Paris Peace Conf. 184.00101/2

Minutes of the Daily Meetings of the Commissioners Plenipotentiary Saturday, February 1, 1919

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

1. Mr. Lansing stated that Major James Brown Scott had been definitely assigned to be the second member with Mr. White on the Committee for the study of Waterways, Ports, Railways, etc., and that Mr. Miller was to serve on the Committee to determine the responsibility for the war. Mr. White inquired whether these two appointments had been notified to the French Foreign Office, and Mr. Herter was delegated to ascertain whether this had been done, and if not, to see that the notification was effected as soon as possible.

2. Mr. Lansing summed up briefly the questions which had been discussed at the Quai d’Orsay, indicating that only the testimony of Roumania and Serbia had been heard with regard to their conflicting claims in the Banat of Temesvar. Mr. Lansing stated he believed that all territorial questions of this nature as well as those affecting other [Page 7] Balkan States and the Near East could only be considered as a whole and not as separate issues between individual States. Mr. White concurred in this opinion.

3. Mr. Herter read Memorandum No. 15 of January 31st regarding Mr. Ray Stannard Baker’s suggestion that his assistant, Mr. Sweetser, have his salary raised to $500 per month.

It was decided that the increase in Mr. Sweetser’s salary should not be granted, but that the Commissioners would receive further evidence in the premises if Mr. Baker had any to present.

4. Mr. Herter read Memorandum No. 16 inquiring whether the Commissioners approved that the official visiting cards of persons attached to the Commission be paid for by the Department of State.

It was decided that this item should be paid for by each individual ordering cards from the Ceremonial office.

5. Mr. Herter read Memorandum No. 17 inquiring whether the Commissioners approved a suggestion made by Dr. Bowman that an offer by the American Geographical Society to provide $1000 for the purchase of maps for the present use of the Commission and for the later use of the Society should be accepted.

It was decided that Dr. Bowman’s suggestion be followed and the offer of the American Geographical Society accepted.

6. Mr. Herter read Memorandum No. 18 recommending that in view of the feeling that the Brazilian Delegates now in Paris had not had as free access to our Commission as they wished, Dr. Pessoa,8a another Delegate from Brazil who will shortly arrive in Paris should be received by one of the American Commissioners.

It was decided that both Mr. Lansing and Mr. White would be glad to receive Dr. Pessoa and that a telegram to the Department of State be drafted, informing the Department of the decision of the Commissioners, and requesting that this information be brought to the attention of Mr. Da Gama.9

Colonel House entered the meeting.

Colonel House stated that he had consulted with Lord Robert Cecil and others in regard to the suggestion made at yesterday’s meeting of the Commissioners by Mr. Lansing that the general principles for the League of Nations be settled upon before the President returns to the United States, and the details of the constitution be worked out later. Colonel House was very skeptical of the success of such a motion because the matter had now gone too far. Colonel House stated that a Drafting Committee consisting of Mr. Hurst for the British Delegation, and Mr. Miller for the American Delegation had been appointed, to which the proposed constitution for a League of Nations had been referred.

[Page 8]

Mr. Lansing stated that he knew Mr. Hurst very well, having been associated with him several years ago on an international commission …

. . . . . . .

7. Colonel House stated that he had ascertained that Dr. Barton formerly of the Armenian and Syrian Relief Committee was at present in Borne. Mr. Lansing gave to Mr. Herter a letter which he had addressed to the President and which had been approved by the President, suggesting that Dr. Barton serve with Mr. Frederick C. Howe on a commission to Turkey. Colonel House requested Mr. Herter to have a telegram drafted for Dr. Barton in Rome, asking him whether he would serve with Mr. Howe on a commission of two to visit Syria and Asia Minor and report his findings to the American Commission to Negotiate Peace. Dr. Barton could be informed that it would not be necessary for him to return to Paris before undertaking this mission inasmuch as instructions could be sent by Mr. Howe.

8. Mr. Lansing felt that matters in the Jugo-Slav territory were going from bad to worse, and that it was necessary for us to take some definite action. He read a draft of a possible Declaration which had been prepared by Mr. Dulles, of which the following is a text:

“On May 29th the Government of the United States expressed its sympathy for the nationalistic aspirations of the Jugo-Slav races,10 and on June 28th declared that all branches of the Slav race should be completely freed from German and Austrian rule.11 After having achieved their freedom from foreign oppression, the Jugo-Slavs formerly under Austro-Hungarian rule on various occasions expressed the desire to unite with the Kingdom of Serbia. The Serbian Government, on its part, has published and officially accepted the Union of the Serb, Croat and Slovene peoples. The Government of the United States therefore welcomes the Union while recognizing that the final settlement of territorial frontiers must be left to the Peace Conference for determination according to the desires of the peoples concerned.”

The text quoted above was approved and it was decided that it should be sent to the President for final approval.

9. Mr. Lansing stated that he had this morning received from the Secretariat a list of the personnel at present attached to the Peace Commission. He had been appalled by the number of persons attached, and very much feared that if the facts were brought before Congress an immediate investigation would ensue. He felt therefore that immediate action was necessary in order to cut down to the [Page 9] lowest limit. The figures were read for each of the various branches and departments of the Commission and it was decided that in most of the cases, particularly those of Colonel House, General Churchill, Colonel Van Deman, the Telephone Department and the Communications Department a great reduction should be made. In the case of General Churchill’s and Colonel Van Deman’s Departments all the Commissioners expressed great astonishment at the number of personnel involved, particularly as they were not aware of what these officers did, nor had read any of the documents prepared by them. The Commissioners all believe that these two Bureaus could probably be disposed [dispensed?] with. Mr. Lansing thought that one way of solving the problem was to have the Executive Officer of the Commission placed immediately under the Executive Secretary, and that the many separate Boards such as the Supreme War Council, the Shipping Board, Mr. Hoover’s organization etc., should be kept separate and separately accounted for from the Peace Commission.

Colonel House suggested that Mr. White be put at the head of a Committee, which would contain besides himself, Mr. Patchin and Mr. McNeir. Mr. White suggested that if such a Committee were formed General Bliss should also be appointed upon it. This Committee was approved.

Mr. Lansing believed that in order to perfect the organization of the Commission the regular correspondence bureau should be increased, even though at the expense of many of the technical bureaus. This opinion was shared by the other Commissioners.

It was decided that a Committee consisting of Mr. White, General Bliss, Mr. Patchin and Mr. McNeir should immediately investigate every bureau and department of the Commission and reduce its personnel to the very minimum compatible with efficiency and good service.

10. Mr. Herter read the following report submitted by Mr. Buckler in regard to a conversation which he had had with a member of the British Commission in accordance with the wishes of the Commissioners as stated in their meeting of January 31, 1919.

“According to the wish expressed by the Commission yesterday, I went with Mr. Bullitt to see Mr. Philip Kerr, private secretary to Mr. Lloyd George. I gave him an outline of the information gained from Litvinoff. We learned from Kerr:

that the British are extremely anxious to evacuate their troops from Archangel as soon as possible. They intend to bring them out anyhow on May 1st;
that they are prepared to meet at Prinkipo, or anywhere else, the Soviet Government’s representatives, even if no other Russian representatives should accept the recent Peace Conference invitation;
that in view of Ransome’s well-known Bolshevik sympathies the British would not care to bring him to Paris, and if the Prinkipo [Page 10] conference takes place, his coming here would serve no useful purpose;
that the British think one main object of the proposed Prinkipo meeting should be to stop Russian civil war, and to induce the various Russian governments to send delegates for this purpose to an All-Russia convention.

I could not tell Kerr whether the Soviet Government would agree to such a proposal, but said I believed that they might do so, provided it did not involve the abolition of their Soviet constitution, which to them was an almost sacred possession.[”]

Colonel House observed that Mr. Bullitt had yesterday prepared a memorandum for the President in regard to the practicability of withdrawing all American troops at Archangel as soon as possible. All the Commissioners agreed that in view of the additional facts presented it would be most advisable for these troops to be withdrawn to Murmansk or some other point in the shortest possible time.12

11. A suggested draft of a telegram was read from Mr. Buckler to the American Minister at Stockholm, requesting the latter to convey discreetly to Mr. Ransome Mr. Buckler’s belief that his coming to Paris would serve no purpose and might prove embarrassing. This telegram was approved by all the Commissioners.

12. Mr. Herter read Memorandum No. 19, recommending that the incident referred to in Memorandum No. 1 of January 29th be allowed to drop on the basis of the Commission’s telegram to Professor Coolidge, and that no steps be taken to bring Colonel Miles’ action to the attention of the associated governments unless some complaint were lodged.

The recommendation of Memorandum No. 19 was approved.

  1. Epitacio da Silva Pessõa.
  2. Brazilian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. See telegram No. 1363, May 29, 1918, from the Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Italy, Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol. i, p. 808.
  4. See circular telegram of June 28, 1918, from the Secretary of State to certain diplomatic and consular officers, ibid., p. 816.
  5. For papers relating to the situation in Northern Russia which are not printed in the Peace Conference volumes, see Foreign Relations, 1919, Russia, pp. 604 ff.