File No. 763.72119/752
The Ambassador in France ( Sharp) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 22, 5.40 p.m.]
2407. Your circular of August 18, 4 p.m. In a conversation with Mr. Ribot, at which Mr. Cambon was present, I was informed that instructions had been cabled over to Mr. Jusserand at Washington to ascertain the President’s attitude upon the peace communication of the Pope and that this request had been repeated a second time.
Mr. Ribot started out by saying that the French Government felt that, before expressing its own views, the British Government should be first sounded as to its attitude and that the latter might in fact, in the position to be taken by it, be regarded as representing the views of the European Allies upon that question.
He expressed further the belief that the Pope’s communication was so lacking in specific recommendations, not alone in so far as France was concerned as to the restoration of Alsace and Lorraine, but also as to the question of reparation for losses, that a good deal of thought would have to be given to its answer.
In any event it was the opinion of both Mr. Ribot and Mr. Cambon that there should be a complete accord among the Allies in making their answer. They say that they would appreciate very much if I would express their desire that the President would first communicate his own views to them so that there might follow an exchange [Page 171] of opinion between them to the end that such accord might be arranged. Mr. Ribot said that it was obvious that even among the European Allies there might result some difference of opinion upon some of the points that might be made in answer on account of the different interests, that he could see that this might be especially true in the present as it applied to the opinion of the United States compared to the views of some of the Allies.
Notwithstanding this view of the matter the question was presented as to whether it might be possibly thought best for the Allies to join together in making their answer.
I gather from the attitude of both Mr. Ribot and Mr. Cambon that they felt it especially desirable to get each of the Allies’ views before the formal declaration by any one of them should be made. Mr. Ribot was rather cautious and reserved in expressing his own views. However, on seeing Mr. Cambon alone this afternoon, he stated that since seeing me, in reference to the communication of the Pope, he had had word from the Chargé d’Affaires of the French Government in London stating that Mr. Balfour had just informed him that, inasmuch as the German Chancellor at Berlin, Mr. Michaelis, was expected to-day to discuss the subject before the Reichstag, he thought it would be wise to wait until that speech had been made before undertaking to formulate their own reply. Mr. Cambon who has always been quite free in frankly expressing his own views to me upon various matters discussed between us from time to time, told me that he felt quite confident that the Pope was not alone actuated by a desire to help Austria in issuing the communication, but that it was primarily to strengthen his own power and that of the Catholic Church. Incidentally in that connection he expressed the opinion that the Pope’s authority as well as the cause of Catholicism would be rather strengthened by the severance of relations between the State and the Church, such as existed in both the United States and France.
Mr. Cambon further asserted that the French Government could not favorably consider the Pope’s appeal. This attitude is certainly voiced by substantially all the papers in Paris which characterize the communication as not only too vague in its declarations but as unjust in denying reparation for the great damage wrought by Germany upon the territory of the Allied countries which its armies have invaded.