511.3 B 1/141: Telegram

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

2. At the opening of today’s meeting it was tacitly agreed on the proposal of Lord Cecil that discussion on the traffic in arms and on the private manufacture of arms should be conducted simultaneously but that separate conventions should be drawn to cover the two subjects. Later developments indicated, however, that French members still hoped to conclude one convention combining the two subjects.

In a later address Cecil stated that “The League has the greatest amount of authority in the world,” and that for this reason the machinery of the League should be used for the supervision of the control of the traffic in arms. This was obviously an attempt to dissuade the United States from insisting on the supervision of this control by any other body. With this object in view he quoted Congressman Porter as having said that for this same reason the control of the traffic in opium should be supervised by the League. These two subjects will be referred to a subcommittee tomorrow presided over by Lebrun, one of the French members.

Cecil then proposed the following draft resolution intended to cover the nonconflicting general principles in the Convention of Saint Germain and in addition two drafts already prepared in order to guide the subcommittee in its labors:

  • “1. It is desirable that the international traffic in arms should be controlled and for that purpose a distinction should be established between weapons and munitions of war and other weapons.
  • 2. Weapons and munitions of war should only be sold to governments or bodies recognized as belligerents.
  • 3. Whatever other steps may be taken for the control of the traffic in arms, full publicity should be secured for all international dealings.
  • 4. Special regulations should apply to certain territory restricting or prohibiting altogether all traffic in arms.”

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This resolution evoked the opposition of the French members, the Italian member and the chairman and a serious effort was made by them to prevent a vote from taking place on the resolution. The vote was postponed.

The afternoon meeting was chiefly devoted to an inconclusive discussion of the duties which should devolve upon the subcommittee upon which I have been requested to sit. It will probably consider in detail the various drafts already laid before the commission after they have been [apparent omission] and freely discussed by the plenary commission tomorrow morning.

[Paraphrase.] I have received private information that the lengthy parliamentary discussion of today and yesterday has taken place because of the fact that members of the Permanent Advisory Commission are attempting to bring about the dissolution of the Temporary Mixed Commission, not wishing to cede to it any privilege.

Despite Cecil’s emphatic statement that the League of Nations should have the supervision of the traffic in arms, apparently his resolution is an effort to meet our views. The reason for the French opposition to this proposal appears to be that France either does not wish any convention at all for the traffic in arms to be adopted or else wants to have one convention cover both the traffic in arms and the private manufacture of arms. [End paraphrase.]

Grew