David Hunter Miller


Photo: Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, MA

American lawyer, historian and ­government official­. He was born in New York, as the son of a stockbroker. He received his education in his hometown. After graduating from law school ­in 1911, he began his professional practice. In 1917 he joined the , where he initially worked on legal issues that might arise during peace negotiations. In 1919 he served as legal advisor to the American delegation at the . Among other things, he contributed to the drafting of the Covenant of the League of Nations. During the conference, he kept a detailed diary, which, together with documents collected by Miller, was published in twenty-one volumes – My Diary at the Conference of Paris (1924–26).

After returning to the United States, he continued to practice law ­in New York. From 1929 to 1944 he was an official of the State Department. In 1929 he headed the American delegation to the ­Hague­ Conference ­organized to codify international law. He incorporated his ­experience in international law in a number of books, including Drafting of the Covenant (1928), The Peace Pact of Paris (1928) and Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (8 volumes, 1934–47).


/ 1

Paris, 1919: Members of the Commission to Negotiate Peace. David Hunter Miller is seated first from the right, second from the left - Isaiah Bowman. Standing: second from the left - Robert Howard Lord, fifth - Edward Mandell House. Photo: Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, MA

The Polish Question in the language of the Treaties

From David Hunter Miller’s draft memorandum

American program and international law

July 31, 1918

The exact date at which a state comes into existence may be and in case of Poland doubtless would be, of great importance, as possibly affecting the validity and binding character of agreements, contracts, and concessions made or purporting to have been made on behalf of the state.

Furthermore, the creation of a new state raises questions relating to public debts, contracts and concessions within the territory of the new state, and private rights of its nations and others which are very similar to those arising in the case of cession of territory from one state to another. The discussion of this subject, which was considered in connection with Alsace-Lorraine, need not be repeated, but mention should be made of its great importance in the case of Poland, which, whatever its boundaries, would be a state which would have millions of population, a large extent of territory, and a great industrial development.

The fixing in detail of the boundaries of any Poland is a matter of great difficulty, and one not here to be considered. […] The most difficult question connected with the boundaries of Poland arises in respect of the free and secure access to the sea, which the Program says shall be assured to the new state. […]

The territories undoubtedly Polish extend through German provinces along the Vistula to the Baltic, not including however the port of Dazing, and East Prussia, which are distinctly German. If this strip of territory which is a part of what is called the “Polish Fringe” should be included in Poland, East Prussia would be separated from the rest of Germany.

Another possibility of territorial access to the sea for Poland which perhaps exists, is that of a union between Poland and Lithuania.

In view of the impossibility of considering these questions in detail, it remains to be said that in the absence of territorial access to the Baltic, Poland’s access to the sea would necessarily be created by agreement upon some from international servitude over the territory of Germany along the Vistula to Danzig, an agreement of perhaps the greatest complexity of any known to international law, in the preparation of which the records and history of the Danube Commission and of the agreements regarding the Scheldt would be of the highest value. […]

The guarantees of the political independence and territorial integrity of Poland would be substantially similar to those considered to some extent in connection with the Balkans, and further to be discussed with the provision of the Program for the Association of Nations.

The international covenants which the Program contemplates to guarantee the economic independence of Poland present trade questions of a unique character. They obviously involve access to the sea. The economic independence of Poland however, as a practical matter, means freedom from economic dependence upon Germany. Since 1795 the greater part of Poland has been Russian, and its industrial life, its railroads and its commerce have developed naturally with the rest of Russia. That these conditions should suddenly be interrupted by tariff barriers, or even by the possibility of tariff barriers between Poland and the territory to the east, would doubtless make Poland economically a part of Germany, with which state in any event her economic relations would certainly be close.

The provisions covered by economic guarantees in favor of Poland should accordingly include not only a general most favored nation clause and access to the sea, but also a continuance of the trade relations heretofore existing with Russia and the Ukraine, even if this latter provisions should be an apparent exception to the general principle of equality of trade.

The unity of the Program and the peace of the world demand in the case of Poland as in he case of the Balkans that the guarantees for the benefit of Poland be joined in by the Powers constituting the Association of Nations. […]

The discussion of the peculiar position of Poland as an independent state from an economic standpoint was intended to show that the program for economic independence of Poland is closely bound up with general Program for economic trade equality throughout the world.

The covenants and guarantees for the benefit of Poland therefore require, as in the case of the Balkan States, incorporation among the covenants and agreements of the Association of Nations so that they, too, may have the sanction of that compact.

From Outline of a draft peace treaty

5. Poland.

The existence of a Polish state is certain to be recognized by the Peace Conference. The only difficulty in including Poland among the signatories to the Treaty of Peace will arise out of the disturbed political situation among the Poles. It may be necessary to insist that the various political parties in Poland should take part in a choice of the representatives who will bind the new State by executing the Treaty of Peace.

From the journal

Wednesday, April 23, 1919

I talked to Colonel House about the Jews’ wishes in connection with Poland and he said he thought it would be inadvisable for them to make their claims public but that it might be well for them to get the support of Doctor Mott and that there was no reason why they should not discuss them with the French and the British. […]

I also at Colonel House’s request redrafted a letter that the President was about to write to Paderewski on behalf of himself, Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and Orlando. I have no copy of this paper. It was a letter expressing appreciation of Paderewski’s presentation of Poland’s case and saying that no country could wish for a better advocate that he.

source: Miller, David Hunter. “My Diary at the Conference of Paris, with Documents”, vol. 1–18, New York: Appeal Printing Company, 1925.