18: The Conference Runs into Heavy Weather
<< 17: With General Smuts to Southeastern Europe || 19: Wind-Up in Paris and a Two-Way Mission to Washington >>
Note: After my scamper with General Smuts in Southeastern Europe (April 1 to 11,
1919), as related in Unfinished Business, I was back in my interpreter's
box for the League of Nations Commission. It may be noted that several entries in my diary
bear dates of my absent days. Apparently I drew my information for these from my Colonel's
daybook and chronicled these events on the dates when they occurred, even though I was not
on the spot at the time.
April 2, 1919
Some of the newspaper observers, more familiar with political customs at home than with
the European scene, are beginning to sniff the air and to whisper that a "deal"
is in progress between the mighty men here assembled. They admit it is for the purpose of
inaugurating an era of peace and good will between the warring nations, but some say
openly that they have gloomy forebodings as to the outcome. They may be right; they look
at the situation from the outside and for once that may be the coign of vantage. I shall,
however, view the scene as it appears to me from the inside although I do not pretend to
know all the moves that are being made on the obscure checkerboard.
It is at least certain that the President returned from America (March 14) with a
realistic sense of the obstacles in his path which had been lacking when he left six weeks
before. He sees now after his contacts with the opposition in Washington that he is no
longer dictator, in a good sense of the word, but that he must plead with his fellow
delegates for concessions, even for favors, if the peace ship is not to come to grief on
the rocks of a lee shore. He is putting on a brave face to the unwelcome task, but he is
no longer absolutely confident of the outcome.
When the President went to America in February with the draft of the Covenant in his
dispatch case he thought his troubles were over; that in the future there was to be plain
sailing on summer seas. He had persuaded himself that the adverse vote in the November
Senate and state elections meant nothing at all.(1) He
placed reliance on the popular support for the great Charter and the adhesion to it of
many state governors who apparently supported him in his crusade to bring fair dealing to
a distracted world. During his stay of a month at home the President's contacts with
senators and congressmen and with those who follow closely the trends of public opinion
have opened his eyes to the grim realities. Taft and Root, who at tunes have given him
nonpartisan support, have convinced him that unless he puts over the Monroe doctrine
reservation his whole project of a new world order will collapse. Of course the famous
doctrine is not involved in the New World edifice. It is simply a unilateral pronouncement
affecting the Americas, but it is developing into a rallying cry for all who oppose
Wilson's "idealism," as they call it, and who frankly want to get away from
European entanglements and responsibilities. That would of course be splendid - were it
The French and British statesmen are close observers of this change in sentiment, this
radical swing of the pendulum, and being human and "patriotic" they will seek to
profit by it. They will give Wilson his reservation, they will help him to pacify his
opponents, but they will make him pay their price, they will demand their quid pro quo.
The developing situation has given Lloyd George an opportunity to comment openly and
rather boisterously upon what he calls his wisdom in insisting upon what some have termed
in contempt his "Khaki election (see later) while the cannon were still smoking from
the four years war. He has said to House several times, "All the world now knows that
Britain is behind me. But is America behind Wilson?
Then both George and Clemenceau admit that they, too, just like Wilson, are having
trouble with parliamentary bodies who will have to be pacified. And there is Italy and
Orlando, who concedes that his people are very restive about Fiume. The French Chamber and
Senate is overwhelmingly in favor of the creation of a buffer state along the Rhine as a
bulwark against future German aggression, or a hard and fast alliance between the Western
Allies and America which would give the same security. And then, as always, Poland is a
problem and suggested solutions certainly run counter to the Wilsonian principles. Lloyd
George makes it quite plain that he wishes to withhold most of Silesia from the Poles, he
argues that Silesia, with its ores and its political affiliations, in the control of
Warsaw would give France a paramount position on the Continent and that Germany deprived
of adequate supplies of coal and iron would no longer continue as Britain's best customer.
In confidential talks with the Colonel, Orlando admits that intrinsically Fiume is not
very important, but as a symbol for the flag-wavers like d'Annunzio he asserts it is vital
to his continuance in office. "You have Trieste and Venice," says the Colonel,
"giving adequate facilities for a world commerce four times as great as Italy has
"Quite true," admits Orlando, "but with our World War experiences fresh
in our mind we want to, we must, keep the Adriatic as a mare clausum, a closed
sea, otherwise the superpatriotic orators will declare that our situation is only changed
in name but not in fact. To our hurt and embarrassment Yugoslavia will have taken the
place of Austria, and everything will be quite as unsatisfactory as before."
House would give France satisfaction on the Rhine, but he opposes the partition of
Silesia or even the proposed plebiscite, so dear to Lloyd George for reasons which I have
given in detail elsewhere.(2) He thinks the President
should hold out on Fiume or at most accept League of Nation control for a specified period
to be followed later on when the situation may have quieted down by a "free and
fair" election. But he admits the President will have to yield a point or two or
withdraw from the Conference, which would mean a world smash. His choice is this: in the
Council of Four he must placate Clemenceau or George, one or the other, otherwise the
crusade for peace will end badly.
An amusing story has come from Washington. Cabot Lodge is reported to have said,
"Wilson's difficulties are wholly imaginary. We can and should shape the Paris picnic
according to our wishes as long as we hold on to the lunch basket." That may have
been true last fall, but it is not true today. As always, benefits are quickly forgotten
and on November 11 last, control of the European situation passed out of the President's
hands. Today he realizes it, and some of the most valuable provisions of the Covenant and
the Treaty are being jettisoned to save the ship that is making heavy weather.
March - undated, 1919
The Colonel has asked me to "clarify" the situation on the Eastern Front and
more particularly in Southeastern Europe, a large order surely. I have sat at the feet of
the tacticians and the strategists of the Supreme War Council both in Versailles and on
the Place des Invalides, but the result is a crazy quilt. Of one thing only am I
convinced, and that is, even these wise men do not know all the answers.
It is quite clear, however, that the French are increasingly nervous over the continued
advance of the Bolshevik forces, particularly in South Russia, where from Odessa the
French forces were expected to control the advancing flood but did not. A radiogram from
the Soviet foreign minister, Tchitcherin, to the Hungarian Bolsheviki has been intercepted
and it provokes anxious comment. He claims that the White forces have been held in the
North and that in the South the Soviets are victorious and advancing steadily. He
concedes, however, that north of Lemberg the Soviet army is menaced by Polish and
Evidently the situation in and around Danzig grows more complicated. To secure the
Armistice, vitally necessary at the time to save their shattered armies, the Germans
acquiesced in Poland's claim on the port and also conceded to Poland access to the sea by
way of the Vistula. Now, according to the French reports, the Germans are seeking to
nullify these concessions. They are provoking disorders in Posen and will oppose the
landing of General Haller's Polish division should the Entente decide to permit him to
land at the Baltic port.
According to French sources, here are some further details of the military crazy quilt.
Despite the fact that Poland is an ally of the Entente, Germany is treating her with open
hostility, and so the question is today will the Entente be intimidated or will Germany be
forced to fulfill the Armistice agreement? Certainly the Supreme War Council does not know
all the answers, and while the Big Four examine all these complicated problems they, as
far as I can see, make no headway in solving them.
Despite the Armistice, Germany maintains today a large army in and around Mitau in
Courland and from this position menaces Esthonia, now in the clutches of the Bolsheviki.
Oblivious of the fact that it was Berlin that let loose the Soviet flood in Eastern
Europe, the Germans today are doing all they can to convince the harassed populations of
the Baltic states that the German army (despite the Armistice, still in being) is the only
organized force capable of protecting them from the Red Horde. The French believe, and
have much evidence to confirm this belief, that not only did Berlin start the Bolshevik
movement by providing it with leaders and with money, but that Berlin directs it today.
To "stop the Horde," to use the expression most often heard here, General
Mangin, that famous hard hitter of the 10th Army, is leaving for the East Front in a few
hours and other high-ranking officers are going to Poland. The French General Staff insist
that Mangin be placed in supreme command of all available forces now in the disputed field
so that at last the much-talked-of cordon sanitaire may be realized.
I must admit the Colonel was not enthusiastic over my "clarifying"
memorandum; but he accepted my final statement that "Eastern Europe is a military
crazy quilt - and the Supreme War Council does not know all the answers." Yet, how
can they? The information we received from what we must regard as reliable sources is
almost always flatly contradictory.
March 24, 1919
Even those of us who are so fortunate as not to be directly involved (we who are only
plagued by the repercussions) are well aware that the Armistice commissioners who meet at
least once a month at Spa to clarify, implement, renew, and also extend the terms of that
document are facing squalls. It is not too much to say that Marshal Foch himself is so
disgusted, at least so say his military aides such as Generals Dupont and Mordacq, that he
is seriously thinking of dropping the historic instrument into the Seine and beginning all
over again. What means, of course, stiffer terms than those laid before the Germans at
Compiegne last November.
Mordacq, who is of course closer to Clemenceau than he is to the Generalissimo, says
that Foch accepts some measure of responsibility for what he now admits is an almost
complete fiasco. He pleads in extenuation, however, that the terms were not what he wanted
or what he would have presented had he stood alone, but a compromise document which was
the limit of what he could persuade his associates representing the Allied and Associated
Powers to agree to. Foch says the delays which they contrive and the back-peddling in
which the Germans are so proficient simply mean that they are well aware of the speed with
which the English and the American forces are sailing away from France and that they are
preparing to reject even anodyne terms which could only be enforced by the war-weary
French army. War-weary certainly and even somewhat mutinous many of the French units are
growing if we can believe the reports that are coining to us almost every day from the
winter cantonments and even from the rest billets in the south of France.
As was to be expected, these long-continued discussions, not to say disputes, resulted
in a crisis and it became acute the day before yesterday. Flatly the German commissioners
announced that their government would not permit the Polish troops under General Haller to
disembark at Danzig on their way to Poland where Paderewski maintains they are greatly
needed to establish law and order and to stop the encroachments of the German army,
euphemistically called "free corps," now on the rampage in Silesia. And second,
they absolutely refuse to permit members of the French military mission in Warsaw to
enter, much less inspect, the territory east of the Vistula which they contend is
illegally occupied by the Germans. In other words, as Foch advised the Colonel in a snappy
memorandum, "The Germans refuse to conform to Article 16 of the Armistice protocol
"The Allied forces shall have free access to the territories to be evacuated
by the Germans on the Eastern frontier whether through Dantzig or by the Vistula."
"This action means," concludes Foch, "that the Germans now flatly refuse
to comply with President Wilson's Thirteenth Point which provides for the creation or
rather the restoration of a free and independent Polish state with direct access to the
sea a condition of the Armistice which they so gladly accepted on November eleventh
According to French sources the German Commissioners attached to their refusal what is
considered here an impertinent inquiry. They are reported to have asked, "Is it true,
as generally stated in the Paris press, that the German government will be summoned to
sign the Peace Treaty without having been given an opportunity to see, much less to
discuss, its terms?"
Foch holds that the inquiry should be ignored. "We are not accountable to the
German government for our actions. Granting this request would only lead to interminable
discussions," is his comment. House recognizes that the majority of the delegates and
the states they represent are unalterably opposed to a face-to-face discussion of the
Treaty with the German envoys when they arrive, but he will insist upon giving them ample
opportunity to discuss the terms in writing, and he is confident that Clemenceau will
comply with his wishes in this matter which he considers so vital. Foch concluded the
informal memorandum from which I am quoting with these words: "Whatever decision is
arrived at as to these questions, we must prepare for the crisis in our relations which it
is now quite evident the Germans are plotting" - in other words the march to Berlin,
and it is an open secret that the French divisions that are to participate in it have
already been assigned.
Even if the worst comes to the worst and once again the Germans treat a solemn treaty
as a mere "scrap of paper," it will be difficult to secure harmonious action
from the allied and associated governments. Speaking particularly for the Americans, every
one of them from major general to high private wants to go home. Mordacq told the Colonel
yesterday that Clemenceau is of the opinion that the Germans are well aware of this état
des âmes (one of the Tiger's favorite expressions) and that they will exploit it
to the limit.
But as a matter of fact the situation is not as simple as this; there are other angles
to the problem. None of the Western Powers wish to send troops to the Eastern Front, and
without the backing of troops the military commissions which are expected to take charge
are powerless; again many of them, most of them in fact, are of the opinion that the
German troops which have not been disbanded are the only available bulwark against the
encroachments of the Bolsheviki and would like to send them reinforcements if it could be
done without loss of "face."
So, though regrettable, it is natural that the Germans, far from growing more amenable,
are getting more cocky with the passing of every hour. With their excellent sources of
information they probably know that many of the control officers have reported that if the
Germans carry out the disarmament to which they are pledged nothing but an Allied army
could prevent the Moscow people from overrunning Poland and parts of Rumania, certainly
Bessarabia. Indeed it was only yesterday that the propaganda bureau of Trotsky announced
that a reunion of all the Soviets will take place in Warsaw in April and that the
revolutionary movement in Bessarabia and Wallachia is spreading rapidly. Paderewski is
constantly sending the Colonel frantic appeals. He insists that only the arrival of men
and of ample munitions can save the situation. He reports that the Bolshe are drawing
nearer to the Dniester every day and that the more radical wing of the Ukrainians is
getting out of hand in Eastern Galicia.
It is certainly a pretty kettle of fish, and Foch admits that even if they are
enforced, and he claims that many of them are completely ignored, the articles of the
Armistice protocol are not strong enough or elastic enough to control the situation. Even
before the President left for America (February), Foch in a rather indirect manner
suggested that something would have to be done: For instance, that a rather broad
interpretation should be placed upon some of the Armistice provisions.
But Wilson, as was to be expected from a man of his integrity, absolutely declined to
accept the suggestion or even to consider it should it be formally advanced. His answer
was, "If the arrangements which we made are faulty, well, that is our lookout. I
certainly will not agree to slip in provisions at this late day, however helpful they
might prove. If it is a bad bargain, we must stand by it." Mordacq's comment -
whether it is personal or inspired by Clemenceau we do not know - is, "If we cannot
hold the Germans to the terms of the Armistice, what is the use of continuing to discuss
the terms of the definite treaty, which cannot but prove even more unacceptable to the
same unreliable gang?" The answer to this is not broadcast but whispered under one's
breath, that "there is a no more reliable gang within sight."
April - undated - probably 22, 1919
A busy week, but as far as I can see nothing, or next to nothing, has been
accomplished. In the matter of prestige, and nothing can be more important, I fear the
Supreme Council has lost out. Germany refused to let Haller and the new Polish army
disembark in Danzig and the Council did not insist - although it blustered and said it
would. It ordered the Poles and the Ukrainians to stop their destructive and most
uncivilized warfare, and yet it goes on tragically. It is now apparent that Smuts went to
Budapest to urge upon Bela Kun the advisability of withdrawing from the shrine of good St.
Stephen, offering to ease him out in a comfortable and orderly manner; indeed he was
invited to come to the Conference, but the little "piker" refused to budge and
the Rumanians are pushing ahead and apparently are giving the Hungarian pusztas a
taste of fire and sword with which they have had no experience since the days of the
Turkish Horde. And the Russian Kolchak? Well, he has acknowledged with thanks the rifles
and the many supplies he has received from the Allies, but as yet no official answer is
forthcoming to the eight questions concerning his future policy which the Supreme Council
submitted to him. Little wonder then that many here are saying, paraphrasing the mot
of the Prince de Ligne in Vienna, 1815, "the Conference talks but accomplishes
nothing." At least we do not dance.
And I am afraid those men who the sailors call my "wild tribes" are not
making any particular headway. The Greeks of the Euxine Pontus have been in several times
and have talked again in a fascinating way of the glories of those ancient Greek cities of
Trebizond, of Samsoun, and of Tripoli (in Syria). They want an Asiatic republic of Black
Sea Greeks attached to the Athens government by some loose form of dominion status, but
even Venizelos, venturesome as he is where Thrace and the Smyrna vilayets are concerned,
shrinks from this responsibility.
The Albanians saw the President on the seventeenth; at least Essad Pasha did, and his
hopes are high although he admits that the President was noncommittal. Essad insists on
complete independence and claims the support of all the Albanians in the United States.
Unfortunately the Albanians at home are far from unanimous. A very stately gentleman named
Turkhan Pasha has arrived and he brings a petition which indicates that his people want
Italian protection but nevertheless are violently opposed to an Italian protectorate!
In one direction, at least, the atmosphere has been cleared by a forthright statement
from Clemenceau of what I fear is an ugly fact. Always constituting himself the champion
of the lesser states, who he thinks are not getting their rights, M. Hymans of Belgium
drew from the Tiger the remark, "After all, the rights of the Great Powers have to be
considered. Indeed, we who put twelve million men in the field are the arbiters of the
world, and no one more than M. Hymans should gratefully acknowledge our power and
March - undated, 1919
Yesterday House told me that he now realized that the only possible peace would not be
the ideal settlement he had hoped for.
"One of our handicaps is that, at least in the eyes of Europe, the President has
been in a measure discredited by the result of the November election. The American
Congress is now in the hands of those who do not view the situation eye to eye with the
President; amid worse, much worse, the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate is, to
say the least, unfriendly to the Wilson policies. Between November the tenth and twelfth
(1918, the Armistice intervening) we lost the ball. By some it is argued that we should
have bound our allies by more definite terms than we did before victory was achieved; but
what a poor crusade that would have been if we had shown the same want of confidence in
the word of our allies as we did in the promises of our enemy. And after all, they did
accept the Fourteen Points. As a result of our discussions, which reveal a distinct want
of unanimity, the enemies of the president are greatly encouraged amid the violent attacks
upon him at home are having an unfortunate effect in Europe. Naturally it is being said,
'Wilson cannot even carry his own people with him; he is no longer omnipotent - even in
March 11, 1919
Lloyd George came in and had a long talk with the Colonel. The purpose of his coming
was to say that he was willing to state that in case of another invasion of France by
Germany Britain would come to her aid. "But," he added, "I want to say
definitely and finally that we are not willing to maintain an army for an indefinite
period on the Rhine."
"In that position we are in complete agreement," said House.
Then George began on another task.
"House, if you will allow me, I want to speak to you on a personal matter."
"Go ahead," said the Colonel.
"I have been lambasted by Northcliffe and his henchmen for having held what they
call a 'Khaki election' and so securing a parliamentary endorsement in the hour of victory
when the people could not deny anything to the government that had weathered the storm.
They even say, these people who were not so very helpful in winning the war, that by this
'trick I secured a new lease of power that in calmer moments the people would have denied
me. This was not my purpose, and I want to tell you what my thought really was. I think it
will merit your approval.
"I knew - how could I help knowing? - that I had the people of England and indeed
of the Empire with me in support of my war policy one hundred per cent. But after November
11, the course to be pursued was not so clear. New problems were presented, and the main
one was how to win the peace. I went to the people, told them what I had in mind frankly
and openly, and they endorsed my policy. Northcliffe says I am a political trickster, but
what would he and those who take orders from him have said if I had not gone to the polls
and consulted the people? I think I did right amid that I am much stronger now with my
renewed mandate from the people than is Wilson with his Congress arrayed against him.
Clemenceau also is stronger because he has secured several votes of confidence in the
Chamber, and today only Wilson is threatened and is in danger. For this I am profoundly
sorry. We in England do not wish to see him weakened; we need him almost as much as we did
last spring when we were fighting with our backs to the wall and the outlook was none too
"The effect of the November election is greatly exaggerated and partly, at least,
misunderstood over here," protested House. "By and large, our people support the
Wilson policy; there were in the election local issues and tactical mistakes which lend
themselves to the misunderstanding of the result so prevalent in France and in England
too. There should, of course, have been no partisan appeal in the President's election
manifest. However, the people are with him, and when the time for decision comes Congress
will be with him too."
House had made a brave showing, but after Lloyd George left he was not so cheerful:
"There is much in what George says," be admitted ruefully. "The hot fit
is over and the President is not as strong as he was. We should have secured a preliminary
peace within three weeks of his arrival in Paris. It should not have taken us much longer
to have laid down the public law of the new era we hope to enter upon. Now we must do what
we can, amid I am confident we shall succeed. Every day of delay and hesitation is against
us. But while regretting these delays and hesitations, I see and frankly admit that there
were difficulties and obstacles to quick action. Ours was not an easy task. Perhaps the
greatest was the question, 'Would the Republican Weimar government survive, and would it
be able to suppress the Spartacist revolt in Germany? Undoubtedly these people were in
close touch with Moscow and were receiving substantial support in money and munitions from
them, and as late as January their movement seemed formidable. More than once Clemenceau
said to me, 'It is wise to wait and watch and see. What possible use would it be to make
peace or any other arrangements with governments such as those of Ebert's and Lenin's,
which may not survive; let us make haste slowly.'"
March 21, 1919
Several days ago the President s indignation at the way in which many of the senators
are hampering his activities, the strong impression which he brought back with him from
Washington blazed out. To Lansing [secretary of state] he said (March 17), I must free
myself from the servitude which many of the senators seek to impose upon me, and for this
reason I have decided to accept the time-saving expedient, which hitherto I have rejected,
of a preliminary treaty.
Lansing admitted that he was disturbed and shocked at the proposal. "While I must
make a careful study of it, my first impression is that a preliminary treaty, even though
provisional in character and merely to serve as a stopgap until the general treaty is
signed, would have to be submitted to the Senate. So, while time might be gained here by
this expedient, it would be lost in Washington where we would have to face two battles in
the Senate instead of one. However, it is a matter that requires the most careful
consideration and I advise submitting it to our legal advisers."
The report of Miller and Scott(3) then consulted was in
the hands of the President in a very few hours. They agreed that the plan was
unconstitutional. They held that "the status of war cannot be changed into the status
of peace so far as the United States is concerned, except by a treaty consented to by the
Senate." They fortified their opinion by citing a number of precedents drawn from our
The President accepted this opinion in silence and immediately abandoned his plan.
Later he is reported to have commented, "Lawyers! They can tell you a dozen ways how
a thing cannot be done but not a single one how it can be done." House says there is
not a word of truth in this gossip which he says is simply embroidered on the President s
well-known dislike of the legal profession. I trust that the news of what the President
had in mind will not reach Washington, where of course it would be regarded as another, if
futile, attempt to kick over the senatorial traces.
April 12, 1919
In view of certain unpleasant incidents, it is now advisable to turn back the clock, or
rather the calendar, to a period some months ago. On December 9, as requested, House
radioed the President, then at sea, the tentative programme of his reception, for he was
due to arrive at Brest three days later. Among the proposed arrangements was this:
"The French and Belgian governments are most insistent that you should make a tour of
the devastated regions, and accordingly the French government is making arrangements for
you to take a trip through Northern France and Belgium which, beginning December 26, will
occupy three days."
The President vetoed this arrangement. Instead, while awaiting the opening of the
Conference, he visited the courts of St. James and the Quirinal and received the thanks of
the monarchs and the peoples who had by American intervention been saved from destruction.
When these courtesy calls had been paid, House was strongly in favor of the postponed
visit to the devastated regions and the battlefields without delay, and Clemenceau offered
to act as the President s cicerone.
To this the President made no reply or simply begged the question. When ripples of
dissatisfaction became noticeable in the French press, about January 5 (the President was
even reproached by some of the papers for what one of them termed his "Olympian
indifference to suffering"), House took up the project again and urged the President
to give it his attention. By this time the President was irritated and it was clear that
some of the criticism of his inaction had seeped through the almost sound-proof walls of
the Paris White House. "House," he said, "I have come to Europe to do what
I can to repair the damage resulting from this savage war. But looking at the ruins and
examining the scars will not be helpful in the work of restoration which awaits us, and I
am confident that such a tour would not be conducive to the frame of mind we must all pray
for if the peace negotiations are to succeed. I should think the French people would know
that nothing could make me despise the Germans more than I do now."
When it became apparent that the President was not going to make the excursion, or had
at least postponed it to some quite distant day, the French press, provincial as well as
Parisian, became indignant and this indignation was expressed in unrestrained language.
There are some who maintain that the resulting campaign of - well it approached
vilification - was inspired by the French government, but I do not think so. For once, in
my judgment, the newspapers were a true mirror of French public opinion. Many of them
printed with approval the demands of the Depeche of Toulouse, a most influential
paper, which said and repeated almost daily, "Wilson must emerge from his study, he
must see with his own eyes what we have suffered. Enfin he must get in touch with
the realities of war." The President realized at last that he had been unwise and in
early spring paid the skimpy visit which would have sufficed in December. While of course
other grievances have been added to the score, and for these the President was not solely
responsible, I am confident that the delay in making the pilgrimage to the martyred cities
and the devastated provinces started the outburst of ill-feeling with which he has to
[September, 1919. In my judgment, in his attitude and in his handling of this
matter the President made three mistakes and these three were all that it was in his power
to make. First, he should have made the excursion when invited amid when the French people
expected him to make it. And when criticized for the omission and the criticism was
couched in outspoken and indeed in most unseemly terms, he should not have yielded to it
and paid the visit. Third, when he did yield and made the excursion he should not have
allowed it to degenerate into a perfunctory and a most ungracious affair.]
March 30, 1919
I was told by House to take an early opportunity of calling to Clemenceau's attention
the undoubted fact that the changed attitude of the people of Paris toward Wilson and the
more or less unfriendly attitude of the French press was again having an unfortunate,
indeed a deplorable, effect in the United States. I had this opportunity today and availed
myself of it and fortunately I found the Tiger in a mellow mood.
"I agree with House; public opinion in France is not reasonable, but how natural
this is in view of the fact that Wilson is opposing the minimum of our demands," he
said. "But these outbreaks while not unnatural are above all, as I see it, unwise.
Tell House that I understand the situation and that I shall take care of it. I shall get
Martet to assemble those blatant editors in my office and I shall give them a talking to
that they will heed and long remember! However disappointed they may be by more recent
developments, the French people should not forget that in all human probability without
the assistance of America and Britain France would no longer exist. What wouldn't the
Germans have done to us had they won? I shudder to think of it. True, I would have fought
them to the last gasp with my back to the Pyrenees, but tell House I'm obliged for his
timely reminder. In spite of present disappointments, I shall see to it that our people
and our press shall demonstrate that they have not forgotten the wartime assistance which
we received and thanks to which we are still an independent nation."
Within three days the intervention of the Tiger bore fruit, laudatory articles appeared
in many of the papers, and as of yore crowds gathered about the President's house and
cheered his goings and his comings.
I hope this incident is closed and that the French press will show some degree of
respect for the President to whom they owe so much, but I doubt it. It is, however, only
fair to say that the French are nor the only people who are prone to forget benefits
received. There are many such assembled here. In conversation and even in fairly serious
London papers there have appeared criticisms of the makeshift merchant ships which at our
expense and to save Britain from starvation we built in improvised shipyards.
The attacks on the President, and what is more important the misrepresentation of the
peace policies which he pursues, have broken out again with vitriolic force in both the
provincial and the metropolitan newspapers. There was, it is true, an outbreak of this
nature toward the end of January but, with the consent of the President, House put an end
to it by announcing in one of his newspaper conferences that as apparently his views were
not understood, Mr. Wilson was thinking of making a full statement of his hopes and his
fears in a Plenary session of the Conference to which the world press would be admitted.
As this was the very last thing that the French government wished to have happen, the
brakes were put on and the anti-Wilson philippics vanished from the front pages. Today,
however, as it is known that the President does not view the situation on the Rhine in the
same light as does Clemenceau and that he is most reluctant to sanction the three
five-year periods of occupation by the Allied armies which Foch insists on, columns of
billingsgate are filling the papers once again.
Today we placed the collection of these diatribes which Frazier and I had culled before
the Colonel. He was more angry than I have ever seen him and having arranged a call on
Clemenceau by telephone he went to see him at the War Ministry. He was back an hour later
amid evidently greatly pleased with the result of his talk. "I told the Tiger that as
far as they aimed at the President or myself these attacks left us both indifferent, but
as the United States was also misrepresented and her motives aspersed this press campaign
was damaging the good relations between our respective countries and that was serious -
something I was sure he could not countenance. The Tiger agreed with me and called in
General Mordacq and his young secretary, Jean Matter. In my presence he told them that the
relations between America and France were excellent, indeed they were the hope of saving
the world from anarchy. 'You must call up every paper and press agency in Paris and inform
them that these attacks must cease.'"
Then the Tiger and the Colonel talked about more agreeable matters for ten minutes or
so and as he left the Ministry we heard the uproar from the telephone booths. "Figaro
alloo! Alloo! Matin alloo!"
April 5, 1919
The effect of the Colonel's visit has been magical. Every paper in Paris, at least all
that have come to our notice, print eulogies of the President this morning and of House,
"that loyal friend of France." What a press it is! With the Colonel's permission
I am destroying the file of recent press attacks, but as I do so I come across the record
of the almost delirious praise with which his arrival on these shores but a few short
weeks ago was hailed. Excerpts from two of these I place in my diary. I begin with that of
Henri Lavedan of the French Academy in L'Illustration. It reads:
We have seen him; we have admired him; our descendants in their turn will wonder at
it all, and the work of President Wilson will remain one of the legends of history.
President Wilson will appear in the poetry of the coming ages, like unto that Dante whom
he resembles in profile. Future generations will see him guiding through the dangers of
the infernal world that white-robed Beatrice whom we call Peace... It was for peace and
justice that he went to war. This man of law, this jurist of Sinai, this Solomon of Right
and Duty, has never failed to subordinate his conduct, and that of the States of which he
was the absolute representative, to the dominant sentiment of Justice. He was possessed by
it as by a good demon. Nothing was to be desired, nothing was to be done but Justice...
The time will come when we shall see statues of him in those United States of
Europe whose union he strengthened in the teeth of the perils and necessities of war. And
these statues, whether they be in France, Italy or England will not show him in military
habit or booted and spurred like Washington and Lafayette but will present him as a
student, a humanitarian...
But before he is made memorable in bronze and marble, let us salute in our hearts,
in the temple of our gratitude, the image of this forever memorable man. Honor to
President Wilson, High Priest of the Ideal, Leaguer of the Nations, Benefactor of
Humanity, Shepherd of Victory and Legislator of Peace.
And now for a few of the trumpet notes that came from Romain Rolland.
You alone Mr. President are endowed with an universal moral authority. All have
confidence in you. Respond to the appeal of these pathetic hopes! Take these outstretched
hands, help them to clasp each other. Help these groping peoples to find their way, to
establish the new Charter of enfranchisement and of union whose principles they are all
passionately if confusedly seeking.
Descendant of Washington, of Abraham Lincoln! take in hand the cause, not of a
party, of a people, but of all! Summon to the Congress of Humanity the representatives of
the peoples! Preside over it with all the authority which your lofty moral conscience and
the powerful future of immense America assures to you! Speak! speak to all! The world
thirsts for a voice which shall leap over the frontiers of nations and of classes. Be the
arbiter of the free peoples! And may the future greet you by the name of Reconciler!
April 3, 1919
I wish it were as easy to refute all the attacks upon the President's leadership as it
is the one that is most often advanced here today. We are told that he threw a monkey
wrench into the machinery of the Conference by taking no notice of the French programme
that was submitted to him in Washington last November by Ambassador Jusserand. While this
paper was merely informal and suggestive, I could understand that the French might have
been miffed by the way it was ignored; but as a matter of fact the French never mentioned
it, and it is the English, and particularly the Balliol boys, who maintain that at this
moment the President "torpedoed the Peace Ship."
And the Germans, how they hate Wilson! I wonder if they will ever know what the
Vaterland would have looked like but for this man whom they denounce today as a
"sanctimonious traitor." It would have been unrecognizable.
April - undated, 1919
Our closet philosopher who dreamed a beautiful dream and became President is now at
grips with stern realities. They listened to him while the world floundered in the welter
of war and the New Jerusalem lie pictured as our goal seemed most inviting, but today with
the danger passed, or so at least many think, the old selfish desires reassert themselves
and apparently with redoubled force. Further, many are convinced that they understand the
international situation and the needs of their people better, much better, than the
amateur from across the seas.
While others are not far behind, the Italians with their sacro egoismo are the worst
sinners against the New Course; they are not the only ones, but clearly they are the most
shameless. They crawl before the President for another loan "to set the world going
again" and yet are ever busy to torpedo his plan to make the world a decent place for
civilized folk to live in. They are hysterical in their demand for Fiume, although the
only promise it gives them is the certainty of war with the Yugoslavs, sooner or later.
The President had a long and anxious talk with the Colonel today. He looks wretched.
The illness which laid him low for days after his return from America was evidently more
serious than Grayson will admit. To me he looks like a man due for a complete breakdown
unless he is relieved of his burden of responsibility. No one dares to tell him this,
least of all Grayson whose role with so many presidents has been to tell them only what
they wanted to hear.
March 24, 1919
The change for the worse in the President's physical condition since his return from
America is increasingly noticeable and is being generally remarked upon. The tic on his
left cheek that is so disfiguring and to me so alarming has become almost chronic.
Evidently the President is in a highly nervous condition and the confidence that animated
him as he left for Washington is gone. He has been to see House twice since his return,
and the subject of these conferences is how best to introduce the Monroe Doctrine
reservation, demanded by the Senate, into what had been hopefully regarded as a closed
covenant, signed and sealed. This sop to the Senate is a delicate matter because it will
again open the floodgates of discussion. Not that any of the powers with the exception of
Great Britain care in the least about the Doctrine; for over here, as at home, there are
millions who have not the remotest idea what it means or can be fashioned to mean when the
But undeniably the insertion of the Monroe Doctrine reservation will open up another
period of "trading" and all the uncertainty that goes with it. Even Lord Robert
Cecil, who has been an indispensable supporter of the President in all the League of
Nations fights, has been instructed by Lloyd George to once again, as during the Armistice
proceedings, bring about a naval "understanding" with America. The Admiralty
wants some assurance that the Washington plan to outbuild the British will not be enacted
into law or if it is that time plan will not be carried out. House and Cecil are closeted
daily, but even the almost invariably cheerful Colonel admits that the problem is a
difficult one. How in the world can he go bail for what the Congress may decide to do
under circumstances which as yet have not developed?
The physical change in the President is emphasized by a certain peevishness of manner.
One of the first things he said to House on his return was, "Your dinner to
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was not a success." The Colonel might have
countered with the view held by so many observers in Washington that the dinner might have
been more successful had not the President's manner been so glacial and
"superior." At least one senator has written that they were treated by the
President as though they were being reproved for neglect of their lessons by a very frigid
teacher in a Sunday School class. But this would not have been in the House manner, so he
simply said, "Yes it is very disappointing - but in the long run the people will see
that the charge that you hold yourself aloof from your constitutional advisers is without
foundation. You offered the opportunity of a conference to the people who hold, as they
have the right to hold, very different views from yours. You gave them an opportunity to
question you and they declined to avail themselves of it. It might have been more
successful. I had hoped it would be, but this point you scored: Back from the firing line,
you placed at their disposal all the information you had. It was to he had for the asking,
but apparently they did not want it."
House is evidently distressed by the bitter attitude of the President and his
unfriendly remarks as to the motives of the hostile senators; but, if possible, he is more
distressed by the President's physical and mental condition. Unfortunately others, many
others, have noticed the change.
Yesterday General Mordacq, chef of Clemenceau's cabinet, came in with Tardieu,
and after speaking to the Colonel about routine matters Mordacq said, "M. Clemenceau
is very greatly perturbed at the President's condition. He is evidently overworked and has
the greatest difficulty in keeping his mind on the subject under discussion. Often even
early in the morning he seems quite vidé, and then nothing is done. Clemenceau thinks
that the President in addition to his tremendously exacting official tasks is spending too
much time in social matters which are also exacting. Knowing your close personal
relations, M. Clemenceau thought you might suggest to the President that he cut out his
jaunts with Mrs. Wilson and the social activities which take up so much of his time and
evidently so much of his strength - at least until the more pressing questions have been
The Colonel replied that perhaps he could intervene in this matter but that most
certainly he would not. Tardieu listened with an approving air to the General's words but
said nothing. On the following day, however, he said to House: "It is of course a
most delicate and difficult matter, but what we fear is that the President is near a
physical breakdown and of course that would be a catastrophe for us all."
April 16, 1919
Some of the President s "liberal minded" admirers (last year in Washington by
many they were denounced as parlor Bolsheviks) are today, I find, criticizing him
severely. They assert that he has entirely abandoned his policy of "open covenants,
openly arrived at" which endeared him to them and that now in consultation with the
three war lords of Britain and France and Italy he is, in "Star-Chamber"
proceedings, reshaping the world and that the hundreds of millions of people who are
involved are not having "a look in" much less a say about it.
The evidence they advance is based on the undoubted fact that the famous Council of
Ten, composed of the foreign ministers of the Allied and Associated Powers, which filled
the scene in January, has to all intents and purposes been dissolved. Yet in reality it
has not been dissolved; from time to time a contentious bone is thrown to its members. But
the great and vital problems are reserved for the Big Four. The President is made
responsible for this change in course or method, and there is some truth in the charge. On
several occasions he became very angry because of the leaks that emerged from the Council
of Ten, which some of the correspondents insisted on calling the "cave of the
winds." It was soon apparent that ten foreign ministers, each with an axe to grind,
accompanied by at least two secretaries and an unlimited number of "experts,"
could not be expected to maintain strict secrecy.
As a matter of fact, the original resounding slogan which traveled around the world was
greatly misunderstood. The President had never proposed that publicity should be given to
the proceedings of the Conference until decisions had been arrived at. While not an able
negotiator like House, and averse to caucus proceedings which House favors and enjoys, the
President probably knew how unpalatable it would be to a minister of foreign affairs to
have it heralded at home and abroad that he had failed to put over a point of view which
was dear to his government and which he had been instructed to insist upon. One might
imagine that such knowledge was rudimentary, but the history of the Ten demonstrates that
it is a lesson which many of its members found difficult to digest. As House knew,
"face saving" was only possible in secret sessions. All the delegates have to
recede at times from their original stand and accept compromises (and this will also be
the fate of the President of the United States who, since November 11, is no longer the
undisputed lord of the world).
"The result of our labors we shall trumpet to the world," says House,
"but the details of how they are arrived at should be, and must be, veiled out of
consideration for those who have failed to secure all that they wanted. In my political
experience I have found it difficult to persuade a statesman to accept defeat while the
light of publicity beats upon his fevered brow, but privately, most of them are quite
To meet this situation the Big Four was invented. Here the danger of leaks is greatly
reduced but there is another danger. Practically no record is kept of the discussions; the
four great personages are likely to recall only what they wish to remember, and when it
comes to registering the decisions arrived at, disputes may arise. As a matter of fact
this very timing has happened, and House fears that in escaping the frying pan the
negotiators may have fallen into the fire. However, only one thing is certain, a world
settlement cannot he arrived at in a few hours or overnight. It is going to take time and
most certainly it will not please everybody. The birth pangs will prove painful and the
ordeal will leave scars.
* * * *
Undeniably for some days the ship of international state has been wallowing in the
doldrums. "All our quartermasters are whistling for a sail-filling wind,"
confessed the Colonel today, "but unfortunately they each want it to come from a
different direction." The press, national and international, is in an angry mood, and
while the Conference is really doing nothing the charge is heard in many quarters that
with Star-Chamber procedure the Big Four or the Big Three are plotting atrocious things.
Agreement there is on one point in the newspapers, and that is to the effect that the
slogan of only a few short weeks ago, "Open covenants openly arrived at," has
been thrown overboard.
This is far from being the truth, but perhaps it is not more disastrous than a frank
confession of the truth would be, for the fact is that the unhappy pilots who were
expected to steer the craft bearing the comity of nations into a restful haven after the
storms and turmoil of war are at their wits end and at the ragged end of their patience
too. Although the reefs ahead, and indeed on every quarter, are plainly visible, most of
the delegates are wrangling over selfish interests, and all thought of the common good
would seem to have fled.
But the charge of undue secrecy is absurd. Here in Paris are entrenched some thirty or
forty discordant peace delegations (and as many more who have not been invited to
participate), and each and every one of the recognized delegations has been given its day
in court and some of them have had at least a week. The spokesmen of these delegations
before they appear before the perplexed Peace Tribunal issue copious communiqués to the
press setting forth their desiderata, tile maximum that they hope for, and at times the
minimum that they will accept. And after the hearings are over the impressions received,
which they are to carry home, are also given the widest publicity. It is true that much of
this is not printed in the popular political press because apparently it is all so
complicated and because there is so little interest in the details. London, Paris, Rome,
and Washington are indeed united in a desire for peace, but alas, each wants, as is said
so often and with truth, a peace à son guise.
Le Temps and several of the other more serious papers here try to he helpful
but they are not overly successful. Each afternoon Le Temps runs three or four
columns under the invariable rubric, "La Organisation de Ia Paix." Even
a hasty glance at the Conference table reveals the fact that the doves of peace that
assembled here in January are fast developing into veritable fighting cocks, and most of
them sport on all occasions their steel spurs. For every difficulty that is ironed our a
score of complications resulting from a clash of what are held to be vital interests puts
The Colonel is not dismayed. "Full speed ahead" is still his cheerful slogan,
but he is well aware that little progress is being made. In tIme sessions of the Great
Four discussions are increasingly violent amid there have been several "squarings
off" which with lesser men would be regarded as altercations. The truth is everyone
would like to go home and President Wilson is not the only one who has threatened to do so
with his request to be informed when the George Washington could reach Brest.
Yes, the weary statesmen would like to go home, but they cannot bring themselves to
confess failure or to admit that all the high hopes with which they came together have
gone a-glimmering. That must not be, and the Colonel is determined that all present must
make fast their moorings to the Covenant and trust that those who come after will be able
to clean up the mess. "Even reduced to bare poles," he argues, "the
Covenant will give the world a chance to reflect before plunging into the abyss of war
April 14, 1919
There came a telephone call this morning from Charles Seignobos, the historian and
eminent professor at the Sorbonne. He said he wanted to see me, and breaking several less
important engagements I had him in my office within the hour. Probably I had expected to
revel in the optimism as to the outcome of the Conference which he displayed, as my diary
proves, only two weeks ago. If I did, I counted without the recent depressing
developments. Like Professor Denis he is a champion of tIme little peoples, the submerged
nationalities as we call them here. But today he did not go into that. Their situation he
summed up with the words: "They have been brushed off. They are being ignored by the
Great Men. They are entirely ignored or relegated to committees which have little
knowledge of and no authority to solve their problems."
He listened patiently when I agreed with him, at least in part. Then I said, "The
President has had to throw overboard some of his plans and panaceas. He is concentrating
on saving the League and the Covenant from enemies open and concealed. If he fails, the
little fish in the stormy seas will indeed be out of luck."
1. The substantial Republican returns of the November elections lost
Wilson the control of the Senate and presented him with a Senate Foreign Relations
Committee dominated by his political and personal opponents.
2. See Chapter VII.
3. Hunter Miller and James Scott of the legal staff.
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