500.A15A4/1515: Telegram

The Ambassador in Great Britain (Mellon) to the Secretary of State

292. From Davis. I called on MacDonald this morning and found him rather pessimistic about the many troublesome problems that [Page 530]confront him but still determined to exert every effort to improve conditions. He expressed the view that Lausanne was not an advisable place for disarmament conversations and Geneva was more logical but seemed to have two preoccupations about Geneva. One was the difficulty of his leaving London and another his feeling about Henderson.10 Without definitely committing himself he left the inference that if the conversations with Herriot are satisfactory he would go to Geneva. He was quite concerned about Herriot’s panicky state of mind and said that England and the United States must use their good offices in every possible way to quiet the French nerves and to get the Germans to be reasonable.

Immediately after my talk with MacDonald I visited the First Lord of the Admiralty.11 He said that while the Navy on account of its special needs was not able to accept President Hoover’s program12 in detail he thought the President had rendered real service in making the proposal, that they are in thorough accord with the purpose of it and are prepared to try to meet us. He then said he had been telling the Admiralty that Parliament would be unwilling to vote seven million pounds for building each battleship replacement and that if they want to preserve the Navy intact it is necessary to devise ways and means for reducing its cost. He also said that the failure of the United States and England to stand together at the Disarmament Conference had militated against success and that if we expected to succeed we must not only stand together but must work out a plan for reasonable reductions and push such a program through. He advanced the usual arguments about their need for 15 battleships saying they are alarmingly weak in the Far East and that with further reductions they could not send an adequate fleet there without denuding their home waters. He said he recognized our need for battleships of large tonnage but did not understand why it was necessary to have 16-inch guns and asked if we could not do something about reducing the caliber of guns. I told him I had no plan to propose other than that of the President but I recognized that if we were to reconcile the two different plans it would be necessary to make some modifications and I would be glad to explore the possibilities to see if we could arrive at something I would feel justified in recommending. He said that if we could agree upon 12-inch guns for battleships it would allow a saving of about 50 per cent on replacements. As to cruisers they did not yet see how they could possibly diminish the numbers but could in time get a [Page 531]reduction by reducing the size. He then asked if I would like him to talk to Matsudaira about the abolition of submarines and bombing planes and asked if we would be willing to give up right to landing decks on cruisers which seemed to be a matter of concern to the Japanese. I told him not to say anything to Matsudaira yet that I thought the first thing was for the British Cabinet to definitely decide what its national policy is going to be with regard to naval reduction and future program and after that we can take up the technical questions and also consider talking with the Japanese. He further said that they are themselves more concerned about Japan and the possibility of trouble in the Far East than they are about any trouble with France or Italy and that this is something we both had to bear in mind in working out any program. In this connection Craigie told Dulles today that Matsudaira had remarked to him that he, Matsudaira, was afraid disarmament discussions would have an air of unreality to his Government since it was possible that they would shortly be withdrawing from the League and from the Disarmament Conference. Craigie added that he thought this was partly bluff but felt it significant that Matsudaira had mentioned it.

Unless you feel that detailed cabled reports such as the above are necessary I shall limit cables to reporting only important new developments as they arise. [Davis.]

  1. Arthur Henderson, who resigned as head of the British Labor Party on October 18, 1932.
  2. Sir Bolton Meredith Eyres-Monsell.
  3. See pp. 180 ff.