500.A4/1: Telegram

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


568. Curzon20 orally requested me, late on the afternoon of July 5, to propose to my Government that the President invite powers directly concerned to take part in conference to be held to consider all essential matters bearing upon Far East and Pacific Ocean with a view to arriving at a common understanding designed to assure settlement by peaceful means, the elimination of naval warfare, consequent elimination of arms, etc. This was official by Cabinet’s direction. In answer to my inquiry as to whether he regarded the question as pressing, requiring an immediate answer, or whether purposes would be served by my conveying message by mail, thus enabling me to present simultaneously a comprehensive survey of whole situation, he replied that the latter method seemed entirely satisfactory since the Japanese Ambassador had notified that several days at least would be required interpreting views from his Government upon same subject.

Yesterday, while I was engaged in preparing such survey for today’s pouch, Curzon informed me that a new element had entered the situation which seemed to require attention immediately. This was that Lloyd George21 had informed him that he could no longer withstand importunate inquiries in House of Commons regarding the alliance22 and cognate subjects and felt that he must respond yesterday, July 7, to the effect that his Government had inquired of the United States, Japan, and China and was waiting for an expression of their views. Curzon informed me that he had demurred to this program if it involved anything definite until I had an opportunity to communicate his official proposal to Washington. In view of Curzon’s statement to me that the matter was not imminent the Prime Minister consented to make a general statement last evening, coupled however with a virtual pledge that on Monday23 he would speak more specifically. In pursuance of this correspondence he replied as follows to a series of questions in the House of Commons last night.

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“I hope soon to be in a position to make a statement on this important subject. I am very hopeful of being able to do so on Monday. It depends upon the replies received from the United States of America, Japan and China. A premature declaration would interfere with the success of the negotiations now proceeding. Pressed by several members for information concerning various points the right honorable gentleman added that he thought that it would be found that his statement would be of a comprehensive character. He certainly would not suggest that the House should not discuss the subject if the House really desired to do so after having heard his statement but he thought the request for an opportunity of discussion should be made after the House had heard what action the Government proposed to take.”24

In view of this situation Curzon asked that I immediately communicate his proposal to my Government and make every effort to obtain a reply not later than Monday morning in order to enable the Prime Minister to incorporate it in his formal statement to House of Commons. I am now complying with Curzon’s request.

Feeling here is daily becoming stronger against renewal of Anglo- Japanese alliance. Curzon unhesitatingly stated that any such special arrangement would necessarily be extinguished by an understanding such as contemplated. …

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

… It is true that the Prime Minister is being pressed for reply but I suppose he is not averse to acquiring credit for initiating a movement which may prove to be the most far-reaching and effective ever known for world peace. It is clear that if you reply favorably to proposal of British Government and the Prime Minister so announces in Parliament he will achieve that distinction whether purposely or not. The President would then be in a position, which I consider harmful and distasteful, of acting at the instigation of Lloyd George, thereby depriving himself of his rightful credit and antagonizing all anti-British elements in United States. For your and the President’s consideration I suggest that this be forestalled by the President issuing statement for publication Sunday, if possible, but if not then on Monday morning, to this effect: Having ourselves conceived as a result of inquiries that nations vitally or intimately concerned in questions relating to Pacific Ocean and Far East would favorably respond to invitations to meet in conference to try to effect an understanding which would tend to insure peaceful relations through safeguarding equitably and fairly the interests of all and thus make possible suitable limitation of armaments, the President has decided to issue such invitations as soon as time, place and other necessary preliminaries could be arranged. Then the [Page 21] Prime Minister’s reply on Monday would necessarily consist of the initiatory statement of the President and an expression of the British Government’s acquiescence as it should be.

I may say that Curzon, after several interviews with Japanese Ambassador, informed me that he felt sure Japan would readily acquiesce. The Chinese Minister, who has just left me, said that although he had not received definite word from his Government, I might safely take it for granted that they would gladly take part in any conference proposed by the President. If it is decided to continue with the matter, who else should be included is a very ticklish question which would require most careful consideration from all points of view and this also applies to time and place. Curzon as sures me that his Government would accept any suggestions the United States might make upon all such questions which would later arise and he believes he could induce Japan to do likewise.

If it is decided to issue such a statement as I have suggested please see that I get it at the earliest time to insure its appearance in the Monday morning papers here. It would be desirable for me to have whatever answer is made to Curzon’s official request at the earliest moment, as on Monday morning I am under summons to meet with him and Lloyd George. I had hoped to present to you many matters of collateral interest in the general survey I had in mind but I think I have included all of immediate importance. I have arranged with the Commercial Cable Company to keep the wires absolutely cleared for our possible use in case any questions occur to you as to phases I may have overlooked. There should, therefore, be time for queries and answers to pass.

  1. Telegram in two sections.
  2. Earl Curzon of Kedleston, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  3. David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury.
  4. For papers on the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese alliance, see vol. ii, pp. 313 ff.
  5. July 11.
  6. Quoted statement not paraphrased.