500.A15A4/1180: Telegram

The Acting Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary of State

276. Last night Davis discussed with de Jouvenel present attitude of French delegation towards Hoover plan. In absence of Boncour who has gone to Paris for today’s Cabinet meetings Jouvenel is head of French delegation here.

Jouvenel stated that now that Prime Minister had exploded they were all taking the position they should make the best of the situation and see what could be worked out. He had just come from meeting with French correspondents where he had told them that they could criticise as much as they wanted the way in which the plan had been launched but urged them not to criticise the substantive points of the plan.

Regarding the plan Jouvenel said that they were giving the most careful consideration to see what could be worked out. He did not think that the air proposals presented any serious difficulty. Turning to the Navy he felt something could be achieved along the line of the President’s plan if existing tonnage figures were taken for France and Italy rather than treaty figures. Regarding land forces he considered it only fair to take into account not only the army allowed Germany under the Treaty of Versailles but also Schutz Politzei and other semi-military, semi-police units which would bring their total police force up to around 300,000. Of course France would include all similar organizations in computing her own police force. He also thought some adjustment of the coefficient for the colonial force should be permitted (he was referring to the figure given in our draft speech6 confidentially handed to Herriot some days ago). Jouvenel [Page 235]cited these points as showing the serious study that they were giving to the President’s plan and he expressed his personal hope that the Cabinet at its meeting today might be able to take some friendly action with regard to it.

The question of security having been raised Davis asked Jouvenel to outline specifically what France meant by security frankly stating that in its search for security France seemed to be following a will-of-the-wisp which it never attained and that if they secured further European treaties they would probably consider them inadequate just as they now apparently considered Locarno inadequate. Jouvenel stated that they were considering the possibility of continental European pacts of mutual assistance and hoped that if such agreements were negotiated we would at least be willing to consult if there was a clear violation of the Kellogg Pact. Davis said that in his personal opinion they were going at the question in the wrong way. Their real apprehension was Germany and their greatest security, in his opinion, lay in a General Disarmament Treaty to which Germany would be a party and which would contain provisions along the line of the military clauses of the Versailles Treaty. If the conference broke up without any real achievement it would only be a matter of time before Germany denounced the military clauses of the Versailles Treaty and in this she would have a good deal of sympathy from public opinion in the United States and Great Britain. If, however, France cooperated with the other nations in a real reduction of armaments subject to Germany’s remaining substantially disarmed public opinion would be with France.

Davis then stated that the French were always insisting that they could not give up any of their present armaments without having a corresponding amount of security in some other direction particularly through political agreements. This position more or less implied that they were satisfied with their present security. Was this the case? Jouvenel frankly admitted that they were far from satisfied with their present position particularly in view of their apprehension that Italy, Germany and Russia were getting together. He said that they were still living in a nightmare of apprehension of hostile alliances. Davis then emphasized that if they were not satisfied with their present security why not try to get satisfaction, not along the lines of piling up treaties of mutual assistance but by cooperating to do away with the dangerous political tension caused by present scale of armaments, by reducing the power of attack of all states and by keeping Germany disarmed under a general treaty for period of years which would permit the creation of a new spirit between the nations of Europe. Davis frankly told Jouvenel that unless [Page 236]conditions soon begin to improve the European allies of France will become too bankrupt to maintain their present scale of armaments and that nothing would contribute more to prevent this bankruptcy than a real all reduction in armaments.

During the discussion Jouvenel indicated that anything in the nature of a consultative pact would be of tremendous assistance to the Herriot Government in dealing with disarmament and asked frankly whether anything of this kind was practicable. Davis stated that the term “consultative pact” had become something of a political football with us as attempts had been made to read into proposals for such a pact obligations which far exceed the idea of consultation; for example, that if such a pact were a part of a disarmament treaty whereby other nations renounced a part of their armaments there might be some exact obligation not only to consult but to supply some material aid equivalent to that which other parties to the treaty might have renounced. Davis stated that while such an implication might not be perpetuated it had nevertheless become politically an obstacle to a consultative pact as such. He referred Jouvenel to recent precedents and to the Republican platform plank and stated that it was hoped that this whole question would be taken out of party politics with us and that sufficient assurance of our willingness to consult under certain circumstances might be given without embodying it in a disarmament treaty. In this connection Davis told Jouvenel that part 6 of the draft convention providing for a disarmament commission furnished the idea of consultation in a form which was less open to political criticism in the United States and that he thought the French delegation had not given the attention to this section of the draft convention which it really merited. Finally, Davis stressed his personal view that in dealing with the President’s proposal France was at the crossroads in its policy. This plan is an opportunity for France to collaborate with the United States in the work of disarmament and that such collaboration in itself would mean more for the security of France because of the working of world public opinion than European treaties of mutual assistance, that it should mean a great deal to France to have the signature of the United States and of Great Britain to a disarmament treaty which would fix their mutual armaments and those of Germany and provide through the Disarmament Commission for some measure of supervision and consultation. Jouvenel seemed impressed with these arguments and said he would advise Boncour and Herriot in Paris.

  1. Relative to military effectives; see footnote 19, p. 145.