Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Rogers) of a Conversation With the Italian Ambassador (De Martino), June 28, 1932
The Ambassador obviously came in to sound me out about things in general. We exchanged some general cross congratulations on the President’s peace proposal and the Italian support of it. He seemed hopeful about some measure of French cooperation, saying that Herriot was liberal minded and he thought firm in his political seat. I said that his disposition appeared to us friendly to some measure of disarmament at least but that he had to face a great deal of fire from the nationalistic right and while we were hopeful, Ave could see his difficulties.[Page 224]
The Ambassador remarked that there had been some resentment in the diplomatic corps about their being deprived of information about the developments here so that they came as a surprise. I said the thing had moved so fast, developing as it did within a few days, that we had been so anxious to avoid publicity and that we were so much in touch with the other governments directly at Geneva that communications with the Ambassadors and Ministers here had been impossible or practically so.89 It would have been impossible to have communicated here without a wide distribution and while it had troubled us a little, we felt that none of the other governments could legitimately complain when their chiefs were being informed in advance in Geneva. He said that he personally did not feel upset by it and he had cited to the others in the diplomatic corps the example of the Italian one-year Armistice proposition which had not been communicated to any of the foreign representatives in Rome before its offering at Geneva. I gathered that Claudel was the one who had been disappointed in his lack of information.
The Ambassador said they had all been beseiged by newspaper correspondents who had tried to find out what was going on during the excitement. I said this illustrated the dangers that we were facing and I could assure him that no distinction had been made between the foreign representatives here. He asked if it was true that Sir Ronald Lindsay had sent down a colored messenger to get the news. I laughed and said I did not know. He said he himself had guessed very nearly what was going on and had informed his government that some important move from us was likely.
He handed me a copy of the New York Times saying that we were insistent that disarmament was a separate topic from debts and that we were not prepared to trade the recognition of Manchuria or any other desires of foreign governments for acceptance of the disarmament proposal. I said this was correct and the official attitude. He said the Times also reported that we were not prepared to make a consultative pact but that the administration might find a route for progress along the lines of the Republican platform plank on a policy of conference whenever the international peace was threatened. I said this was substantially our attitude; that we had already shown the willingness and capacity to move with the other nations when international peace was threatened as illustrated by the Russo-Chinese and Sino-Japanese emergencies, but that a formal engagement of that sort was altogether another problem for us. I said [Page 225]public opinion in the United States was gradually less critical of America’s participation in problems of peace and order, and that progress in this direction seemed more possible if we proceeded without formal engagements, kept control of our own policy and did not provoke an issue.
The Ambassador asked what we knew about Lausanne and I said we knew nothing except what was on the surface in the press. I said we were keeping out of the discussions and not in any way entering into them. It was very desirable that the critical problems in Europe should not become topics in the political campaign in this country and we thought that the ultimate solution of them would be better off if they were not agitated. I had no doubt that the real leaders of public opinion nearly all felt that to be the case whatever their politics might be, but that the result could not be assured. He spoke vigorously of the inexcusable helplessness of the European countries to make progress in settling the international problems which were just now so critical. He said it reminded him of the blindness and helplessness in 1914. I sympathized with the lack of constructive boldness but said that in 1914 public opinion was hardly operative while now it was the critical factor in Germany, France and the United States, and that I did not feel that the blindness of the statesmen which he had spoken of in 1914 was the real problem now so much as the emotions of the masses of the people. The results were likely to be highly different. He asked if we saw any hope and I said yes, much. I saw, at least in America, much more understanding of international problems than had ever existed before and while there was some emotion, on the whole there had been a real improvement. I suspected the same thing was true abroad.
- On June 23, in conversations with the representatives of Prance, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, and Poland, the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary had briefly explained the history of President Hoover’s statement.↩