500.A15A4 Steering Committee/121: Telegram

The American Delegate (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

432. Thanks for the elucidation in your 227 November 1, 6 p.m. The situation is very clear regarding the question of the prohibition of the manufacture of weapons of which the use is prohibited by a general disarmament treaty. This question is not immediately pressing and may never become pressing.

Furthermore, it is of course understood that we will oppose on the ground of expediency the suppression and prohibition of the private manufacture of all arms.

We are, however, faced with a situation in the Committee on the Trade in and Manufacture of Arms on which we hope you can give us also further elucidation. The situation is as follows:

In past years our representatives have repeatedly stated that for constitutional reasons the Federal Government of the United States was powerless to control (issue licences for) the private manufacture of arms, ammunition and implements of war within the states of the union. Following this general policy on October 6th I made a statement to this effect before the Committee (please see in this connection our general reservation to the draft convention of 1929 referred to in paragraph 2 of my 416, October 21, noon) the rapporteur for this Committee is preparing a report for the Bureau and in this report reference will be made to this reservation as follows:

“The delegation of the United States of America invited attention to its prior declaration to the effect that the constitutional system of the United States presented difficulties in the application of a prohibition, of a system of licenses upon private manufacture, which takes place under the jurisdiction of the States which form the United States of America.”

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It is entirely feasible subsequently of course to amend our position in any way you see fit but I think it well you should have in detail as above what the present situation is.

Dismissing then from consideration at the moment the question of the suppression of the manufacture weapons the use of which may be prohibited under the treaty are we on firm ground in maintaining before the Conference that the Federal Government for constitutional reasons is unable to supervise or control (in the general way contemplated in articles 3 and 4 of the draft convention 1929) the manufacture of all arms, ammunition and implements of war within the States of the Union? If we are not on firm ground we hope to communicate with you further regarding steps to be taken to correct our position.

For your information we have not committed ourselves in any way to any form of international control and our present problem deals solely with the domestic exercise of this control by the Federal Government within the States of the Union.