The Paris Conference is looking at how to dispose of Germany’s colonial possessions, with the leaders of different countries calling for their share of the spoils. Prime Minister Botha and General Smuts have proposed that South Africa should have South West Africa, conquered by them in 1915. Billy Hughes of Australia claims New Guinea and nearby islands as being vital for his country’s future security. New Zealand’s Massey seeks formerly German Samoa for his country, affirming the high regard in which New Zealanders are held by the Samoans (who are in fact petitioning to be ruled by Britain or the United States or indeed any country other than New Zealand, whose maladministration of the islands has seen a fifth of their inhabitants die of influenza). And Japan’s Makino is looking for the German islands in the Pacific his country’s armed forces occupied in 1914, as well as Tsingtao and the surrounding Shantung peninsula (which disturbs the Americans, who are sympathetic to Chinese demands that the peninsula be returned to them). The French meanwhile are looking for Togoland and Cameroon (known to the Germans as Kamerun) and the British for German East Africa.
In the old days victorious powers in wars were able to simply annex territories and possessions captured from their enemies, but President Wilson of the United States wishes to consign such vulgar ways to the dustbin of history. Instead of taking on conquered territories as new colonies, he is insisting that Germany’s former colonies are divided out among the Allies as mandates, with the mandated authorities charged with preparing the territories for self-government and independence. It is taken for granted that it will be some time before the native peoples are ready to rule themselves, but Wilson is insistent that the mandates are not to be thought of as simply additions to the victors’ empires. The Allied leaders may have other ideas, but for now they are willing to humour the American President.