Paris Peace Conf. 184.00101/24

Minutes of the Daily Meetings of the Commissioners Plenipotentiary, Friday, February 28, 1919

  • Present:
    • Mr. Lansing
    • Mr. White
    • General Bliss
    • Mr. H. R. Wilson

1. General Bliss read a letter which he had addressed to the Commissioners concerning conclusions which he had reached as a result of his discussions with the allied colleagues. He believes that there are plans for continued military operations after the war, and that these plans include help from the United States. There is reason to believe, and this reason is given foundation by Marshal Foch’s declarations at the Supreme War Council that it is a plan to align the border states of Russia in a war against Russia under French direction. General Bliss’ letter points out that all of the continental states of Europe are bankrupt, and England would become bankrupt if she endeavored to participate in such a war. Therefore, this plan depends on American financial assistance. This explains the insistence that some American soldiers should be sent to Dantzig, although the ostensible reason is the maintenance of communication with Thorn for deliveries of supplies and despatch of troops to Poland. General Bliss’ letter states that the newly created states of Central Europe are bending every effort to raise large armaments, while Germany is extremely anxious to reduce its armaments. With the best intention in the world, the American philanthropic schemes for the new countries are enabling those countries to spend so much more on military preparation, and by so much are contributing to the preparation for a new continental explosion. The letter urges a statement from America, inoffensive in tone but positive, of the real purpose of America when peace is concluded. The declaration should state that America will withdraw its military forces on the signature of peace, and that all assistance in credits and supplies will be stopped except that which follows the dictates of the humanitarian impulses of the people. The French know that the United States is necessary in any future war against Germany. They regard the League of Nations as a dream, but the friendship of the United States as a reality. The letter concludes with the recommendation that the Commissioners consider carefully whether they can do anything in this matter. Mr. White stated that he had the same conviction, and suggested that a telegram should be sent to the President. Mr. Lansing suggested that the statement should include the declaration that we intended to cooperate [Page 84] through the League of Nations and not otherwise. General Bliss considered that it would be highly advantageous for the President to ascertain while at home the attitude of Congress toward the sending of American troops to Poland, Czecho-Slovakia and elsewhere. It was agreed that General Bliss would draft a telegram which he would submit to the Commissioners.

2. Mr. Wilson introduced the matter of the telegrams from Admiral McCully at Murmansk requesting naval assistance.58 General Bliss recalled to the memory of the Commissioners that he had sent a letter some days ago concerning the despatch to Archangel of American railway troops, pointing out that it was necessary for the troops to make construction over the frozen swamps during the winter months to maintain supplies, and facilitate the withdrawal of the troops in the Spring. General Bliss stated that the President had approved this matter, and that the British also wished to withdraw. There is, therefore, no doubt that the President believes that the withdrawal should be made. General Bliss then sketched the geographical and military situation, and answered Mr. Lansing’s question in regard to the possibility of getting the boats to Archangel by stating that they would probably blast the ice, and that in any case the ice might be broken and small boats could get through. He urges that all assistance be given which is necessary to facilitate the withdrawal in the Spring. Mr. Lansing suggested that General Bliss talk to Admiral Benson in the name of the Commission along the lines indicated above. Mr. Lansing added that he regretted the obligation to desert the Russian troops which rallied to us even though they were few in number. Criticism was then expressed of British methods in handling expeditions. Mr. Wilson handed the papers in the case to General Bliss.

[There is an apparent omission in the text of the minutes at this point.] named Secretary to the American Delegation to Prinkipo was now in Paris and requested an expression of opinion from the Commissioners as to what should be told him as to the projected trip. Mr. Lansing inquired for details concerning Mr. Phelps which were supplied by Mr. White, who gave a high recommendation to Mr. Phelps. Mr. Lansing suggested that Mr. Phelps be retained in Mr. Grew’s political department, as there was need for trained men since that department was overwhelmed with work. Mr. Phelps can be informed that he will be retained until final determination of the Prinkipo affair.

4. Mr. White stated that Mr. Tardieu had announced that the Prinkipo matter was definitely off and asked the advice of the Commission as to what to tell the press when questioned about it. Mr. Lansing [Page 85] advised Mr. White to state that the matter had not reached a final conclusion.

5. Mr. Wilson introduced Memorandum No. 111 concerning Mr. McCormick’s telegram to the President urging the latter to return to France via Antwerp, visiting the devastated districts en route to Paris.59 Mr. White was entirely in favor of despatching such a telegram to urge the same matter, and declared that he had repeatedly seen that the French were dissatisfied that the President had not made such a trip. Mr. Lansing stated that in such a recommendation it was essential to have the approval of everyone of the Commissioners. General Bliss pointed out that the trip to Antwerp might be more dangerous than to France because of floating mines. Mr. Lansing requested Mr. Wilson to draft a telegram on this subject, adding the point that it would be a relief to the French government from the embarrassing position of being obliged to give another official reception to the President. General Bliss will speak to Admiral Benson in regard to the point of the danger involved.

6. Mr. Wilson introduced Memorandum No. 112 concerning the note from the French Foreign Office to the American Embassy in Paris regarding German ships in neutral ports. It was agreed by the Commissioners that no action should be taken in this matter as it was an affair for the Department of State to handle. If Mr. Polk subsequently desires their advice he will ask for it.

7. Mr. Wilson introduced Memorandum No. 113 concerning the note from the British Ambassador regarding the despatch of troops to Montenegro. The Commissioners did not care to have the note read.

8. Mr. Wilson introduced Memorandum No. 114 concerning Mr. Patchin’s statement in regard to the bill for visiting cards for official members of the Commission. The Commissioners desire a further and more detailed statement in regard to this bill. This statement should show a list of those persons for whom the cards were purchased and other pertinent information.

9. Mr. Wilson introduced Memorandum No. 115 concerning the suggestion of the Diplomatic Agent at Cairo relative to the sending of Consul Jackson and other Consular officers to Syria and Palestine. The Commissioners desire that Mr. Gary should be informed that this is a Departmental matter and that his telegram has been referred to the Acting Secretary of State, and that the telegram should be repeated to the Department of State with the information added that Mr. Gary has been advised.

10. Mr. Wilson introduced Memorandum No. 116 concerning “Constantinople as Headquarters for American Red Cross Work in the [Page 86] Balkan States.” The Commissioners approved the despatch of the suggested telegram with the elimination of the last words “Does Department approve” and the insertion of the words “If you agree suggest you telegraph Heck in Constantinople and notify Red Cross”.

11. Mr. Wilson introduced Memorandum No. 117 concerning Prof. Day’s communication in regard to the Committee which is studying Greek territorial claims. The Commissioners requested that Prof. Day present a concise memorandum on the questions at issue which they can study and determine whether they desire to call Prof. Day for an explanation.