To the representatives of the United States accredited to the governments signatories to the acts of The Hague Conference, 1899.

Sir: By the circular instruction dated October 21, 1904, the representatives of the United States accredited to the several governments which took part in the Peace Conference held at The Hague in 1899, and which joined in signing the acts thereof, were instructed to bring to the notice of those governments certain resolutions adopted by the Interparliamentary Union at its annual conference held at St. Louis in September last, advocating the assembling of a second peace conference to continue the work of the first, and were directed to ascertain to what extent those governments were disposed to act in the matter.

The replies so far received indicate that the proposition has been received with general favor. No dissent has found expression. The Governments of Austria-Hungary, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Luxemburg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Roumania, Spain, Sweden and Norway, and Switzerland exhibit sympathy with the purposes of the proposal, and generally accept it in principle, with a reservation in most cases of future consideration of the date of the conference and the programme of subjects for discussion. The replies of Japan and Russia conveyed in like terms a friendly recognition of the spirit and purposes of the invitation, but on the part of Russia the reply was accompanied by the statement that in the existing condition of things in the Far East it would not be practicable for the Imperial Government, at this moment, to take part in such a conference. While this reply, tending as it does to cause some postponement of the proposed second conference, is deeply regretted, the weight of the motive which induces it is recognized by this Government and, probably, by others. Japan made the reservation only that no action should be taken by the conference relative to the present war.

Although the prospect of an early convocation of an august assembly of representatives of the nations in the interest of peace and harmony among them is deferred for the time being, it may be regarded as assured so soon as the interested powers are in a position to agree upon a date and place of meeting and to join in the formulation of a general plan for discussion. The President is much gratified at the cordial reception of his overtures. He feels that in eliciting the common sentiment of the various governments in favor of the principle involved and of the objects sought to be attained a notable step has been taken toward eventual success.

Pending a definite agreement for meeting when circumstances shall permit, it seems desirable that a comparison of views should be had among the participants as to the scope and matter of the subjects to [Page 14] be brought before the second conference. The invitation put forth by the Government of the United States did hot attempt to do more than indicate the general topics which the final act of the first conference of The Hague relegated, as unfinished matters, to consideration by a future conference—adverting, in connection with the important subject of the inviolability of private property in naval warfare, to the like views expressed by the Congress of the United States in its resolution adopted April 28, 1904, with the added suggestion that it may be desirable to consider and adopt a procedure by which States nonsignatory to the original acts of The Hague conference may become adhering parties. In the present state of the project, this Government is still indisposed to formulate a programme. In view of the virtual certainty that the President’s suggestion of The Hague as the place of meeting of a second peace conference will be accepted by all the interested powers, and in view also of the fact that an organized representation of the signatories of the acts of 1899 now exists at that capital, this Government feels that it should not assume the initiative in drawing up a programme, nor preside over the deliberations of the signatories in that regard. It seems to the President that the high task he undertook in seeking to bring about an agreement of the powers to meet in a second peace conference is virtually accomplished so far as it is appropriate for him to act, and that, with the general acceptance of his invitation in principle, the future conduct of the affair may fitly follow its normal channels. To this end it is suggested that the further and necessary interchange of views between the signatories of the acts of 1899 be effected through the International Bureau under the control of the Permanent Administrative Council of The Hague. It is believed that in this way, by utilizing the central representative agency established and maintained by the powers themselves, an orderly treatment of the preliminary consultations may be insured and the way left clear for the eventual action of the Government of the Netherlands in calling a renewed conference to assemble at The Hague, should that course be adopted.

You will bring this communication to the knowledge of the minister for foreign affairs and invite consideration of the suggestions herein made.

I am, etc.

John Hay.