File No. 811.2222/6231

The Ambassador in France ( Sharp) to the Secretary of State


3445. My 3242, 23d February. Have received further communication dated 25th instant, from Foreign Office, complete translation of which reads as follows:

I did not fail to acquaint the President of the Council with Your Excellency’s communication under date of February 27 last, relative to the convention to be concluded in regard to military service.

Mr. Clemenceau has just replied that he, like myself, in order to attest to the Federal Government our earnest desire to facilitate, for the American authorities, the carrying out of such conventions, waive the few modifications which it seemed expedient to make to the Franco-American draft, notably to articles 3 and 5.

Upon one point only, the Minister of War has not found it possible to adhere to the point of view of the Federal Government. This is in regard to the determination of the military obligations of Frenchmen. Whereas the proposed convention stipulated the draft age as from 20 to 40, the President of the Council deems it indispensable, de jure and de facto, strictly to observe the regulations laid down by the French recruiting laws.

If in the French-British convention of October 4, 1917, the Government of the Republic has consented not to provide for the obligatory incorporation in the British Army of French territorial reservists by accepting the age limits as from 18 to 41 years, it is because these limits, more comprehensive in fact than those of the French-American project, were those provided by English law. Notwithstanding the drawbacks pertaining to such a concession, the French Government deemed it expedient to agree thereto in order to facilitate the task of the British Government.

Regarding the agreement now to be concluded, the Federal Government did not request its allies, and consequently France, to accept the limits fixed by its own recruiting law. It is therefore admitted in the United States that Allied nationals may be incorporated in the Federal Army at an age far exceeding [that] at which American citizens ceased to be subject to service. The President of the Council is pleased to believe that instead of age limits which correspond neither to American law nor to French law, the Federal Government will accept those decreed by the latter law, in compliance with which people of France residing in the United States must, in default of their voluntary return under their flag, be obligatorily incorporated in the American ranks.

The peculiar circumstances, the perils she was threatened with, obliged her, even in times of peace, to exact from all her sons a considerable effort, greater than that which most of the European states had to face. To shelter those men of 40 to 48 years residing in the United States who have not yet felt the call of their Fatherland from the heavy tribute of blood which our men of mature age, [Page 697] as well as younger ones, have been paying for nearly four years upon French territory would, contrary indeed to the amicable intentions of the Federal Government, endanger rewarding those Frenchmen who have failed their duty, to ratify in a way their defection at the moment when an opportunity is offered them to try to make reparation.

I would greatly esteem being able to inform the Minister that Your Excellency has been pleased to point out to the Federal Government the interest which the Government of the Republic attaches to the observation in the premises of its recruiting law.