500.A15A4/1504: Telegram

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

585. M. Herriot saw Mr. Davis this morning at 10:30 and as he had to leave the Foreign Office directly for the noon train for London he asked me to telegraph the principal interest of the conversation.

In the first place Herriot gave an outline of his recent conversation with Lord Tyrrell and Sir John Simon as indicated in Embassy’s telegram 582, October 6, and 583, October 6, he likewise showed us [Page 458]confidentially the text of his memorandum accepting the idea of conversations among the principal powers including Germany. He pointed out that they take place at Geneva and noted that they had been postponed for the time being. He also showed us a confidential personal letter to MacDonald giving a little more in detail his reasoning on this subject and pointing out that the Germans had not refused to go to Geneva but to take part in the Disarmament Conference for the present. There can be no question that Herriot feels somewhat hurt that MacDonald allowed an invitation of this character to be issued without previous consultation with him in accordance with the spirit of the understandings at Lausanne. He also felt that there might be something personal in it as between MacDonald and Henderson. Herriot pointed out in his personal note that before these conversations took place he would be most happy to have an opportunity to discuss matters with MacDonald and therefore told MacDonald that he would be glad to go to England at any time if invited, for direct talks of an entirely informal character.

Davis told him that he thought that such an act on his part would produce a good impression particularly after his refusal to go to London for the five-power conversations.

Herriot laid great emphasis on the fact that in his note of reply to the Germans on September 10 he had not refused to discuss the question of equality of armaments but had refused the idea of any German re-armament. He said that the subject of equality of armament was a purely psychological conception and that the working out of it lay somewhere between the mere integration of the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles into an ultimate disarmament treaty on the one hand and complete and free German re-armament on the other. Therefore, what was required even before conversations could be useful was to learn from Germany through diplomatic or any other channels just what in practice the idea of equality of treatment would lead to in the matter of arms and armament and he sincerely hoped that this information could be obtained before the conversations should be engaged in. As to the date of these conversations he felt that there was every advantage in their not taking place before the German elections as even though he had little hopes of the positive effect of reasonable public opinion in Germany he felt that it would have some moderating effect.

He said that at the present moment he was studying a project on disarmament which had been forwarded to him by Paul-Boncour and showed us last page indicating the contents, a rather formidable looking dossier. He said that it would require his consideration, that of the Cabinet and that of the Supreme War Council and that he was giving it his best attention.

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Davis took the occasion to say that he hoped that any plan which France might put forth would be simple and direct without too many details and reservations of position. In other words that public opinion will only comprehend it the more nearly it approximates a hundred lines rather than a hundred pages.

Davis told Herriot that he was going to London to explore the ground on naval matters77 as before real progress on the naval portion of President Hoover’s plan could be made it will be necessary to solve differences between the President’s proposal and the British counter-proposition and that if this could be done the French and other naval powers would at once be drawn into the discussions and that meanwhile the progress of the work going on at Geneva in various committees, particularly the effectives, was tending to make possible what Herriot had said he hoped might work out to be a comprehensive plan of disarmament common to the great powers. In this connection Herriot did not feel that the absence of Germany prevented the working out of the plan although it might prevent the ultimate realization of it if and when elaborated.

The Prime Minister expressed his fears that American public opinion did not realize that the German demands in so far as they had thus far been explained, did not accord in any way with the provisions of President Hoover’s proposals since he said that those proposals were based upon the belief that Germany’s arms were a constant factor and other arms a variable, whereas Germany’s present claims were the evidence of a desire to make their armaments variable also.

Herriot’s whole tone was cordial and slightly more helpful than his previous conversations on this subject.

When Davis received the press yesterday afternoon in accordance with their request at his hotel he told them that he would talk to them merely for background purposes and was under no circumstances to be quoted. Both the American-Paris papers this morning contain garbled quotations from him on the disarmament situation. However, as far as is known quotations were not cabled to America.

At the close of the talk with Herriot today Herriot drew up a statement for the press which merely recited Norman Davis had been to see the President of the Council to discuss very cordially the measures that might be taken to advance the disarmament work at Geneva.

  1. Telegram in five sections.
  2. See pp. 528 ff.