The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Geddes)39

Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the communication of July 14, 1920, No. 430, in which you have been good enough to inform me that the representatives of Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, assembled at Spa, on account of the gravity of the situation in the Duchy of Teschen and because of the inability of the Czechoslovaks and Poles to accept a solution to be reached through arbitration or by plebiscite, had resolved to authorize their representatives at the Conference of Ambassadors assembled at Paris, to reach a decision which shall determine the frontier in Teschen, Orava, and Spicz.

At the same time you inform me that the delegates at Spa of Czechoslovakia and Poland had undertaken to accept whatever decision [Page 54] may be reached by the Conference of Ambassadors and you express the assurance that it will be agreeable to the Government of the United States to instruct its representative in the Conference of Ambassadors at Paris to agree to the resolutions which have been arrived at by the Allied representatives at Spa.

This Government has consistently maintained that the disposition of the territory in dispute should be settled by arbitration, by impartial judges or by a fairly conducted plebiscite, and has opposed arbitrary boundaries being imposed by the Great Powers. While the Czechoslovak and Polish delegates to the conference at Spa have agreed in the name of their governments to abide by the decision which the Conference of Ambassadors may make in determining the boundary lines in question, nevertheless it appears that their offer to accept this decision has been made only with great reluctance. The Government of the United States does not therefore consider that without the presentation of further facts to establish the justice of the proposed settlement, it could permit itself to depart from the policy which it has heretofore followed in this matter as indicated above, or unqualifiedly accept the frontier line suggested.

Nevertheless, realizing the desirability from every standpoint of reaching a speedy settlement of this perplexing problem, I beg to inform your Excellency that my Government is disposed to accept temporarily as a basis for future examination and rectification, the lines of demarcation in the Duchy of Teschen, in Orava and in Spicz, which you were good enough to indicate in the above-mentioned communication. I have therefore instructed the American Ambassador at Paris that inasmuch as the Czechoslovaks and Poles have authorized the Allies to fix boundaries in those regions, he should consent to the decision of the Conference upon condition that the question will then be submitted to an impartial commission for such rectification as may be deemed fair and expedient. It is earnestly hoped that the ultimate decision of this commission will be freely and without reservation accepted by the Governments of Czechoslovakia and Poland.

It is felt that this arrangement will accomplish the object which the Supreme Council assembled at Spa had in view without causing any undue delay in rectifying and settling this vexatious question.

The American Ambassador at Paris has been instructed to propose to the Conference that with the consent of Czechoslovakia and Poland, such a commission be designated either by those Great Powers which have more especially interested themselves in the settlement of the Teschen question, or that the Governments of Czechoslovakia and Poland should request the League of Nations to designate such a commission. He was further instructed to state [Page 55] that no member of the commission should be either a Czechoslovak or a Pole, and that the decision which the Conference of Ambassadors might reach be referred to the commission, however appointed, to be used as a basis for study in determining finally and definitely the boundary lines in question. This Government is of the opinion that the commission suggested above might very properly also serve as the commission to delimit on the spot the frontier in Teschen, Orava, and Spicz, and that, if possible, its decision should be reached not later than September 15, 1920.

Accept [etc.]

Bainbridge Colby
  1. The same, mutatis mutandis, to the Italian and Japanese Ambassadors and the French Chargé.