A Glimpse Behind the Curtain at London and Versailles

J. W. DAFOE May 1 1919


A Glimpse Behind the Curtain at London and Versailles

J. W. DAFOE May 1 1919


A Glimpse Behind the Curtain at London and Versailles


Editor of the Xlunitobu Free Press und Representative of Public Information on the Canadian Mission

THREE months in Europe—one in London while the preliminaries of the Peace Conference were engaging the attention of the diplomats of the allied nations, and two in Paris while the Conference was actually in session—gave the writer an opportunity to acquire some first-hand knowledge of some of the problems which are inseparable from the huge task of making a just, wise and permanent peace upon which the public men of the allied world are now engaged; and the series of observations or notes which follow, based upon this information, may be not without a measure of public interest.

The Canadian Mission, to which I was attached temporarily as representative of the Department of Public Information, was already installed in offices allotted to them by the British Government in Whitehall Gardens when I arrived in London at the beginning of December. They had gone over on an earlier boat, the majority of the party having left Canada before the armistice was signed. The apparently precipitate departure of Sir Robert Borden and three of his colleagues, Sir George Foster, Hon. A. L. Sifton and Hon. C. J. Doherty, was the subject of considerable criticism on the part of some Canadian newspapers. In some of them the charitable and kindly opinion was expressed that Sir Robert Borden had seized the opportunity to fly from Canada to Europe to escape the urgent domestic problems which would arise the moment the guns fell silent along the front. The fact was that Sir Robert and his party left on the shortest possible notice as the result of an urgent hurry-up call from Mr. Lloyd George. At that time it was expected that the allied principals would begin almost immediately their consideration of the terms of the preliminary peace; and the British Premier paid Canada the well-merited compliment of requesting the presence of her representative at these deliberations. There appears to be no sound reason why the text of Lloyd George’s summons—for this is what it was—should not have been made public when it was received; it would have imparted to the Canadian Mission from the outset the importance that belonged to it, and would have stopped or checked much ill-considered criticism. The interesting fact that these messages were despatched from Great Britain to Canada some time before the signing of the armistice suggests, what many supposed at the time, that the signing of the armistice was the mere formal ratification of a conclusion that had been reached at an earlier date.

An Early Peace Was Expected

THEN I reached London about the first week in December, it was the general expectation that there was to be prompt action in dealing with the terms of peace. Premier Clemenceau of France,

Marshal Foch and other less distinguished French officials were at that moment in London; and preliminary c o n v e r sations between them and British representatives were in progress. At that time Great Britain was in the midst of a vigorously-fought general election campaign, which was to be decided upon December 14; but it was announced that immediately after polling day Lloyd George would proceed to Paris, where in conference with President Wilson, (who was due to arrive about that date), the French Government and representatives of Italy, some agreement would be reached upon the general outlines of the peace that would be submitted to

Germany. This was to be followed by an early conference of all the Powers that had been associated in the war to consider and ratify the peace conditions; and then the formal Peace Congress, at which the enemy countries were to have representation, was to be convened at Versailles and the definitive peace treatysigned. At that time the advisability cf speeding up the settlement was not in question; and relatively early decisions were expected. The members of the Canadian Mission rather looked forward to spending Christmas in Paris; and there were optimists in plenty who predicted that everything would be signed, sealed and delivered by the middle of March.

Changes in the anticipated programme were soon foreshadowed. Lloyd George did not go to Paris on the date indicated; or did he go a week later, which was the extent of the postponement as first announced. In fact he did not reach Paris until January 11, traveling on the same train that carried the Dominion delegations. And in the interval President Wilson, varying his original programme of awaiting the representatives of the big Powers in Paris, had visited both London and Rome. The reasons for these changes of plan can only be surmised; but it w-ould probably not be a wild guess to say that they were related to the factor that occasioned all the hesitations and delays of the Conference—the emergence of diverging points of view among the Great Powers.

'"P'HERE was at the time a story current in London, A to which not much credence was given but which looked at in retrospect and bearing in mind subsequent developments in Paris, has the hues of reality. This had relation to the occasion of President Wilson’s visit to England during the Christmas holidays—a visit which was carried out upon very short notice. President Wilson—so the story ran—left Washington with the conviction that his idealistic programme of a moderate and healing peace, to be followed by the launching of a new international order by the inauguration of a League of Nations, would be regarded with but little favor by the hard-headed, practical realists of the British Governments, weeded to the traditions and animated by the motives of the old order. He was however buoyed up by the hope that France—republican, idealistic and forward-looking, as he conceived her to be—would be an ardent partisan of his views; and

that this combination would be sufficiently powerful to give effect to them at the Conference. The disillusionment of his first interviews with Clemenceau was a considerable shock to him. As the world knows from his extremely frank speech a few days later in the French Chamber of Deputies, Clemenceau flouted President Wilson’s project of establishing peace on earth by the device of a League of Nations on the particular ground that it offered no adequate security for France against the menace of a revived Germany; and expressed his reasoned preference for a military alliance of the four Great Powers for the purpose, first of imposing a stiff peace upon Germany and then of providing sufficient force to enforce it and to maintain it for the period neces-

sary to make its provisions fully effective. President Wilson found that, after her dire experience of the preceding five years, France was frankly sceptical of the protection afforded by documents, regardless of the weight of the signatures attached to them ; and further that her representatives and advocates had very decided views as to the terms of peace that should be imposed upon Germany if France was to be preserved, despite the victory in the field, from the financial and commercial ruin planned for her by the Hun.

Britain in Accord With America

pRESIDENT Wilson thus had his first experience of the realities of European international politics;

and he was so impressed—not to say disconcerted_by

it that he decided to cross the Channel without delay to ascertain at first-hand the attitude of the British people and their representatives towards the projects to which he had committed his reputation. The result was a revelation as pleasing as it was unexpected. There was no questioning the meaning of the popular reception to Wilson as he passed through the crowded streets of London on his way to Buckingham Palace. It was more than the compliment paid to the head of a kindred nation and an ally in the Great War; there was the plain revelation of passionate sympathy with the ideals with which Wilson's name was associated— the creation of a new international order based upon the theory of a continuing peace. President Wilson in his contact with Britishers found everywhere this evidence of sympathy and understanding, and his interviews with Lloyd George and Balfour, with their revelation of a common aspiration for something better in the future for the world than the periodic recurrence of war, laid the basis for useful ço-operation at critical moments of the conferences at Paris.

One can easily find in England and Canada ill-considered criticisms of United States policy in Paris, based upon an impression that it is cock-sure, arrogant and expressed without much regard to the sensibilities of the Allies; these critics ought to know that there is a fundamental community of sentiment and interest between the British and United States delegations which is not seriously affected by minor divergencies of view as to the most practicable means of attaining the objects they have in view. There was, it seemed to me, a fixed desire in both camps in Paris that, whatever the Peace Conference might do or might fail to do, there would be the development of mutual friendship and understanding between the two great Englishspeaking groups to a point which would ensure for all time an alliance of affection and regard between them. British or Canadian citizens who think, as some appear to, that they are in some mysterious way serving their national interests by cultivating an anti-American bias, are not doing their country the services they think they are.

rpHE long delay in London while the preliminary arrangements for calling the delegates of the allied nations together—a period of seven weeks—was not a time of idleness for the members of the Canadian Mission, as some people in Canada appeared at one time to think. An extensive series of offices had been set apart for their use in No. 2 Whitehall Gardens, the home of the War Cabinet; and here the ministers and their associates and assistants toiled faithfully day after day at tasks set for them by the development of events. Some of those were domestic in character, arising from the termination of hostilities; and in consultation with the Government at Ottawa and with the official staff, important decisions had to be reached with respect to such matters as demobilization of the troops, the extent and character of the gratuities to be paid, the repatriation of soldiers’ dependents, and so forth. The operations of the Canadian Trade Mission, headed by Lloyd Harris, with Frank P. Jones and R. J. Younge as associates, does not come into this story; but during December they were deeply engrossed in the apparently insoluble problem of mastering the combination which would open the closely barred British gates for Canadian imports, and they found it necessary to engage almost daily the service of the Prime Minister and the Minister cf Trade and Commerce in their wrestle with British officialdom. Twice weekly all the members of the Canadian Mission,, including the trade commissioners, met in Sir Robert Borden’s office to consider the matters in hand; and the range and importance of these questions, as revealed by the discussions, amply justified, if there was need of justification, the presence in London at that time of these Canadian Ministers and their associates.

In addition to all this, of course, was the business which was the primary cause for the presence of the Canadian Ministers in London: the preliminary consideration of the British policy which was to be advanced at the Peace Conference. For this purpose the Imperial War Conference was convened. Available for its sessions were representatives of all the overseas Dominions, with the exception of New Zealand—Mr. Massey and Sir Joseph Ward did not arrive in Europe until ten days after the opening of the Peace Conference. W. M. Hughes and Sir Joseph Cook of Australia had remained in London from the time of the war conferences cf the preceding summer; General Smuts of South Africa was also resident in London; and there were also available as representing India the Maharajah of Bihanir and Lord Sinha. It was thus possible to get an Empire-wide judgment upon questions of moment.

ONE domestic matter of Imperial consequence, which had been the occasion of bitter partisan controversy, particularly in Canada, was settled when the Dominion representatives agreed to the proposal that Viscount Jellicoe should visit the Dominions to advise them on the basis of the naval policy recommended by the Dominion Premiers in the summer of 1918-that ÍS, the frank

The Fight For Representation ^pHE vital matter of the direct representation of the A Dominions in the Peace Conference became, at an early date, a matter of discussion. There had been already an interchange of views between the Great Powers and it had been decided that five Great Powers should have five representatives each in the Conference, with a representation varying from one to three delegates for the smaller allied countries. Apparently no consideration had been given to the question of representation by the British Dominions; if the matter had come up it had been assumed that the British representation of five would take care of this claim of the Dominions for a direct hearing. Various suggestions in relation to this matter were heard in December when the question was before the Imperial War Cabinet. There was the proposal that one of the five British representatives should be a Dominion Premier charged with the duty of representing all the British Dominions — Sir Robert Borden being the favorite for this posi-

acceptance of the view that overseas development of this character should take the form

of local navies under local control. This long-standing issue has thus been settled upon a basis which recognizes the nationalism of the overseas Dominions —an important decision which has been somewhat overlooked by the people interested, owing to the pre-occupation of the world with developments at Paris.

tion. This, however, was not practicable because the Canadian Prime Minister could not be expected to represent the interests of the other Dominions; nor was it reasonable to suppose that the other Dominion’s representatives would be content to limit their participation to advice tendered to the British delegation through the medium of a British conference of delegates in which they would be represented. It was also suggested that the Dominion representation upon the British delegation should be drawn from a panel made up of the Dominion Premiers; and that each Dominion would appear through its own representative when matters of particular intex-est to itself should be before the Conference. This proposal was vetoed by the Canadians, who pointed out that as they had no special Canadian problems to bring before the Conference they would under this arrangement never have x-epresentation.

An Absolute Demand From Borden ipiNALLY as the result of confei-ences among the -*■ Canadian Ministers themselves and interchanges cf view's with the x-epresentatives of other Dominions, Sir Robert, Borden, at a meeting of the Impexhal War Cabinet, asked for the direct repi-esentation of the Dominions in the Peace Conference apart altogether from any right they might have to say in the com-

position of the British delegation. From what I heard at second hand Sir Robert’s statement to the Cabinet, though courteous, was absolutely flat-footed in its terms. He said that he could not agree that any belligerent country, apart from the Great Powers, should have i-epx-esentation around the Confex-ence table upon a basis differing from that accoi'ded to Canada; declared that he could not accept any arrangement by which Canada’s influence would be limited to the tendering of advice to the British delegation; and indicated that, unless Canada was given equality of treatment with the secondary Powers of the great alliance, he would have to consider whether he would be justified in absenting himself from his pressing duties at Ottawa. Lloyd George, whose mind is very open to the suggestion of new' ideas, accepted without question or debate Sir Robert Borden’s pi’oposal; and undertook to recommend it to the favorable consideration of the other Powers. The strong possibility of objections by them to a decision which would greatly increase the representation of the British Empire at the general meeting cf the Conference was recognized; but a formal statement of the claim of the British Dominions which had played so great a pai’t in the war for direct representation was fox-warded, with the full bucking of Great Britain, to the associated Powers. Thex-e the matter had perforce to rest until the meeting at Paris of the executive committee of the Gx-eat Powers which had charge of the organization of the Conference.

The committee of the Great Powers w'hich constituted itself the organizing agency for the Confex-ence was made up of two representatives from each of the five.

Thus the British Empire was x-epresented by Lloyd George and Balfour; France by Clemenceau and Pichón; the United States by President Wilson (w-ho, it is intex-esting to recall, explained that he was px-esent not as President but as Prime Minister of the United States) and Lansing. This body was called upon to decide the basis and character of the x-epresentation of each Power, and the procedure which was to govern the proceedings of the Conference.'' At the first meeting of this committee, held in Paris on January 12th—this was a Sunday gathering, by the way— the proposal that the Dominion should be given direct representation came up fox* action; and objection to it came from a quite unexpected quartex-—the American representatives. Both President Wilson and Mr. Lansing questioned the suggested arrangement. It was the first projection into the field of international diplomacy of the singular, not to say anomalous, relationship which exists between Great Britain and the British Dominions; and it is not surprising that the logical and acute mind of Px-esident Wilson should have seen objections to the proposal. It was understood at one time that President Wilson based his criticism not upon the fact that the adoption of the arrangement would give the British Empire a representation in excess of that of the other Gx*eat Pow-ers; but in the interest, as he expressed it, of the smaller countries. He said—so I have grounds for believing—that even if Canada’s claim for equal representation with Belgium, Serbia and other allied Powers of the second class were conceded, the proposal went still further, because, in addition to having all the representation that Belgium, for instance, had, she would have the additional undefined but important status of partnership in the British Empix-e. Assuming that this report of President Wilson’s remarks is accurate, as I believe it is, it is evideixt that his criticism was based upon his idea that Canada ought either to be content with her x-epresentation as a pax-t of the British Empire or accept what he regarded as the logical infex-ence of her íequest for special representation.

Wilson Gives in Gracefully ''pHE Conference Committees adjourned without i-eaching a decision. Thexe was much pertui’bation in the Dominions’ delegations when the Amex-ican attitude became known ; and Sir Robert Borden called a meeting of representatives of the Dominions for the following ixiorning in his room in the Hotel Majestic. It is interesting to note that at all meetings of the overseas delegates Sir Robert px-esided. From this meeting thsy proceeded to a meeting of all the Empire delegations, at which they renewed their demand for special representation. The voice of the Canadian Premier led in the demand that nothing short of full x-epresentation would be accepted. Lloyd George, who had brilliantly championed their cause the previous day, returned that afternoon to the Conference Committee px-epax-ed to renew the struggle; but at the opening of the meeting President Wilson x-ose, withdx-ew his opposition and himself proposed the adoption of Lloyd George’s x*equest that the Dominions be given x-epresentation. Doubtless upon x-eflection Mr. Wilson realized that it would be ungracious for the United States to seem to offer opposition to the claim of the British Dominions that they were entitled to x-epresentation in the Confex-ence that was to fix the tei*ms of peace.

As the result of this happy termination of a situation that might have resulted in unpleasantness, the British Empix-e delegations made a brave show at the first plenary session of the Peace Conference, which was held the following Saturday afternoon in the1 French Foreign Office. The handsome reception room was filled with a table which ran along both sides and across the top. At the middle of the head table sat Clemenceau, the chairman; immediately to his left was Lloyd George and then came the ether British repiesentatives filling the head table and running ax-ound the corner and down the side—fourteen in all; or only one less than the combined delegations of France, the United States and Italy, which held the corresponding positions on the other side of the x-oorn. In all three plenary sessions of the Conference which I attended the Dominions, in addition to their nine direct representatives—two each for Canada, Australia, South Africa and India and one from New Zealand—also had representatives upon the British Empire delegation oi

Continued on page 75

Continued from page 34

five. Thus at the first sitting Sir William Lloyd of Newfoundland sat at the head table; at the second Hen. C. J. Doherty of Canada and Sir Joseph Ward of New Zealand; at the third Sir Joseph Ward again and with him Hon. A. L. Siftcn of Canada.

Our International Staus Recognized

IN some of the Paris papers there was peevish and ill-considered objection lo this recognition of the British Dominions, while the French colonies, which had also done their fair share of fighting were ignored—a criticism which took no note of the fundamental difference between the British Dominions, independent and self-governing and the French colonies, which constitutionally are part of France and have direct representation in the Chamber of Deputies. This distinction was recognized by the Conference Committee which later drafted the Covenant of the League of Nations; this instrument provides for the includon in the League of Dominions if selfgoverning. Article 8 of the Covenant which contains this provision has no reference, however, to the British Dominions already represented at Paris; they will enter the League not through che gate opened by this provision, but as charter members by virtue of their membership in the Peace Conference. This, at least, is the understanding of the Dominion representatives in Paris, though I have heard a contrary view expressed. It is also the opinion of the American critics of the League of Nations who have sought to make much capital from the fact that the British representation in the Body of Delegates by virtue of the number of Dominion delegates, will out-rank that of the United States. Thus as the result of the successful demand for representation at the Peace Conference Canada—and the other Dominions as well—has had her international status as a nation, and yet

a member of the British Alliance recognized by the powers which are to be the signatories to the Covenant of the League of Nations. This is an achievement whose significance is not likely to be fully realized by those who. have given cnly a casual consideration to this complex matter of the relationship of the British Dominions to one another and to the outside world.

An illustration of the problems that may arise as a result cf this duality of status was afforded by an early development of the Peace Conference. In the list of powers in attendance at the Confei’ence, the Dominions were mentioned by name as among the Powers with particular interests in contradistinction to the Great Powers having general interests. The Powers with particular interests were constituted into an electorate from which minority members of all the Conference Committees were chosen; but the British Dominions after considering the matter did not avail themselves of the opportunity of associating themselves in these matters with the secondary Powers. They preferred to qualify for representation on these Committees as part of the British Empire; and at meetings of the British delegations to appoint the British members of these committees their claims to representation were given a cordial consideration. Sir Robert Borden was appointed to the committees to fix the boundaries of New Greece, and was subsequently made vice-chairman; Mr. Sifton filled a similar position on the very important committee to determine what waterways and channels of transportation required to bo internationalized; Sir George Foster served on the Economic Commission; General Smuts was a member of the League of Nations Committee; W. M. Hughes of Australia of the Repatriations Committee; Premier Massey of New Zealand on

Penalties of War Commission. Nearly half the British representatives upon Conference Committees was Dominion in its character.

The change in the “managing” procedure of the Conference, for reasons that I never heard adequately explained though I sought diligently for them—by which control was exercised, not by a body of twenty-five, embracing five representatives from each Great Power, as had been agreed to by the Conference at the instance of the Great Powers themselves, but by the smaller Council of Ten, directly affected the interest of the British Dominions. Had the original procedure been followed one of the five representatives of the British Empire upon the governing committee would always have been a representative of the Dominions: and thus overseas

British opinion could have found, when needed, first hand expression. This body of twenty-five was never called together; but the small committee which organized the Conference continued its “conversations”—this was President Wilson’s word for the interchange of views which was adopted as an official definition. There were two British representatives upon this Council of Ten, as it came to be called; nominally, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, but in practice the British representation was varied to meet the requirements of the issue under consideration. Thus Winston Churchill, Minister of War, attended when Russian questions were being considered; and Lord Milner was present upon the important occasion when the matter of the composition of the Economic Commission to write the economic tenus of peace was being settled. Lord Milner, as Colonial Secretary, was present to champion the rights of the British Dominions to special representation upon this commission and to give notice that the nations of the British Empire desired, and intended, to retain their right to make between themselves special preferential family arrangement. Upon one occasion Sir Robert Borden served as one of the two British representatives, in company with Mr. Balfour. Sir Robert seized this occasion, according to reports in the Paris press, which were well founded, to urge greater expedition in the work of the Conference and to this end suggested the adoption of a schedule and time table for the greater expedition of the work remaining to be done.

Discussing Imperial Problems

THE institution of the meetings of the IEmpire delegations made it possible to focus the opinion of all the Dominions for the information of the British representatives in the Council of Ten. These meetings were held at the call of the British Prime Minister, or the senior British representative, in the Villa Majestic; they occurred about twice a week, though daily sittings were not unknown. when acute questions awaited settlement. All the British Dominions were represented at these meetings— Sir Robert Borden was usually attended by one office colleague on behalf of Canada—and the issues of the Conference were discussed with complete freedom. Every Dominion was free to give expression to its views upon every question as it arose in the Conference; and decisions reached in these discussions became instructions to the British members in the Council of Ten. With respect to at least two very important matters upon which there was great diversity of opinion in the Council, policies determined upon by the British delegations after debate among themselves were submitted by the British delegates to Council, and were accepted by it. These were the definite refusal to enter upon a great military adventure in Russia, and the "doption of the policy of varying the terms of the mandates for dependent territories in keeping with their possibilities of political development. Subordinate to these Empire meetings were the informal meetings of the Dominions representatives themselves to consider matters which it was thought desirable to bring before the Empire meetings. These meetings were almost invariably called by the Prime Minister of Canada, whose position as dean of

[e overseas delegations—as representthe senior Dominion—was thus |icitly recognized.

[he Results From Canada’s Standpoint rl/TTHIN the limits of this article no \ * complete survey of Canada’s part the great Conference can be given; lut, in conclusion, some of the more important results to Canada—and to the Ither British Dominions as well—of jarticipation in the Conference may be Summarized.

Canada has been given international ^cognition as a nation in league with the other British Dominions. By reason )f this recognition, Canada is a member >f the Peace Conference and will be a |member of the League of Nations.

As a member of the Conference the I Canadian plenipotentiaries, it may be assumed, will sign the peace treaty as [alone entitled to bind the crown for Canada—an act w’hich will have very important constitutional implications. Canadian trade interests were pro-

tected by direct representations upon all the bodies which had to do with economic matters; upon the Supreme Economic Council which is to control all matters of supply and relief, during the period of reconstruction; and upon the Economic Commission, which is to fix the permanent economic conditions of peace. The duty of protecting Canada’s economic interests in these important respects could not be entrusted to outside agencies; had we been content tc rely entirely upon the efforts of the British representatives we might have found that despite excellent intentions they had accepted conditions very hampering to our future development as an exporting country.

To put it in the briefest terms, Canada-by being represented at Paris has made good her claim to be a nation; had she been content to leave her interests solely in the hands of British representatives she would have conferred herself in fact and in aspiration a colony and nothing else.