033.5111 Laval, Pierre/15: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Edge) to the Secretary of State


599. The British Ambassador to France, Lord Tyrrell, called on me Thursday night and outlined his conversation with Laval the day before in which he had discussed with the Prime Minister the latter’s proposed visit to the United States.

Tyrrell stated that he had advised Laval that he, the Prime Minister, should utilize the opportunity for frank discussion and endeavor to reach some possible common ground on the important questions such as armament limitation, rather than to confine the discussions to subjects of a non-controversial nature. The latter course appears to be the plan for the impending visit of Laval and Briand11 to Germany. The Ambassador pointed out that the Prime Minister had approved of his advice. Tyrrell was of the opinion that Laval would make some useful suggestion.

It was emphasized to me by the Ambassador, who heartily approves of Laval’s visit, that some advance understanding between the United States, Great Britain, and France is necessary if the Geneva Conference is destined to avoid complete failure.12

At considerable length the British Ambassador then reviewed the several possibilities upon which he thought France might be induced to join in a real limitation of armament program. These were:

An enlargement of a general suggestion, offered by Briand and supplemented by Madariaga13 in their speeches at Geneva on September 11,14 that in the event a nation violated the Kellogg-Briand Pact,15 the United States together with other nations of the world should assume a position of neutrality. During the effort to reason with or punish the aggressor state, they should consider the situation as it was. Tyrrell did not make clear who would decide as to the culpability of the offending state but the Ambassador understands clearly that the United States could not allow the deciding agency to be the League of Nations.
The British Ambassador also discussed the possibility of a consultative pact added to the Briand-Kellogg treaty, as well as an agreement of some equable form of budgetary finances and appropriations for national defense, among the three nations of Great Britain, France, and the United States. In this connection, Tyrrell may be familiar with the American position on budgetary finances for national defense as advanced a year ago in Geneva at the Preparatory Disarmament Commission.16 He agreed that the percentage budgetary reductions must of necessity be based upon the expenditures of each country, rather than upon a comparison of the totals between countries.

I asked the Ambassador how far along the lines of these possibilities he had carried on his discussions with Laval. Tyrrell replied that he had not come to the details, beyond discussing the necessity of a common ground as a derivative beginning between the three Governments. He had stated to the French Premier that the latter’s visit ought to greatly improve the possibility of such an understanding.

Another interesting bit of information was given to me by Tyrrell. He had recently talked to Berthelot, who ranks under Briand in the French Foreign Office,17 with regard to the possibilities of the forthcoming Franco-German conversations. Berthelot told the Ambassador that, during the past 2 or 3 weeks, it had appeared as if the proposed visit to Germany had probably been a mistake because of the recent antagonistic attitude there. Berthelot thought that everybody realized that very little could be accomplished in Germany, but that since Laval’s visit to the United States had been publicly announced, the German situation had undergone a decided change. According to Tyrrell, it seemed to be Berthelot’s opinion (and I have also heard the sentiment expressed in other Government quarters) that Germany had recently assumed the position that France, because of various attitudes, was being criticized if not isolated by all the major nations and it would be just as well to ignore her for the present. It appears, however, that a different or more receptive state of mind in Germany has developed as a result of the possibilities inherent in the Laval conversations scheduled in Washington.

  1. Telegram in five sections.
  2. Aristide Briand, French Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. For correspondence on preparations for the General Disarmament Conference see vol. i, pp. 471 ff.
  4. Spanish representative at meetings of the 12th Assembly of the League of Nations.
  5. League of Nations, Official Journal, Special Supp. No. 93 (Geneva, 1931), pp. 69 and 77.
  6. Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. i, p. 153.
  7. See Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. i, pp. 187 ff. For previous correspondence concerning the work of the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference, see ibid., 1926, vol. i, pp. 40 ff.; ibid., 1927, vol. i, pp. 159 ff.; ibid., 1928, vol. i, pp. 235 ff.; ibid., 1929, vol. i, pp. 65 ff.
  8. Philippe Berthelot, Secretary General of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.