511.3 B 1/89a

The Secretary of State to the British Chargé (Chilton)

The Secretary of State presents his compliments to the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of Great Britain, and, referring to the desire expressed by the Embassy that this Government should ratify the Arms Traffic Convention signed at St. Germain September 10, 1919, begs to say that most careful study has been given the question, and that the Government of the United States is in cordial sympathy with efforts suitably to restrict traffic in arms and munitions of war.

As evidence of its interest in the matter, it may be recalled that by a joint resolution approved April 22, 1898,86 as amended March 12 [14] 1912,87 the following provision was made with respect to the regulation of the shipment of arms from the United States:

“That whenever the President shall find that in any American country conditions of domestic violence exist which are promoted by the use of arms or munitions of war procured from the United States, and shall make proclamation thereof, it shall be unlawful to export except under such limitations and exceptions as the President shall prescribe any arms or munitions of war from any place in the United States to such country until otherwise ordered by the President or by Congress.”

By a resolution approved January 31, 1922,88 this provision of law was extended so as to include any country in which the United States exercises extraterritorial jurisdiction.

[Page 555]

After a careful examination of the terms of the Convention, it has been decided that the objections found thereto render impossible ratification by this Government.

While the application of the Convention to certain designated areas or zones, extending in effect the Brussels Convention,89 may fulfill a useful object, the plan of the present Convention is much broader. As has been pointed out, the distinctive feature of this plan is not a provision for a general limitation of armament, but the creation of a system of control by the signatory powers of the traffic in arms and munitions, these signatory powers being left free not only to meet their own requirements in the territories subject to their jurisdiction but to provide for supplying each other with arms and munitions to the full extent that they may see fit.

There is particular objection to the provisions by which the contracting parties would be prohibited from selling arms and munitions to states not parties to the Convention. By such provisions, this Government would be required to prevent shipments of military supplies to any of the following Latin American countries, (which it is understood have not signed or adhered to the Convention), viz., Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Salvador, however desirable it might be to permit such shipments, merely because they are not signatory powers and might not desire to adhere to the Convention.

Finally, it may be observed that the provisions of the Convention; relating to the League of Nations are so intertwined with the whole Convention as to make it impracticable for this Government to ratify, in view of the fact that it is not a member of the League of Nations.

  1. 30 Stat. 739.
  2. 37 Stat. 630.
  3. 42 Stat. 361.
  4. Of July 2, 1890; Malloy, Treaties, 1776–1909, vol. 2, pp. 1964 ff.