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working on these very problems for more than a year. The special commissions worked with care and assiduity, and their decisions rested generally on facts established after long discussion. To this extent, at least, the Paris Conference was characterized by a new spirit in diplomacy.
Upon the reports of these commissions were based the draft articles of the treaties, which were then referred back to the Supreme Council. By the time the reports were finished, that body had divided into two smaller bodies: the Council of Foreign Ministers, and the Council of Premiers, composed of Clemenceau, Lloyd George, Wilson, and Orlando. The latter body, which came to be known as the Council of Four, or, colloquially, the “Big Four,” naturally assumed complete direction. It was unfortunate certainly that a congress which had started with the cry of “open covenants” should thus find itself practically resolved into a committee of four. Disappointed liberals have assumed that the inner council was formed with the object of separating President Wilson from contact with popular ideas and bringing him to acceptance of the old-style peace desired by Clemenceau. In reality the Council of Four was simply a revival of the informal committee which had sat during the autumn of 1918, when Colonel House, Lloyd George, and Clemenceau had met by themselves to formulate the policy to be adopted when Germany presented her demand for an armistice. When Wilson left Paris in February, Colonel House, who became chiefly responsible for the American side of negotiations, found the Council of Ten unwieldy. It was attended by as many as thirty or forty persons, some of whom seemed inclined to spread colored accounts of what was going on, and the very size of the meeting tended toward the making of speeches and the slowing-down of progress. Furthermore, at that time Clemenceau, confined to his house by the wound inflicted by a would be assassin, was unable to attend the sessions of the Council of Ten. It was natural, therefore, that the three statesmen who had worked so effectively the preceding autumn should now renew their private conferences. When Wilson returned to Paris in March, and learned from Colonel House how much more rapidly the small committee was able to dispose of vexatious questions, he readily agreed to it. Nor is there any valid evidence extant to show that his influence was seriously impaired by the change, although the sessions of the Council of Four took
on a greater appearance of secrecy than had been desired by Colonel House.
The Council of Four acted as a board of review and direction rather than of dictators. When the reports of the expert commissions were unanimous they were generally accepted with little or no alteration. When a divided report was sent up, the Four were compelled to reach a compromise, since every delay threatened to give new opportunity to the forces of social disorder in Germany and southeastern Europe. The Council met ordinarily in the house used by President Wilson, on the Place des États-Unis. Some of the conferences were held in a small room downstairs without the presence of secretaries or advisers; frequently, however, the experts were called in to meet with the chiefs in the large front room upstairs, and would often monopolize the discussion, the Four playing the part of listeners merely. Formality was dispensed with. During a debate upon the southern boundary of Austria, President Wilson might have been seen on all fours, kneeling on the floor and tracing out the suggested frontier on a huge map, while other peace commissioners and experts surrounded him, also on their hands and knees. Hours of labor were long. There was, certainly, much discussion that hinged upon selfish nationalist interests, but also much that was inspired by a sincere desire to secure the solution that would permanently restore the tranquillity of Europe.
The presence of President Wilson did much to maintain the idealism that jostled national selfseeking in the final drafting of the treaties. Though he lacked the political brilliance of Lloyd George and had not the suppressed but irresistible vehemence that characterized Clemenceau, his very simplicity of argument availed much. He was not destined to carry through the full programme of idealism as set out in the Fourteen Points, at least not as interpreted by most liberals. He could not secure the peace of reconciliation which he had planned, but even with his popularity in France, Belgium, and Italy lost, and his prestige dimmed, he retained such a strong position in the Council of Four that he was able to block some of the more extreme propositions advanced by imperialist elements, and, more positively, to secure what he had most at heart, the League of Nations. Whether he yielded more than he gained is a question which demands more detailed consideration. CHAPTER XI
BALANCE OF POWER OR LEAGUE OF NATIONS?
WHATEVER mistakes President Wilson made at Paris, he did not greatly underestimate the difficulties of his task when he set forth from the United States. The liberal utterances of the Allied chiefs during the war had never succeeded in winning his sincere confidence; more than once he had even intimated that he did not consider their governments completely representative of public opinion. He anticipated a struggle with Clemenceau and Lloyd George over the amount of indemnity which was to be demanded from Germany, as well as over the territory of which she was to be deprived. Their formal approval of the Fourteen Points had been a cause of intense satisfaction to him, but he realized definitely that they would make every effort to interpret them in terms of purely national self-interest. This he regarded as the greatest difficulty to be met at Paris. The second difficulty lay in the