Memorandum by the Secretary of State
Finding that the French Ambassador was in New York, I sent for the Chargé, Mr. Henry. I told him that I had felt very badly when Mr. Claudel called upon me the last time, just when the preliminaries of the Hoover proposal at Geneva were under way, not to be able to tell him frankly what it was about. I said that that matter was being handled through the delegation at Geneva; that I had told no other representatives about it and I was afraid if I did so I might cross some wires which would make trouble. Mr. Henry said he understood that and would tell the Ambassador. I told the Chargé that I was now very anxious to keep the French Embassy posted on the developments and I recalled to him how grateful I had always been for their cooperation in a similar way with me all through last winter over the information which they received concerning the Far East. I then took our telegrams from Geneva, Nos. 283 and 282,11 [Page 250]and read to him the passages which had been marked by Mr. Castle and Mr. Moffat, and which related to Davis’ talks with Jouvenel and Gibson’s talks with Herriot. However, I did not mention Jouvenel’s name. I summed up the situation to the effect that matters were going on more favorably than I had expected, and that the President’s plan was under very careful and friendly scrutiny by the French. I summarized for Henry the situation leading up to the President’s proposal—how we had sat silent for five months because we considered it a European peace conference, where the essential problems were those of Europe into which we could not enter, and that it was only after the conference seemed to be sinking into a failure that the President had insisted on going forward and making an American proposal out of the plan which we had already worked out and which was already in the hands of the delegation for use when others had broken the ice. I ended by telling Henry of the problem of the consultative pact. I described first, my attitude towards the Kellogg Pact12 from the first month after it was ratified and my efforts to make it a real and effective treaty instead of a mere concurrent expression of a pious intention by the different signatories. I told him that before I left office I hoped that there would be an expression of policy by this country of its intention to confer when any major emergency arose involving a breach of the Kellogg treaty.13 But I pointed out that in the situation now at Geneva, just as had been the case in London in 1930, there was almost a certainty of misunderstanding between the people of France and the people of America if France should be persuaded to disarm in reliance upon a consultative pact. In both cases, France had announced publicly her position that she would not disarm unless she received a security pact; that the British to whom this was addressed had replied in both cases that they would not give such a pact, and that now outside people were suggesting as a substitute for the security pact a consultative pact by us. I pointed out that it was inevitable in such a situation that the French people would be led to believe that a consultative pact involved a promise of armed assistance and that would make future trouble between the two nations. Mr. Henry replied that he understood my position perfectly and recalled a talk he had with me along the same lines in 1930, in which he had advocated a unilateral expression of executive opinion. I told him that the only safe solution I could see in this situation was by way of executive statement, in which we retained the right to interpret our [Page 251]own policy and statement thereof or by way of precedent from actual conduct in a similar situation. Henry broke in by saying, “which latter you have already done,” meaning the Sino-Japanese situation. I said, “Yes.” Mr. Henry said he understood perfectly and would tell Mr. Claudel, and that I need not worry about Mr. Claudel’s feelings on the situation.