511.3 B 1/144: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Consul at Geneva ( Haskell )


1. Please deliver the following immediately to Mr. Grew:

Your telegram no. 5 of February 6, 7 p.m. Reference in our 9, February 2, 6 p.m., does not conflict with our instruction no. 53, September 12, 1923.27 It has not been my intention to suggest that only control of traffic in arms should be covered by the convention. Supposedly the control of manufacture would be in order to facilitate the control of traffic. The point I wish to make is that the American Government would not feel free to enter into any convention for the control of either the manufacture of or traffic in arms, or both, without being reasonably sure that Congress would pass the [Page 28] necessary legislation. It was quite evident that Congress would not do so in the interest of a convention like that of Saint Germain. Whether it would do so in the interest of a new convention will depend upon the character of the convention, and this Government must reserve decision on this until it understands the full scope of the proposals and has an opportunity to consult leaders in Congress. The basic objections to the Saint Germain Convention would have been equally strong whether the control of traffic or of manufacture was intended. The wish of this Government was to have you in a position to learn the nature of the proposals, to explain the position of the American Government as previously expressed regarding the Saint Germain Convention, and to refer proposals to the Department with complete information for consideration. In this respect it was not intended to make a distinction between manufacture and traffic. Regarding the former a separate question might arise, of course, regarding the extent of control.

It has been stated in press reports that you have indicated that this Government’s basic objection was to the proposal to vest administrative control in the League of Nations. This is incorrect. Although difficulties for this Government would arise through administration by the League of Nations, as the United States is not a member, the basic difficulties to which we called attention in our note regarding the Convention of Saint Germain would have existed had the League not been charged with its administration. Our basic objections were with respect to the freedom of parties to the convention to sell to each other and the prohibition against selling to others. After the extent and nature of control are decided upon, the question of administration is a subordinate one. We must reserve opinion as to whether any supervision satisfactory to the League authorities would be satisfactory to our Government until we see the actual plan. In the meantime, however, we do not want a mere question of administration given chief attention as if that were the difficulty in the way. It may well be that some form of administration acceptable to all could be found should the fundamental difficulties be removed.

As the Commission is probably about to adjourn, I shall not try to discuss the plan described in your telegram 3 of February 6, 3 p.m., except to say that it would be difficult, if not impossible, aside from other objections, for the United States to agree to refrain from selling arms to a government in this hemisphere not recognized by European powers but recognized by our Government.

Before giving further instructions as to attending meeting of the proposed subcommittee we will await your complete report and the text of the proposed convention or conventions.