574.D1/240a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Great Britain (Wright)


1124. 1. Principal Allied and Associated Powers by part VIII, annex VII of the Treaty of Versailles are ceded certain German [Page 136] cables. That the partition of said cables or their distribution should be by a conference, at a later date, of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers was plainly intended. Paragraph 2 of the protocol of May 318 provided that although those cables then in operation should continue so to be operated without change in condition, the right of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers to determine as they might wish the future status of such cables should not be prejudiced by such operation. Plans for working any of the said cables not then in operation might be made by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers as they might wish.

2. The settlement of the disposition of the cables was the purpose of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers in attending the Preliminary Communications Conference. That the said Powers own an undivided joint interest in the ceded cables all agree. The definite position of the American Delegation at the Conference is that the United States agreed to operation of the cables as at present with no prejudice to final settlement until the Principal Allied and Associated Powers could meet to determine how they should be disposed of; and also that consent of all of said Powers is essential for authorizing further working of the cables on conditions now existing if this conference can arrive at no agreement upon their disposal, even though they can be distributed only by unanimous consent. The American Delegation has likewise clearly asserted that after the termination of this Conference the United States would not give its consent to any continuation of the present operation of all the cables. Furthermore, attention has been called to the fact that without unanimous consent none of the cables at present unused can be put into operation by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers.

3. After discussions between the American and British delegates there is reason to feel that in the matter of the Penzance–Halifax cable a satisfactory settlement can be reached. However, in regard to the Yap and the New York-Brest cables some clashes of opinion have arisen between the French and Japanese and the American delegations. The claim of France to over 9,000 miles of cable, comprising all the German cables reaching up the African West Coast to France, the Pernambuco–Monrovia, and the New York–Brest cables, is thought to be unreasonable. Although declaring themselves handicapped by a Franco-British gentlemen’s agreement calling for mutual support of each other’s claims and agreed to when the Halifax cable was diverted, some of the delegates of Great Britain have intimated their personal belief that French claim is not reasonable.

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American delegates believe that, provided an understanding to the effect that continued operation of the cables will necessitate consent of all can be arrived at to furnish an incentive to agreement in the Conference, and provided British Foreign Office relieves its delegates of the obligation to back the present unreasonable claims of France, a settlement, reasonable and satisfactory to all, can be reached. It is suggested in confidence by British delegates that Foreign Office be informed of these considerations so that they may be given instructions allowing them to cooperate in bringing to pass a satisfactory settlement. All Allied agreements hostile to our interests as an associate should automatically have been cancelled by American entry into the war.

Kindly bring this immediately to the attention of Foreign Office, urging favorable action be taken at once, and telegraph results to Department.

  1. See telegram no. 1159, May 15, 1920, from the Ambassador in France, p. 121.