The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Herrick)70

[No.] 829

Sir: The Conference on the Limitation of Armament at Washington adopted on February 4, 1922, a Resolution71 for the appointment of a Commission representing the United States, the British Empire, France, Italy and Japan to consider the following questions:

Do existing rules of international law adequately cover new methods of attack or defense resulting from the introduction or development, since The Hague Conference of 1907, of new agencies of warfare?
If not so, what changes in the existing rules ought to be adopted in consequence thereof as a part of the law of nations?

Article IV of the Resolution declared:

“that the Commission shall report its conclusions to each of the Powers represented in its membership. Those Powers shall thereupon confer as to the acceptance of the report and the course to be followed to secure the consideration of its recommendations by the other civilized Powers.”

With the unanimous concurrence of the Powers mentioned in the above resolution an invitation to participate in the work of the Commission was extended to and accepted by the Netherlands Government. Moreover, it was agreed that the program of the Commission should be limited to the preparation of Rules relating to Aerial Warfare, and to Rules relating to the Use of Radio in Time of War.

A Commission of Jurists representative of the six Powers mentioned met in conference at The Hague from December 11, 1922, to February 19, 1923. That Commission has prepared a set of Rules for the Control of Radio in Time of War,72 and also a set of Rules [Page 94]for Aerial Warfare73 which were reported to the Powers aforesaid by the Commission. In its Report the Commission expressed belief “that if these sets of rules are approved and brought into force, it will be found expedient to make provision for their reexamination after a relatively brief term of years to see whether any revision is necessary”.73a

The Government of the United States is led to believe that the Rules as reported represent a finer achievement with respect to the matters dealt with than could be anticipated from the action of any other international body, and that they mark a distinct step forward in promoting the work of international justice in time of war. It is, therefore, disposed to initiate proceedings looking to the adoption of the Rules by the several Powers which cooperated in their formulation. This Government is accordingly prepared to make known to the other interested Powers its readiness, in conjunction with them, to accept both sets of Rules as reported, and to make inquiry whether they would be disposed to conclude Conventions in such a sense, annexing the Rules thereto. As an appropriate basis for such Conventions, the Department believes that the outline of a treaty proposed by the American delegation on the Commission of Jurists on February 12, 1923,74 would suffice. That Convention, embracing three short Articles, provides, after a preamble, (a) for the issuance of instructions to military and naval forces in conformity with the annexed Rules respecting the use of aircraft (or radio telegraphy); (b) that the annexed Rules be regarded not as superseding but as supplementing the Rules as they may from time to time exist, the observance of which in warfare is enjoined by international law and usage, by international conventions, and by the dictates of humanity and the public conscience; and (c) that the annexed Rules shall remain in force until July 1, 1933, and that in case none of the Contracting Parties shall, eighteen months before that date, have given notice of a desire for the revision of the Rules, they shall continue in force until the expiration of eighteen months after notice of a desire for such revision shall be given; the Contracting Parties further agreeing that, within ten months after such notice has been given, they will meet in conference for the purpose of revising the Rules.

To the foregoing might possibly be added a fourth Article providing for the adherence of States other than the Powers above mentioned.

You will accordingly, at an early date, bring to the attention of the Government of the State to which you are accredited the substance [Page 95]of the foregoing statement. You will make it clear that the Government of the United States is ready, in conjunction with the Powers above mentioned, to accept the two sets of Rules reported by the Commission of Jurists. You will inquire whether the Government of the State to which you are accredited would be disposed to conclude with the United States and the Powers above mentioned two Conventions such as were proposed by the American delegation at The Hague, February 12, 1923, and as above outlined (including a fourth Article as proposed above), to one of which the Rules for the Control of Radio in Time of War should be annexed, and to the other the Rules for Aerial Warfare should be annexed; both Conventions to be ratified according to the constitutional requirements of the signatory States. You are further directed to inform such Government that the Government of the United States is prepared, in conjunction with the several Powers mentioned above, to authorize the signature of Conventions such as those proposed.

I am [etc.]

Charles E. Hughes
  1. The same to the Ambassadors in Great Britain (No. 27), Italy (No. 477), and Japan (No. 87), and to the Minister in the Netherlands (No. 80).
  2. Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, p. 288.
  3. Ibid., 1923, vol. i, p. 69.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1923, vol. i, p. 73.
  5. Ibid., pp. 67, 68.
  6. Not printed.