500.A15a3/148: Telegram

The Ambassador in Great Britain (Dawes) to the Secretary of State

255. Following are the Prime Minister’s comments mentioned in the first sentence of his letter quoted in my 254, August 31, 10 a.m.

“August 30, 1929.

My dear General Dawes: I have had a very prolonged discussion today on the three notes you left me last night and regret exceedingly that I found I could not carry out the promise I made to you to let you have my report by about tea time. As a matter of fact, some [Page 215] extraordinarily difficult points are involved in the draft of the memorandum of agreement. I had better go through it paragraph by paragraph:

  • Paragraph 5. I agree.
  • Paragraph 6. I agree; though I think we might use the word ‘difficult’ instead of ‘impossible’.
  • Paragraph 7. I agree.
  • Paragraph 8. You told me last night that you were to urge that that should go out for the purpose of eliminating from the memorandum all references to a yardstick. If the President agrees to that, I shall agree. If he does not and this paragraph is retained, I agree.
  • Paragraph 9. I hope that this paragraph in any event will be deleted. If it remains in, it will mean that any agreement we may come to will run the risk of being sometimes upset by a yardstick constructed primarily not to meet our mutual requirements but requirements of a nature so different from ours as to call for a totally different yardstick.
  • Paragraph 10. We agree, but the wording would be influenced by paragraph 11 which I propose to alter as underneath. If the alteration were agreed to, the following words would require to be added to paragraph 10 ‘and paragraph 11 below’ because we are contemplating some premature scrapping in order to make this agreement easier to come to.
  • Paragraph 11. This paragraph, read with your accompanying, assumes that the new 6-inch cruisers will be of a standard tonnage of 4,000 each. A consideration of this point has been one of the causes of the prolonged examination I have had to give to your note. I find that today no naval power is building a 4,000 standard ton, 6-inch cruiser and therefore unless we could get other powers to use a percentage of the tonnage of 6-inch cruiser for the construction of 4,000 ton cruiser it would be impossible for us to build such a ship.

    In one of the notes accompanying the draft agreement you assume that in 1936 we shall still have our four ships of the Hawkins type in commission. As you will remember I have repeatedly said that I was willing to scrap these prematurely in order that this problem of distribution of tonnage within the cruiser category might be simplified.

    I repeat that I am willing to include that scrapping in the provisions of this agreement. The position regarding the provisions of paragraph 11, therefore, is as follows:

    I agree to fifty units in the category; but as you have assumed a 4,000 tonnage for each 6-inch cruiser to be built, and [which?] I find to be quite impracticable, your 330,000 maximum requires to be slightly expanded. We have worked at this very carefully with the determination to reduce it to its very minimum but it cannot be brought below 339,000.

    As regards the fifteen 8-inch units, I agree.

    As regards the four 7.5-gun cruisers, they will have disappeared before the end of 1936. As regards the remainder of the paragraph, it would then be worded as follows ‘of the balance of thirty-five, fourteen will be 6-inch replacement construction aggregating 91,000 tons, and twenty-one will be existing older 6-inch cruisers aggregating 101,200 tons. The following ships have been scrapped in the interval, i. e., before December 31st, 1936. Hawkins class aggregating 39,400 [Page 216] tons. Eighteen old, 6-inch cruisers aggregating 76,200 tons, the total tonnage scrapped being 115,600 showing a net reduction of 24,600 tons.’

  • Paragraph 12. On several occasions this has also been the subject of very prolonged consideration. Were I to agree to it as it is drafted it would mean that we should go into the Five-Power Conference with no agreed standard of American strength and I think you will agree that that would place our representatives in a very awkward position. It might indeed not only render the Five-Power Conference abortive but would throw our two countries back into a state of having no agreement at all. Supposing for instance you found that you could not reduce your 8-inch units below twenty-three and that one or other of the other Governments insisted upon using that figure for the purpose of calculating what number of units it could build upon a ratio agreed to. The British Government might then be faced with a situation which meant that in terms of ships it would have to accept not the ratio agreed to but equality, then we should have to increase our fifteen and that in turn would upset your twenty-three and with that would go the whole of our agreement. We have tried every way we could conceive of getting round the difficulty and we have been unable to find one. I would therefore urge you to make this paragraph a definite statement of your conception of parity in units. If we cannot come to an agreement upon this now it only means that we postpone it and face failure in a few months. In the note commenting upon the yardstick you come to the conclusion that the yardstick on certain figures permits the shortening of the American program by at least one 8-inch ship of ten thousand tons. If I have followed the figures discussed in the latest memorandum which replies in detail to my last note, the difference between us even on your own calculation is practically equal to two 8-inch cruisers, bringing your figure of twenty-three down to twenty-one. In addition to that in the figures upon which you base your calculation is included the group of four Hawkins bearing a specially high valuation—in your own words (Department will realize this is taken from Embassy’s paraphrase) used in the note in front of me August 29th. ‘We are of the opinion that the Hawkins cruisers would remain well within comparative range of four cruisers of the 8-inch type’ or again a few lines earlier in the same paragraph ‘Our advisers look upon the four cruisers of the Hawkins type of 40,000 tons as substantially comparable to four 8-inch cruisers of the 10,000 type’.

    As I say we propose to scrap these and to replace them by 6-inch vessels the tonnage of which is included in our 339,000 figure.

  • Paragraph 13. This paragraph commits us to considering that question of the police cruiser. I would go further and say that I should consider it with great sincerity but it must be understood that tonnage could not be used for this unless we could get an agreement from the Five-Power Conference. In that consideration there would have to be taken into account the points mentioned in my last note under this heading.
  • Paragraphs 14, 15, and 16. I agree.

I am sorry for the delay, but it could not be helped.

Yours very sincerely, J. Ramsay MacDonald.”

  1. Telegram in three sections.