800.30/9: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Herrick) to the Secretary of State


689. Department’s 552, December 16. This evening I saw M. Briand and gave him your note. He had evidently received advices from Washington, as he said he had consulted with Minister of Marine and Chief of Naval Staff this morning and had given instructions that French requirements in capital ships should be pressed to utmost. He said that the Cabinet had approved these instructions at its meeting this morning. He will of course answer you himself, but said I could give you the assurance that he would reach an agreement with you on the matter of capital ships. Briand [Page 135] added that he feared the British and did not want this agreement to be used against France later in matter of destroyers, light cruisers, and especially submarines. He stated that Parliament would never consent to great reductions in these defensive ships, as the protection of public sentiment also was vital to France. He seemed annoyed at reports of Balfour’s proposal for suppression of submarines. He earnestly hoped you would not agree to such a proposal. From tone of conversation I feel convinced that ratio of capital ships will be arranged satisfactorily. I incline to the belief that if French delegation has recently shown obstinacy, it was due partly to Briand’s desire to secure concessions later on small ships, and partly to his desire not to give additional weapons to his adversaries, who constantly accuse him of making too many concessions. Last night’s vote of confidence in the Senate after a stiff fight has now freed his hands at least temporarily. There is no doubt that Briand appreciates importance to France and the world of success of the Conference.