Memorandum of Trans-Atlantic Telephone Conversation 71

Mr. Gibson : Hello, Mr. Secretary, since talking to you last Norman Davis has had a talk with the Prime Minister, and in order that you can get it first hand I think he had better tell you exactly what the Prime Minister said.

Secretary: All right.

Mr. Davis : Hello, Mr. Secretary. Sir John had told me he was leaving here at 8:30 and would get to Lausanne at 9:30 and would call me just as soon as he saw the Prime Minister, so we waited until quarter to ten and then called the Prime Minister. He did not want to give a categoric answer, but he didn’t seem quite so upset as Sir John had been. In fact, he did say, “Of course, this will be awkward to me because the papers will land me right off to know what we think of it. The right wing in England will jump on us for not saying at once that we didn’t consider modifying the London Treaty; on the other hand the other wing will feel that we ought to do this ourselves and that we should have supported it immediately and not being there to consult with the Cabinet it does make it awkward. On the other hand I don’t want to interfere with you. Tell the President that I don’t want to be unreasonable in any way. I don’t know just what his problem is and I will do my best to support him as soon as I can, but of course it is very difficult for me to give a definite answer until I talk to Simon. He will be here at 10:30 and I will just have to stay up now under the circumstances.” I told MacDonald that we had felt that if this were turned around and given out as the statement of our position; that if he was not called upon now that it ought not to embarrass him and we hoped very much that it wouldn’t, and that is the way I left it. He said that as soon as he talked to Simon he and Simon would call me later tonight, but I felt that we shouldn’t hold off any longer. I think by handling it this way it makes it much less objectionable and if it is done with a little change it ought to enable us to continue with these conversations. We therefore had written out something to suggest that the President might put in as the preamble to his statement, and I will read it to you.

[Page 208]

“I propose to do something unusual. I propose to reveal the communication embodying the instructions which I have given the American Delegation to the World Disarmament Conference. The substance of these instructions was designed to guide the delegation in the intimate conversations on which they were about to embark and which are now occupying them. Such conversations will undoubtedly continue between the American and other delegations at the conference in an ever increasing growth of power. I am heartened by the progress already made in these conversations and give these instructions out in the hope that they will give an emphasis to real achievement by the conference.”

We think it would help if something like that would be accepted by the President. You would have to make a few changes, of course, in the body of the statement, maybe the reading of one or two sentences.

Secretary: All right. Do you hear that, Mr. President?

President: Yes. I had already written out this introduction.

“The delegations at the World Conference on Disarmament at Geneva have been engaged for some days in discussions as to methods by which a more comprehensive movement can be made towards disarmament. The President has communicated the following instructions to the American delegation for their guidance in these discussions.” Now they want to go a little further.

Mr. Davis : I see our minds have been working along the same way. That is the main thing. If you feel like giving anything, that is all right.

President: Yes, in order to prevent garbled accounts being misinterpreted.

Mr. Davis : Yes, I had thought too that we might put something in to the effect that the President feels the American people ought to know what he is proposing that we shall do—something like “This is given for the information of the American People”. We all rather feel that doing it this way, while it may embarrass them a little bit and they would rather have us not do it, at the same time as the President says, if we wait a week we’ve got to wait two or three more weeks and probably it would go by the board, and the advantage of a real-ringing clear-cut statement is worth considering, so we figure it is best to go ahead and shoot.

President: Do you think we ought to wait until we hear from MacDonald again?

Mr. Davis : He will call within the next thirty minutes, and if you don’t hear from us within an hour, just go ahead because unless they raise quite a lot of objection which I don’t think they will, we won’t call. I think in a way that it is fortunate that Simon hadn’t talked [Page 209]to MacDonald when I called Lausanne because he took it better than Simon did. Now, one thing more, Mr. Secretary. We think it is very important to keep to the hour that has been fixed of giving it out there at 10:30 in the morning.

Secretary: That is in Washington. Giving it out here at 10:30 our time.

Mr. Davis : Yes, and then we will circulate it here at 4:30. We will get it out in the afternoon at the proper time, just for the information. But otherwise if you give it out tonight it will be in the morning papers in London before we can get it circulated.

Secretary: All right, we can do that.

Mr. Davis : We would also like to have you telegraph the final text, including any additions you may make.

Secretary: There will be quite a change so I think we will telegraph the whole thing so you can know what we do.

Mr. Davis : We have tried our best we want both you and the President to know.

President: That 266,72 is that the one about the consultative pact? That will raise a great political issue here right away.

Mr. Davis : A spirit of cooperation is of the utmost importance so unless MacDonald or Simon has something further to say that is pretty upsetting we will not call you any more, unless you would prefer to hear what they have to say.

Secretary: Now just let me get one thing straight. There have been two proposals about cruisers. The one that represents our views, you remember what is was, and then you sent a counter proposal.

Mr. Davis : About the cruisers?

Secretary: Yes, designed to make it a lot easier for your people over there. For the President’s purposes our suggestion is a little better, but there would be no objection whatever for you to circulate it there as a technical explanation.

President: They can add whatever technical explanations they like there.

Secretary: I think it would be better for the President to put in his own suggestion which we have reduced down to pretty short language and then you can put in the suggestion that you made, as a technical explanation that can be made as an alternative if there are objections to this. Do you see that?

Mr. Davis : Yes, I think that is good. We agree to that.

Secretary: There are quite a number of changes like that which [Page 210]we have now made again in this proposed set of instructions which are for the purpose of making it carry better when the President makes it as a statement here. Now you are perfectly free to supplement it with any of the suggestions that you have sent to me and which have not been disapproved. The only one that has been disapproved that I remember now is the last one, your 266, and the budgetary one.73 The consultative pact and the budgetary suggestions are not in this, and they would make great trouble here in two different directions. The budgetary suggestion would make great trouble to our services who have never agreed to it and the other would make trouble politically. It is very hard to do that.

Mr. Davis : I hope we won’t have to call you again.

Secretary: All right. Thank you very much for all the trouble you have taken.

President: Let me add to that that you are doing very well.

Mr. Davis : Thank you. All the delegation sends its regards to both of you.

President: Thank you.

Secretary: Thank you.

  1. Between Mr. Gibson and Mr. Davis in Geneva and President Hoover and Mr. Stimson in Washington, June 21, 1932, 5 p.m.
  2. Telegram No. 266, June 21, 2 p.m., from the Acting Chairman of the American delegation, p. 202.
  3. See telegram No. 257, June 19, 9 p.m., from the Acting Chairman of the American delegation, p. 191.