Friday, April 7, 2017

World War I Foreign Policy Records, Part III: The American Commission to Negotiate Peace

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.
April 6, 2017 marks the centennial of United States entry into World War I. As part of its commemoration of that event, the National Archives and Records Administration has digitized and put online three sets of records constituting the most important files relating to the foreign policy aspects of the war and the subsequent peace conference. Those records consist of the so-called “World War I file” of the Department of State, the reports and studies of The Inquiry, and the central file of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
This third, and last, part describes records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
The American Commission to Negotiate Peace, headed by President Woodrow Wilson, represented the United States at the peace conference in Paris at the end of World War I. The records of the Commission were deposited in the U.S. embassy in Paris at the end of the proceedings. They were eventually packed up in about 100 packing cases and sent to the Department of State for preservation. They now form the larger part of Record Group 256: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
Some of the records had been arranged according to an ad hoc modification of the filing system used by American diplomatic and consular posts but others were unarranged and in a chaotic state. Because of the lack of organization, in the early 1930s, the Department undertook a comprehensive effort to reorganize and index the records. In doing so, the Peace Conference Section of the Division of Communications and Records followed the filing system used for the Department of State’s central record keeping system of the time. Those records were arranged in nine subject classes according to a pre-determined decimal subject classification scheme using a system of country numbers and subject numbers to create a file number. The subject classes found in the Commission records are:
Class 0: General. Miscellaneous
Class 1: Administration
Class 3: Protection of Interests
Class 4: Claims
Class 5: International Congresses and Conferences
Class 6: Commerce
Class 7: Political Relations of State
Class 8: Internal Affairs of States (This class is further divided into file categories on political affairs; public order, safety, health, and works; military affairs; naval affairs; social matters; economic matters; industrial matters; communication and transportation; navigation; and other internal affairs.)
To provide for the unique documentation and subjects dealt with at the peace conference, the Peace Conference Section staff established numerous new file categories in Class 1. The broad outline of the subjects of those files is:
  • Principal Councils and Conferences
  • Committees and Commissions
  • Organization and Functions
  • National Delegations [other than U.S.]
  • American Delegation
  • Questions Considered by the Conference
In general, the files of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace include minutes and reports of the various committees, councils, commissions, field missions, and plenary sessions; telegrams and dispatches between the Department and the Commission; minutes of meeting of the post-treaty Conference of Ambassadors; and memorandums, publications, pamphlets, and other materials. Also in the files are many documents not related to the work and activities of the Commission. President Wilson and Secretary of State Robert Lansing continued to handle many issues relating to other aspects of U.S. foreign relations while at the conference and documents reflecting those activities were filed with those of the Commission.
The following is a document and enclosure from the files.  “Nguyen Ai Quac” is an earlier alias used by Ho Chi Minh:
5049414_001
Click the image to see an English translation.
5049414_002
Nguyen Ai Quac to Secretary of State of the United States, Letter with enclosure, June 18, 1919, file 851G.00/1, General Records, RG 256: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
The primary tool for using the Commission’s records is the “Key to Records” prepared by the Peace Conference Section. The Key provides a general description of the records as well as of the Peace Conference and the American Commission. The bulk of the Key is taken up by thirteen annexes. These include a listing and description of the councils, commissions, committees, and field missions along with the associated file number; an alphabetical list of the subjects considered; outlines of the various treaties negotiated with references to pertinent files; and a list of boundary questions considered and related file numbers.
As another one of the finding aids to the files, the Department of State created “Lists of Documents,” also known as “purport lists.” These lists give a brief abstract of each document indexed to each file. The entries on the lists correspond to the arrangement of the documents in the files.
The peace commission’s central files and related lists of documents were initially made widely available on National Archives Microfilm Publication M820: General Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace, 1918-1931. The Key and lists can now be reached from here; the General Records here. The online arrangement matches the microfilm publication (once you reach that page, click on the “Search within this series” button for the roll listing). This attached PDF is the original roll-by-roll listing for M820.
Other records of the peace commission are preserved in the National Archives. You will find a description of them in National Archives Inventory 9: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
A special 13 volume sub-series of Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) includes a selection of documents from the Department of State and the American Commission to Negotiate Peace. Included are documents on the period from the Armistice on November 11, 1918 to the first meeting of the Council of Ten on January 12, 1919; minutes of Plenary Sessions and the governing bodies of the conference; minutes of meetings of the American Commissioners; documents relating to the organization and activities of the Commission; and documents relating to field missions of the Commission. The Historical Office of the Department of State will be putting these volumes online through its Ebooks initiative.

U.S. To Go to War With Germany, House and Senate Say Yes to War. President Signs War Declaration.

(6 April) – For two days round-the-clock, members of the House and Senate are debating a resolution that would bring the United States into the war against Imperial Germany.
The Senate begins its deliberation at 11 at night on April 5th and finally votes for war the next morning,
One of many front pages around the nation.
One of many front pages around the nation.
Then the House takes up the war declaration, just as news reaches the U.S. that another American ship is sunk by a German submarine. At that point, writes historian Margaret Wagner, “The momentum for war seemed unstoppable, even though many were torn.”
There was “something in the air,” said one lawmaker, “forcing us to vote for this declaration of war...

"...when away down deep in our hearts we are just as opposed to it as are our people back home.”

Many members of Congress vote against the war declaration. Those opposed include Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first female member of the House of Representatives.
With tears in her eyes, reports historian Wagner, “Rankin said “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war.”
Nevertheless, the war resolution passes in the House 373 to 50, at 3:12 a.m. on April 6th, precisely one hundred years ago.
Banner headlines.
Banner headlines.
President Woodrow Wilson signs the declaration at one-eighteen that afternoon.

The United States is now at war with Germany.

You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from the Allies, writes Wagner. But the American people are much divided. Reports Wagner, “Americans absorbed the news with confusion and conflicting emotions.” Read more of this post
Mike Shuster | April 6, 2017 at 9:14 am | Categories: BlogNews | URL: http://wp.me/p4wQxo-GV

World War I Foreign Policy Records, Part II: The Inquiry

April 6, 2017 marks the centennial of United States entry into World War I. As part of its commemoration of that event, the National Archives and Records Administration has digitized and put online three sets of records constituting the most important files relating to the foreign policy aspects of the war and the subsequent peace conference. Those records consist of the so-called “World War I file” of the Department of State, the reports and studies of The Inquiry, and the central file of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
This second part, of three, describes records from The Inquiry.
The U.S. government began preparing for the postwar settlement soon after its entry into the war in April 1917. In the fall of that year, President Woodrow Wilson directed the organization of a group of experts to collect and analyze data on the geographical, ethnological, historical, economic, and political problems of those areas likely to be the subject of the peace negotiations. This staff became known as “The Inquiry.” Most of the experts were lawyers, geographers, political scientists, and historians from American colleges and universities and learned societies. The Inquiry ceased as an independent organization in December 1918. After that, it was absorbed into the Division of Territorial, Economic, and Political Intelligence of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace which represented the United States at the peace conference in Paris. In many ways, The Inquiry was the forerunner to the famed Research and Analysis Branch of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. The records of The Inquiry are now part of Record Group 256: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
Perhaps the most important records created by The Inquiry are the formal “Inquiry Documents.” President Wilson relied on those reports and studies for background information and used them when drafting the territorial propositions in his Fourteen Points and later used some of their suggestions in developing the peace treaties. Each of the documents was stamped “Inquiry Document” and given a sequential number.
Cover page of Inquiry Document 887:
ACNP.Inquiry.887
Inquiry Document 887, December 22, 1917, “Inquiry Documents” (Special Reports and Studies), Entry 4, RG 256: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
The Inquiry Documents were initially made widely available on National Archives Microfilm Publication M1107: “Inquiry Documents” (Special Reports and Studies), 1917-1919. They can now be reached online from here. The online arrangement matches the microfilm publication (see below).[i]
As listed in an appendix to the National Archives inventory of the records (see below) there are the following number of reports on the topics and countries listed. The listing in the appendix includes additional information: author and date (when known), number of pages, and document number. For some entries there is a brief description.
  • Administration and Methods of The Inquiry – 41
  • Economics – 35
  • Geographic Background – 2
  • International Law – 21
  • International Organization – 10
  • International Relations – 5
  • Propaganda – 13
  • War Aims and Peace Terms – 2
  • Zionism – 4
  • Africa – 19
    • Central Africa – 10
    • East Africa – 4
    • North Africa – 3
    • West Africa – 5
  • Alsace-Lorraine – 39
  • Australasia – 6
  • Austria-Hungary – 40
    • Austria – 21
    • Bohemia [Czechoslovakia] – 24
    • Bosnia-Herzegovina – 2
    • Bukovina – 1
    • Dalmatia – 4
    • Hungary – 5
    • Silesia – 1
    • Trentino – 9
    • Trieste – 3
  • Balkans – 50
    • Albania – 17
    • Bulgaria – 7
    • Croatia – 1
    • Greece – 16
    • Macedonia – 15
    • Montenegro – 3
    • Rumania – 13
    • Serbia – 11
  • Belgium – 8
  • Bermuda – 1
  • Canada – 1
  • Dutch East Indies – 2
  • Far East – 3
    • China – 45
    • India – 8
    • Japan – 26
    • Siam [Thailand] – 1
  • France – 20
  • Germany – 47
  • Gibraltar – 1
  • Great Britain – 10
  • Italy – 28
  • Latin America – 22
    • Argentina – 6
    • Bolivia – 2
    • Brazil – 5
    • Central America – 12
    • Chile – 7
    • Colombia – 3
    • Mexico – 2
    • Venezuela – 2
  • Luxemburg – 2
  • Mediterranean – 2
  • Netherlands – 3
  • Pacific Islands – 12
  • Persia [Iran] – 9
  • Poland – 58
  • Portugal – 1
  • Russia – 46
    • Aaland – 1
    • Baltic Provinces – 25
    • Caucasus – 11
    • Central Asia – 2
    • Crimea – 2
    • Don Province – 1
    • Finland – 7
    • Siberia – 1
    • Turkestan – 2
    • Ukraine – 5
  • Scandinavia – 1
    • Denmark – 1
    • Norway – 2
    • Sweden – 2
  • Spain – 3
  • Spitsbergen – 4
  • Switzerland – 2
  • Turkey -104
    • Anatolia – 5
    • Arabia – 3
    • Armenia – 35
    • Assyria – 2
    • Bessarabia – 2
    • Constantinople – 3
    • Mesopotamia – 6
    • Palestine – 5
    • Syria – 7
  • United States – 15
  • West India – 1
This attached PDF is the original roll-by-roll listing for M1107. This listing will help you pinpoint the location of documents of interest.
Other records of The Inquiry are preserved in the National Archives, too. These include correspondence files, records on administrative matters, bibliographic files, various card records, and records of the Economic Division and the Latin American Division. You may find a description of all of the records in National Archives Inventory 9: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
The standard study of The Inquiry is THE INQUIRY: AMERICAN PREPARATION FOR PEACE, 1917-1919 by Lawrence E. Gelfand (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963).

[i] Once you reach that page, click on the “Search within this series” button for the roll listing.

World War I Foreign Policy Records, Part I: The Department of State

April 6, 2017 marks the centennial of United States entry into World War I. As part of its commemoration of that event, the National Archives and Records Administration has digitized and put online three sets of records constituting the most important files relating to the foreign policy aspects of the war and the subsequent peace conference. Those records consist of the so-called “World War I file” of the Department of State, the reports and studies of The Inquiry, and the central file of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.
This first part, of three, describes relevant records from the central files of the Department of State.
The Department’s primary files on World War I and its termination are found in file “763.72” and its subfiles. That is the file on political relations between Austria (country number “63”) and Serbia (country number “72”), the initial belligerents in the war. As the war expanded, the Department continued filing documents under that file number and it became known as “the World War I file.” The records are from the Central Decimal File, part of Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State.
The World War I file was initially made widely available on National Archives Microfilm Publication M367: Records of the Department of State Relating to World War I and Its Termination, 1914-1929. They can now be reached online from here. The online arrangement matches the microfilm publication (see below).
The following document is the Department of State’s notification to American diplomatic posts that a state of war existed between the United States and Germany:
763.72[3697a.ONLINE
Department of State to All Diplomatic Missions except Petrograd, Telegram, April 6, 1917, File 763.72/3697a, 1910-1929 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, U.S. National Archives.
The basic arrangement of the records in the World War I files is as follows:
  • Lists of Documents – 11 rolls
  • 763.72 Political relations between Austria and Serbia (European War) – 133 rolls
  • 763.72111 Neutrality – 43 rolls
  • 763.72112 Neutral Commerce – 54 rolls
  • 763.72112a U.S. list of contraband and trading with enemy list – 26 rolls
  • 763.72113 Enemy Property – 15 rolls
  • 763.72114 Prisoners of war – 40 rolls
  • 763.72114a American prisoners of war – 9 rolls
  • 763.72115 Civil prisoners; enemy noncombatants – 24 rolls
  • 763.72116 Illegal and inhumane warfare – 10 rolls
  • 763.72117 Hospital ships – 4 rolls
  • 763.72118 Military and civilian observers – 1 rolls
  • 763.72119 Termination of war – 148 rolls [The records under file designation are closely related to those of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace that will be described in part 3 of this series.]
While the records described above are referred to as “the World War I file,” not all documents relating to the war will be found there. Records relating to the political relations between the countries involved in the war will be found in the pertinent Class 7 files and documents on the internal affairs of those countries will be found in the Class 8 records on those countries. Most of those records from the 1910-29 block of the Central Decimal File are available on National Archives Microfilm Publications (but not yet online).
In this document, Presidential advisor Edward House informed the President that the armistice was signed:
763.72119[9129.ONLINE
Embassy Paris to Department of State, Telegram 86, November 11, 1918, file 763.72119/9129, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, U.S. National Archives.
This attached PDF is the original roll-by-roll listing for M367.  This listing provides additional details about the records and will help you pinpoint where documents of interest are found.
As one of the finding aids to the files, the Department of State created “Lists of Documents,” also known as “purport lists.” These lists give a brief abstract of each document indexed to each file. The entries on the lists correspond to the arrangement of the documents in the files. The lists for the World War I file can be reached at the same link as the files.
Many documents from these records are found in the “World War” and the “Lansing Papers” supplements of the series of Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS). The Historical Office of the Department of State will be putting these volumes online through its Ebooks initiative.
At the time of World War I, the Department of State’s central record keeping system was known as the Central Decimal File. The records in that series were arranged in nine subject classes according to a pre-determined decimal subject classification scheme using a system of country numbers and subject numbers to create a file number. The first digit in each file number indicates the class of which it is a part. The subject classes are:
Class 0: General. Miscellaneous
Class 1: Administration
Class 2: Extradition
Class 3: Protection of Interests
Class 4: Claims
Class 5: International Congresses and Conferences
Class 6: Commerce
Class 7: Political Relations of State (The records described above are part of this class.)
Class 8: Internal Affairs of States (This class is further divided into file categories on political affairs; public order, safety, health, and works; military affairs; naval affairs; social matters; economic matters; industrial matters; communication and transportation; navigation; and other internal affairs.)
The files include instructions to and despatches from American diplomatic and consular posts, telegrams between the Department and those posts, diplomatic notes exchanged between the Department of State and foreign diplomats in the United States, correspondence with officials of other agencies and the public, memorandums and reports prepared within the Department of State, and other related documentation. The despatches often enclose copies of diplomatic notes exchanged by posts overseas, pamphlets, and newspaper clippings.
More information on the Central Decimal File is here. Guidance on preparing citations is here.

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