The Commission to Negotiate Peace to the Acting Secretary of State
[Received 5.06 p.m.]
3235. It was our understanding that the President, at about the time of his departure, expressed the view that there should be no participation by the United States in the work of setting up commissions provided for by the treaty until ratification of the treaty by the Senate. There are certain obvious difficulties in a literal application of this policy, which, it seems to us, we are warranted in bringing to your attention, so that we may be assured of knowing the precise views of the President with reference to the actual situation which confronts us and in which we are subjected to very considerable pressure by our colleagues.[Page 4]
The treaty provides that nearly all of the commissions begin their duties within 15 [days] after the coming into force of the treaty. On account of the unsettled conditions in large parts of Europe it is necessary that the boundary commissions, plebiscite governing commissions, etc., should be prepared to undertake their duties within the time specified, especially as areas will be evacuated by German passport [troops] and administrative officials, leaving no adequate provisions for local government. Delay in arrival of the commissions may involve serious local unrest which in turn may require the despatch of Allied forces. The smaller states are entitled to protection in these matters and probably will not be satisfied with commissions without the American members prescribed by the treaty. On the other hand Germany can and probably will insist that the commissions shall not start upon their work without these American members. In the matter of arbitration, particularly concerning rivercraft and railway matters, commerce in Europe will be greatly impeded through lack of decision in cases where the United States is, by the treaty, to name the umpires.
In order that these commissions and arbitral bodies may be able to enter upon their duties within the time specified by the treaty, not only must personnel be selected, but opportunity afforded for acquainting such personnel with the character of their duties and the history of the treaty clauses which they will be called upon to enforce. In discussion with our associates we have hitherto taken the position that while no definite appointments would be made by the United States except after ratification by the Senate, we would take informal preparatory steps necessary to enable us punctually to carry out our obligations in the event of ratification. If we are not to do so, we feel we should frankly so state.
It may also be pointed out that the treaty becomes effective when ratified by three principal powers, which may take place before America ratifies. Whether we ratify or not the small states and Germany will doubtless demand American representation on the treaty commissions, and it is suggested that we might meet such demands, as it is not unusual for the United States to designate arbitrators, et cetera, to act under treaties to which the United States is not a party.
The rapid withdrawal of American Army officers from Europe, many of whom are adapted for positions which, under the treaty, the United States is required to suspend [fill], will make it extremely difficult for us to perform the obligations above referred to, unless action is now taken to hold in Europe suitable officers. Authority requested, therefore, to make immediately, temporary selections here for all of these positions except for League of Nations Commission [Page 5] and the more important positions in other commissions, as the Reparation Commission and the Rhineland Commission. Such selections would, of course, be subject to any necessary approval or change upon the Senate having acted on the treaty. The persons selected would be able [authorized] to participate, if desirable [informally], in deliberations with their colleagues without binding the United States but merely assisting in preliminary discussion and preparation in order to become fully informed and ready to take part if and when they are formally appointed.
This authority will further involve the granting of additional funds to the Peace Commission.
A related and equally important matter is that of Hoover’s economic commissions in control of the railways of central and eastern Europe, the Danube, Elbe and Vistula; his commissions in control of coal distribution of practically all central European coal fields; and his telegraphic communications syndicates [system,] upon which we greatly rely for communication with eastern Europe. All of these are necessarily about to demobilize because of the exhaustion of his funds and expiration of his office. He is endeavoring to hold on until the Austrian treaty is signed, although he has no adequate resources for payment of salaries and expenses. The various commissions created by the treaty of peace will, to a great extent, replace Hoover’s economic administration which is very important for economic cooperation of central Europe, and, if authority is given to make selection for treaty positions as above requested, we can, in large measure, bring about an orderly transfer of the relief work to treaty bodies. If, however, his commissions are withdrawn before the various permanent commissions under the treaty are set up, [we] might jeopardize the good effects of the work already accomplished and increase the danger of economic chaos. Hoover states that if we can quickly install the new regime it will cover this situation.
General Bliss says that Marshal Foch has informed him that the general scheme for organization of the commissions of control, charged with supervising the disarmament of Germany, calls for an American general as president [of] a subcommittee on the disarmament of fortifications, and that he has requested the immediate designation of this officer. General Bliss informed the Marshal that he has no power to consider this question and that the officer must be appointed at the proper time by the Government in Washington. To this, the Marshal replied that it is absolutely necessary to make the appointment now in order that the commission may organize and block out its work. General Bliss suggests that in case an American officer cannot be designated prior to ratification of the [Page 6] treaty by the Senate, he be directed to inform the Marshal that an officer of some other nationality must be selected as president of the sub-commission on fortifications. The American Mission understands that the permanent designations of all American representatives on commissions created by the treaty of peace will be made in Washington and that they shall so inform their colleagues here.
- White. Bliss.
- American Mission