Paris Peace Conf. 184.00101/16

Minutes of the Daily Meetings of the Commissioners Plenipotentiary, Wednesday, February 19, 1919

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

1. Mr. McNeir stated that yesterday Colonel Cloman representing the Financial Section of the A. E. F. had come to him and had presented him with a bill of over $500,000 for the service rendered by the Army in connection with the Peace Commission. This bill covered every sort of expense from the complete cost of the automobiles in use to the expense of the infirmary, and the commutation, subsistence and salary of all officers including General Bliss. A letter was attached to this bill from General Harts explaining its contents.

General Bliss suggested that this bill be sent to Washington for the Secretary of War to act on. All the Commissioners felt that it was a ridiculous charge to make against the Commission …

Mr. Lansing then suggested that Mr. McNeir should draft a telegram to the Secretary of War which General Bliss agreed to sign, summarizing the items included in the bill, and stating the great surprise which the Commissioners felt at receiving such a bill sent to the Peace Commission. Mr. Lansing then felt that a wireless message [Page 54] repeating the above telegram should be sent to the President in order that he might take up this matter with Secretary Baker upon his arrival in Washington. He noted that the President was very anxious to keep down the expenses of the Peace Commission, at least on paper.

Mr. McNeir then asked whether special allotments for outside missions and armistice expenses should be made in the mission’s funds. He stated that he had before him a request for $15,000 for the American mission to Poland and one for $10,000 for the armistice mission at Trèves. The Commissioners agreed to approve $10,000 for the Commission to Poland, and to allot further funds to this Commission if it was necessary at a later date. They also agreed that Mr. McNeir should obtain further information from General Churchill regarding the necessity of $10,000 for the armistice commission.

Mr. McNeir stated that he had drawn $45,000 for Prof. Coolidge’s Commission to Vienna on the understanding that it should come from the State Department emergency fund and not from the Peace Commission’s allotment. Mr. Lansing stated that Mr. McNeir’s understanding in this matter was correct, and that this matter should be cleared up at once.

Mr. McNeir left the meeting and Brigadier General Phillips (British) was then called in. General Phillips declared that in a conversation with General Bliss last night he had explained certain matters in regard to the Albania situation which he desired to repeat to the Commissioners. General Wilson had agreed that all information which he had should be put at the disposal of the American Commissioners.

General Phillips went on to explain that in his 7 years experience in Albania he had had an opportunity of examining closely the question of the so called Albania massacre by the Montenegrins and Serbians. Much literature had been prepared on this subject but General Phillips was surprised to find that the Albania claims which had been sent to the American Embassy at Rome had never reached the Embassy.

At the present time, the situation in Albania is extremely bad. It is not in need of immediate food, but will shortly require organized ravitaillement. In the mountains of Montenegro the people are starving, but it is very difficult to feed them because of the great corruption that exists and the hardships encountered in transporting the food. Both the Montenegrins and the Serbians are doing all they can to hold the Buana, a purely Albanian river, and to prevent the shipment of food supplies on this river. General Phillips felt that it was extremely important that all ships going from Scutari up this river should be made to pay a small tax in accordance with the British toll system, and that in this way the shipping could be controlled.

[Page 55]

When General Phillips was in command of the International forces in Albania in 1914 he had promised the Albanians autonomy. It was therefore with deep regret that he learned of the pact of London of 1915 whereby Albania was split between Serbia and Greece. He felt strongly that the Albanians, a people which were purer than any others in Europe, with a higher sense of morality, a pure strain and dauntless courage should be made autonomous, but should, until such a time as they are able to establish a firm government, be under the protectorate of some great power. General Phillips believed that Italy should be this power, although he was conscious that the Albanians were hostile to the Italians because they felt that Italy could not govern herself and could not successfully withstand the Jugo-Slavs.

General Phillips stated very strongly that in his opinion over half of the whole Albanian question could be settled if only the Peace Conference would now determine the boundaries of Albania, leaving to a later discussion the question of the protecting power and their form of government.

General Phillips then went into a short resume of Albanian history, explaining how these people were made up of 5 great tribes whose history ran back 2500 years. They are Illyrians by heritage, speak Albanian only, and live by tribal law. At different times 2 of these tribes had been given to Montenegro by various of the great powers as a sop for favors rendered, and these gifts had caused tremendous unrest and hatred in the souls of the Albanians.

General Phillips declared that he was unable to understand the present policy of France in Albania. The French Colonel in command was openly telling the people that France was on the verge of war with Italy, whereas at the same time the Italians were telling the Albania people the same story, likewise France had told Albania that all her land would be restored to her which of course is a statement most unfavorable to France’s Ally Serbia. Undoubtedly France wishes to become the protector of Albania not because of any direct benefits to be derived therefrom, but for the sake of weakening Italy’s prestige.

In General Phillips’ opinion, if the Albania delegates who truly represent Albania were allowed to come to Paris, much of the internal fighting would stop. This has been the Albanians’ great weakness. Even in America where there are 200,000 Albanians, four distinct groups all opposed to each other have been formed. Nevertheless, the people of Albania seem anxious to have a British or preferably an American protectorate. Italy, however, both historically and geographically is the most logical country for this purpose, and the Italians would not encroach upon the Albanians because as settlers they never leave the coast. If only Essad Pasha could be kept from Albania there is some chance of unity being arrived at.

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General Phillips felt very strongly that Albania had the right to know at once what the future scope of her territories would be. He stated that he himself was in a position to calm Albanians or to start them on a war-path against the Montenegrins and Serbians by merely stating what the attitude of the Peace Conference was in regard to their claims. The following districts, tribes or towns of the north should be incorporated in the Albanian State:

Dulcino (Town)
Hoti-Gruda } Tribes

The most important was the district of Debra.

Acting on the other questions in the Balkans, General Phillips explained that Venizelos had included in his platform, which caused the exile of King Constantine from Greece, the promise of the return of Constantinople to Greece. He likewise stated that neither Montenegro or Serbia would ever be content until they got Scutari, that likewise the Albanians would never rest quiet until the flag which he had promised them in 1914 had been assured to them. Sixteen times in all this country had been besieged.

General Phillips ended his statement by declaring that the establishment of an autonomous Albania would form a great bulwark between the Jugo-Slavs and the East.

2. Mr. Herter read a telegram received by Mr. Gompers from the Shipyard Workers in the Northwest in regard to the spread of Bolshevism. The Commissioners immediately asked whether this telegram had been sent to the President by Mr. Gompers, and felt that if it had not it should be.

3. Mr. Herter brought up the matter of loaning $60,000,000 to German-Austria, as suggested to Mr. Grew by Mr. Strauss for the Commissioners’ consideration. The Commissioners were unable to understand exactly how this loan would work out, and therefore requested that they be allowed to speak to Mr. Strauss for about five minutes during the meeting tomorrow morning.

4. Mr. Herter translated a note to the Commissioners in regard to Mr. Lasteyrie’s46 reply to Mr. Davis in respect to a mission into Germany. The Commissioners felt that the excuse of the French in this matter was very weak, and a letter should be immediately drafted to Mr. Loucheur to the effect that no invitation had ever been received from the French to send American representatives on the mission in [Page 57] question, and that further, the United States had never had an opportunity to discuss with the other members of the associated governments a policy which, in their opinion, resembles much the German policy of removing industrial machinery from the occupied territory.

Memorandum No. 88 was read regarding the belief of Messrs. McCormick, Baruch, Davis, Lamont and Strauss that Messrs. Lamont and McFadden should go as Economic representatives of the United States with the Permanent Armistice Commission at Spa. The Commissioners were a little confused on this whole matter, and requested that Mr. McCormick or Mr. Baruch come to one of their meetings to explain it, bringing at the same time a copy of the resolutions of the Supreme War Council authorizing the appointment of such Economic representatives to the Armistice Commission.

5. Memorandum No. 89 was read and it was decided that the Commissioners would be glad to see the American Federation of Labor Mission on Saturday morning at 11 o’clock. They desired, however, that in the reply which was to be sent to Mr. Gompers, it be stated that the Commissioners had other appointments at 11:30 and would therefore be grateful if the Mission could arrive promptly.

6. Memorandum No. 90 was brought up regarding the desire of the Sons of the American Revolution to have the American Peace Mission present a wreath to be placed on the monument of George Washington on February 22nd. The Commissioners felt that they had hardly come to Paris for this purpose, and that as they would have much business to do on Saturday morning, including the receiving of Mr. Gompers and his party, they were afraid they would have to refuse. At the same time they felt that this matter was one which came slightly within the jurisdiction of the Embassy.

7. Mr. Herter brought up the question of Lieut. Cobb’s assignment to the Commission for duty with the American Delegates to the Reparation Commission. The Commissioners were delighted at the thought that a good American interpreter had been found, and approved highly the assignment of Lieut. Cobb to the Commission.

8. Memorandum No. 91 was read in regard to the President’s desire that rooms be reserved in the Crillon for the personnel attached to him as indicated in that memorandum. The Commissioners felt that at the time when these gentlemen returned it would be well to have accommodations for them in the hotel, although it was clearly stated that these accommodations need not be the same as those which they occupied before their departure.

The whole question of space in the hotel Crillon was discussed at some length, and the Commissioners felt that aside from their own offices they would be glad to have as many personnel living in the Crillon and as few offices as was possible. They therefore hoped that Mr. Grew would maintain a very stiff attitude in regard to requests [Page 58] for more rooms that came from anyone except the Commissioners, and if possible to try and persuade the technical advisors to have rooms elsewhere. They realize that it would be very difficult to kick the technical advisors out at the present time, but suggested that if any technical advisor asked for more space he should be told that there is plenty of space available elsewhere in Paris and that the Commissioners would be delighted if he go [went?] out and found it.

Mr. Lansing inquired whether he might be informed as to Mr. Hoover’s status at the present time. Whether it had been definitely agreed to allow Mr. Hoover [to] keep his office in the Crillon. General Bliss observed that the Personnel Committee would shortly begin its work of clearing out dead timber and that then perhaps more space both for living quarters and for the absolutely necessary office rooms would be found.

9. Memorandum No. 92 was read containing the recommendation submitted by Mr. Beer in regard to the treatment of Liberian [omission?] affairs was considered. These recommendations were in general approved. The Commissioners felt that some of them should [see?] Mr. Beer in order to have the whole matter explained, and it was decided that Mr. White and General Bliss would do this.

10. Memorandum No. 93 was considered in regard to the assignment of Captain Lester W. Perrin to the Austro-Hungarian Commission. The Commissioners were unable to see exactly how Captain Perrin’s previous experience fitted him for work in regard to Austro-Hungarian affairs, but nevertheless were willing to accept the recommendations of Dr. Mezes and Dr. Seymour in the premises. They therefore approved of the assignment of Captain Perrin to the Commission.

11. Memorandum No. 94 was read, requesting on behalf of Mr. Jerome D. Greene the assignment of Lieut. Henry James to the Mission for duties in connection with the Reparations Committee. The Commissioners approved the assignment of Lieut. James for the purpose mentioned.

12. Mr. Herter brought up the question of Mr. Jerome D. Greene’s acting as a head of a Bureau or Department. The Commissioners approved that in his particular case all would be well, and that they would trust him absolutely as far as the organization of his Bureau went. At the same time they did not appear very anxious to have him select assistants, secretaries, clerks, typists and messengers who are to be put on the Commission pay-roll, without at least putting through the formal request which even the Commissioners themselves have to make. It was decided that Mr. Greene be informed that he will have complete freedom in the ordering of supplies and matters of this sort, but that in the matter of personnel, lie would have to conform to the regulations which every other office has to follow.

  1. Count Charles de Lasteyrie, French financial expert and member of the secretariat of the Commission on Reparation of Damage.