Paris Peace Conf. 184.00101/3

Minutes of the Daily Meetings of the Commissioners Plenipotentiary, Monday, February 3, 1919

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

1. Mr. Lansing asked General Bliss’ opinion at [of?] the advisability of requesting Mr. Polk to issue passports to the wives of such officers attached to the Commission as the Secretary of War deemed it proper to come to Paris at the present time. The cases of General Kernan [Page 11] and Major Scott as well as that of Admiral Benson was discussed. General Bliss expressed the opinion that inasmuch as a ruling had previously been made that the wives of officers in the A. E. F. in France should not be allowed to come, it would be inadvisable to make an exception in the case of those officers who were attached to the Commission because such action would mitigate unfairly against the other officers who are now in France, and whose work was just as hard and perhaps as important as those who are attached to the Commission.

Memorandum No. 8 dealing with this question was read and it was suggested that perhaps General Bliss’ objections could be overcome by allowing those officers attached to the Commission who wish to have their wives join them in Paris to resign from the army and to remain attached to the Commission with the status of volunteer civilians. This particular course of action was approved by Mr. Lansing in the case of Major Scott because of the unusual circumstances attending this case, but General Bliss believed that a general ruling in this sense would be inadvisable as it would give an unfair advantage to those officers who had independent means, and who would be able to resign their commissions without suffering any material financial loss.

It was decided that this whole question should not be settled at this moment but that it should be taken under advisement by each of the Commissioners.

2. Memorandum No. 20 regarding Mr. Whitlock’s13 request for a reconsideration of the decision that a military base of supplies should be established at Rotterdam, rather than at Antwerp was read. Mr. Lansing was unable to see that there was any political question involved, and that this was a military matter pure and simple. Mr. White pointed out that there is considerable jealousy between Holland and Belgium, and that undoubtedly either of the two countries would feel slighted if the other had the American military base of supplies established within its territories. He added that in Holland there was a feeling that Belgium was being too much petted by America and that if the proposed change were made this feeling would increase. Mr. Lansing stated that in his opinion, if it were a question of favoring either Belgium or Holland in this particular instance, he would prefer to favor Holland.

General Bliss explained that the base of supplies was to be established at Rotterdam for the purpose of feeding the American Army of Occupation in Germany, that Rotterdam had been chosen not from any political motives but purely out of expediency.

[Page 12]

It was decided that inasmuch as this matter was entirely one of expediency, no change in the present plans of the American military authorities should be made, and that Mr. Whitlock should be informed that the political considerations in the premises were not of sufficient importance to justify a change of policy.

. . . . . . .

4. Mr. White stated that he had been asked to call this morning on the French Minister of Commerce, and that he supposed that the question which the latter wished to raise was that of the Chairmanship of the Committee to study the nationalization of Ports, Waterways and Railways. Mr. White believed it possible that the Minister of Commerce would wish to designate him as Chairman of this Committee, and asked the opinion of the other Commissioners on this matter. He was prepared, he stated, to do just as they thought best, but believed that inasmuch as the United States had already been given the Chairmanship of several other Committees, it might be advisable to refuse the offer in this case if it were presented.

Mr. Lansing observed that he had just been made Chairman on the Committee for the responsibility of the war. General Bliss believed that representatives of the United States were chosen to be the Chairmen of the various committees because of the impartial attitude which the United States was able to maintain in most of the questions dealt with. Mr. White asked whether the Commissioners would approve of the nomination of Mr. Coromilas for the Chairmanship of the Committee on Ports, Waterways and Railways. Mr. Lansing and General Bliss were afraid that such a nomination might not be acceptable inasmuch as Greece had particular interest in the questions which would be discussed. They both urged Mr. White not to refuse the nomination if it were tendered to him.

It was decided that Mr. White should accept the Chairmanship of the Committee to study the nationalization of Ports, Waterways and Railways if it were tendered to him.

Mr. White observed that he had this morning discovered that Mr. Miller had been assigned to his Committee as the second representative of the United States in the place of Major Scott. Mr. Lansing explained that this change had been made because Mr. Miller had been studying the question of the League of Nations, and that the nationalization of Ports, Waterways and Railways was closely connected with his other work.

5. There was a brief discussion of the findings of the Committee appointed at Saturday’s meeting to investigate the large personnel of the Peace Commission. General Bliss expressed the opinion that the large number of military personnel attached to the Commission should properly be detached, and if necessary, continue its activities under the supervision of the War Department. Mr. Lansing observed that the [Page 13] whole question of military intelligence did not interest him in the least.

Mr. Lansing was called to a meeting at the Quai d’Orsay.

6. Memorandum No. 22 recommending that Mr. Leon Dominian be attached to the Commission for work on Turkish affairs was read. General Bliss requested that this matter be left for later consideration by all the Commissioners. He observed that as soon as the Committee on the investigation of the Commission personnel had completed its work it would be better able to judge the merits of requests for further assistance.

7. Memorandum No. 23 was read and it was decided that Mr. Caldwell the American Minister to Persia would be received by Mr. White as soon as an appointment could be arranged.

8. Mr. Herter read Memorandum No. 24 inquiring whether certain privileges could be extended to Major Fling and Lieut. Yewdale who were engaged on behalf of the War Department in writing a history of the war. The Commissioners present agreed that these two officers should receive every facility from the personnel of the Commission in collecting information, but that they should not be allowed to occupy a room in the hotel or use the transportation facilities of the Commission, nor have access to the plenary sessions of the Conference unless they were admitted to the Press Section and unless their attendance at such sessions did not preclude any one else from attending. The Commissioners present however, requested that this matter be brought up again at a full meeting of the Commissioners for final decision.

9. Mr. Herter read Memorandum No. 25 regarding the expense of a mission undertaken on behalf of General Churchill by Captain James Bruce and Mr. Ronald Tree.

The Commissioners decided to decline to pay the expense of Captain Bruce and his party.

10. Memorandum No. 27 was read inquiring whether the Commission should entitle Mr. Baruch, Mr. McCormick and Mr. Davis to obtain supplies at the Commission’s expense. It was decided that unless other appropriations were available to care for the expense of the supplies of these three gentlemen they should be borne by the Commission.

11. Mr. Herter read Memorandum No. 28 inquiring whether the Commissioners would approve the expenditure of 40 francs a day as subsistence allowance to the officers of the Military Section of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.

It was decided that the officers of the Military Section of the American Peace Commission should not receive the subsistence allowance of 40 francs a day.

12. Mr. Herter read Information Memorandum No. 29 containing report by Mr. Hugh Gibson, who had just returned from the Hague, [Page 14] regarding the activities of Lieut. Voska and Mr. Creel’s14 utterances in Bohemia, Austria and Hungary. The Commissioners took note of the information contained in the memorandum in question, and expressed the desire to see Mr. Gibson as well as Major Schelling at their meeting tomorrow. In the meanwhile, no action was to be taken in regard to Lieut. Voska.

13. Memorandum No. 4 of January 29, 1919 was read, regarding the assignment of Mr. Joseph B. Umpleby to the Commission on behalf of the United States Geological Survey.

Mr. Umpleby’s assignment was approved, but General Bliss requested that for personal reasons which he explained to Mr. White, he desired that in notifying the Geological Survey of Mr. Umpleby’s assignment, it should be clearly stated that until further advice no additional personnel from the Geological Survey would be required by the Commission.

14. Mr. Herter again brought up Memorandum No. 10 in regard to the assignment of Lieut. Jefferson to assist Mr. Stratton, assistant to the cartographer, and again the Commissioners requested that this question be postponed until the investigation of the Committee upon which Mr. White and General Bliss were both serving, had been completed.

15. Memorandum No. 30 was read. The Commissioners present agreed that the members of the Commission, other than the Commissioners, should not be allowed to charge the expense of official guests to the Commission, but felt that this question should be again brought up in the presence of all the Commissioners.

16. Information Memorandum No. 31 was read and Mr. White made a note of the opinions of the various factions in Russia in regard to the Prinkipo conference in order to convey this information to the Press at this morning’s meeting.

  1. Brand Whitlock, Minister to Belgium.
  2. George Creel, Chairman of the Committee on Public Information.