500.A15a3/61: Telegram

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

186. In regard to matter of MacDonald’s visit it is evident that the present status is causing him much embarrassment. Would it not seem that the presence of the Prime Minister of England at the final naval conference which I infer you desire to be held at Washington would be helpful to the negotiations? The situation will be well developed at that time and the objections to a premature visit will be largely removed. The influence the Prime Minister has upon the situation will then be developed in the public mind by what he says and does at the public conference and therefore cannot be made the pretext for demagogical misrepresentation that conferences during an earlier stage of naval disarmament necessarily private might bring about—a matter which has caused our apprehension. I express these views believing we should be of assistance in this matter if possible and that inclusion in his late letter to you of a reference to a decision as to time of the trip would indicate that some such solution is in the Prime Minister’s mind. I am not suggesting any public statement about this now but if the Prime Minister’s suggestion about a joint announcement hereafter as to a program by the two countries is agreed to then would be an opportunity for an accompanying statement, if then advisable, that at the final conference [Page 144] it was desirable that those in first authority should be present as far as possible. In the meantime MacDonald might say that the matter of his visit was a subject of diplomatic conversation with a view to determining how the trip might best advance the cause of naval disarmament. Any later announcement that the trip would be made for the final conference would be only by understanding of the two countries at the proper time. Later, before sending it to you and after further reflection, I took the above message and showed it to the Prime Minister. He stated that he is compelled to answer in Parliament within a few days an interpellation now in his hand as follows:

“Hansard, 10th July, 1929.

Prime Minister’s visit to America:

Mr. Day asked the Prime Minister whether he is in a position to state when his forthcoming visit to America will take place and whether any representatives of the Dominions will be present at any conference that takes place.

The Prime Minister. I am not yet in a position to make any statement.”

Inasmuch [as] it does not [preclude] any of the other suggestions or points in my message above and will satisfy his requirements in the situation, the Prime Minister will now answer this interpellation in substance,

“That the matter of his visit was a subject of diplomatic correspondence with a view to determining how the trip might be arranged to best advance our common interest in naval disarmament.”

Later in the course of our talk, the Prime Minister then showed me private documents relative to decisions he had already arrived at as to his naval program based on our former conversations, all of which conversations have been heretofore reported to you. Then remarking that frankness was the order of the day he wrote down in his own hand the following message for transmittal to you which he handed to me:

“In view of our conversations I have just decided to slow down our preparations for laying the keels of the two cruisers in my naval program of 1928–29. I hope they need never be built. Might I presume to remark that if a corresponding step could be taken on your side it would have a fine effect. I must announce this in the course of a week or two before the House rises and a simultaneous statement of your plans would enable me to get this through without an attack on the ground that I had done something without any response. J. R. M. Handed to General Dawes by me, J. R. M., 11th June [July], 1929”.

Copy to Brussels.