Paris Peace Conf. 184.00101/8

Minutes of the Daily Meetings of the Commissioners Plenipotentiary, Monday, February 10, 1919

1. General Bliss asked Mr. Lansing what conclusions had been reached by the Committee consisting of the latter, Lord Milner and Mr. Tardieu, regarding the question of German disarmament. Mr. Lansing replied that no definite conclusion had been reached, and that the matter would be brought up for reconsideration. He added that Lord Milner and he felt that the Committee had practically reached a conclusion, but that later Mr. Tardieu expressed the opinion that quite a different decision had been arrived at. Both Mr. Lansing and Mr. Tardieu were in favor of cutting out of the proposed schedule of arms, ammunition etc., which were to be required from the Germans, everything except heavy guns, field guns and machine guns. Even in the case of these guns, it was felt that the number proposed should be reduced to about one half.

Mr. Tardieu proposed that the number of guns which the Germans should be required to cede should be figured out on the basis of the normal armament of 25 Infantry Divisions and 5 Cavalry Divisions, and that the Germans should be allowed to retain only that number, turning over to the associated governments all the rest. He added that this should be considered the immediate minimum [Page 25] which Germany should be allowed to hold, but that later a final minimum should be decided upon. Mr. Lansing was unable to see how this scheme was feasible, and said that he could not consent to two separate minima being decided upon. In spite of Mr. Lansing’s and Lord Milner’s objections, however, Mr. Tardieu reported the conclusions of this Committee to his colleagues as having been in accord with the original French proposal.

Mr. Lansing believed that if this matter were to be taken up again by the Supreme War Council, a proposal should be made that Germany should be asked immediately the total number of guns and ammunition which she now had in her possession. General Bliss agreed that this might be advisable, but felt that it would be even better to send a mission into Germany to determine the exact number. Mr. Lansing then stated that he thought Lord Milner was of the opinion that if Allied experts were sent to Essen and Spandau to investigate the war industries at those two centers it would be a sufficient precaution. General Bliss agreed with this. He added, however, that the whole question of requisitioning material from Germany was one of the most important matters of policy which had come up for consideration. He felt that although Germany might be in position to deliver much of the material which she now possessed, public opinion in Germany would be so strongly opposed to such a move that a new revolution might break out and the present comparatively orderly government be overthrown. He further felt that if President Wilson made it perfectly clear that if the terms of the armistice were broken he would take absolutely no steps to interfere, the whole situation might be cleared up.

2. Mr. White asked Mr. Lansing just what the trouble had been between M. Clemenceau and Marshal Foch at the last meeting of the Peace Congress. Mr. Lansing explained that the trouble had arisen because Clemenceau had accused Foch of making too great concessions to the Germans at the Armistice Commission in regard to the matter of mails. Marshal Foch became very much excited over M. Clemenceau’s attitude and protested violently at the criticism directed against him. He finally jumped to his feet and together with his Chief of Staff left the meeting in great anger. While he was leaving the room M. Clemenceau paid absolutely no attention to him and as soon as the door was shut on his back continued the business of the day as if nothing had happened. It was reported that Marshal Foch had waited for many hours in the anteroom expecting to be summoned back to the meeting, but that he waited in vain.

Mr. Lansing felt that this incident has possibly assisted greatly in enabling the American delegates to put through their proposal for a Supreme Economic Council to control all matters in connection [Page 26] with the Blockade of the Central Empires. He was sure that Marshal Foch would never have approved of this scheme.

General Bliss said that it was his understanding that this Supreme Economic Council would not be in a position to take direct action, but merely to make recommendations. Mr. Lansing observed that General Bliss’ understanding in this matter was correct. General Bliss then added that he was convinced that if the associated governments relaxed the Blockade in respect to certain essentials it would be very much easier to obtain from the German government the fulfilment of certain conditions of the armistice. Mr. Lansing agreed with General Bliss and stated that he had considered and was still considering submitting a proposal in this sense to the Bureau of Ten.

3. Memorandum No. 52 was read regarding the bill which Dr. Herron had submitted for his expense while in Paris. The Commissioners agreed that this bill was extremely high but that the compromise, namely, for 1620 francs was not exorbitant and should therefore be paid by the Commission.

In connection with Dr. Herron’s bill the telegram dated February 8th from the State Department was read, quoting an article from the New York Sun about Prof. Herron. This caused considerable amusement but the Commissioners felt that it was of sufficient importance to be brought to the attention of the President immediately. It was expressed, however, that in bringing the matter to the attention of the President no mention should be made of the fact that it had been presented to the Commissioners, but that the letter of transmission should be marked “Important”.

4. The memorandum from Mr. Ray Stannard Baker dated February 7, 1919, was read in regard to the action of the French government in not giving the American press equal terms with the French press in the matter of the message from the Russian government to the Allied powers. The Commissioners felt much the same way as Mr. Baker did regarding this, but did not see how they could take the question up with the French government.

5. The memorandum from Captain Tyler for General Churchill was read, regarding the assignment of Lieut. Ludwell B. Alexander to the Peace Commission. The Commissioners felt that in view of Lieut. Alexander’s evident fitness for service with Prof. Coolidge, and the latter’s demand for more men, it would be highly advisable to have him assigned to the Commission at once.

6. Memorandum No. 53 was read regarding Mr. Baruch’s request for eight or ten men as well as an allowance of $150,000. for the purpose of creating and maintaining such an organization as he considered necessary. The Commissioners were under the impression that an additional allotment had already been requested from the President’s fund for the Peace Commission, and that it was therefore now too late to [Page 27] include Mr. Baruch’s request. They requested, however, that this matter be straightened out through Mr. McNeir. At the same time the Commissioners did not feel disposed to grant Mr. Baruch’s request except in the matter of personnel which had already been approved by the President, and that they much preferred that he take up the question of an allowance of $150,000. with the President direct. They were not disposed to endorse this request for this sum.

[7.] The question of Mr. Leon Dominian’s assignment to the Peace Commission was brought up and the Commissioners were not quite clear as to the reasons for desiring the assignment of Mr. Dominian to the Commission inasmuch as it was their understanding that Mr. Barton and Mr. Howe were already on the point of starting on a mission to Syria. They did not know that any other mission was contemplated, and requested further information in the premises before taking any final action.

8. Memorandum No. 54 was read and the Commissioners agreed that it would not be well for the United States to interfere in the struggle between two Montenegrin factions, and that therefore we had better take no action in regard to the protests of the Royalist party in respect to the actions of Serbian agents in Montenegro.

9. Memorandum No. 55 was read and the Commissioners took note of the reference by the French government to the Treaty of London of April 26, 1915.24 They agreed that no action should be taken with regard to this matter and noted with great interest the reply of the French government to the Serbian request.

10. Memorandum No. 56 regarding Count Sigray’s25 desire to present his case to the Peace Commissioners in Paris was read and the Commissioners agreed that it would be impossible to make an exception in his case, stating that if he were permitted to come to Paris representatives of German-Austria and Germany would likewise have to be permitted the same privilege. They agreed that a reply in this sense could be diplomatically conveyed to Count Sigray through Mr. Hugh Wilson.

[11.] Mr. Herter asked the Commissioners’ opinion as to the advisability of having a Diplomatic Secretary sent to Prinkipo together with the two American Commissioners who have already been designated, recommending that if this was approved in principle Mr. Livingston Phelps would be a most appropriate man to send. The Commissioners agreed that it would be highly advisable to have Mr. Phelps go to Prinkipo with Dr. Herron and Mr. White,26 and requested that a [Page 28] telegram be drafted to the Department of State recommending Mr. Phelps’ temporary assignment to this duty.

12. Mr. Herter again brought up the matter of payment for the visiting cards of the personnel of the Commission. General Bliss stated that he had already been asked to pay for his and had complied. He felt, and the Commissioners agreed, that this was a very doubtful expense for the Commission to approve. However, if this matter is causing considerable protests, they are willing to reconsider their decision, but wish first to see a complete dossier of all the protests which have been made.

13. Information Memorandum No. 9 was read in regard to the decision which the Inter-Allied mission to Poland had reached in respect to the armistice between the Poles and the Ukrainians. The Commissioners were very interested in this matter, but were unable to figure out why Marshal Foch was unable to interfere with General Berthelemy27 as he had very frequently interfered with him, and was in a position to issue any order to him which he saw fit. They believed that there must be some answer to this riddle and asked whether anyone felt competent to answer it. If so, they will be glad to have the answer. The Commissioners commented on the tremendous amount of intrigue now being carried on in Paris and all stated that they wished that the Conference were meeting in Switzerland or elsewhere.

14. Information Memorandum No. 10 was read in regard to the final disposition of the Shantung Railway. The Commissioners noted the contents of this memorandum with interest, but expressed no opinion with regard to the solution which Minister Reinsch28 advocates.

  1. Great Britain, Cmd. 671, Misc. No. 7 (1920): Agreement Between France, Russia, Great Britain and Italy, Signed at London, April 26, 1915.
  2. Count Sigray had proposed to come to Paris as a representative of the Karolyi government of Hungary.
  3. George D. Herron and William Allen White, selected to represent the United States at the Prinkipo Conference.
  4. Chief of the Franco-British mission to Poland and Galicia.
  5. Paul S. Reinsch, Minister to China.