Foreign Affairs

Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace (RG 256)

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." The American negotiators at the Paris Peace Conference used the reports and studies produced by The Inquiry to support the final peace negotiations.

Following the signing of the Armistice ending World War I (November 11, 1918), President Woodrow Wilson established the American Commission to Negotiate Peace to negotiate the formal treaties ending the war and also to draft the Covenant of the League of Nations. The Inquiry was absorbed into the Commission and ceased as an independent body. Also included in this record group are records relating to the Conference of Ambassadors in the postwar period.  The main files of the Commission are found in the "General Records."  The "Key" explains the organization of the records.

The "Inquiry Documents" (Special Reports and Studies), 1917-1919, and the General Records, 1918-1931, are available for use in two formats as follows:


  • The "Inquiry Documents" (Special Reports and Studies), 1917-1919 (M1107, 47 rolls).
  • General Records, 1918-1931 (M–820, 563 rolls)


Available through the National Archives Catalog

National Archives Inventory 9: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace (106 MB), prepared in 1974, describes the records in more detail.

You can search the National Archives Catalog for entries from RG 256 or see a description in the Guide to Federal Records.

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.  These volumes are available online.