511.3 B 1/128a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Grew)

61. For your information only.

In making public this afternoon the text of the note transmitted to the League of Nations with regard to the Arms Traffic Convention, see Department’s 52 [53], September 12, 5 p.m., the following statement was issued to the press:

“In making public the text of the communication to the League of Nations with regard to the Arms Traffic Convention, it was pointed out that the refusal to ratify the Convention for the reasons therein stated did not indicate that this Government was less anxious than other powers suitably to control the traffic in arms. Quite the contrary is the case as is shown by the action of the Executive under existing legislation and by the policy which has actually been adopted in taking the measures for the proper restraint of this traffic which lay within the authority of the executive departments of the Government.

In a letter from the late President to the Secretary of War, dated April 23rd, which was made public on April 24th, Mr. Harding stated:

‘…42 I hope it will be the policy of the War Department not only to make no sales of war equipment to any foreign power, but that you will go further and make certain that public sales to our own citizens will be attended by proper guarantees that such supplies are not to be transferred to any foreign power. I would gladly waive aside any financial advantage that might attend [Page 43] such sales to make sure that none of our surplus equipment is employed in encouraging warfare any place in the world. I am writing a similar note to the Secretary of the Navy and shall confidently expect the cooperation of both Departments in adhering to this policy.’

The Executive branch of the Government is not in a position to intervene in transactions which are wholly within the law; but not desiring to encourage other powers to arm themselves for conflict, which is deemed contrary to the spirit of the country, this Government, in addition to adopting a strict policy with regard to the sale of surplus government army stores, has replied to the recent inquiries which it has received that it does not encourage the shipment of war material to the troubled areas of the world. This stand has been taken although this Government was not unmindful of the fact that intending purchasers would no doubt resort to other markets to supply their wants. It may also be added that under present conditions the Department would not favor the flotation of a foreign loan in this country for which the proceeds would be utilized for armament.

The objections made by this Government to the ratification of the Convention of Saint Germain dealt with matters which were believed to be fundamental and which did not lend themselves to suggestions of modifications which would be consistent with the structure of the Convention.”

Mail text of Department’s note, as well as press statement to London, Paris and Rome for their information only.

  1. Omission indicated in the original telegram.