Ambassador Tower to the Secretary of State .
Berlin , November 17, 1906.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose to you herewith a copy of the convention of international radio telegraph entered into at the conference held in Berlin by representatives of Germany, the United States of America, the Argentine Republic, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, Spain, France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, the Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Roumania, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, and Uruguay, with a copy of the rules and regulations, called “reglement de service,” which were annexed to the convention and agreed to by the respective countries represented at the conference.
The conference of radio-telegraphy assembled in the building of the Reichstag on the. 3d of October, 1906, under the presidency of His Excellency Herr von Kratke, secretary of state for the imperial German postal department, who delivered the inaugural address and declared the conference opened. The sessions were continued subsequently without interruption until the 3d day of November, when the final meeting was held and the convention and the règlement de service were duly signed by the delegates, respectively, of the countries represented; the signatures having been appended to the convention, to the règlement de service, to the engagement additionnel, as well as to the protocole final, subject to the ratification of the governments themselves which the delegates severally and respectively represented, it being understood that the convention is to be ratified by each government and the ratifications deposited in Berlin with as little delay as possible.[Page 1516]
I inclose to you herewith also copies of each amendment introduced and discussed during the sessions of the conference (101 amendments in all), and copies of the minutes (procès-verbaux) of each session, showing the debates which took place in regard to each one of these amendments and the final disposition which was made of each of them. I inclose also the comparison of the original text of the convention, as proposed by Germany at the beginning of the conference, and the text which was adopted at the first reading; also the comparison of the text of the proposed règlement cle service with the text which was adopted by the conference at the first reading, and I also inclose a list of the names and official designations of all of the delegates who attended this conference.
The discussions took a very wide range in regard to the subjects to be contained in the convention itself, as well as in the details of the rules and regulations to be appended to it, these being induced largely by the difference in point of view and the difference in individual interests, as well as the geographical situation, of the participants in the discussion. The attitude of the United States, as declared at the outset, was distinctly in support of unrestricted interchange of communication between all stations, without regard to the system of radio-telegraphy used by either, and this principle was maintained by it throughout the debates. It was evident from the beginning, however, that certain countries, like Great Britain and Italy, had already entered into engagements with Mr. Marconi based upon the exclusive use of his system, which prohibited by contract their right to interchange messages with stations either on shipboard or ashore which did not use the Marconi instruments. This gave rise to a great deal of difficulty in adjusting of interests that were involved.
Article 3 of the original text of the convention set forth this principle as follows:
Coastal stations and stations aboard ship shall be obliged to interchange telegrams with each other without distinction as to the system of radio-telegraphy adopted by these stations.
This brought at once the question of the Marconi contracts into the foreground; and while article 3 was accepted in principle, a vote upon it was postponed, at the proposal of Great Britain, until after the other articles of the conference and of the règlement de service should have been discussed and adopted. The United States delegation, having agreed to this postponement, gave notice that it did not modify its views as to the principle involved, and as the other articles were discussed and amended from day to day in the sessions of the conference, the delegation of the United States became solicitous lest amendments might be introduced of such character that they would weaken the provisions of article 3, and destroy its validity before it could be debated in the conference; therefore the delegation of the United States made a formal declaration as follows:
The proceedings of this conference have reached a point at which the delegates representing the United States of America rind themselves obliged to make the following declaration:
The acceptance of article 3 in the terms proposed to the conference is, in their opinion, indispensable to the due consideration of the convention submitted to our deliberations. Its incorporation into the convention without modification is necessary in order that that article may serve as the basis of an international agreement.[Page 1517]
The only objection which has been made to the provisions of this article is the assertion that the different systems of radio-telegraphy are not able to communicate effectively one with the other; and, further, that all well-organized systems already installed are susceptible to disturbance.
It has been fully demonstrated by the Government of the United States of America, through experiments carried out in climates of every kind, that the different systems of radio-telegraphy can be effectively used simultaneously one with the other. In fact, a combination made by selecting among the elements of different systems of radio-telegraphy has produced better results than those which any one system has been able to give by itself.
The United States Navy is actually using at present eight different systems upon its coastal stations and its station aboard ship, and during the three years in which it has been making these experiments it has reason to be entirely satisfied with the results obtained.
As to the question of interruption between one station and another, we have been able to operate without interruption telegraph stations in the immediate vicinity of others having a different system of radio-telegraphy, while stations close to each other, although equipped with the same system of installation, have not succeeded in securing freedom from disturbance.
Very voluminous debates took place subsequent to this declaration, with the result, however, that when the convention was signed the article 3 was adopted without alteration. As it was impossible for Great Britain to accept article 3 in its entirety without conflicting with her contracts with Mr. Marconi, it was agreed by the conference that in the protocole final, a copy of which is herewith inclosed, an article should be adopted as follows:
Each contracting government may reserve to itself the right to designate, according to the circumstances, certain coastal stations which shall be exempt from the provisions of article 3, upon condition that immediately upon the application of this measure there shall be erected within its territory one or more stations which shall be subject to the provisions of article 3, and which shall assure a radio-telegraphic service in the territory occupied by these exempted stations in a manner which shall satisfy the interests of public communication. Those governments which wish to reserve this right shall give notice thereof in the form provided in the second paragraph of article 16 of the convention, at latest three months before the present convention shall take effect.
It was agreed at the same time that those governments which did not approve of this article should formally declare that they would not, for their part, reserve the right given by this article; and such a declaration was made accordingly by Germany, the United States of America, the Argentine Republic, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Greece, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, the Netherlands, Roumania, Russia, Sweden, and Uruguay.
The principle having been established thus, largely through the determination of the delegation of the United States, with’ which the German delegation was entirely in accord and cooperated very greatly to bring about this result, and provision having been made thus for intercommunication between ship and shore, the next task which devolved upon the delegation of the United States was to assure intercommunication, without regard to system of radio-telegraphy, between ship and ship. Upon this point a particularly hostile opposition was presented in the conference and for a time the delegation of the United States stood absolutely alone, the principal delegate of Great Britain going so far upon one occasion as to declare to us formally that his delegation would never allow us to carry that point and that they “would fight us tooth and nail.” However, the delegation of the United States determined that it would not make any [Page 1518] concessions, but would prefer to be defeated, if necessary, in order that it might bring its proposition before the conference and stand for the principle that intercommunication must be obligatory between ship and ship.
As the discussion went on the delegation of the United States began to win ground, and ultimately several important countries began to show indications of sympathy with us, notably Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Holland, and Bussia. The British delegation then offered to concede to us the obligation of interchange between ship and ship in so far as such messages should relate to the saving of life and property at sea, and the German delegation proposed that the same proposition should be adopted in so far as the messages related to navigation. But having once put itself upon record as the champion of this principle of free interchange, the American delegation declined to accept any modifications or make any concession, and it had the satisfaction at the end of a spirited and somewhat heated contest to find that it was victorious and carried its principle by an almost unanimous vote of the conference.
This success and the introduction into the convention of a paragraph which it was absolutely impossible for Great Britain to accept under her agreements with Mr. Marconi threatened at one moment to make it necessary for Great Britain to withdraw from the conference, but an arrangement was finally agreed to by which Great Britain could participate to the end of the conference and sign the convention by placing the amendment of the United States of America as to communication between ship and ship in an additional agreement attached to the convention, to be separately signed by the countries represented. This left Great Britain and Italy free to sign the convention itself, and whilst accepting in principle the interchange between ship and ship, did not oblige their delegations to sign the article binding them against the private contracts of their Government. The delegation of the United States has been the recipient of the expressions of thanks and congratulations upon the part of all the countries of the world for the benefit which it has secured through the establishment of this principle to commerce, to civilization, and to humanity at large. The delegation trusts that the course which it adopted in this and other respects may meet with the approval of the Government of the United States.
Soon after the opening of the conference the question arose as to the number of votes which each country should be entitled to have at the next conference of radio-telegraphy that should be called, the provisions relating to this matter being contained in article 12 of the convention.
As Great Britain made the claim that she would be entitled to a number of votes in the next conference, which should represent not only Britain itself, but also her colonies and possessions, the delegation of the United States declared verbally that in view of our own widely extended interests in connection with radio-telegraphy we should also make a claim for plural votes based upon our extensive territory if the equilibrium of the present conference were disturbed and any one of the countries represented at the conference should be given more than one vote. The delegation telegraphed to you, therefore, on the 11th of October, 1908, asldng for instructions in this connection, and received your reply, dated the 18th of October, [Page 1519] both of which I have the honor to confirm herewith by the copies which are hereto attached.
The delegates representing the United States at the conference; were:
Admiral Henry M. Manney, U. S. Navy, retired;
Brig. Gen. James Allen, Chief of the Signal Service of the United States Army;
John I. Waterbury, esq., of New York, representing the Department of Commerce and Labor; and
Commander F. M. Barber, of the United States Navy, retired, representing the United States Navy as scientific expert in Europe.
With these gentlemen I had the honor also of being appointed a delegate of the United States, under the instructions contained in your dispatch No. 513, of the 25th of June, 1906.
It was decided that the provisions of the present convention shall take effect from the 1st day of July, 1908, and shall remain in force for all of the governments who have become parties to it until one year after the date at which any one of the said governments shall denounce the said convention.
The conference agreed to accept the invitation extended to it by Great Britain to meet again in the spring of the year 1911 at London.
I have, etc.,
- See translation of the articles of the international telegraph convention referred to in article 17, affixed.↩