augustus 1925: België onderhandelt met USA over oorlogsschulden

ID: 192508108955


The Belgian Government notified the American ambassador at Brussels on June 7, 1925, that Belgium desired to open negotiations in Washington for a settlement of its debt.

On August 10, 1925, a Belgian commission consisting of Baron de Cartier de Marchienne, Belgian ambassador to the United States; Baron George Theunis, formerly Prime Minister of Belgium; Monsieur Emile Francqui, vice governor of the Société Générale de Belgique; and Monsieur Félicien Cattier, head of the Banque d'Outremer, appeared before the commission. The Belgian commission was accompanied by the following experts: Monsieur J. Boet, director of the Ministry of Finance; Monsieur J. B. Vincent, administrator of the Treasury; Monsieur J. Warland, director of the public debt; Monsieur André Terlinden, director of the Société Nationale de Crédit à l'Industrie. Monsieur Robert Silvercruys served as secretary general of the commission.

Meetings of the commission with the Belgian commission were held on August 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14, 1925. The meetings were then adjourned to permit the chairman and Senator Smoot to submit the terms of a tentative settlement to the President at Plymouth, Vt. A final meeting was held on August 18, 1925, at which an agreement was reached. The debt-funding agreement was signed on August 18, 1925, and was later approved by the President. It will be submitted to Congress for its approval at its next session .....

In the settlement arrived at the Belgian debt was divided into two parts. It will be recalled that at the time of the Peace Conference at Paris in 1919, Belgium advanced a claim for war damages as a prior charge on reparations amounting to $1,000,000,000 in gold; that she also claimed that Germany should be compelled to redeem in gold 6,200,000,000 paper marks forced into circulation in Belgium during the period of German occupation, which marks had been redeemed by the issuance of Belgian francs by Belgium; and that she also maintained that France, Great Britain, and the United States should cancel her war debts, representing sums advanced prior to November 11, 1918. During a critical period of the Peace Conference, largely at the instance of President Wilson, Belgium was induced to reduce her claim for war damages from $1,000,000,000 to $500,000,000, and to abandon her claim for 6,200,000,000 gold marks on the condition that France, Great Britain, and the United States would forgive her prearmistice debts and would look to Germany for repayment of the sums due. On June 16, 1919, M. Clemenceau, President Wilson, and Mr. Lloyd George signed a letter addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium stating that each would recommend to the appropriate governmental agency of his Government that upon delivery to the Reparation Commission of bonds of Germany to be issued in reimbursement of all sums which Belgium had borrowed from the three Governments prior to the armistice, each Government would accept a proportionate share of the bonds on account of Belgium's obligation to repay the loans, which obligation was thereupon to be cancelled. This arrangement was incorporated in article 232 of the treaty of Versailles. Although France and Great Britain ratified the treaty, it was not ratified by the United States. The question of the release of Belgium from her obligation to repay the prearmistice advances was separately submitted to Congress by President Wilson in a communication dated February 22, 1921, a few days before the close of his administration, but never came up for consideration. Although the representatives of Belgium at the Peace Conference understood that the action of President Wilson in negotiating the peace treaty and making the agreement was subject to ratification, it was not anticipated that he would experience any difficulty in securing ratification in the United States. The man in the street in Belgium always regarded the failure of the United States to confirm the agreement of President Wilson as a breach of faith.

While the commission was aware of the fact that no legal obligation rested upon the United States as a result of the assurances given Belgium at the time of the Peace Conference, it nevertheless felt that there continued a weighty moral obligation upon this Government, since as a result of the action taken by President Wilson Belgium had waived rights which otherwise it might have obtained. This differentiated the prearmistice debt of Belgium from all other debts due the United States from foreign countries.

The provisions of article 232 of the treaty of Versailles were not carried out by Germany. The failure of Germany to fulfill its reparation obligations finally resulted in the adoption of the Dawes plan of August, 1924. In an agreement of January 14, 1925, signed at Paris, apportioning the Dawes plan receipts among the several countries entitled to reparations it was provided that 5 per cent of the annual payments by Germany available for reparations (first deducting certain priorities, such as service of the German external loan of 1924, army costs, and the like) was set apart to provide repayment of the Belgian prearmistice debt. France and Great Britain agreed to accept their proportion of the amounts to be received, and Belgium has been relieved to this extent as a debtor of these two nations. The portion of these receipts which would have been payable to the United States if the treaty of Versailles had been ratified by this Government is being paid to Belgium by reason of her prearmistice debt to the United States, and Belgium agreed to pay over such amounts immediately to this country. The commission did not accept the Belgian proposal that amounts to be received from Germany be substituted by Belgium for repayment of the prearmistice debt. The commission, however, felt that under all the circumstances the United States should not ask Belgium to repay more than the principal of the prearmistice advances. A schedule of annual installment payments over a period of 62 years, without interest, the payments to be a direct obligation of Belgium irrespective of receipt of payments from Germany, was finally agreed upon by the two commissions. The amount of the annual installments increases until it reaches $2,900,000 in the sixth year. . . .

Land: BEL