Memorandum of Trans-Atlantic Telephone Conversation 83
Gibson : Hello, Mr. Secretary, this is Gibson. I wanted to tell you about this afternoon’s speeches. It has been without a doubt the biggest day we have ever had in Geneva. It has been a really splendid day. The President’s statement has had a tremendous effect and apart from the speeches which I shall tell you about, we have been warmly congratulated by a large number of delegates representing the most substantial and respectable countries. We all are very much encouraged. Now to tell you about the speeches one by one.
Simon made a long speech, rather guarded. He really is in favor of the plan and he expressed himself very definitely to me after the [Page 216]meeting to the effect that we could get together and try to make the thing succeed.
Then came Boncour, the French delegate. He made a guarded speech in which he put in the forefront the usual French reservations and objections. However, he made a movement to show such friendliness to our plan as he dared to do in the light of French public opinion and the short time he had for consultation with his colleagues. I think he really made a good effort. I told you this in detail because I think our press will carry stories that both of these men threw cold water on the plan. That is very much overstated. In my opinion, and in our opinion, Boncour went as far towards meeting us as any public Frenchman could have done.
Secretary: That is good.
Gibson : He stated that the reduction in the President’s plan is the reduction that he had advocated to go into effect and he will do all he can to make this a success, providing he can get some way of getting a measure of security. The Press thought that Simon was unfriendly. I think the impression arose from the fact that Simon’s speech was much too long and travelled round and round. In substance he said that his attitude was very friendly that he would work to make the plan a success; so I think you would to be able to correct any press stories of a defeatist character as far as those two men are concerned.
Secretary: Was MacDonald there?
Gibson : No, sir, he could not come. Now, I will tell you the substance of the rest of the speeches as they were made by Litvinoff, Madariaga and [Nadolny], He84 missed the train by making a long speech. The German showed a certain amount of tact, not overdoing the thing and made one very important contribution. He said that if such a plan were adopted it would go a long way towards satisfying the German demands for equality.
Matsudaira made a speech and it went over big. He went into this thing very fully and made a very brief and courteous speech. This morning he said he would have to oppose proportionate naval reductions but by this afternoon he had toned that down materially and merely intimated that there might be difficulties but that he hoped they might be examined and solved in a friendly conversation and hoped for success of the President’s plan.
Then the real star of the day was Grandi. You can take off your hat to him. Before the meeting I went over the entire plan with him. He then asked me if he could ask for authority from Mussolini to come out in full adoption of the plan. Mussolini gave him this authority and Grandi made a brief and grand speech in which he [Page 217]stated that Italy accepted the plan in its entirety and in its details, not only in principle but also in its application. He recapitulated the President’s proposal point by point and said that he adopted it full heartedly for the Italian Government. His speech was greeted with uproarious applause which we have never heard at a League meeting and he referred to the fact that America had taken the lead in great enterprises; that the President has started towards the solution of financial troubles by his moratorium proposal and now by this and Italy has, without hesitation, followed him on both occasions. The enthusiastic reception he got made it encouraging for some of the delegates not yet heard from. That ended the day’s session. For the moment conversations will continue. As we have said in our speech, the delegates would want time to examine our proposals, we did not press for an immediate reconvening for the general commission but I think that will be provoked by others as soon as they are ready to make their speeches.
Now, there is one thing more—the reaction of the French representative. After the meeting, he said that if the President had only embodied in his statement the references in the Republican platform plank to cooperation and consultation,85 it would have been easy for the French to accept the plan and for the French press to back it. Now you may wish to bear this in mind for a thought as to how some pronouncement might be made in due time to bring their attitude within the range of the conference. In general, the speakers, while acquiescing in the President’s plan, expressed that it should be augmented by limitation of expenditure.
May I make one suggestion? I think it would be very much appreciated if you would telegraph to me for transmission messages to Simon, Boncour, Matsudaira and Grandi. As you are the chief of our delegation, I am sure they would immensely appreciate direct word from you saying you appreciate what they have done. I will transmit the messages to them. May I also suggest that in view of Mussolini’s instant and wholehearted acceptance, you may wish to send him a direct message through our Ambassador in Rome.
Secretary: All right, I am very much obliged.
Gibson : How did it go over at home?
Secretary: We haven’t got the reaction yet.
President: This is the President speaking. Could you ask Davis and Swanson or Swanson and Davis if they could get the Democratic [Page 218]people to put a similar plank on consultation and conference in their platform next week?86
Gibson : Just a moment. I will put Davis on the wire.
Davis : That would be great if they could do it. It would take this whole thing out of politics.
President: If he could do that it would take it out of politics and we would get ahead.
Davis : I will try to get hold of Swanson and it would be a great thing.
President: Swanson might be able to get all of the Democratic leaders in Washington to back this plan and follow through on that. It would get the whole thing out of politics.
Davis : We will get to work on that.
President: I want to congratulate you on a good day’s work.
Davis : I must [just] want to tell you that this has been a grand day really. We are all dead. We feel like going out and celebrating. We haven’t had any dinner yet.
Secretary: I want to join my own congratulations to you and Gibson.
Davis : We have had to hold Simon and Boncour by the hand to get them up to it, but really they were much better than we had a right to expect. I really think I see something coming out of it in a few days. I think now in a few days we can get this to where we can take up the question of adjourning on this if it is necessary. You don’t know how the statement took there yet?
President: No. Give my affection and compliments to Swanson and tell him there is a chance for him to do a great job there.
Davis : I will do that. It is a fine suggestion.
President: Well, good luck!
Secretary: Good-by and good luck!
- Between Mr. Gibson and Mr. Davis in Geneva and President Hoover and Mr. Stimson in Washington, June 22, 1932, 3:30 p.m.↩
- i. e., Litvinoff.↩
- On this subject the Republican platform stated: “We favor enactment by Congress of a measure that will authorize our Government to call or participate in an international conference in case of any threat of nonfulfillment of article 2 of the treaty of Paris, Kellogg-Briand pact.” (Congressional Record, vol. 75, pt. 13, p. 14117.)↩
- As adopted on June 2, 1932, the plank in the Democratic platform stated: “We advocate a firm foreign policy … the pact of Paris abolishing war as an instrument of national policy, to be made effective by provisions for consultation and conference in case of threatened violations of treaties.” (Congressional Record, vol. 75, pt. 13, pp. 14735–14736.)↩