Paris Peace Conf. 184.00101/31

Minutes of the Daily Meetings of the Commissioners Plenipotentiary, Tuesday, March 11th, 1919

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

1. Mr. Lansing read a letter which General Bliss had sent to all the Commissioners, the text of which is as follows:

“I suggest that the American representative or representatives on each of the Committees appointed by the Peace Conference or by the Council of Ten be instructed to report to the American Delegation, before the arrival of the President, in what respect (if any) the report of his Committee violates (if it does violate) any of the President’s declarations, and what is the justification for it.”

(Signed) Tasker H. Bliss

The Commissioners approved highly of the recommendation made by General Bliss, and requested that Mr. Grew have a circular in this sense sent to all the secretaries of the various Commissions, instructing them to have reports submitted by noon on Thursday March 13th.

2. Mr. White stated that at a late hour last night he had been informed by the Secretary General of the Waterways Commission that M. Clemenceau had requested a decision by that Commission on the question of the Kiel canal by 3 o’clock today. He informed the Commissioners that he would shortly be going to a meeting of this Commission and asked if they had any views in regard to the canal. The Commissioners agreed that for the present at least we should maintain [Page 111] that the Kiel canal is purely a German canal and that we have no interest in it further than the destruction of such fortifications as may now protect it. It was brought out that the British delegates would probably recommend the destruction in the canal of certain great locks which permitted the passage of large war vessels. The Commissioners felt strongly that it would be of no material advantage to any of the associated governments to have these locks destroyed, and that in future they may be very useful if it were later contemplated to send large merchant vessels to the Baltic. Mr. White stated that he would take a firm stand in this matter.

3. Mr. White observed that at the meeting of the Waterways Commission yesterday the French and Belgian delegates had particularly requested that the United States have a representative on the proposed International Rhine Commission. Mr. White had reserved a decision on this point and asked the Commissioners how they felt about it. The Commissioners felt that it would be distinctly inadvisable for the United States to be represented on a purely European mission of this sort, and requested that Mr. White withhold his decision in the premises.

4. General Bliss brought up for discussion the question of the many leaks which had occurred, presumably for some purpose, with regard to the discussions at the Quai d’Orsay. He mentioned in particular the article which appeared this morning in the Daily Mail regarding the reduction of the German army to 100,000 men. The Commissioners felt that the giving out of such information as this was distinctly a breach of the agreement entered into by the various countries with regard to the publication of news, and decided it was a matter to be discussed at the Council of Ten. General Bliss felt that at the same time our attitude in the matter should be explained and therefore offered to interview the American press on the subject this morning.

5. Mr. Herter stated that both Reginald Foster and Captain Bruce were in town and that the former had extremely interesting information about Poland to divulge, whereas the latter had just come from Montenegro where he had been able to make an excellent survey of the situation. The Commissioners felt that as there was much business to be done they would be unable to see these gentlemen today.

6. Mr. Herter then told the Commissioners that two days ago a meeting had been held in the Crillon for those members of the Commission who are interested either directly or indirectly in the Russian situation. These individuals had decided to meet at regular intervals in order to correlate all the information at their disposal with regard to Russia, be in a position to furnish this information to the Commissioners at any time, ascertain the attitude of the various other missions in Paris in the premises, and to systematically interview all Russians who might come to Paris. Mr. Herter explained that these gentlemen were not [Page 112] trying to formulate any policy with regard to Russia, but were merely trying to obtain such data as would eventually enable the Commissioners to form such a policy. The Commissioners highly approved of this procedure and hoped that the individuals in question would continue their meetings.

7. Memorandum No. 50 [150?] was read regarding certain advances which had been made by Halil Pacha formerly Governor General of Vilayet of Beirut now President of the Albanian Delegation, to the British Peace Delegation regarding the future of Turkey. The Commissioners felt that there was no necessity of their taking any decision with regard to what attitude they might adopt should Halil Pacha address a similar communication to them. It will be time enough for them to determine their attitude when the matter actually comes up.

8. Memorandum No. 151 was read regarding the sending of General Haller’s72 division to Poland. The Commissioners noted Dr. Bowman’s recommendation that three American Colonels with their staffs be sent immediately to Warsaw without waiting for the other Powers to get their contingents together, and that the American Plenipotentiary formally raise the question at the Council of Ten as to the progress made in obtaining shipping, etc., for the sending of General Haller’s division to Danzig.

The Commissioners were of the opinion that a decision had already been reached regarding the first of these recommendations, namely, that the three Colonels in question should be despatched to Warsaw immediately. At the same time they felt, however, that these Colonels or at least one or two of them, should have a fluent knowledge of French in order that they would not be under the handicap that General Kernan appears to be under in Poland. With regard to the second recommendation, the American Commissioners felt that there would be no purpose served in bringing up this question again in the Council of Ten merely for the sake of having it put on record. If a proper opportunity arose, however, they would be glad to press the matter as much as possible.

9. Memorandum No. 152 was read suggesting that a telegram be sent to the American Delegation [Legation] at Copenhagen informing it that a mission is now on its way to Esthonia and Latvia. The Commissioners approved of the telegram in question as well as the supplementary telegram to the Department of State, with the exception of the last sentence in each case.73 They felt that it served no purpose to inform the Legation at Copenhagen that the mission was giving serious consideration to the question of the recognition of Finland.

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10. Memorandum No. 153 was read suggesting that a telegram be sent to Mr. Polk with regard to economic assistance to certain of the Baltic States. The telegram in question was approved by the Commissioners.74

11. Mr. Herter read a letter written by Mr. Grew addressed to the Secretary General of the Peace Commission, with regard to the official languages to be used in drawing up the Peace Treaty with Germany. The Commissioners approved of Mr. Grew’s letter in the premises.

The Commissioners felt that the time had now come to consider seriously the form in which the Peace Treaty should be drawn up. They thought that if the military, naval and aerial terms as well as the League of Nations Covenant were included in the body of the Treaty it would become ridiculously long and unwieldy. They therefore felt that it should be as brief a statement as possible, but should be accompanied by annexes in which special details and specifications were set forth. In this connection, they request that Mr. Grew get into touch with Major James Brown Scott immediately with a view to drafting a suggested article to be inserted in the treaty whereby the Covenant of the League of Nations could be incorporated within the Treaty, but at the same time be an annex thereto. They suggested that in drafting this article, Germany be required to recognize the existence and jurisdiction of the League of Nations, a body constituted in accordance with an annexed Covenant, which Covenant forms an integral and inseparable part of the Peace Treaty.

The advantages of having the Covenant so inserted in the Peace Treaty are two-fold. It first necessitates its being ratified together with the whole treaty and secondly, it allows to the neutrals an opportunity of signing the Covenant without signing the Peace Treaty.

12. Memorandum No. 155 was read regarding the disposition which should be made of many letters and telegrams which are received by the Department of State in Washington on the League of Nations. The Commissioners did not approve of the suggested reply to the Department of State in this matter, but felt that inasmuch as all this correspondence was already acknowledged by the State Department, it would be well to have it sent on to the Commission for whatever disposition the latter might see fit. The Mission would in this way be in no wise obligated in taking any action on this correspondence, but at the same time the State Department would be in a position to say that it had referred it to the Peace Mission.

Information Memorandum No. 31 was read regarding a telegram sent by Mr. Oscar T. Crosby to Mr. Norman H. Davis respecting a report the former was preparing on the Austrian financial situation.

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13. Information Memorandum No. 32 was read regarding certain despatches which had been received from Rear-Admiral Bristol, Senior U. S. Naval Officer in Turkish Waters, regarding both the Russian volunteer army in the Ukraine and the opposition of the non-Moslem population in Turkey in the military service.

  1. General Josef Haller, of the Polish forces in France.
  2. Telegram No. 1136, March 12, 1919, 8 p.m., Foreign Relations, 1919, Russia, p. 673.
  3. See telegram No. 1131, March 12, 1919, 4 p.m., ibid.