Paris Peace Conf. 184.00101/19

Minutes of the Daily Meetings of the Commissioners Plenipotentiary, February 22, 1919

  • Present:
    • Mr. Lansing
    • Mr. White
    • General Bliss
    • Later—Colonel House, Representatives of the American Federation of Labor, Mr. Gompers and others
    • Mr. Dulles

1. Mr. White remarked that Mr. Howe desired to be definitely relieved of his mission to Syria and suggested that this be done and that a telegram be sent to Mr. Barton informing him of this fact. Mr. Lansing remarked that it was so late in the day that he was skeptical of the wisdom of trying to send a mission to Syria at the present time. General Bliss suggested that Emir Feizal be called in to tell his story personally to the Commissioners, in order that they might get an idea of the various factions in Syria, keeping in mind, however, that Feizal represented only one position.

Mr. Dulles suggested that it would be possible to request a member of the staff of Beirut Protestant College to come immediately to Paris and report on the political situation in Syria. He suggested George Stewart, the Treasurer of the College, a man who had been [Page 67] in Beirut during the entire war, as a reliable observer. The Commissioners approved of the idea of trying to obtain personal testimony from Syria, but desired that Mr. Bliss, the President of the Beirut Protestant College, now in Paris, be consulted, and that Professor Westermann’s views be obtained, and a definite recommendation made on the basis of the reports of these two men. It was decided that Mr. Buckler should not be sent to Syria.

2. Mr. Lansing read a message from M. Clemenceau, in which he expressed his appreciation of the Commissioners’ solicitous inquiry at the time of his accident.

3. (Mr. McCormick enters.) Mr. McCormick stated that in pursuance of the decision of the Supreme War Council that civilians should be added to the Armistice Commission as economic experts, he desired to propose the name[s] of Mr. Lamont and Mr. McFadden as American members of the Armistice Commission. Mr. McCormick remarked that Mr. Baruch, and Mr. Davis also Mr. Strauss all approved and concurred in this recommendation.

The Commissioners approved the appointment of Messrs. McFadden and Lamont to the Armistice Commission.

4. General Bliss read a letter which he had received from General Patrick in regard to the necessity of having someone attached to the Commission to deal with the questions of aerial navigation which might be brought up. The Commissioners were of the opinion that it would not be necessary to make any one definite assignment for this task, as the work to be done would not be sufficient to occupy the entire time of any one man, at least at present. General Bliss stated that he would reply to General Patrick’s letter.

5. General Bliss read a draft of a telegram to the Secretary of War in regard to the bill for over $500,000. which had been presented to the Commission by General Harts for Army personnel and supplies. General Bliss’ telegram expressed the Commission’s embarrassment at receiving such a bill, and pointed out that the precedent of previous commissions on which army officers had served would not seem to justify the action which had been taken in this case.

6. Mr. Lansing referred to the necessity of having an expert on South American affairs attached to the Commission and stated that Mr. Stabler had been sent for. He inquired whether any information had been received regarding the probable date of Stabler’s arrival, as there were South American affairs of importance pending.

7. A telegram from the President regarding Winston Churchill’s policy in Russia was read.46a The Commissioners decided that a telegram should be sent to the President to the effect that Churchill’s project was dead, and that there was little danger that it would be [Page 68] revived again by the Conference. General Bliss remarked that he had told Churchill that he must have misunderstood the President, who would not have made the statement which had been attributed to him regarding military action in Russia. The Commissioners remarked that the President’s telegram, dated February 19 and received on the 20th, had only been brought to their attention on the 22nd, and desired that an investigation of this delay be made.

8. Mr. Dulles read excerpts from a letter addressed to Mr. Lansing by Count Cellere of the Italian Delegation—from a note from the French Government to the Embassy in Paris—and from a telegram from Borne containing reports from Ensign Tree and Captain Bruce—all regarding the situation in Montenegro. The Commissioners were unanimous that, notwithstanding Italian, French and British representation, there was no reason to change the decision regarding the despatch of American troops to Montenegro. Mr. Dulles suggested that either Ensign Tree or Captain Bruce be instructed to proceed to Paris to report in person to the Commission on the Montenegrin situation. This suggestion was approved.

9. The Commissioners did not see the necessity of appointing a special officer to do liaison work between the Commission and the Red Cross, and were of the opinion that Red Cross matters should be taken up through the usual channels. Mr. Dulles pointed out that the Red Cross was engaged in many activities—relief of Russian prisoners as well as general relief work in enemy countries, in regard to which the Commission should be informed. On the facts presented, however, the Commissioners did not feel that a special officer was necessary for this work.

10. With reference to the letter of the “Temperance and Social Service Commission” to Mr. Grew, the Commissioners pointed out that this organization stated that it intended to take up the prohibition question with the Peace Conference through “the officially appointed representatives of the anti-saloon league of America”. It was decided, therefore, that it would not be necessary or advisable to present to the Secretary General the resolutions attached with the letter from the Temperance and Social Service Commission, and that it would be sufficient for Mr. Grew to merely acknowledge receipt of this letter.

11. With reference to a telegram from the Department of State suggesting that Turkey be informed that the abrogation of the capitulations was illegal, Mr. Lansing observed that the United States had informed Turkey to this effect in 1915,46b and that it would, therefore, not be necessary to repeat such a statement at the present time. He felt that it might weaken rather than strengthen the original American protest against the abrogation of the capitulations. The Commissioners [Page 69] decided that a telegram in this sense should be sent to the Department of State.

12. The Commissioners approved the recommendation on Memorandum No. 102 regarding the desire of Mr. Haidar Bammate to come to Paris to present to the Peace Conference the case of the peoples of Circassia and Daghestan. It was decided that the Embassy should be instructed to address a communication to the French Foreign Office regarding Mr. Haidar Bammate.

13. (Colonel House enters.) A delegation of the American Federation of Labor including Mr. Samuel Gompers, Mr. James Duncan, John R. Alpine, Frank Duffy and William Green was introduced.

Mr. Gompers spoke of the work of the American Federation of Labor. No labor movement he said had stood behind its government so faithfully as the labor movement under the American Federation of Labor in the United States. The only possible comparison was that of Germany, where, unfortunately, labor had lent its cooperation to the force of reaction. American labor could flatter itself that it had “kept the faith”. The solidarity in American labor ranks behind the government had kept American labor from joining certain other labor movements of Europe which favored, at times, a negotiated peace against which American labor had always protested.

Mr. Gompers referred to the attack upon Clemenceau, the assassination of Eisner and of other Bavarian leaders as a sign of the times, a manifestation of what was seething in the ranks of the people throughout the world. To meet this unrest, something must be done, a peace treaty containing merely legal phrases will not satisfy; labor must find in the peace treaty a real recognition of its needs and demands. A defeated army like Germany’s did not expect to find much at home, but for victorious soldiers to go home and find no work is intolerable.

Mr. Gompers referred to the Berne Socialists Congress which he had refused to attend as he considered it a German scheme. He stated that the President had openly expressed himself as approving this decision.

Mr. Gompers gave to the Commissioners two papers, one, containing the proposals submitted by the Delegates of the United States in the Commission on International labor legislation, and two, the reconstruction program of the American Federation of Labor.

Mr. Lansing inquired how the reconstruction problem directly affected the question of the peace treaty. Mr. Lansing added that the Commissioners desired information which would be of help to them in the actual work of preparing the peace treaty. Mr. Gompers admitted that the question of reconstruction was hardly one which could be dealt with in a treaty.

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Mr. Gompers then referred to a British proposition which was before the Labor Commission regarding the construction of a permanent bureau in connection with the League of Nations. He added that he felt that this bureau was a step in the right direction, and that the American Labor Delegates were helping, that they desired, however, the advice and help of the American Commissioners. Mr. Lansing remarked that rather, the Labor Delegates should give the Commissioners their advice on this subject.

Mr. Gompers referred to another proposition which has been agitated namely, the establishment of a super-national commission to include first the Allies and later the neutral and the countries at present enemy countries. The plan of this Commission contemplated four representatives from each country, two appointed by the government, one appointed by employers, and one by labor. Such a super-national parliament would enact legislation which according to the proposed plan would become effective in each of the States concerned unless specifically rejected by that State. Mr. Gompers stated that he and his colleagues had fought this project. Colonel House referred to the constitutional provisions of the United States which made any such project absolutely impossible. General Bliss added that the nature of such a body was such as to make it a possible danger to labor itself. Mr. Gompers stated that while such schemes as the above were being discussed, unemployment was greatly increasing at home. He referred to a number of dangerous signs among American labor—the threat of a general strike on July 4th, unless, Mooney was released—the movement “no beer no work”—strikes in Seattle, etc.

Mr. Gompers stated that it was being quietly circulated about that faddist parlor socialists were more agreeable to the Commission than the representatives of American labor. Mr. Gompers referred to the rumour that the Commission had supported the Berne Conference and sent representatives there. Mr. Lansing inquired to whom Mr. Gompers referred. Mr. Gompers stated that he had heard that Mr. Bullard had gone to Berne to represent the Commission at the Conference. Mr. Lansing stated that this was absurd, that a Mr. Bullitt had gone to Berne as an observer to report the doings of the Conference to the Commission, and in no way as a representative to the Conference, that in the same way Mr. Bullitt was now going to Russia as an observer. Mr. Gompers stated that Mr. Bullitt was reported to be in sympathy with the Bolshevists. Mr. Lansing stated that he was not a sympathizer with the Bolshevists, nor was the Commission. Mr. Gompers referred to other persons who were supposed to have great influence with the Commission and to be of Bolshevik leanings—a Mr. Howe, and Captain Lippmann. Mr. Lansing stated that he did not know Mr. Howe, that he had not seen Captain Lippmann for [Page 71] ten months, and he had never had a private conversation with him; that he had heard of him as an editor of the “New Republic”. Mr. Gompers referred to Mr. Walter Wile as another of the persons who were of Bolshevik tendencies, in close touch with the Commission. General Bliss stated that with the exception of Mr. Bullitt, the men whom Mr. Gompers had mentioned were not well known to the Commission. Mr. Gompers referred to Mr. Lansing’s reference to the “New Republic” and stated that this periodical was Anti-administration, pro-German and of extreme socialist tendencies. Mr. Lansing said that he had not read a copy of the “New Republic” since the war.

Mr. James Duncan interrupted Mr. Gompers and gave a clear exposition of what the American labor delegation desired. The American Federation of Labor, he said, wanted their views incorporated into the Peace Treaty; organized labor must have this recognition. Labor had done its best during the war and now something must be done for labor that would be really constructive.

Mr. Lansing replied expressing the Commission’s appreciation of what the American Federation of Labor had achieved. He referred to what appeared to be the significant fact of the present time—a break down of nationalism and an increased emphasis on class against class cutting across national lines. The Commissioners, he said, were alive to the seriousness of the problem.

Mr. Lansing referred to the difficulty of handling the labor problem because of internationalism and asked whether the Labor representatives were working on the plan of the committee outlined under the League of Nations.

Mr. Duncan stated that article 20 of the Covenant was first class but that Labor wanted more details in regard to this Committee and that it was hard for them to proceed without definite direction.