700.0011 R 34/2

Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conversation with the French Ambassador (Jusserand), December 21, 1922


2. German proposal as to agreement not to make war without a plebiscite. The Ambassador said that he had communicated all the Secretary had said on this point to M. Poincaré, and that M. Poincaré had replied to the effect that France could not enter into such an agreement without a change in her Constitution; that under her Constitution Parliament had the determination of making war and it required an amendment to alter this. The Ambassador, with the telegram in his hand, apparently paraphrased its content in saying further that the Germans could not be relied upon, and that if they wanted to make war they could easily get a vote to that effect; that it would be necessary for them to change their entire attitude towards the French; that they were now resentful and hated the French and were looking for revenge.

The Secretary said that he had received from the German Ambassador the text of the German suggestion. The Secretary then read the following proposal:

“That France, Great Britain, Italy and Germany solemnly agree among themselves and promise the Government of the United States, that they will not resort to war against each other for a period of one generation without being authorized to do so by a plebiscite of their own people, Germany would not hesitate to enter such an obligation.”

The Ambassador caught at the words “and promise the Government of the United States.” He asked whether that meant that the Government of the United States would guarantee such an agreement. The Secretary said that it would not; that he did not think any such guarantee could be looked for. The Ambassador said that it would be very important if the United States were brought into the matter; that that might possibly affect the disposition of the French, even to amend their Constitution. The Secretary said that he did not understand that the proposal contemplated that the United States should bind itself in the matter; that apparently it was the intention of the German Government to give an added solemnity and weight to their promise by making it run to the United States; that while the United States in such case would not become bound on its part to any action, it would be entitled to complain if the promise were broken and that Germany knowing that the United States could complain of the breach of such a solemn agreement running to itself [Page 207] would be the more indisposed to break it. The Ambassador said he appreciated this and asked whether that would require the assent of the Senate. The Secretary said that that depended whether or not there was a treaty which bound the United States to obligations. The Secretary said that if there was merely a promise running to the United States without any treaty engagement it might be regarded as in the nature of a convention which would not require the assent of the Senate, as the United States would not be bound to any action under it. But the Executive would merely receive the promise of another Government which could take the form of a protocol.

The Ambassador said that M. Poincaré did not trust the Germans and did not think that such a promise could be relied upon.

The Secretary said that in such matters the resolve of the Government was important; that with nations as well as with individuals, there was great power in autosuggestion; that if a nation determined to set itself towards peace and not war this could not but be regarded as helpful and if they made a solemn vow not to engage in war without their people endorsing such action, and other nations did the same thing, this would be an important step toward the maintenance of peace.

The Secretary pointed out that peoples were not as fond of war as they had been; that now that soldiers were not of a professional class but that a whole people might be drawn in and that every young man who could walk was apt to be called to arms, and with the improvements in bombing planes, long-range guns and poison gases, war was not an attractive thing to young men, and that there would be an increased disposition to oppose it. It seemed to the Secretary that such considerations were not light, and the Ambassador said he agreed and would say more to M. Poincaré upon that point.

  1. The first part of this memorandum is printed on p. 195.