Dr. Manley O. Hudson14 to the Under Secretary of State (Cotton)

Dear Mr. Cotton: A few days ago our newspapers carried a report of a statement by Mr. Gordon at the Conference in Paris on the Treatment of Foreigners and Foreign Enterprises. Mr. Gordon [Page 437] was reported to have said that the Government of the United States could not enter into such a treaty as is proposed at Paris because some of the matters in the treaty had been reserved to the states by our Constitution. (New York Times, November 7, 1929, p. 8.)

For several years, representatives of the Government of the United States in international conferences have taken the view that our treaty-making power is very limited because of the federal nature of our Government. This was noticeably true in the drafting of Part XIII (Labor) of the Treaty of Versailles,15 and at the Conference on Traffic in Arms in 1925.16 The position taken seems to me so important for the future of this country, that I should like to bring it to your special attention. Surely since the decision in Missouri v. Holland (1920) 252 U. S. 416, the Migratory Bird Case, the doubts about the extent of our treaty-making power should be allayed. There may be excellent reasons why the United States should not participate in a particular treaty, or why the Department would not care to have the question debated in the Senate; but it does seem that our Government ought not to stultify itself by placing on our constitutional situation the most limited interpretation of the treaty-making power.

I very much hope that while you are in the Department something can be done to make current a different attitude toward the treaty-making power. Won’t you have the matter in mind?

Faithfully yours,

Manley O. Hudson
  1. Director of Research in International Law at Harvard University.
  2. Malloy, Treaties, 1910–1923, vol. iii, pp. 3329, 3503.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1925, vol. i, pp. 26 ff.