500.A15A4 Steering Committee/109: Telegram

The Chargé in France (Marriner) to the Secretary of State

631. From Davis. I saw M. Herriot this afternoon at 4:30 accompanied by Marriner. He was very pleased at the reception his speech of last night had had in the French press and naturally most of all the reception it received in the Chamber of Deputies where he said that the vote even astonished himself and would have approached unanimity had it not been for the rather strictly partisan nature of the order of the day which included the vote of confidence; that he had been told by many people who had abstained from voting that they entirely supported the policy he set forth. He likewise said that despite the great moderation of his speech the German papers today carried wild assertions that he had insulted Germany.

He produced the document which had been placed before the Superior Council of National Defense of which the summary quoted in the Embassy’s 628, October 29, 10 a.m.93 formed the first paragraphs and said that he would be glad to furnish us with copies as soon as minor corrections could be made. I said that I had read the outline of the plan this morning with great interest and that there were two points which American correspondents had raised: first if the conscript plan were applicable to Continental Europe alone. He said that was not at all his intention, to include England or the United States since his idea in this respect was limited to Europe and to the endeavor to make comparable the military forces of the great armed European powers in order that reductions in such forces would be on comparable bases, in other words that the Hoover plan might be worked out on effectives but among conditions effective in the contiguous European states.

The other question was with regard to his point number 4 that the United States give the guarantee of security that they themselves [Page 349]have contemplated. This, he said, referred to the considerations contained in Mr. Stimson’s speech of August 8th,94 his recent speech in Pittsburgh95 and the endorsements of the idea of consultation contained in the platforms of both the great parties. I emphasized that these were unilateral statements of national policy which were of great value but hardly susceptible of embodiment in a disarmament treaty. I told him that although the United States is committed to the principle of consultation he must not expect to incorporate this in a treaty in such a way as to imply the remotest obligation to use force. Mr. Herriot said he understood this entirely but that he felt that the idea of consultation had been embodied in existing treaties such as the London Naval, the Nine Power and in the contemplated Disarmament Treaty to a point that would safeguard the United States from unauthorized implications in any future action of the United States along these lines.

When the question of the presentation of this plan was brought up I pointed out that it seemed desirable that it should not be presented 2 or 3 days before the German elections96 thus causing those elections to take place amid a storm of protest and misunderstanding with respect to French intentions. M. Herriot said he would be absent in Spain for a week and that M. Paul-Boncour would have charge of this presentation and therefore asking us to go and see him. I then pointed out that what seemed even more important was that in view of the number of national plans already existing at Geneva and the action taken on them this plan should not be introduced as an exclusive plan but should be related to what had gone before and in particular should be presented as complementary to the working out of the Hoover plan. M. Herriot said that this was certainly the idea behind it, that is to say to make applicable to Europe the terms of a plan along the lines of the President’s and that he valued tremendously the cooperation of the United States and of England in making the plan workable even though these nations were not most intimately concerned with it. He said again that as Paul-Boncour would have to present the plan he desired us to talk with him. He took occasion to point out that the plan did not alone look toward a reduction of troops and an equality of treatment for all countries as to the nature of their army but likewise to a realization by stages of an equal treatment of matériel, that is to say, by gradual stages the heavier forms of matériel should be for the [Page 350]European states placed at the disposition of an international force and the lighter forms remain for the use of the national armies in all states and that he thought this went a long way toward meeting the German demands if they had any goodwill in the matter.

When we called on M. Paul-Boncour at the Ministry of War he seemed overimpressed by the necessity of presenting the French plan on November 3rd because it had been requested by the Bureau of Disarmament Conference and because Mr. Henderson and Mr. Politis seemed to think it essential that the French point of view be so set forth. I pointed out that the success of any plan was far more important than the demands of any organization but a telephone call from Politis that came in while we were in the room finally decided Boncour that it would be impossible to hold even a day in the presentation. However, he did agree merely to make an exposé of the plan and await reactions before placing before the Conference a definite text.

With respect to the question of relating this plan to others, in particular the Hoover plan, he seemed again to have great logical difficulties but finally in the very exposé he gave indicated the lines which might make the presentation of the plan more readily acceptable to American, English and German public opinion. M. Boncour said that the plan had been worked out in an effort to find similar bases for the European states to compare their arms and armaments in order that they might reduce in accordance with the Hoover formula and that furthermore the conception of setting up a special regime of treatment for those heavily armed European powers contiguous to one another within the general framework of a larger scheme in which all the nations of the world would be less immediately bound was designed to be an aid to the realization of concrete steps by stages in the reduction of both effectives and matériel. He said that it had taken courage to introduce such a plan in France and that he was gratified by the reaction of the Chamber. M. Herriot had already pointed out that he had had the greatest difficulty with the General Staff and had barely been able to prevent Weygand from resigning and Petain from making endless difficulties. [Davis.]

  1. Not printed.
  2. Post, p. 575.
  3. Department of State, The Work of the United States Government in the Promotion of Peace During the Past Three Years: Address Delivered Before the Council of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the Pittsburgh Area, October 26, 1932 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1932).
  4. November 6.