763.72119/6989: Telegram

The Commission to Negotiate Peace to the Secretary of State

4377. In view of the possible ratification of the treaty of peace with Germany by three of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers within a short time, possibly next week, an important question arises on which our position should be defined as soon and as definitely as possible. In informal conversations, the French specifically claim that such ratification by three powers is sufficient to enable the Reparation Committee to be organized and to operate without the participation of the United States representative. The [Page 10] subject has also been raised by the British, who will discuss it at the next meeting of the Interim Reparation Committee.

The question has been considered by Woolsey,5 and he is inclined to concur with the French view that under the terms of the treaty the Reparation Commission may be organized and dispose of business regardless of whether the United States has ratified the treaty and appointed a representative on the Commission. He states that the treaty does not provide that the Commission shall be composed of any certain number of delegates of the powers. The limitation imposed by annex 2, section 2, paragraph 2, page 107, of the treaty provides that in no case shall more than five powers have the right to participate in the proceedings of the Commission and to record their votes. There is no provision that a power entitled to have a representative on the Commission may have him officiate before that power ratifies the treaty. The fact that on certain questions as specified by section 13, page 106 [110], unanimity is necessary, does not necessarily indicate that all the powers “entitled” to have delegates sit on the Commission must be represented thereon at the time the unanimous vote is taken. When three of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers and Germany deposit their ratifications in Paris, the powers so ratifying have the right to have delegates officiate on the Reparation Commission; but until any other of the seven powers mentioned in section 2 of annex 2 deposit their ratifications, it seems clear they do not have the “right” to take part in the proceedings and are not “entitled” to vote.

The last paragraph of section 2 of annex 2 confers the right on each Government represented on the Commission to withdraw after notice, and after such withdrawal it is clear that the Reparation Commission can still function with less than five members. Moreover section 5 provides that the Commission hold its first meeting in Paris as soon as practicable after the coming into force of the treaty. Finally article 437 covers the possibility of a tie vote where there are only four delegates sitting. All this indicates that it was contemplated that the Commission might function without the presence of representatives of all of the five great powers.

This conclusion is supported by practical considerations. The necessities of the situation of the countries in Europe are so pressing in matters of finance, supplies, trade disorganization, that it cannot be supposed that the most important commission of the German treaty, with unprecedented powers of control over the economic life of Europe, was intended to be, or will be allowed by European [Page 11] powers to be, incapacitated because of the failure of one of the powers to become a party. Any other conclusion would lead practically to the nonexecution of the reparation section of the treaty and this would mean a catastrophe for all concerned.

If these views, which the American Mission [approves], are correct, it is evident that should the United States become a party to the treaty with Germany after considerable delay in ratification, the American delegate on the Reparation Commission would, on taking up his duties, find many policies and principles, and perhaps interpretations of the treaty, already determined by the Commission and in execution by its agents. Perhaps some of these decisions would be such that the United States would prefer not to be bound by them, at least without an opportunity to take part in the discussion and to express its views. The only way which the American Mission sees [to] avoid this situation and for the United States to be in a position to mold the early decisions of the Reparation Commission involving fundamental principles and policies, is to have an unofficial delegate sit with the Commission with the privilege of expressing his views but with no vote. It is therefore recommended that on ratification of three of the Allied and Associated Powers, they could be advised that, pending ratification by the United States, it expects to be represented unofficially on the Commission. American Mission, therefore, earnestly requests that this matter be reconsidered and that it be given instructions and advice on this point as soon as possible.

It is believed that Dresel, as an attaché of the American Embassy, might be instructed to represent the United States unofficially on the Reparation Commission as a part of his diplomatic duties.

A similar question is also up in respect to the other commissions for which provision is made in the treaty with Germany.

American Mission is constantly in receipt of formal requests from other powers that United States should nominate representatives on commissions such as those for Schleswig, Upper Silesia, Allenstein and Marienwerder (see articles 109, 88, 95 and 97, respectively). Of these the first is already functioning and arrangements for the establishment of the three last have been discussed at meetings of a subcommittee of the Committee on Execution of the Treaty Clauses. It is obvious that delay on our part in making provisional nominations after ratification of the treaty by three powers will subject our representatives, when appointed, to a serious handicap and may greatly prejudice the interests and influence of the United States.

  • Polk
  • American Mission
  1. Lester H. Woolsey, technical expert, American Commission to Negotiate Peace.