Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conversation with the British Ambassador (Geddes), February 23, 1923
The Ambassador said that he had received a request from Lord Curzon some days ago to speak to the Secretary about the matters mentioned below, but on account of illness he had not been able to make an earlier appointment:
1. Ruhr Situation—The Ambassador said that he had reported to Lord Curzon the Secretary’s inquiry at his last interview as to what the British Government thought could be done, and Lord Curzon had expressed his appreciation. The Ambassador said that Lord Curzon did not feel that there was anything that could be done at the moment, but the Ambassador said that while Lord [Page 56] Curzon’s message was very brief, being not nearly as full as his ordinary communications, he gathered that Lord Curzon felt that the time was approaching when something could be done although he did not indicate what evidence he had of this. The Secretary asked whether the Ambassador had any information indicating that the French were any less determined to go through with their plan. The Ambassador said that he had not.
The Ambassador asked whether the Secretary had heard of any rumors of an intention by the French to make a further advance. The Secretary said that he had nothing beyond what had appeared in the newspapers with respect to their intention to go to whatever extent was necessary to overcome the German resistance.
The Ambassador asked what in case there should be a favorable opening the Secretary thought would be a suitable course of procedure. The Secretary said he did not care to discuss a purely hypothetical matter. The Secretary said that what might be taken up as an hypothesis might soon develop into a proposal and he would be put in a position of having made some definite suggestion whereas the situation would not permit a definite suggestion. He thought if any plan appeared in the future to be feasible it would be in the light of the events then existing which could not now be foreseen.
The Secretary said that he felt that in all probability there would have to be some preliminary process of investigation in order to determine upon a satisfactory plan. The Ambassador agreed to this, but said he supposed the Governments concerned would have to agree in advance to abide by the result. The Secretary said that there was an obvious advantage in that, but there was also a disadvantage; if Governments agreed to be bound in advance, then the inquiry would be a strictly governmental inquiry conducted by representatives of Governments and in all probability the situation would be about the same as that which existed at the time of the Premiers’ Conferences. The Secretary said that he had hoped that this political difficulty could be avoided by having impartial experts examine the matter; that in that event the Governments could not agree to be bound in advance, of course, but if they were disposed to acquiesce in the constitution of such a board the moral effect of their findings would be very great, perhaps inescapable. The Secretary said that he had stated his views on this point in his New Haven speech and at the moment he did not care to go beyond that. The Ambassador said he felt that nothing could be done at this time, as the French were bound to go ahead. The Secretary said that each side would probably have to “enjoy its own bit of chaos” until a disposition to a fair settlement had been created.
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