860j.01/53: Telegram

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

2840. I have just received the following note:

“Foreign Office, Tuesday 19th August 1919.

“My Dear Ambassador: You may remember that in our conversation yesterday afternoon about the Armenian question and the Caucasus I expressed some surprise that if American opinion was as deeply stirred as I was led to believe on the subject, no official representatives [representations] had reached me from the American Government and I was left to gather American sentiment from the reports and appeals and protests of private individuals. I further said that anxious as we were to do everything in our power to satisfy American opinion and to protect the Armenians, it was difficult [Page 833] to modify our announced and already inaugurated policy of evacuation unless we knew for certain for how long a period we were requested or expected to remain and what part the American Government were prepared to play at its close. Later in the evening Mr. Bonar Law speaking on the same subject in the House of Commons used the following words:

‘I can assure my noble friend that if any sign of help were coming from America as suggested they would only too gladly welcome it. Indeed I think I might say more with the consent of my right honorable friend: it is, if I may be permitted to say so, an American problem rather than a British. They are in a better position to deal with it. They have interests as great as ours. I think greater. I can assure the House that if the President of the United States were officially to say to the British Government, “We wish you to hold the fort for a little until we can make arrangements” we would certainly do our best to meet him.’

Mr. Bonar Law meant to add what I may here be permitted to add on behalf of His Majesty’s Government that in the event of the American Government addressing us in the sense indicated it would seem only reasonable that the financial burden of retaining our forces in the Caucasus beyond the period already fixed by us should not be borne by Great Britain, but should be assumed by the state which expects to be or is likely to become the mandatory for the Armenian people. Our own financial responsibilities in those regions have already been so overwhelming that we should not feel justified in continuing them for a further period. May I suggest to Your Excellency that you should telegraph in this sense to your Government since the matter is one that calls for very early decision.

I am yours very sincerely,

Curzon of Kedleston”

After statement above quoted Bonar Law in House of Commons added “But I can hold out no hope of keeping troops longer in that part of the country although I am glad to say that an Allied Commissioner has already been sent to Armenia and that we have commissioners of our own both in Baku and Batum.”

May I suggest that any answer to this letter other than a definite refusal should be so worded as to avoid any possible charge of bad faith if mandate is finally declined?

Repeated to American Mission as our 231.