Paris Peace Conf. 184.00101/33

Minutes of the Daily Meetings of the Commissioners Plenipotentiary, Thursday, March 13th, 1919

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

1. Mr. Buckler stated that in a conversation which he had had with Mr. Gompers, the day before, he had been alarmed to find that Mr. Gompers had a very definite charge to make against Mr. Bullitt. Mr. Gompers had first merely referred to Mr. Bullitt’s general activities in Switzerland, but was finally pinned down to a statement of the exact information which he possessed against him. He produced a copy of a letter which he proposed sending to the Commissioners [Page 116] quoting a statement purported to have been made by Mr. Bullitt to Mr. Frank Bohn in Switzerland. This statement was in substance that he, Mr. Bullitt, had been sent to Switzerland by the American Commission to Negotiate Peace in order to give his approval to the activities of the International Socialist Conference.

Mr. Lansing was of the opinion that there was nothing in this charge against Mr. Bullitt, but felt that inasmuch as it was an extremely important matter, Mr. Gompers should be urged to put the thing in writing for presentation to the Commissioners, and that the charge should then be sifted. Mr. Buckler agreed to inform Mr. Gompers that the Commissioners would like to have this whole question in writing.

Mr. Buckler withdrew.

2. Dr. Bowman, Major Tyler and Mr. Dominian entered the meeting.

Dr. Bowman stated that he understood that he and his colleagues had been called into the meeting of the Commissioners to explain the necessity of so large a Mission to the Near East as had been proposed by Mr. Dominian in Memorandum No. 141 of March 5th.75 Dr. Bowman explained that there were many questions in the Near East which would require determination by the Peace Conference, and that it was essential for us to have first hand information in the premises. Among these questions he mentioned the Armenian claims, the boundaries between Armenia and Georgia, ethnic questions etc. Mr. Lansing observed that he was not in favor of studying the boundary questions of these districts any further at the present time, and that he was not particularly interested in the districts mentioned. He felt that the three great questions in the Near East which required decisions were: (1) Mandatories, (2) Syria and (3) Greek claims in Asia-Minor. He felt that on these questions we should receive as much information as possible, but he understood that both Dr. Barton and Mr. Glazebrook were or would be reporting to the Commission on these matters.

Mr. Lansing observed that in principle he was opposed to the sending of large Missions to these districts because he foresaw no benefits coming from them but that they would inevitably cause dissatisfaction among the people when it was learned that the members of the Commission were not in a position to take any authoritative action, or even to guarantee that the recommendations which they made to their Government would be followed. Dr. Bowman inquired whether this argument did not apply equally to the Missions which had already gone to Germany and Austro-Hungary and Mr. Lansing admitted these objections did exist, but not to such an extent.

[Page 117]

After some further discussion, it was decided that the proposed Mission should be cut down to about four or five field observers who should, if possible, go under the guise of food investigators.

Major Tyler offered to submit a new project in the premises.

Dr. Bowman, Major Tyler and Mr. Dominian withdrew.

3. Lieut. Foster entered the meeting.

Lieut. Foster distributed to the Commissioners copies of a memorandum which he had prepared regarding the situation in Poland, together with certain definite recommendations for action which he hoped would be followed. He was asked by the Commissioners to expand on this memorandum and give the reasons for each one of his recommendations.

Lieut. Foster recommended that quick action be taken by the Associated Governments instructing certain officers of these Governments now in Hungary to occupy the railroad line running from East Galicia to Hungary in order to stop the supplies of ammunition etc., which were going into the Ukraine. He felt strongly that this action should be taken in order to impress the peoples of the Ukraine with the seriousness of purpose and strength of the Associated Governments. At the present time these peoples have no faith in the Associated Governments, and were proceeding in a manner which completely ignored the strength of these nations. In order to indicate the attitude of the Ukraine, he read a newspaper article decrying the effectiveness of control by the Allied and Associated Governments in the territories which they had conquered.

The Commissioners requested Lieut. Foster to take this matter up at once with Norman Davis, who it was understood, had been entrusted with the control of the Hungarian railways.

Lieut. Foster then asked that General Haller’s army be sent to Poland as soon as possible. General Bliss agreed that this should be done and observed that the Associated Governments had already concluded the advisability of such a step. The lack of shipping was one obstacle in the way, and only the Allied Maritime Council in London could supply the shipping. General Bliss suggested that possibly it would be well to get the Council of Ten to prod the Allied Maritime Council in this matter.

Lieut. Foster then discussed the necessity of sending raw materials as well as clothing and shoes and ammunition into Poland. The Commissioners requested Lieut. Foster to see Mr. McCormick about the shipment of raw materials. They discussed the legal aspects of the A. E. F. selling its surplus stocks of clothes and shoes to the Poles. They felt that perhaps an act of Congress was necessary in order to enable the military authorities to do this and therefore requested General Bliss to consult with the competent military authorities as to what measures should be taken.

[Page 118]

Lieut. Foster then discussed the reports which he had received with regard to the complicity of the Germans and Bolsheviks in those parts of Lithuania which were being evacuated by the German army. He had endeavored to verify these reports by visiting the districts in question but had been refused permission to enter the districts occupied by the German army of the Ober-Ost. Other members of the Inter-Allied Mission to Poland had likewise been refused this permission. The Commissioners felt that this was a very serious matter, and requested that a memorandum be prepared at once to be put on the agenda for the next meeting of the Council of Ten.

Lieut. Foster finally brought up the suggestion that the unemployed Poles who at present numbered about 600,000 in Germany be allowed to come to France to assist in reconstruction work. The Commissioners requested Lieut. Foster to discuss this matter with Mr. McCormick.

3 [sic]. Mr. Herter brought up the question of the Department’s sending a strong Commission to Constantinople as suggested by Mr. Polk. The Commissioners approved highly of sending such a Commission, but felt that in view of the delicate Palestine and Zionist question, it would be inadvisable to send Mr. Elkus76 at the head of this Mission.

4. Memorandum No. 158 was read regarding a request made by Mr. Baruch for the assignment of Major Hugh L. Gaddis for work with Mr. Baruch’s office. The Commissioners approved of this assignment, and further approved of Mr. Baruch’s having such officers assigned to his Bureau as he saw fit because of the fact that he would pay all their expenses.

5. Memorandum No. 159 was read regarding a telegram received by the Embassy in Paris from the Department of State inquiring as to whether newspaper correspondents had gone to Germany on some arrangement made by the Peace Commission, and as to whether in the opinion of the Embassy any attempt should be made to exercise supervision of their activities. The Commissioners were convinced that no newspaper men had gone into Germany under some arrangement with the Peace Mission, but desire that before taking any final decision in the premises Mr. Sweetser be asked to report on the whole question, submitting for the Commission’s information a list of those American newspaper men now in enemy States.

6. Memorandum No. 160 was read regarding the reply of the Chargé d’Affaires in London with respect to the reported negotiations of Major Shackleton of Great Britain with the North Russian Provincial Government for concessions in and about Murman. The Commissioners noted the information contained in the telegram with interest.

[Page 119]

7. Memorandum No. 161 was read quoting a telegram which had been sent by Mr. Oscar S. Strauss to Mr. Auchincloss regarding certain congresses which had been held in the United States in favor of the League of Nations. The Commissioners understood that this telegram had already been given great publicity, in Great Britain at least, but approved of the recommendation that it be given to the press in case the press had not yet received it.

8. Information Memorandum No. 34 was read regarding a recommendation made by Mr. Polk that Mr. Lehrs, Vice-Consul in Copenhagen be authorized to visit Baltic provinces. The Commissioners approved of the suggestion that Mr. Lehrs be asked to wait in Copenhagen until the arrival of Lieut. Colonel Greene and his party.

9. Information Memorandum No. 35 was read in which Mr. McNeir requested the assignment of Captain Eugene E. Berl to his office. The Commissioners approved of Captain Berl’s assignment to the Commission for this purpose.

10. Memorandum regarding inquiries made of the Secretaries of the Committees or Commissions appointed by the Peace Conference or by the Council of Ten as to whether the reports submitted by them violated any of the President’s declarations was read and the Commissioners requested that Mr. Grew furnish copies to each of them for further study.

  1. See meeting of March 6, minute 9, p. 99.
  2. Abram I. Elkus, former Ambassador to Turkey.