500.A15a3/50: Telegram

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

179. I received at the Embassy last evening a letter from the Prime Minister in his own handwriting as follows:

“Ten Downing Street, Whitehall, 8 July, 1929.

My dear Ambassador: I have been giving a good deal of consideration to the situation which has been clarified by the talks we have had up to now and this is what is in my mind as the result:

I think it would be a very useful thing if our two Governments were to announce our agreement that we are to take the pact of peace—the Kellogg Pact15—as a vital and controlling fact in our relations and use it as the starting point in negotiations regarding disarmament.
We should then proceed to declare that on that basis the object of negotiations must be reductions in existing armaments and that between us the relations are such that we both agree to parity.
We adopt the United States proposal that parity should be measured by an agreed ‘yardstick’ which enables the slightly different values in our respective national needs to be reduced to equality.
In order that the elements which enter into the ‘yardstick’ be determined I venture to ask you to send for an officer of your Navy—or Naval Department—with the requisite knowledge to come here and be at your service and act with a similar officer whom I shall appoint to guide both of us in agreeing as to the ‘stick’.
I think it would expedite matters if your officer would take with him a proposal which your people are prepared to make as to the ‘stick’ in all fairness to us.
When we agree as to the ‘stick’ we can proceed as to its application and so far as I can see little trouble will arise about this between us. If it does its cause has certainly not been evident to me yet.
Whilst this is going on between us we must keep Japan, France and Italy generally informed in ways which we can decide from time to time.
We should also decide when the moment had come for the general conference to meet in London, when I should go to Washington, and when the final conference of ratification should take place. My own view is that if you got your officer over at once you and I would soon settle the preliminaries and the other conferences would follow. The stage indicated in paragraph 6 might be that when the general conference should begin, though we should know where we stand, first of all.
We should also agree upon the wording of the invitations to be sent to the other powers and to the scope of the discussion. I think it ought to be confined to naval matters and that we should agree that the actual negotiations should be in the hands of politicals and that officers should be in attendance or at call only for expert and technical advice.

If you will let me have your views on this note we could go ahead. I feel that time is precious and should not be lost. People are expecting much from us and I am sure we can satisfy them. I am, my dear Ambassador, yours very sincerely, Ramsay MacDonald.”

[Paraphrase.] I shall await your comment before arrival of Gibson, whom I have asked to come here for a conference with me, and before seeing MacDonald again. After you have conferred with Myron Taylor,16 paragraph 8 which refers to a trip to Washington by the Prime Minister will be clearer to you. It is my opinion, however, that it does not indicate that there has been any change in the position earlier expressed to me by MacDonald to the effect that in determining the time for crossing the Atlantic he will be guided by considerations as to whether or not such a visit would be advisable while the naval negotiations are pending.

Several questions which I should ask MacDonald concerning his letter have suggested themselves to me and I have no doubt that Gibson will think of others. If they appear to be important after conferring with Gibson I shall cable for your comment before taking further action. [End paraphrase.]

  1. Treaty for the Renunciation of War, Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. i, p. 153.
  2. Myron C. Taylor, chairman of the finance committee, United States Steel Corporation, who had been traveling in England and with whom the Ambassador had talked informally regarding certain personal impressions on current matters.