PARIS, CONFERENCE OF. The conference for framing the treaties which ended the World War was held in Paris in 1919-20.
In reply, President Wilson laid down the stipulations that before negotiations for peace could be opened: (I) Germany must accept without qualification the principles of the Fourteen Points, leaving for discussion only the practical details of their applica tion; (2) the German armies must be withdrawn from all terri tories of the Allies under the direction of the Allied military authorities; (3) Germany must cease all illegal and inhuman practices and abandon unlimited submarine warfare; and (4) the German nation must free itself of the arbitrary Government which had conducted the war. Gen. Ludendorff resigned rather than accede to those conditions, but the civil Government, al though it protested against the charges of illegal and inhuman practices, despatched a note on Oct. 20 accepting the stipulations of President Wilson as preliminary to an armistice. Wilson then presented the matter to the Allies. The President had already sent Col. Edward M. House to Paris as American representative on the Supreme War Council. He met with the Allied leaders, Lloyd George, Clemenceau and Orlando, to discuss, first, whether an armistice should be granted, and second, whether Germany's request that the Fourteen Points be used as the basis of peace should be accepted.
President Wilson has been much criticized on the ground that he was responsible for too early a peace, and that had it not been for him terms would have been dictated to Berlin. This is far from the truth. The Allied Council agreed to grant the Armistice on the recommendation of the military leaders; the Americans were in fact less eager than the French and the British for the cessation of hostilities. To be certain of Allied sentiment regarding the Armistice, House asked Marshal Foch directly whether or not from a purely military point of view he would prefer to have hostilities cease on the terms proposed. Foch replied that, since the terms demanded of Germany were prac tically the same as those that would be demanded at Berlin, he was opposed to the useless sacrifice of even one more life.
"On ne fait la guerre que pour ses resultats." The Allied leaders were more doubtful whether President Wil son's Fourteen Points should be taken as the basis of the peace, as Germany asked. Clemenceau, Lloyd George, Hymans and Orlando each raised objections. They finally agreed, however, upon the strong insistence of Col. House, to accept the Fourteen Points with two reservations regarding the freedom of the seas and restoration of invaded territory. Acknowledging these reser
vations, Wilson on Nov. 5 communicated the reply of the Allies to the German Government. This note is of vital importance. "It constitutes the formal and written offer of the Allied and Associated States to conclude with Germany (a) an armistice convention and (b) a treaty of peace. This offer, it is conceived, was accepted by Germany by the act of sending representatives, through military channels, to meet Marshal Foch for the purpose of arranging an armistice. By the acceptance of the offer a solemn Agreement was reached which served, both morally and legally, as the basis of the armistice convention and the treaty of peace'." The note of Nov. 5, in which Wilson stated that Marshal Foch would communicate the conditions of an armistice, contained the text of the memorandum of observations by the Allied Govern ments on the correspondence between President Wilson and Germany. In this memorandum those Governments "declare their willingness to make peace with the Government of Germany on the terms of peace laid down in the President's address of Jan. 8, 1918 (the Fourteen Points), and the principles of settle ment enunciated in his subsequent Addresses," subject to two qualifications. These reserved complete liberty, as regards the "freedom of the seas," and interpreted "restoration of invaded territory" as meaning that "compensation will be made by Ger many for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies and their property by the aggression of Germany by land, by sea and from the air." Both the Allied and Associated Powers and the Germans accepted this Pre-Armistice Agreement as the basis of the peace. The protests of the German delegation against the Versailles Treaty in May 1919 were based upon their allegation that the treaty was not in accord with the principles of the agreement. The Allied and Associated powers, although they denied the valid ity of the allegation, explicitly acknowledged the validity of the basis : "The Allied and Associated Powers are in complete accord with the German delegation in their insistence that the basis for the negotiation of the treaty of peace is to be found in the cor respondence which immediately preceded the signing of the Armistice of Nov. 11, Organization of Peace Conference.—Representatives of the chief Allied and Associated Powers—France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States—held consultations in Dec., and the first plenary session of the Peace Conference did not take place until Jan. 18 1919. President Wilson did not reach Europe until Dec. 13 1918. The British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, was detained at home by the political uncertainties of a general election until after New Year. So important to any nego tiations was the participation of these two heads of governments that nothing definite could be attempted until their arrival. In the meantime, the smaller Powers which had been overrun by the armies of Germany had time to reorganize their governments and to send plenipotentiaries to the Conference.