700.0011 R 34/3

Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conversation with the German Ambassador (Wiedfeldt), December 28, 1922

The Ambassador called to inquire with respect to the published reports that Germany had made a proposal to guarantee her boundaries or to enter into a peace agreement for thirty years. The Secretary asked where the reports were published. The Ambassador said they apparently came from London; that he was quite sure nothing had been said on the subject in Berlin. The Secretary said that nothing had been said here; that no one knew of the matter except the President, the French Ambassador, Mr. Phillips35 and Mr. Castle,36 and that no reports had emanated from Washington that had come to the Secretary’s attention.

The Secretary said that he had thought it unwise to submit to Great Britain, France and Italy the proposal of Germany for some engagement not to go to war for a generation without a plebiscite unless there was reason to believe that it would be considered sympathetically by France. The Secretary said that he thought it best to approach France in the first instance in an informal manner. The Ambassador expressed approval of this course.

The Secretary said that he had brought the matter before the French Ambassador and that he had suggested in presenting it that [Page 210] it was a very important proposal. The Secretary had said that if the nations resolved upon peace for a generation it could not but affect their disposition toward each other and that the psychology of peoples was an important matter to be considered in dealing with such a proposal. The Secretary had added that war was not popular; that it was no longer conducted by a professional class of soldiers whose interests only remotely affected the people at large; that every boy now knew that if he were able to walk he would be likely to be called to the front if there were a war; and that whatever Governments might be planning or think possible the Secretary was quite sure that the boys who were growing up would not desire in the light of what they had observed with respect to war to be called upon to engage in one.

The Secretary said that he had in his first interview with the French Ambassador referred to what the German Ambassador had presented and in another interview had read the text of the memorandum which the German Ambassador had left with the Secretary.

The Secretary said that the French Ambassador after communicating with his Government had informed the Secretary that they could not entertain the proposal; that under their constitutional system Parliament had, the power to engage in war without a plebiscite, and that to enter into such an agreement would require a change in their constitution which they could not contemplate.

The Ambassador said there were reports that the French had also said they could not trust the Germans. The Secretary said that he did not care to go into any comment of that sort, but it was true that in addition to the constitutional question it had been suggested that the German system of instruction was such that their youth were brought up to hate the French and to consider revenge, and that the French felt that until this was changed there would be no hope in an agreement which involved a plebiscite as that would readily be obtained if Germany desired to make war. The Secretary said he did not care to refer to or emphasize comments of that sort, in view of the constitutional difficulty which the French presented.

The Secretary added that he did not feel at liberty without the consent of both Governments to make public the conversations which had been had or the nature of the proposed agreement. He felt, however, that he was bound to state to the German Ambassador the response which had been made to the German proposal. The Secretary said that it was, of course, for the German Government to decide what it would say, if anything, with respect to their proposal and the result. The Secretary felt, however, that at this time it was important that nothing should be done to create further difficulties.

  1. William Phillips, Under Secretary of State.
  2. William R. Castle, Jr., Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs, Department of State.