Breckenridge Long Diary Excerpts
January-June 1919
Source:  Long, Public Papers, Container 2 (Diaries), Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
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Peace Conference Meets, Saturday, January 18, 1919

Today may be epoch marking in the history of the World. The Peace Conference opened its sessions in Paris with the representatives of the civilized world assembled around the board. It is announced there that the League of Nations will be one of the first - the first - number in the order of business. President Wilson has /// won the first of his fights, and will no doubt prevail in establishing a League. It is necessary to the successful work of the Congress that the Nations represented should be in accord. How then could they be bound except by a League? Reverting to the Democratic platform of 1916 it is evident the President had in mind early in 1916 the general terms of peace and the evolution of a League of Nations. He has worked skillfully toward that object ever since.

In Washington - we have agreed to a plan for the operation of the Trans-Siberian R.R. and are awaiting the word of the Sect'y only to formally accept and notify Japan. I so advised Debuchi today. With Mr. Polk & the French Charge I discussed the elimination of the Germans from the HuKuong R.R. and making a loan to China to complete it; - and the separation of the Germans from China - and sending delegates to an Aerial Navigation Conference at Paris next month. We are not yet decided about the latter. Also I dictated a rough draft of my speech for next Wed. in N.Y. and altogether spent a very busy day.

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Sunday, January 26, 1919

Passport applications - and supplications - are the pest of these days. Everybody wants to go over. They write in; - wire in; come in; bore me to death and take up an unwarranted amount of time.

We were "at home" as usual this afternoon and amongst others Maurice Low came to tea. I discussed with him briefly his new book "Woodrow Wilson, An Interpretation" and pointed out to him the Democratic National Platform of 1916 and its clauses on our Foreign Relations, showing that Wilson had in his mind before June 1916 the idea of the League of Nations and the fundamentals of his 14 points.

Sen. & Mrs. Sheppard of Texas, Mrs. Sen. McClean of Conn., Mde Soldivar, Swed Min. Y Mde Ekengen, Winnifred & Ted Walsh, Dexter Tiffany, Mrs. Genl. Wright & a score more were here - and Mrs. Flood at the tea table.

The League of Nations

I think I see so clearly the President's purpose in trying to establish it. The allied and associated governments have been held together by the danger of the common enemy. Now that has ceased to be a binding force. The centripedal forces are exchanged for centrifugal ones. Each nation, except us, has special and in many cases conflicting claims. They are impossible of settlement in detail by the present /// Conference because it will take too long. It must soon (in 2 or 3 months) adjourn. People are tired of war. They all want peace proclaimed. That means public opinion will soon force it to sign a peace and adjourn. That peace can in the nature of things be only a settlement of 1) the guilt of Germany, including the official persons - 2) The indemnities Germany & Austria must pay and the reparation they shall make - 3) General principles each nation can and will subscribe to as fundamental doctrines, the specific applications of which to // certain cases will be determined by sub-committees which will report their findings and recommendations to the next succeeding body, the World Congress, which will receive them and determine the rights, and which will be the League of Nations in Congress assembled. It will be the authoritative body which will work out the details of the matters now before the Peace Conference. He sees the necessity of committing each nation to the general principles but first of having their agreement to the League and their concurrent acceptance of the condition that they shall submit all their /// differences to the court of last resort. Once the League is subscribed to, they are bound. Without that obligation they might not be able to agree to terms of Peace; - one would be trading its desires and claims for the support of another; - combinations, of which special interests of each of the combining parties would be the cement, would jeopardize the successful conclusion of all rights on a just basis. The League, once created, is the solution - & is the prime consideration. He sees it. His critics, who demand 'peace first & then let's consider the League' do not see there can be no peace without it - at least no reasonable prospect of an immediate and proper peace without it.

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Mr. Polk certified to the adoption of the Prohibition Amendment to Const. today., Wednesday, January 29, 1919

Two years ago today I took the oath of office - Some 2 years!!

The Peace Conference sub-committee yesterday had an exciting session. The return of the German colonies - or their other disposition - was the subject. A year or more ago I started to study the South Sea Islands from political, strategic and economic points of view. I soon saw the trouble the ex-German islands would make for the Peace Conferees - and the deep interest we would have in them. (See my memo, under letter to L. Harrison, to Col. House & Williams). The N.Y. Times has nearly a full page on the situation as it developed yesterday. Kiachou is the other bete noir. Japan will have to be a little less active and less aggressive. The League of Nations Congress is the body which will have to settle these disputes after they are investigated by committees and enforce the decisions of the calm deliberation of the Congress.

Russia was the subject of debate again in the Senate - Johnson of Cal. criticizing our policy. If the statement I drew before I went to N.Y. recently had been published his speech would be unnecessary. Now Polk wants me to draw another in ans. To his speech and give it to Sen. Chamberlain to use in ans. - but that is to Sen. Chamberlain to use in ans. - but that is defensive fighting. I believe in aggressive battle and in forestalling attack.

The text of the alleged secret treaty bet. Japan and Germany concerning Russia and division of influence in Asia arrived by cable from Archangel today. Its authenticity is extremely doubtful but it is quite possible it may have been tentatively drawn by a Jap. Agent and kept ready for the approval of Japan in case it should become possible for Germany to win. Its negotiation in Stockholm is reported to have been bet. Sept. 5 and Oct. 25. The new Jap. Minister to Sweden arrived at Stockholm thro' U.S. about that time - if not just before. I will look that up tomorrow. He is known as a pro-German. My two stenogs are sick and away, Miss Cunningham not back yet - My personal work is chaos.

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Friday, February 14, 1919

The text of the League of Nations report, by the committee in charge, to the Conference, arrived by wire. It was for "release" at 10:30 but had not all arrived at that hour. At 11:00 I met the Press and announced that it was arriving and would be released as soon as complete and in mimeograph form. Polk was sick and not down. Phillips was out of town. So I had to meet the Press - and it was more or less of an occasion - or may, in the light of history become one. I was in a meeting of the Consular Board at the hour but interrupted that proceeding and made the announcement. At the present writing I have read the plan just once and am not qualified to comment on it. Article VII may develop to be a source of real power. The Article (VIII) providing for the reduction of armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the provisions for government control of munitions are very potent and beneficent. The President has scored a great diplomatic victory, if not the greatest in history. He is leaving immediately and coming home. He leaves Paris tonight, and Brest tomorrow.

The Japs have made public their secret "treaties", under the gentle persuasive influence of publicity, but have not yet published their secret "understandings", "agreements", "exchanges of notes" or whatever the instruments are named, through which she has secured such a hold on China, her institutions, resources and political life. Instead it seems they have asked permission of China to publish them, or to inform the Conference of them but "China has not as yet replied".

We had a South American dinner tonight - Mex. Amb., Ecuador Min., Panama Charge, Mde Morel (of Chile) etc. a few Senators, etc.

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Wednesday, February 26, 1919

The President is in a fighting mood. He has let Congress know the appropriation bills must pass now as there will be no extra session until he gets back from France again probably about June, and that Republican opposition or no the bills must go. There has been a very quiet and insidious but determined "fillibuster" on the part of the Republicans. They have talked about everything but the matters before them, have occupied hours and hours of valuable time and have delayed the consideration of necessary measures in hope to have essential ones fail for lack of time and the consequent necessity for a call to extra session. Lodge will occupy some more time on Friday speaking on the League of Nations, and will, I think (and fear), speak in favor of it.

This A.M. I had a long talk with three Chinese and their Charge on the subject "Unification of the R.R.s of China" - (See memo). The three are of the Ministry of Communications, Yih, Wong, and another are en route to Paris to press their claims. I gave them some sound advice.

The National Committee met and elected Cummings chairman and Hollister "executive" secretary.

From Paris we learn the South Sea Islands and Shantung were the subject of exchanges of notes confirmatory of Jap's possession and of Eng's. Possession of those S. of the Equator - in Feb. & March 1917 - Jap approaching Eng., France and Italy in turn. This was after we broke relations with Germany and just before we declared war. With Polk's knowledge I am drafting a cable for Paris which I hope the Pres't will approve when it is put up to him. When I reached home I found Gov. Francis in bed with some irritation and pain at the scene of his recent operation. I think he has been doing a little too much for a sick man. I called Dr. Grayson to see him and had to go out for dinner but on return I find him easier and less worried.

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April 7, 1919 - Cont'd

Italy and France and Japan have special selfish aims. The treaties of 1915 and 1917 - secret and wrong - are their warrants for their present stand. It looks to me as if they had mad a combination and were blocking the whole program. Japan would rather it would fail (I mean the Peace Conference and the - League of Nations) because it would leave her in disputable sway in the Far East. China would be at her feet. Manchuria and Mongolia and the three eastern provinces of Siberia would be Japanese colonies - or territories. Shantung would be hers. Spiderlike she would weave a web in, through and around China and would become impregnable.

Italy would insist upon the eastern shore of the Adriatic - and would rather have it than a just boundary in a normal world.

France wants German colonies and the Saar valley and the left bank of the Rhine and the three bridgeheads. She would rather have them than a decent place in a decent world.

There has been trouble - a lot of trouble - with Clemenceau. The "Tiger" has met his fate in Wilson. Clemenceau is determined. Wilson more determined and smarter. Clemenceau is fiery. Wilson calm and just. The world likes a fighter like Clemenceau. He is picturesque. But the people of the world will follow Wilson. And Clemenceau is finding it out to his chagrin and dismay.

The French are acting under his lead and are very nasty. There is a lot of unpleasant talk about the way the French are to treat the money she owes us and the "reimbursement" we are supposed and expected to make for the very improvements we have put up in various ports and towns in France.

The Bolshevici are looming up too. Hungary has a Soviet, though the press today says Bela Kuhn has been assassinated, and his government overthrown. Bavaria has a Soviet. Strikes are rife, throughout Germany, and "Workmen, sailors and soldiers' committees are frequently in authority. Dr. Hubscher, of the Swiss Legation, just back from Paris and Switzerland tells me he expects to see a Soviet in Switzerland soon - in the comparatively near future. "Westward the mach of Soviet comes." Clemenceau apparently heeds it not, nor Sonino, nor Makino. Lloyd-George yes, and is frightened. He sticks to Mr. Wilson like a leach. He is politically bankrupt. He promised every thing to every body to win his election last fall and now can't deliver! He wants to recognize the Bolshevici of Russia to stem the tide in England! And will thereby only make the tide run stronger - and against him. I don't think he will last out the present year - if that long.

General Churchill, just back from the Conference, today in answer to a question said he did not believe the Conference feared Bolshevism or they would take some active steps to stop it. I think he does not know exactly whereof he speaks. I think the Conference can't unite on what to do in regard to it. And in the meantime Lenine is growing in strength, in power, and in influence. His armies are today near Odessa and the foreign (Allied) troops are withdrawing. The Caucasus is under his control. His armies are near Roumania and Hungary - Deniken is unable to successfully oppose him and retires. Some Cossak regiments have gone over to him. His opposition is fading, slowly, within the borders of European Russia. He is fast becoming the de facto government of Russia. I have contended since December 1917 we should have to recognize him and I feel we shall when he becomes sufficiently strong to combat and oppose successfully the violent and fanatic elements he has had to propitiate. They were necessary elements to his accession to and continuance in power.

Ishii is going home. He so advised us informally last week but we had heard it before that. His private secretary wrote a letter to his wife which he carelessly put in the open mails and which the censor opened, read and photographed. It advised his wife Ishii was going home in April but warned her to treat it confidentially and then after making some observations about social life in Washington said they spent their time in the evening in private conversations with the Ambassador talking about a war with Great Brittain.

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Friday, May 2, 1919

Now that Japan - apparently wins her case. The Council of Three (Orlando was the Fourth) confirmed Japan's title to Kiauchau. She will return it to China in a year or so. Japan is elated. China is unconsolable. I really feel Reinsch will resign. His heart was in the Chinese cause. I am awfully disappointed - but I have a hope. It is that the President has arranged a way out. I feel his insertion of the words "or in this treaty" into the text of the League Compact, made by motion in open session and with apologies to Baron Makino has some real significance. What is is I do not know - because I have not seen the treaty text - but I am sure there is some part of the treaty applicable to it. If there is not - there is trouble ahead - for Japan will create a sore spot there.

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Saturday, June 28, 1919

The treaty was signed today at Versailles. At 10:30 A.M. Washington time Phillips and I sat in the telegraph room on the 4th floor of the Dept. and had a direct wire from there to Versailles - with only two relays, one at London and one at Newfoundland, where it went into and came out of the submarine cable. It was 5 1/4 hours different time at Versailles. As each signed it was signalled out over the wire and ticked off on the receiver at our side and the operator read it by ear and wrote it out as received on a typewriter. We leaned over his shoulder and read the bulletins. It was a unique and most interesting experience - and a great occasion. The Germans signed first, then the President and the American plenipotentiaries in order, then each of the delegates in the order their country was named in the treaty (i.e. the French alphabet) - all save China. They refused signature because of the Shantung decision and the unanimous voice with which the Chinese citizens have spoken in opposition to the decision. What effect it will have on the Far Eastern situation I can not yet predict. It is too soon to say. But the Great War is ended. Our Senate will ratify it - as written. The President leaves Paris tonight and sails from Brest in the morning - and I know he is delighted.

Christine and I motored over to Baltimore to the wedding of Johnny Carroll this afternoon.


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