500.A15a3/70: Telegram

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

197. Received from the Prime Minister this afternoon a letter as follows:

“I must express to you my very great appreciation of the spirit and the contents of the communications you have on behalf of your Government made to me within the last day or two. The desire which your President has shown to understand us and to make possible a clearance of the points of difference that have hitherto prevented an agreement between us has been a heartening proof that we have begun conversations which will not only end happily for us but be a lead to the whole world.

The position of our conversations up to now seems to me to be as follows:

1. We both agree that the Washington arrangements regarding first class battleships and aircraft carriers will not be disturbed.

2. We agree that there will be a parity between us as regards cruisers. Hitherto there have been difficulties between our experts on this subject arising out of the distribution of tonnage between large and small craft. We have agreed however that the somewhat differing situations of our two countries will be resolved by the construction of a yardstick and I am waiting for your proposals regarding this. Pending this you and I on behalf of our Governments have agreed that we shall not allow technical points to override the great public issues involved in our being able to come to an agreement.

In this connection I should like to amend some figures which appear in the note which Mr. Atherton sent to Sir Robert Vansittart20 on the 15th instant. He says: ‘Fourteen approximately the same type of cruisers (as the United States are laying down) have been completed by the British who have apparently in construction or otherwise ten more.’ These figures have been taken apparently from an out-of-date white paper. Since then alterations have been made and the position today is: number built and building, fifteen; number projected, three—these three include the two I have slowed down. I give you these figures because I am sure that they will be regarded by you and your Government as having a bearing upon our work. As I said to you in one of the interviews I had with you last week I have slowed up the preparations for laying down the two cruisers included in the 1928 program and have done so not merely for the purpose of lengthening out the time for the completion of that program but in the hope that it is the first step towards a reduction.

3. We agree to parity in destroyers and in submarines, parity in [Page 149] this case being equal gross tonnage in each of the two categories. I ought to tell you however that as soon as the Five-Power Conference meets I shall raise again the use of submarines and state my desire that they may be eliminated altogether. I know that I am in a somewhat weak debating position as regards this because the submarine is exactly the arm that can do Great Britain the most damage in the event of a naval war against us breaking out. My motive is however not that at all. I base myself on the fact that though all war is brutal and ruthless the way in which the submarine is used raises that brutality and ruthlessness to a very much greater height than has hitherto been known.

That being the position we now only need the yardstick to make our agreement complete and I still press the wisdom of striking whilst the iron is hot and the public are expectant. I am hoping to see the French and Italian Ambassadors this week and to speak to them of what is being done within the limits of my assuring talk with the Japanese Ambassador. I had also better refer to the Five-Power Preliminary Conference which with your concurrence is to be held here and for which you and I shall agree as to the terms of the invitation. They will need at least a fortnight’s notice and I am getting rather encumbered with international conferences.

First of all there is the Reparations Conference21 which raises some very important issues for us and which is likely to require my presence if an agreement is to be reached.

Then there is the Assembly of the League at Geneva which I have promised to attend during the opening week at the beginning of [session].

Finally I must consider my visit to America which Mr. Stimson’s recent message allows me to discuss with you. The House of Commons will meet at the end of October and my presence will be required here then.

We can do little now without the yardstick which I hope is being hurried, but if you would be so good as to come to see me we might discuss the next step of inviting the other naval powers to the conference and also my visit to Washington.”

  1. Private Secretary to the Prime Minister.
  2. An international conference held at The Hague, August 6–31, 1929, between representatives of the German Government on the one hand and those of the several creditor powers on the other, for the purpose of liquidating questions still outstanding from the World War. A representative of the Government of the United States was present “in the capacity of Observer and with specifically limited powers.” A second and final session of the conference was held at The Hague, January 3–14, 1930.