File No. 811.2222/3208

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page)


6421. Your 8440, January 30, 1 p.m. The proposal that British subjects under the conscription agreement shall immediately after 60 days be called upon for service in the United States Army is the old one which was made by the British Government in October last and transmitted in your 7571, October 31,1 and which was declined in Department’s telegram of November 10.2 We had supposed, therefore, particularly in view of the British Government’s note of January 9 transmitted in your 8219, January 10,3 that this matter had been definitely dropped. The point came up again in discussion with Major Mitchell-Innes and in the British Embassy’s note of January 22,3 and was disposed of in the same manner orally. Moreover, Canada has never raised the question. As the acceptance of this proposal is a matter entirely for the War Department, I will set forth its objections to the proposal as I understand them:

It is impracticable to equip and train more soldiers in the United States at the present time than are being taken care of now in raising the American Army. American industries are being pressed to the utmost to furnish supplies for their equipment.
If the proposal means that British subjects should be placed in the military service immediately without reference to exemption on account of dependency or industrial connections, it is doubtful whether such legislation could be obtained from Congress, on account of the feeling it would arouse by drawing men from essential industries and casting dependents upon the country for support. As the United States is the great supply country for the co-belligerents, this feature of the draft of males in the united States cannot but be given a place in the consideration of the matter.
The administrative difficulty of incorporating a large body of aliens immediately into the Army as now organized and sent to France.

In this relation it may be mentioned that practically all of the points made against the convention by the British Government have been acceded to by the United States except this one. The insistence of the British Government on this point throughout the negotiations has conduced to delay and has served no purpose but to postpone the attainment of the object sought, namely the procurement of manpower by voluntary enlistment and by compulsory service under the agreement.

[Page 671]

If the British Government feel that it is impossible to recede from their contention I am disposed to suggest the discontinuance of further negotiations and the reporting of the matter to Congress for such action as it may deem advisable to take in respect to compulsory military service of aliens in the United States. Please lay the foregoing informally before the British authorities.

  1. Ante, p. 650.
  2. Ante, p. 653.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.