574.D1/240b: Telegram

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


1127. Department’s 1124, November 4, 7 p.m.

Following is outline of our position in cable controversy. It is sent for your guidance in discussions with Foreign Office in London and for your own information.

This is not merely a question of disposal of ex-German cables. Our position is much broader. Our Government is compelled to insist that direct service by cable between United States and Germany be restored as a matter of principle. Our associates have temporarily deprived us of this service we enjoyed before the war. If we agreed with Japanese, French, and British position that these cables, upon the restoration of which we may rightfully insist but which they now operate to the disadvantage of the service, should be retained by them, it would injure our standing with our associates and antagonize public opinion in the United States. Thus, not only would our part in the war bring us nothing under the treaty, but we would be distinctly injured by the action of our associates. That the five Principal Allied and Associated Powers have title to the German cables acquired under the treaty is fully admitted. Unanimous consent is essential, not only to a division of ownership in this joint property, but also to the use of it by any one power.

We feel that under the erroneous impression that the statics quo will continue as at present if no agreement is arrived at, the French [Page 138] adhere to their unreasonable contentions. Since neither Italy nor the United States possessed any part of the ex-German cables in May, 1919, and under the status quo would have for an indefinite time no voice in the operation of such cables, thus enjoying none of the rights of ownership, such interpretation of the resolution of May 3 as the French propose would be absurd. Since the gentlemen’s agreement by which France and England joined to further their mutual claims for the said cables was arrived at before the United States entered the war, it does not appear that under new conditions such an agreement could be considered as valid, since it would prevent England and France from acting impartially as our associates.

Department believes English adoption of our position would bring a constructive and equitable solution of problem. Unless England courageously comes to our way of thinking, which we feel sure is sound, we fear an agreement will be impossible. The objection of the United States to further working of the cables under present arrangement, which would be necessary were no agreement reached, would be unfortunate and embarrassing.

Add following statement and repeat the above and our 1124 as Department’s 1614 to our Embassy in Paris.

We have received rumor to the effect that departure within a week from the Preliminary Conference on Communications without coming to an agreement is the intention of the French delegation, and that they realize the impossibility of arriving at any settlement while France adheres to its impossible demand for half of the German cables. Discreetly and in person you may suggest to the Foreign Office in Paris that it would be most serious should the Conference break up without discovering a solution and therefore that settlement must be reached, which can be brought about only if the essential and equitable rights of all powers concerned are respected by the interested powers.