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International Conciliation

Published monthly by the
American Association for International Conciliation.
Entered as second class matter at New York, N. Y.,
Post office, February 23, 1909, under act of July 16, 1894.


I. Organization of the Peace Conference

a. Delegations and Commissions

b. Rules of Representation and Procedure

II. General Sessions

III. The Covenant of the League of Nations

IV. Speech delivered by President Wilson before the

Peace Conference, April 28, 1919

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The Constitution of the Peace Conference at Paris is somewhat difficult to describe. The fact that so much of the actual work of the Conference takes place informally, and that the leading men act in different sections in different capacities, coupled with the somewhat indeterminate character of some of the "proceedings," present especial difficulties in description and appraisal.

The General Session

The Conference as a whole met only three times prior to President Wilson's first return to America, in what is known as the Seance Pleniere, or General Session. Those three occasions were the opening session on January 18, the session of January 25, when the League of Nations was introduced, and the session of February 14, when the detailed plan for the League of Nations was laid on the table.

At these general sessions representatives of the press are admitted and certain privileged spectators, each country having the right to invite only a very limited number. The place of meeting is the large drawing-room of the Quai d'Orsay, the French Foreign Office.

The Committee of the Great Powers

Owing to the difficulties of transacting business in such a large gathering and in public, the Conference as a working organization is split up into a number of Commissions. Of these the most important is what is popularly known as the Big Ten, or sometimes the Big Five, in which there are two representatives of each of the five Great Powers meeting to consider large matters of settlement. This central Commission of the Peace Conference meets in the office of the French Foreign Secretary, M. Pichon, which one reaches from the same lobby as the general council chamber. The President of this Commission is the President of the Congress as a whole, the French Premier, M. Clemenceau, and its members are the President of the United States and the Secretary of State, or their substitutes, and the Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of the other Powers, or their substitutes. It is, therefore, a meeting of those men upon whom the final decision will mainly rest.

This Commission hears the claims of the minor peoples seeking recognition or demanding rectifications of frontiers, etc., and has, also, to come to agreement concerning the matters not yet settled in which the Great Powers themselves are involved. Its sessions are secret, but since each of the Powers brings at least one, and often two, technical experts in addition to the two delegates, and there is a secretariat also in attendance, there are from thirty to forty people present at these sessions. Consequently, what takes place at the sessions tends to become known in a general way.

The Supreme War Council

The next most important body, and in some respects overshadowing even the Big Ten, is the Supreme War Council under Marshal Foch. This continues to meet at Versailles and has to deal with the problem of the armistice and the other matters having to do with the enemy Powers which demand immediate action. The relation between the War Council and the Conference of Peace is not easily denned, for on occasion the Committee of the Big Ten transforms itself into a session of the Supreme War Council, calling Marshal Foch in to present his report and take part in discussions. From this procedure it might seem as though the Military Commission, which signed the Armistice, is no longer a supreme council, but acts as a committee of the Big Ten. On purely military matters, however, the civil body is not likely to interfere. Where matters of policy are involved, affecting the political relations with the Central Powers, the decision would seem to lie with the Big Ten.

In addition to these supreme Commissions and Councils, there are a number of separate commissions dealing with specific problems on which technical experts are seated in addition to the Ministers Plenipotentiary. Of these the more important are the following:

I. The Commission on the Formation of a League of Nations

This Commission, of which President Wilson was the Chairman, and which produced the "Covenant," known popularly as the Constitution of the League of Nations, was composed mainly of representatives of the Great Powers. Its sessions were secret and it had its own secretariat, as have all of the separate Commissions. In the drafting of the Covenant the Commission had the assistance of technical experts, who were present at the sessions along with the Minis ters Plenipotentiary.

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