500.A15a3/702: Telegram

The Chairman of the American Delegation ( Stimson ) to the Acting Secretary of State


80. For the President and the Acting Secretary of State. Your No. 131, February 22. Following adjournment I pushed forward informal negotiations with the British which resulted in situation where agreement could be reached at once unless it were upset by the French figures. The only issue remaining is whether the total American cruiser tonnage shall be 320,000 or 327,000. The remainder follows substantially the lines of the offer sent you, with elimination of the new Rodney; modernization of old battleships is legalized, an arrangement supported by both Jones and Pratt as parity. We have hopes of limiting the Japanese to their present fleet, but we have agreed with the British to delay pressing for final conclusions until after the elections in Japan, as it is believed that a showdown before elections would mean increase in Japanese demands.

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The presentation of the high French figures and the fall of the French Government which came immediately afterward caused a wave of pessimism here which is evidently echoed in the press. The French figures were not surprising, however, after the French note of December 20 last,40 and Tardieu intimated to me privately that these would be reduced. The serious feature of the situation is the intense popular feeling among the British against the French, which will make it impossible for the Prime Minister to keep his figures down unless the French recede very substantially. In addition to the above, I have had personal talks with Baldwin, Lloyd George, Churchill and Grey.41 They all approve parity with us, but they are disturbed lest MacDonald may not meet the threat from France.

Our first problem is, obviously, to get the French to come down from their original figures, which are all we have at present. Then if they will not come down far enough to permit the British to make a satisfactory agreement with us, we shall have to face the second problem: Whether it will be possible to make a three-power agreement with a withdrawal clause to protect the British against the French.

There is no change in the pact situation. The British have suggested a consultative pact to the French, who are still holding out for a guarantee. At one time Briand suggested to me that he would like to discuss with me later a supplement to the Kellogg Pact, but I took this to mean something quite separate from the Naval Conference. I have not given anyone encouragement as to our entering a Mediterranean Pact, either consultative or of guarantee. If the President has any new ideas on this subject, I should like to be advised.

As far as a waning of public interest is concerned, before I sailed I warned everyone that that was inevitable. This work is a slow, persuasive job, consisting of picking up and binding together the fragments left unfinished from the Washington Conference of 1922. We are doing as well as I expected we should do. Indeed, I think that we can say for this administration that it has clearly accomplished one of our chief purposes, that of healing the serious friction which had arisen between America and Britain over cruisers. Everyone here is agreed on that.

MacDonald is staying with me tonight at Stanmore. If there is anything further tomorrow I shall report it.

The President will receive by the Aquitania a long personal letter which I sent last Tuesday.42

  1. Telegram in three sections.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. i, p. 299.
  3. Stanley Baldwin, leader of the Conservative Party; David Lloyd George, leader of the Liberal Party; Winston Churchill, former First Lord of the Admiralty and member of the House of Commons; Earl Grey of Fallodon, former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and member of the House of Lords.
  4. Not printed.