500.A15a3/28: Telegram

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


171. Reference is made to my telegram No. 169, June 25. I have just returned from a visit to the Prime Minister who had definitely decided to take some step to initiate positive work on the problem of naval disarmament. MacDonald in his address last night referred to his intention to convene a conference, but evidently since then it had been called to his attention that it would be preferable to so word his invitation as to afford no pretext to France to decline to attend with the excuse that it would not be loyal to the League of Nations to do so. MacDonald proposes to discuss the subject tomorrow with the Foreign Office and request that it draft some form of invitation which he may discuss with the representatives of the five countries interested in the naval problem. MacDonald further proposes to urge that July 22 be the date upon which this conference shall take place as he is convinced that it is impossible during the month of August to carry on serious work as a practical matter and the Assembly of the League of Nations will occupy the attention of the various powers during September. MacDonald indicated that it was his idea that the work of this conference should be confined to a discussion of certain general principles, the methods of work and the adoption of a resolution to the effect that ultimate agreement upon the naval problem must be achieved through a full adherence to the spirit of the Kellogg Pact which justifies naval reduction and that the conference should not last more than a week.

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MacDonald was of the opinion that some such general resolution would serve to maintain public confidence and thus time would be gained for the careful technical studies to be carried on after the first meeting had adjourned. At a later date when the Assembly of the League of Nations was out of the way subsequent conversations could be held.

Apparently MacDonald is exploring the possibility of coming into the conference after consultation with us and making some very general public proposal to the effect that the Government of Great Britain is disposed to scrap certain construction, to abandon its present building program, and to contribute such further concessions as are possible and allow us an opportunity to reply in like manner, thus liquidating our problem but without resorting to the use of the yardstick at any time.