The Secretary of State to the Russian Ambassador.
The Secretary of State has had the honor to receive from the Russian ambassador on the 4th instant an undated memorandum in regard to the pending convocation of a second universal peace conference at The Hague upon the initiative of His Imperial Majesty the Tsar, and to the outstanding invitation of the Government of the Swiss Confederation looking to a conference of the powers signatories of the Geneva Red Cross Convention of 1864 with a view to modifying the provisions of the latter convention. The statements and suggestions of the Russian memorandum have had attentive consideration. Note is especially taken of the inquiry whether it is “advisable to combine the revision of the Geneva Convention with the assembling of the second Hague Conference; the latter alone could pass a single act containing all regulations bearing upon the wounded. In that case the number of its delegates has to be increased by representatives of the medical world, as well as of the Red Cross societies, who could, however, form a subcommission of the conference.”
While on the one hand, it is usual and appropriate that the amendment of a multipartite international convention is a matter to be discussed by the plenipotentiaries of the several parties thereto and not by a general international conference in which nonsignatory and nonadherent governments take part, yet, on the other hand, it is recognized that the subject-matter of the Geneva Convention is so intimately bound up with the objects of the forthcoming second Hague Conference, and particularly with the purpose of the second and third conventions framed by the first Hague Conference of 1899, as to make it reasonable and expedient that congruity of treatment and of resultant engagements should be secured. The Government of the United States does not see how such congruity can be conveniently brought about by separate international conferences acting independently and [Page 1537] at different periods. It would even seem difficult to insure the necessary correlation of results if two conferences made up of different members were to be held simultaneously, inasmuch as to do so would require the interdependence of two deliberative bodies, each possessing independent powers and having no common relation.
Regarding the objects of the Second Hague Conference as general, embracing purposes of the highest sovereign concern to all the powers of the earth, and looking upon the technical objects to be attained by a revision of the Geneva Convention by its signatories as of subordinate importance, the Government of the United States would be glad to see an understanding reached by the parties to the Geneva Convention by which the revision thereof could be combined with the proceedings of the Second Hague Conference. It is thought that this may be accomplished by the parties to the Geneva Convention giving to their Hague plenipotentiaries separate special powers to revise the Geneva Convention so that these special plenipotentiaries could confer separately from the universal peace assembly, and at the same time act in harmony with the general conference. Such an arrangement would not prevent accessory expert delegates being joined to the special plenipotentiaries, if that course be deemed desirable, for the purpose of the contemplated revision.
In this way it would seem that the initiative of the Swiss Government could be respected, and the treaty relations of the parties to the Geneva Convenion of 1864 be preserved intact, while at the same time giving needful uniformity to the general result.