. Herter read a memorandum prepared by Mr. White in regard to the request of the Panama delegation for the services of Colonel Arthur D. Budd of the 311th Regiment of the A. E. F. The Commissioners decided that there would be absolutely no objection to Colonel Budd’s serving with the delegation from Panama in Paris, but that it would be impossible for the Commission to request General Pershing to release him for this purpose. Any arrangement that would have to be made by Colonel Budd in order to have himself assigned for duty to the delegation of Panama would be a matter which he himself would have to take up with the proper authorities of the A. E. F.

8. Memorandum No. 87 was read. The question of reducing the subsistence allowance for officers attached to the Commission from 40 francs a day to 30 francs a day was considered. The Commissioners felt that they were not in a position at the present time to decide this matter, but that it should be referred to the Committee composed of General Bliss, Mr. White, Mr. Patchin and Mr. McNeir for final decision.

9. Mr. McCormick entered the meeting.

Mr. McCormick was asked about the qualifications of Mr. Jerome Greene for the position of Secretary to the Reparations Committee. He explained that Mr. Greene has served for over a year with the Inter-Allied Maritime Council, and had in all respects sufficient experience to make him excellently qualified for the position. The Commissioners were satisfied with this explanation.

Mr. McCormick then went on to explain the difficulties which the Committee on Reparations was having at the present time. For ten days the interpretation of the word “reparation” had been discussed and as yet no solution had been reached. The United States supported only in a rather feeble way by Belgium was standing out alone in the interpretation of this word against all the other powers. Mr. McCormick felt that this was an extremely delicate and important matter, and that we might perhaps have now come to the parting of the ways. He felt that since an impasse had been reached it would be necessary to refer this whole question back for decision to those persons who had drafted the Allied acceptance of the President’s principles with the two reservations in regard to the freedom of the seas and the meaning of the word reparation.45 Mr. Lansing felt that inasmuch as the memorandum embodying the views of the [Page 52] Allies had been definitely filed with the Government of the United States this matter should settle it and that they had no cause for withdrawing from their original decision. Mr. McCormick explained that certain arguments were very difficult to combat. For instance, Serbia contended that none of the American arguments held good in her case because of the fact that she was fighting Austria-Hungary and not Germany. Likewise the British though insisting that the cost of the war be included under the heading reparation, at the same time was promising to the small states certain priority rights. These promises were keeping all the small states except Belgium on her side. He added that this whole matter was very unfortunate from a political point of view. The President had already approved of the principles which the Reparation Committee was acting upon, but it might be advisable to get further instructions from the President before this matter went too far. There would be no use in fighting it out to the end if it were referred to the Council of Ten [or?] if the President were perhaps willing to recede to a certain extent. Mr. Lansing thought that we should cable the President at once to send to the Reparation Committee a statement which could be read together with confidential instructions for its guidance.

Mr. McCormick went on to explain that France’s present plan seemed to be to get Germany to sign a blank check which could be later filled in. France was evidently getting nervous at not being able to fix definitely the sum which Germany could pay.

It was decided that a cable should be sent to the President requesting his views in the premises.

10. Mr. McCormick withdrew, and Prof. Philip Marshall Brown entered the meeting. Prof. Brown said that he had wished to speak to the Commissioners about the German propaganda which was being carried on among the American troops in the army of occupation, which he personally had had a chance to observe at Coblenz. He said that many of our soldiers were now beginning to “wonder how we ever got on the side of the frogs”. The whole attitude of both the men and officers had gone very far. He felt that something very radical had to be done from on top to impress the men with the necessity for their remaining in Germany and supporting the Peace Conference in trying to gain the sort of peace for which they had fought.

Prof. Brown stated that he had had a conversation with General Dickman, and had been much impressed by the fact that the General was very anti-British and anti-French. In fact, his attitude seemed entirely wrong. Prof. Brown suggested that the Commissioners ask the President or General Pershing to send some message to our soldiers which would counteract this German propaganda.

General Bliss stated that in his opinion the whole feeling of our troops in the occupied area was absolutely natural, but he did not [Page 53] believe that any message which the President could send would do very much good. He asked whether, if it came to a show-down, our soldiers would not fight again, which Prof. Brown answered, that he was sure they would fight again.

General Bliss then stated that the whole question came back to the criminality of the Peace Conference not making peace. He added that in the first place he had advised strongly against sending any army of occupation into Germany but of completely disarming and demobilizing Germany at the very outset. He added that as things were going Bolshevism would come everywhere if peace were not made soon.

Prof. Brown commented that time was working against us, and that the situation now in England was very serious. It is even reported that Lloyd George’s position was very shaken.

Mr. Lansing then suggested that the question of the President’s sending a message to the soldiers should be referred to General Bliss for final decision.

  1. See BC–34, minute 7, vol. iv, p. 28.
  2. Great Britain, Cmd. 671, Misc. No. 7 (1920): Agreement Between France, Russia, Great Britain and Italy, Signed at London, April 26, 1915.
  3. For text, see Current History, vol. xi, pt. ii (1920), p. 499; also E. G. Mears, Modern Turkey (New York, 1924), p. 614.
  4. See telegrams No. 12 and No. 13, October 30, 1918, from the Special Representative to the Secretary of State, Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol. i, pp. 425 and 427; also note No. 286, November 5, 1918, from the Secretary of State to the Swiss Minister, ibid., p. 468.