574.D1/15d: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Davis)84

See Department’s telegram September 26, 6:00 p.m. regarding the International Conference to consider all aspects of international communications.

Last May the representatives of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers in Paris made the following agreement: “The Principal Allied and Associated Powers shall as soon as possible arrange for the convoking of an International Conference to consider all international aspects of communication by land telegraphs, cables and wireless telegraphy and to make recommendations to the Principal Allied and Associated Powers with a view to providing the entire world with adequate facilities of this nature on a fair and equitable basis”. The representatives of the same Powers subsequently agreed that the Conference should be held in Washington at the earliest convenient date, though October, 1919, which was the date originally proposed by this Government, was considered too soon.

In view of the above agreements, this Government feels that the proposed Conference should be held in the near future and suggests May 1st, 1920 as a suitable date, subject, of course, to the convenience of the other four Powers.

The Congress of the United States has authorized the President to call a general international conference to consider all aspects of international communications by cable, telegraph, telephone and wireless. This Government intends to summon such a conference to meet in Washington during the course of the current year, possibly in September.

It is the understanding of this Government that the Conference between the five Principal Powers shall constitute a preliminary conference, whose functions shall be to consider and recommend to the five governments any matters which may properly come before them for decision, and to prepare a program for the general International Conference to be held later.

This Government’s understanding of the scope of the proposed conference is that it shall include the entire problem of international communications by cable, telegraph, telephone, wireless telegraphy and wireless telephony. This will include consideration of the subjects dealt with by the International Telegraphic, and the International [Page 112] Radio Telegraphic Unions, and the Interallied Radio Commission as well as other matters. What aspects of this field will be considered in detail at each of the conferences is yet to be determined, but no topic falling within this field is beyond the scope of the purpose of the two conferences and any such topic will be given consideration by either conference at the request of any member of that conference.

As suggested above a tentative program for the later general conference will be prepared at the preliminary conference. The program for the preliminary conference should, it is suggested, be tentatively prepared by an exchange of ideas through diplomatic channels between the five Powers to be represented.

You are instructed to communicate the substance of this telegram to the Government to which you are accredited and to extend to it an invitation to send representatives to the preliminary conference in Washington on May 1st. If that date appears to you to be really impossible or inconvenient for the Government to which you are accredited, please inform me immediately. In no case are you to assent to either conference or any preliminary meeting being held elsewhere than in Washington. Please make it plain that an immediate informal and unofficial exchange of views regarding the plans and agenda for both conferences will be welcomed by this Government. Unnecessary delay, however, is to be avoided.

Report by wire all developments. Similar telegrams have been sent to your colleagues at Paris, Rome and Tokyo.

  1. The same telegram, mutatis mutandis, to the representatives in France, Italy, and Japan. The substance was also communicated, in notes of the same date, to the British Chargé and the French Ambassador and the Italian and Japanese Appointed Ambassadors.