The Secretary of State to the Russian Ambassador.

No. 27.]

Excellency: The Government of the United States has given careful consideration to the views expressed in your note of April 12 as to the programme which should be adopted for consideration and discussion by the Second Hague Conference.

In your memorandum handed to the President on the 13th of September, 1905,a you had already advised him that the plenipotentiaries of Russia at a future meeting would lay before the conference a detailed programme which would serve as a starting point for its deliberations, and on the 12th of October, 1905, I had expressed to [Page 1636] you the satisfaction of this Government that the Government of Russia should undertake such a task for the common benefit. You had also been good enough, on the 3d of April last, to hand me a summary of the programme which the Imperial Government proposed to submit to the conference, and as to that the Government of the United States reserved consideration, with liberty to advance other proposals of a like character, should its own needs and experience counsel such a course.

The Government of the United States finds the present proposals to be in entire conformity with the spirit that animated His Imperial Majesty in the proposal to bring about a Second Peace Conference, to which the President gave such ready and cheerful assent.

In full accord with the hope which you express this Government sees in the entirety of the points proposed the expression of a wish to approach nearer to that lofty ideal of international justice which is the permanent goal of the whole civilized world. It finds itself in agreement with the suggestions in your note that the deliberations of the meeting should not deal with the political relations of the several States, or with the conditions of things established by treaties, and that neither the solution of the questions brought up for discussion, nor the order in which they are to be examined, nor the form to be given to the decisions reached, should be subject for determination in advance of the conference. It considers also that all the questions proposed by your Government should be included in the programme.

The Government of the United States is, however, so deeply in sympathy with the noble and humanitarian views which moved His Imperial Majesty to the calling of the First Peace Conference that it would greatly regret to see those views excluded from the consideration of the Second Conference.

In the memorandum of August 12, 1898, which accompanied the call for that conference, Count Mouravieff, expressing the sentiment of His Majesty the Emperor, said:

The maintenance of general peace and a possible reduction of the excessive armaments which weigh down upon all nations present themselves, in the actual present situation of the world, as the ideal toward which should tend the efforts of all governments.

* * * * * * *

This conference will be, with the help of God, a happy augury for the century which is about to open. It will gather together in a powerful unit the efforts of all the powers which are sincerely desirous of making triumphant the conception of a universal peace. It will, at the same time, strengthen their mutual harmony by a common consideration of the principle of equity and right, upon which rest the security of states and the well-being of nations.

The truth and value of the sentiments thus expressed are surely independent of the special conditions and obstacles to their realization by which they may be confronted at any particular time. It is true that the First Conference at the Hague did not find it practicable to give them effect, but long-continued and patient effort has always been found necessary to bring mankind into conformity with great ideals. It would be a misfortune if that effort, so happily and magnanimously inaugurated by His Imperial Majesty, were to be abandoned.

This Government is not unmindful of the fact that the people of the United States dwell in comparative security, partly by reason of [Page 1637] their isolation and partly because they have never become involved in the numerous questions to which many centuries of close neighborhood have given rise in Europe. They are therefore free from the apprehensions of attack which are to so great an extent the cause of great armaments, and it would ill become them to be insistent or forward in a matter so much more vital to the nations of Europe than to them. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that the very absence of a special interest in a subject enables a nation to make suggestions and urge considerations which a more deeply interested nation might hesitate to present. The Government of the United States, therefore, feels it to be its duty to reserve for itself the liberty to propose to the Second Peace Conference, as one of the subjects of consideration, the reduction or limitation of armaments, in the hope that, if nothing further can be accomplished, some slight advance may be made toward the realization of the lofty conception which actuated the Emperor of Russia in calling the First Conference.

There is one other subject which it seems to the Government of the United States might well engage the attention of the conference. The subjects already proposed relate chiefly to lessening the evils and reducing the barbarity of war. Important as this is war will still be cruel and barbarous, and the thing most important is to narrow the cause of war and reduce its frequency. It seems doubtful, in view of the numerous reservations which accompanied the signatures of the powers to the very moderate provisions of the convention for international arbitration agreed upon at the First Conference, whether it will be practicable to secure any very general assent to an agreement for compulsory arbitration without such extensive exceptions as to do away in great measure with its compulsory effect. It does not follow, however, that there may not be agreement upon the rules of conduct which ought to be followed in particular cases out of which controversy is liable to arise; or that these rules, if observed, may not greatly decrease the probabilities of war. The United States feels that it would be well worth while for the powers assembled at the peace conference to consider whether such an effect could not be produced by an agreement to observe some limitations upon the use of force for the collection of ordinary public debts arising out of contracts. The United States, accordingly, reserves to itself the liberty to propose this further subject for the consideration of the conference.

In suggesting these further subjects for consideration, the Government of the United States believes that your Government will find them in entire accord with the spirit and purpose which have dictated the proposals of your note, and it hopes for the sympathy and agreement of your Government.

Accept, etc.,

Elihu Root.