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American Red Cross. The membership of the commission as finally ordered was as follows:
Honorable John W. Garrett, U. S. Minister to the Netherlands, Chairman of the Commission.
Honorable John W. Davis, Solicitor-General of the United
These four were full commissioners clothed with full powers. There were also a number of assistant commissioners and attachés.
The American Commission first met in full membership at Paris on the 10th of September; and from that date until the 19th of the same month was occupied in the preliminary work of formulating and preparing a proposal in form to be presented to the German Commission when assembled in conference. Our Commission arrived at Berne on the afternoon of the 20th of September, and the members were distributed to several different hotels, it being quite impracticable in the congested condition of hotel accommodations to concentrate them all in one place.
Word was received that because of the recent death of General Friederichs, the head of the German Commission, that commission would not be ready for the assembling in conference until the 24th. The intervening days were spent by the American Commission in putting into final shape the proposal to be submitted by us.
On the afternoon of the 24th the members of our Commission were received in audience by the President of the Swiss Federation, M. Felix Calonder, who immediately afterwards received the German Commissioners, Fuerst zu Hohenlohe Langenburg, Count Montgelas, Colonel von Fransecky, Prussian Ministry of War, Secret Counselor von Keller, Captain Wilke, Imperial German Navy, and Major Draudt, Prussian Ministry of War, along with numerous attachés and assistants.
The Swiss Parliament, or Conseil Fédéral, being in session at this time in the parliament building, the inaugural meeting of the conference was held in the directors' room of the Swiss National Bank on the Bundesplatz. The Conference was formally opened by President Calonder with a short address of welcome, good wishes, and assurances of hearty co-operation on his part and that of his coadjutors in the administration of the Swiss Government. Brief replies to this address were made by the chairman of the German Commission, Prince zu Hohenlohe Langenburg, and by Minister Garrett.
President Calonder thanked the chairmen of the two delegations for their appreciative words, and expressed the hope that the task before them would be solved satisfactorily. He then introduced M. Paul Dinichert, Minister of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs, who assumed the neutral presidency of the Conference and announced the constitution of his Secretariat, to which were appointed Dr. Logoz, professor of Geneva University; Secretary of Legation Borsinger; and Dr. Peter, of the Political Department. M. Dinichert prayed the delegations to help him in his labors, assuring those present that nothing would be omitted on his part to attain the desires of all concerned.
The two delegations agreed that a short but precise report of each plenary meeting should be kept in both English and German, and further agreed that the negotiations should be confidential in character, the seal of confidence as to the proceedings not to be lifted until the conclusion of an agreement and the final adjournment of the Conference sine die.
Prince Hohenlohe submitted to M. Dinichert the text of the German proposal to be discussed in the Conference, and Minister Garrett submitted the text of the American proposal.
After the exchange of these projets, Colonel von Fransecki and Legationsrat von Keller of the German delegation addressed the Conference, the former in behalf of military prisoners of war and the latter in the interest of interned civilians or civil prisoners. To these addresses there were no rejoinders from the American side of the council table.
It is interesting to note at this stage why in this and in all subsequent proceedings of the Conference the German delegates had chronological precedence. Diplomatic priority is based upon the alphabet. Whether we use the English language, or the German, or the universally accepted diplomatic French, Germany alphabetically precedes the United States; for in English the order is GermanyUnited States, in German it is Deutschland-Vereinigten Staaten, and in French it is Allemande-Etats-Unis.
The first plenary meeting, which had lasted about thirty five min. utes, was then adjourned in order that both sides might make a preliminary study of the respective proposals, the next meeting to be at the call of the President of the Conference.
Throughout the negotiations in the full Conference the remarks of the one delegation or the other were not addressed directly to the opposite side, but always to the President, and were by him transmitted in translation to the recipients. In this difficult situation M. Dinichert displayed great tact, consideration, and versatility of language, he being a cultured gentleman of ability and wide experience and possessing fluency in the English, French, and German tongues. In the meetings of the joint subcommittee, hereafter described, by which the actual detailed work of the Conference was carried out, the same procedure of addressing all remarks to the chairman of the subcommittee, usually M. Dinichert, but sometimes one of the Secretariat, was theoretically in order; it is, however, an interesting matter of fact that in the discussions of the subcommittee the views of the two sides were not infrequently exchanged directly across the council table, each side using its own language, with which the members of the other side were, in truth, sufficiently familiar to understand the points of view expressed. This measure of informality was deemed to be necessary in order to expedite the progress of the work before the subcommittee.
The second plenary meeting of the Conference was opened at 4 p.m., of Thursday, the 27th. There were present at this meeting the President of the Conference, the two delegations in full number, the members of the Secretariat and the official stenographers. M. Dinichert opened the meeting and inquired of the two delegations whether they were ready to give an opinion on the two projets.
Upon an exchange of views it was found that the proposals con. tained some articles substantially the same, and also some articles in each which were not in any way touched upon in the other. It was decided that in order to bring the two proposals as nearly as possible into agreement the one with the other, a joint subcommittee composed of five members from each delegation should be appointed; this joint subcommittee to meet from day to day, and under the direction of the respective commissions to formulate and present for approval a joint agreement. It was expressly stipulated that the conclusions of the subcommittee should not be binding upon the full commissions, but should serve only as a basis for agreement.
The members of the joint subcommittee were the following:
For the American Commission: Colonel Grant, Commander Stone, Mr. Herter, Mr. Storey, Mr. Russell.
For the German Commission: Counselor von Keller, Captain Wilke, Major Draudt, Dr. Roediger, Dr. Bourwieg.
Comparison of the two proposals, as originally submitted (not reproduced here for lack of space), serves to show almost at a glance the features wherein the ideas and ideals of the opposing delegations and the peoples whom they represented were harmonious and wherein they were discordant. The completed agreement, the English language version of which appeared in the Supplement to this JOURNAL for January, 1919, contains, I think, all the essential points of value in the several British-German and French-German accords, as well as a number of additional points which were considered by us to be no less essential and for which the American Commission, working through its subcommittee, had to contend persistently, if quietly, throughout the daily meetings which covered a period of nearly seven weeks of negotiation. One of our greatest difficulties was to convince the German delegates of the necessity, as we saw it, for laying down specifically and in some detail the various points upon which we desired agreement. There was evident a very considerable and obstinate aversion on their part to the use of any other than the most general terms in describing conditions or laying down rules or regulations expressing prohibitions or specifying privileges. We on our side, however, by reason of a great deal of information received from various sources held to be reliable, considered it absolutely essential so to define rights, duties, privileges, customs, in fact all points connected with the treatment of prisoners of war, that there might never be any ground for misunderstanding of conditions or excuses for failure to carry out the terms of the agreement. In not a few cases the German subcommittee would express agreement “in principle” with articles of our proposal, but at the same time would also express the desire to rewrite in German the article in question; retranslation of the same article back into English usually showed some change from its original terms if not from its essential meaning. I do not say that the changes were intentionally made. The difficulty has been very well stated, I think, by one of our associates, who said, “It is quite impossible to couch a simple (American) idea in a complicated (German) language.”
Day in and day out across the council table the various articles of the proposals were discussed. At the outset we rather recognized, although admitting it only to ourselves, that the arrangement of the German projet was perhaps more logical than that of our own; and so, at first, we discussed the two proposals together on the basis of considering primarily a German article and in connection with it the American article bearing on the same subject. This seemed to give a certain tactical advantage to the German subcommittee, which appeared to please them somewhat and to which we were keenly alive. Also in considerable measure we followed the general principle that so long as the essential element of an article was retained, the sacrifice of mere language in order to expedite the proceedings was entirely justifiable. Gradually we shifted over from the primary consideration of the German text to using the American text as the model with which the German should be brought into agreement; this was the regular procedure during the latter half of the negotiations. The difficulties due to differences of language were really very much greater than would appear at first thought. In some instances even, they were the cause of greater delay than was actually due to disagreement in principle.
In the course of this paper I shall endeavor to analyze the final accord in its relation to the original separate proposals, explaining, as far as may be practicable, the acceptance, the rejection or modification of each article.