The Chargé in Great Britain (Atherton) to the Acting Secretary of State
[Received July 16—10:05 a.m.]
237. Have sent the following to Paris:
July 16, 1 p.m. For the personal and confidential attention of Mr. Stimson. This morning Gibson76 and I called upon Vansittart77 who made reference to the British communiqué issued last evening (my telegram No. 235 of July 15, 11 p.m.78). Vansittart said that the French had requested the postponement of the meeting of the heads of governments until Monday evening in order to permit MacDonald and Henderson to conclude a visit to Berlin and to report their conclusions and observations personally. Then the French Government at midnight made a volte face and stated that after a reconsideration of their position they were not willing to come to a meeting of the heads of governments on Monday unless Bruening should first make a trip to Paris. As a consequence the scheduled visit to Berlin of MacDonald and Henderson has been canceled. According to the information Vansittart now has Bruening has agreed to visit Paris and will arrive there Friday evening. Vansittart mentioned that his only information on this from Berlin was a report by the British Exchange [Page 265] Telegraph of an official communiqué which included the statement that the visit of the British Cabinet officers had been canceled. This afternoon Vansittart intends to issue an informal statement to the press that this change of plans is the result of the mutual desire for cooperation between the German and French Governments prior to the meeting scheduled for Monday. He hopes that in this way he can make a satisfactory explanation of this obvious shift. Vansittart, moreover, intends to have the meeting of the heads of governments take place Monday morning instead of Monday afternoon if this is possible.
Vansittart was clearly disturbed by the possibility that the meeting in Paris between the French and the Germans might result in French demands which the Germans might meet in London but would have more trouble conceding in Paris. He is afraid that this would result either in a breakdown of the talks or in a stratification of the positions of the two Governments before their arrival in London rather than the course which is more to be preferred of having all parties come into the London conference without commitments. Vansittart was even more perturbed by the impression which the British Government had gained that the insistence of the French on a visit to Paris by Bruening and the whole general shift in plans had received your acquiescence. He is most anxious to keep matters as fluid as possible until the Monday meeting and hopes very much that you will be able to direct your efforts toward preventing any government taking a stand before then and thereby prejudicing the equal rights of all parties in the conference.
Gibson and I both agree with Vansittart that it is vital that the French Government should have no basis for believing that there is any divergence between the British Government and the American Government.