Wilson and His Peacemakers: American Diplomacy at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919

By Arthur Walworth | Go to book overview
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The Retreat from Paris

As the great vision of a new world faded, the diplomats at Paris fell back upon the recourse that had furthered understanding among peoples for centuries past. Economic necessity and political stability demanded reliable arrangements among governments, and custom required the Foreign Offices of the nations to negotiate practical terms of understanding. To this responsibility the diplomats tried to respond, while idealists preached and politicians operated. In view of the political impasse at Washington, however, the Americans at the Peace Conference could not speak with authority for their government.

When House and Lansing lost interest in the talks at Paris. 1. Polk persisted in pursuing the duty of a diplomat after he became head of the American delegation on July 29. He was disappointed by a lack of attention on the part of British leaders to the situations that still required decisions. Balfour was ordered by his doctor to take a rest, and upon his departure Polk noted that British policy became less "straightforward" and more difficult to understand. 2.

Lloyd George came to Paris for three days in September and talked of dissolving the Peace Conference. 3. Polk, however, distressed by the British intention to keep no top-level spokesman at Paris after Lloyd George returned to London, protested against its dissolution and was assured that the British would keep the conference going. 4. Wilson, campaigning in the American West and told of developments at Paris, thought that Polk was "taking exactly the right position" and that "it would be nearly fatal to the whole state of mind of the world if the British were to withdraw." 5.

Conferring with House before the colonel's departure, Polk took an inventory of the principal questions that were still unsolved. They had to do with the settlements with five countries: Russia, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, and Italy. (Other difficulties appeared with respect to the boundaries of Poland and Greece.) 6. Russia appeared

"Lansing came to see Colonel House today, and agreed with him that the Paris Conference should be broken up as soon as possible," Auchincloss diary, October 18, 1919. See Kell Mitchell, Jr., "Frank L. Polk and Continued American Participation in the Paris Peace Conference, 1919."
Polk diary, September 11, 1919.
"They [the British] are all getting sick of it and I don't blame them," Polk wrote to Ambassador Davis on September 11, 1919, letter in Davis papers, Y.H.C.

The Heads of Delegations discussed a palpable breach of the terms of the armistice: the failure of Germany to remove its troops from the Baltic States. When Lloyd George proposed that Polish troops be used to drive the malingerers from Lithuania, Polk, who would at one time have agreed, now said that the United States could not concur. Polk to Clemenceau, September 16, 1919, Polk papers, Y.H.C.

Polk diary, September 16, 1919, Y.H.C. "He [Lloyd George] was a little irritated and I more so," Polk wrote. Telegram, Phillips to the president, September 16, 1919, quoting dispatches from Polk, September 9 and 16, 1919, Wilson papers.
Lines typed by Wilson "to Lansing," September 16, 1919, Wilson papers. Dispatch, September 19, 1919, N.A., R.G. 59, 763.72119 / 6823.
Paderewski told Allen Dulles on October 13 that his government would be overthrown if he returned from Paris without any satisfactory decision as to the future of eastern Galicia, which the Council of


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Wilson and His Peacemakers: American Diplomacy at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919
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