560.M2/46: Telegram

The Chief of the American Delegation ( Wilson ) to the Secretary of State

12, My 11, October 20, 10 p.m. I spoke extemporaneously approximately to the following effect in the important sections of the speech. Relative to article 7, I followed instructions closely.

“With regard to article 5 French delegate Serruys was inspired to make the very wise suggestion that we could have the benefit of this debate and the benefit of other suggestions made by other delegations before putting in certain of our amendments. We have been working on an amendment which we have not yet phrased to our satisfaction but which we expect to submit. With reference to the words ‘to protect the vital economic and financial interests’ we feel that this clause is so broad that its effect might nullify the purpose of this convention. We fear that under the guise of ‘vital interests’ so many exceptions and prohibitions and limitations can be imposed that the convention may prove of little value if finished in this form. What we are therefore seeking is some phraseology which can perhaps be substituted therefor and we suggest ‘in case of war or national calamity’. I do not feel that this constitutes such a change in article 5 as to merit the reproach that this is in effect something quite different from what was anticipated.

With respect to article 4 we feel that we are undertaking a very solemn obligation when we sign this document and that therefore we must know exactly to the last iota the scope and extent of the obligations which we undertake before affixing our signature thereto. We believe that the exchange must be reduced to the necessary minimum but we lay as much emphasis upon the word necessary as we do upon the word minimum. Despite opinions expressed to the effect that article 2 or other articles may cover any necessary exceptions we are not perfectly certain that an international court which after all is the last resort would agree with the opinions expressed. We therefore want to know before rather than after the fact exactly where we stand. I want to emphasize in connection [Page 275] with article 4 simply that we must know just where we stand and we must therefore insist or rather urge the acceptance of such a resolution as we submitted regarding standards. Also we must adhere to [and] urge the acceptance of a further resolution proposed by the British delegation regarding prison-made goods which falls within another category of our laws. In so doing we do not feel that we are loosening the convention but rather making it more exact and more obligatory than it is in its present form.

With regard to Sir Sidney Chapman’s statement that he felt that the path to follow was to draw up the kind of document that would induce a maximum number of states to adhere thereto, of course we also want to see the maximum number of states adhere to that document. We feel however that there is a certain danger that the Conference may be led in its desire to gather all the states into such fold to sanction international practices which we are brought together to abolish.”