840.00/33: Telegram

The Chargé in Great Britain ( Sterling ) to the Secretary of State

61. Yesterday’s Times contained a long despatch from Washington giving what purports to be the substance of a report on conditions in Europe made by Ambassador Houghton64 to the President and the Secretary of State. I did not cable this on account of the origin of the despatch but in view of your circular telegram dated March 19, 6 p.m.,65 just received, hereunder follows a part of the article:

“Baldly stated, the Ambassador has this to say: The continent of Europe, so far as its statesmen are concerned, has learned nothing [Page 61] from the war; the League of Nations, far from becoming a truly international instrument for the organization of peace, is moving toward a revival of the alliance of 1815 with the tremendous difference that it cannot hope to guarantee 40 years’ tranquillity in Europe; in this movement France is the leader with certain satellite powers aiding and abetting and with the British Government reluctantly carried along—reluctantly because the tide of British feeling sets strongly in the opposite direction and yet in the opinion of Sir Austen Chamberlain, inevitable because cooperation with France is desirable in the Near East and elsewhere; the powers of the European continent do not genuinely wish to disarm and do not relish or want American participation in their councils; the Preliminary Arms Conference at Geneva will meet, if it does meet, to discuss proposals upon which agreement is neither desired nor expected and which have been deliberately and disingenuously advanced in order to make failure certain.”

Comment follows to the effect that pessimistic nature of the report may definitely influence American policy [as regards] Europe towards greater isolation. Various newspapers of this morning comment upon it in either special articles or editorials.

Today’s Manchester Guardian in a despatch from New York speaks of the administration as definitely retreating from its resolution to discuss international disarmament with the League.

“For the first time in recent years an anonymous semiofficial statement has been issued in Washington of the allies [pessimistically] discussing the state of Europe. The statement suggests that Europe has reverted to the theory of balance of power adding that this policy is an immemorial war breeder.”

The Daily Express and Daily Chronicle refer to the report as in opposition to the League and to Chamberlain. Westminster Gazette states:

“We sympathize with the resentment so widely spread in the United States that we should still be so brought as at Geneva to the cynical lead of France. It was quite wise and right for the United States to stand aloof until we establish a better order in Europe.”

Diplomatic correspondent of the Daily Telegraph writes that British and European diplomatic circles yesterday were completely taken aback by the action of the American administration in communicating to the public press the substance of the report which Mr. Houghton had submitted to the President and the State Department. As possible reasons for this procedure the writer considers that it may be desirable to prepare American public opinion for a change of foreign policy towards isolationism and that the effect of this exposure may help to clear the air and deal a blow to the revival of secret diplomacy [Page 62] and intrigue. He further says that Mr. Houghton exerted himself on behalf of the Locarno Pact.66

“In this connection he (Mr. Houghton) brought his powerful influence to bear on Berlin. He was, however, disappointed at the sequel, holding that Germany had been forced into unwarranted concessions, e.g., in relation to her Eastern and Southern neighbors, and still more by the Allied refusal to evacuate the Rhineland as the logical repercussion of a pact said to be bilateral. This omission he apparently regards as the negotiation [negation] of the true spirit of peace and reconciliation which Locarno was supposed to embody. It explains his utter lack of confidence in Locarno at this date. His distrust of Europe has since been considerably heightened: first, by the intrigues which led to the postponement of the Preliminary Disarmament Conference; and, secondly, by those which preceded the recent session of the League at Geneva. The continental powers, he declares, are not sincerely anxious for disarmament, least of all France, which is determined not to disarm on the proportionate basis of the Versailles Treaty” …67 “Italy and Japan, he thinks, are associated with France in the endeavor to oppose the White House in any real scheme for the reduction of arms as well as for a separate naval conference at Washington desired by President Coolidge, just as the new Latin syndicate within the League is designed, in his opinion, to thwart Great Britain. Mr. Houghton considers Great Britain to be the only honest and pacific state among the powers of Europe but he thinks that official policy of conciliation although genuine, is misguided and weak in its subservience to continental, and in particular French, influences.”

[Paraphrase.] Discussion in private circles, as far as I have heard of it, is expressive of surprise at the Ambassador’s frank utterances but is in no wise unfavorable to him.

  1. Mr. Alanson B. Houghton, Ambassador in Great Britain, who was temporarily in Washington.
  2. To the Embassies in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and the Legation in Switzerland, stating that “In view of unauthorized stories in the press the Department is today making following announcement:

    ‘The Department of State today announced that neither Ambassador Houghton nor Minister Gibson [Minister in Switzerland] has divulged to any unofficial person the nature of their reports to the President or Secretary Kellogg.’” (File No. 840.00/31.)

  3. The common term of reference for the documents signed at Locarno between the representatives of the Governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Poland; see Great Britain, Cmd. 2525, Miscellaneous No. 11 (1925), Final Protocol of the Locarno Conference, 1925.
  4. Omission indicated in the original telegram.