511.3 B 1/140: Telegram

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

1. Opening plenary session of Temporary Mixed Commission for the reduction of armaments took place this afternoon with Schanzer of Italy presiding. After initial business and announcement that the United States had sent representative, the chairman, followed by several of the delegates, made speeches eulogistical of the late President Wilson. It, therefore, became essential that I should respond. I said that as an American citizen I could not fail to acknowledge the tribute that had been paid to the memory of the late President and after speaking briefly of Mr. Wilson’s personal qualities, I expressed my appreciation of the action of the Commission in thus participating in our national sorrow. At the desire of the chairman, I then defined my status precisely as outlined in the Department’s number 8 to Berne, after which the meeting adjourned for 15 minutes in deference to the memory of Mr. Wilson.

The meeting then continued for 3 hours in a futile discussion of the mutual relation of functions as between Temporary Mixed Commission and the Permanent Advisory Commission. The next items on the agenda are the control of the traffic in arms and the private manufacture of arms and munitions. Although these items were originally listed separately, it is now proposed, on the motion of the French member, Colonel Fabri, to consider them simultaneously. If tomorrow it appears to be the intention of the Commission to combine these two subjects in a single convention, I shall make it clear that my instructions do not authorize me to entertain any subject other than that of the traffic in arms and munitions.

The texts of two draft conventions for the control of the traffic in arms have been circulated to the members of the Commission. One of them has clearly been drawn with a view to meeting our objections, although certain alterations would still have to be made. However, I consider it useless to telegraph it to the Department until the general attitude of the meeting towards its provisions is revealed.

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[Paraphrase.] The indications are that the French members privately are opposed to any solution in which the questions of private manufacture of arms and the traffic in arms are not combined. Private information indicates the difficulty, and probably the impossibility, of obtaining consideration of any convention which will completely separate from the League of Nations the supervision of the control over the traffic in arms. [End paraphrase.]