Paris Peace Conf. 184.00101/20

Minutes of the Daily Meetings of the Commissioners Plenipotentiary, Monday, February 24, 1919

  • Present:
    • Mr. Lansing
    • Colonel House
    • Mr. Herter

1. Colonel House stated that General Pershing had come to him yesterday and had assured him that he had previously known nothing about the bill for over half a millon dollars which had been submitted to the Commission by the army. General Pershing believed [Page 72] that this matter had originated with General Harts, but at the same time felt that General Harts had done so merely for the sake of indicating to the Commission the present cost to the army of its assistance, and not with a view to having the bill paid. He therefore asked that General Harts be exonerated and the matter be forgotten. General Pershing added, however, that in his opinion there were too many army men now attached to the Commission, and that criticism sooner or later would have to be expected.

Colonel House observed that the greatest need which the Commission had at the present time was for trained civilians, particularly those who could take high responsible positions. He added that all in all, however, our situation, including technical advisors, was better than that of any other nation, and that this had been repeatedly proved by our experts being able to rectify statements made by the technical experts of other nations at the Quai d’Orsay. Our financial men in particular, he said were far ahead of the others, especially the British.

2. Mr. Lansing and Colonel House discussed the strange manner in which Mr. Howe had acted by returning from Brindisi, half way on his trip to the Near-East. They felt that in view of his actions it would be better to drop him all together, but at the same time to ask Mr. Barton to go on alone. He could then be later joined by the mission which was being organized by Captain Tyler under the leadership of Mr. Dominian. In regard to the latter gentleman, Colonel House observed that he was a persona grata with President Wilson and that it would be most acceptable to the President if he, in conjunction with Mr. Barton, were made head of a mission to the Near-East. In the meanwhile, however, both the Commissioners felt that if the Commission knew of any reliable Syrians who wished to come to Paris but were being stopped by the French, Italians or British, it would be well for us to take steps to see that they were allowed to come on to Paris.

3. Mr. Lansing told of a visit which he had received from a Commission of Dalmatian religious functionaries representing the whole Diocese of Dalmatia, including the Cardinal and a Franciscan. These gentlemen all appeared to be very anti-Italian and assured Mr. Lansing that the sentiments which they expressed were the ones which were really felt by the people of Dalmatia. Colonel House at the same time remarked that a Mr. Seldon of the New York Times, who had recently visited Jugo-Slav territory had brought back a report, the authenticity of which Colonel House could not vouch for, that the Jugo-Slavs were willing to make a very reasonable proposal in regard to their claims.

4. Mr. Herter read a memorandum prepared by the Secretariat giving a list of the names of the American Secretaries connected with [Page 73] the Peace Commission who were actually engaged on the work with the Conference proper and not with any of its branch committees. Mr. Lansing requested that he be allowed to keep this memorandum as he had several names which he desired to add to the list.

5. Colonel House stated that he had just had a talk with Mr. Norman Davis about the question of reparations, and that Mr. Davis had felt that it would not be possible for us to get together with the French in this matter. Colonel House had told him that if the Americans and French delegates were unable to get together in the immediate future they should not waste their time any longer but should draw up their report and send it to the Bureau of Ten. He added that if in the Committee of Ten the French still insisted on carrying out a project which was contrary to the wishes of the President and contrary to the pledge which had been given to Germany before the signing of the armistice we should then state that we wash our hands of the whole business, and that for our part we would absolutely refuse to ask for any indemnity from Germany. He added that unless this policy were followed Germany could within four or five years repudiate any agreement which she is now forced into by the associated governments on the grounds that it was contrary to the agreement which she had entered into at the time of the signing of the armistice, and that if Germany should make such a repudiation all of the world would sympathize with her and there would undoubtedly be a new war with a different line up.

6. Mr. Lansing stated that he had observed that in a draft proposal for a peace treaty which had been submitted to him, no mention was made of the League of Nations. He believed that the peace treaty which should be submitted to Germany for signature should have incorporated in it an article to the effect that the signatories to the treaty approve and consent to the organization of a League of Nations as formulated in a document annexed to that treaty. This would mean that the constitution of the League of Nations would not be bodily incorporated in the treaty of peace but would merely be an annex thereto. Mr. Lansing indicated that such a procedure would have the advantage of allowing neutral countries to sign the constitution of the League of Nations, but would at the same time exclude enemy countries from signing it but would force them to approve it after it had been signed. Colonel House considered this an excellent idea and hoped that Mr. Lansing would develop it further.

7. The Commissioners stated that they preferred not to see Captain Voska at the present time. They thought that it would be advisable, however, for Captain Voska to see General Bliss and make a report to him, and that if the latter then thought that the Commissioners ought to hear this report an interview could be arranged for at a later date.

[Page 74]

8. The telegram to Prof. Coolidge at Vienna regarding Colonel Miles’ decision on the Carinthian boundary question was approved.

9. The telegram to the Department of State defining the purpose of Mr. Bullitt’s mission was approved.47

10. The telegram regarding the attitude which the United States should adopt at the present time in respect to the abrogation of the capitulations in Turkey was approved.

11. Part of the memorandum from Colonel Williams regarding Franco-American relations was read, and the Commissioners stated they were getting awfully tired of hearing just how strained relations were and that they would really prefer to let the matter rest.

12. Memorandum No. 103 was read quoting a telegram which Admiral Benson desires to send to the President regarding our present naval building program. The Commissioners felt very strongly that it would be unwise to send this telegram, in view of the fact that it would be most dangerous to give it to the press, and in view of the fact that unless it were given to the Press it would service [serve] no purpose. The Commissioners decided therefore that Mr. Lansing should speak to Admiral Benson personally about the matter.

13. Mr. Herter read a memorandum prepared by Mr. Patchin requesting that he be authorized to expend 1340 francs for certain type necessary to print good proofs of the proces-verbales etc., for the Commission. The Commissioners immediately stated that they would be glad to authorize Mr. Patchin’s expending any sum necessary for turning out legible and well printed documents for the Commission.

14. Memorandum No. 104 was read and the attention of the Commissioners was called to a telegram from Prof. Coolidge regarding certain demands which the Italian Government was making on the German-Austrians, using as a threat to force compliance with these demands the cutting off of food shipments.

The Commissioners agreed that the action of the Italians in this matter was intolerable, and that some way would have to be found to prevent the further complete control of the Italians over the German-Austrian food supply. They therefore heartily approved of the recommendation contained in Memorandum No. 104, namely, that Mr. Hoover should be requested to suggest the measures which should be taken in the premises.

15. Mr. Herter read a memorandum regarding certain statements which the Delegates of the Ukrainian Republic had made to the President of the Peace Conference. The Commissioners stated that they had already received this information through certain data which General Bliss distributed containing a full text of three notes which the Delegation in question had sent to M. Clemenceau.

  1. See telegram No. 893, February 24, 1919, 10 p.m., Foreign Relations, 1919, Russia, p. 74.