Memorandum by the Secretary of State 56
Mr. Gibson was first on the telephone without Mr. Davis. He had received the proposed speech by cable and said that the entire delegation was delighted with the proposition. He said, however, that they had several suggestions to make as to the form of the speech which they would send in a cable. They are merely corrections or suggestions as to language. He then said that the delegation thought it was important to find a common method of approach to this proposition by consultation with the British and the French and recommended that they consult MacDonald personally. He felt that MacDonald would react favorably to it. Then he went on to say that the proposition would even get Herriot’s attention, particularly if it were made by a personal message from the President to Herriot; that the French were sensitive about being isolated because the Tardieu Government had been criticised for allowing itself to be isolated. Gibson went on to suggest that a public presentation in the United States might arouse antagonism in the conference and he suggested that, simultaneously with the President’s statement at Washington, the delegation should be authorized to present the proposition directly to the conference as a suggestion from the President, which the President said he would take it into consideration.
Mr. Davis having now come on to the telephone, the President brought up the relation of the Lausanne Conference to the Geneva Conference. He stated that it looked as if the Lausanne situation was likely to be left in a position where, after the adjournment at Lausanne, it would at once begin to arouse public pressure on the part of the cancellations here in America upon the American Government as to an eventual cancellation of the debt. This would come from public pressure outside regardless of what the conference did. It would excite great resentment in the United States against such pressure, and he suggested that Davis warn MacDonald against this situation. The President then suggested that if the proposal which we cabled could be brought up before the Disarmament Conference and the Conference could take some action upon it, such as approval in principle, and then adjourn for the ostensible purpose of examination or study, this would tend to prevent the resentment in this country which would otherwise be aroused. Furthermore, the two subjects could be kept parallel as was the President’s proposal.[Page 190]
Davis then said that he had just been talking with MacDonald who was very anxious that something big and definite should be done by the Geneva Conference and was very much impressed by the evident decline of its condition. Davis therefore thought that MacDonald might like the United States to propose this plan. Secretary Stimson then asked what hope Mr. Davis had of the French having any favorable reaction to this plan, particularly if it began with the proposal to cut land effectives thirty-three per cent. Mr. Davis said that the French were talking much more favorably about land forces now than they had been. The Secretary then said that he desired to emphasize the necessity of perfect frankness with MacDonald—that he had been building up relations with the British Government through MacDonald for three years, and he wanted to be sure that in view of his own conversations with them in Geneva and the conversations of Davis and Gibson with Baldwin in London, there should be no danger of their thinking that we had sprung a surprise on them contrary to the spirit of the conference.
The President confirmed this and said that a policy of cooperation with the British was the constant aim of his Government. The President said that he thought that adjournment for the preparation of further research might be an advantage to everybody and if it came from him, the President, it might help the other parties to accept it. Davis expressed his impression that that would be so. He said that twice—he did this quite strongly.
The President then said that he had no fixed mind as to details. Gibson and Davis said they would send a cable as promptly as possible as to the form of this document. The Secretary pointed out that we wanted to know frankly their criticism as to anything that the plan might contain because it might be possible to be adjusted so as to avoid that if they thought that anything would provoke unnecessary resentment or opposition.
The President, however, pointed out that the British had gone ahead at Lausanne without waiting to get our consent, although they had notified us of their position.
Davis then said that MacDonald told him that he was much embarrassed towards us by what had just happened at Lausanne and still wanted to work out a solution which would help the situation. The President said that if the British were to associate themselves with the French on Lausanne and nothing would be done in Geneva to help disarmament, Heaven help the British and the French when they come to America about their debts next December. Davis laughed and said he agreed. The President pointed out that the only way for them to prevent that was to treat this in a friendly manner.[Page 191]
After some conversation as to the whereabouts of the various parties, it was agreed that Gibson and Davis would see MacDonald tonight and let us know, probably tonight, the result. Herriot is coming back from Paris to Lausanne tomorrow morning, and after discussion we agreed that it was best for Gibson and Davis to go over to Lausanne, even at the risk of creating comment, than to lose that day and to see Herriot over there. The Secretary cautioned them in regard to the difference between those two nations as to their reliability against leaks, saying that he had had many conferences with MacDonald and there was no leak, whereas that had not been true with regard to the French, and the Secretary told them that in this plan which began with the land effectives the danger of a leak was very great. He therefore cautioned Gibson and Davis as to approaching MacDonald and Herriot with a different degree of fullness in discussions. They said they fully appreciated that. The President emphasized the importance of time but said that there was no fixed time limit. He said he wanted to get the thing done as quickly as possible on account of danger of leaks but that they might have one, two or three days, if necessary.
- Of a trans-Atlantic telephone conversation between Mr. Gibson and Mr. Davis in Geneva and President Hoover and Mr. Stimson in Washington, June 19, 1932, 10:20 a.m.↩