500.A15A4 Plenary Sessions/100: Telegram

The Acting Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Acting Secretary of State

114. The delivery of my speech was, from the indication which the members of the delegation received, well received and was immediately warmly supported by Motta and equally by Sir John Simon. Both of these speakers, however, dealt at far greater length on the necessity for some action on bombardment aviation noting that a reference had been made in my speech to future action thereon and stressing the necessity for it. Nadolny contented himself with saying that it was in accord with the spirit of the proposals which his Government had made and that he welcomed it on the understanding that it was merely a first step and not the complete achievement of the Conference since his Government could be content with nothing less than drastic reduction. The Italian delegate78 likewise supported it saying it represented a part of the proposals which his Government had submitted and that he would be glad as a practical step to see action taken even on this part.

Although knowing the susceptibilities of the French and taking the precaution of explaining the plan in detail to Massigli and furnishing a copy of the speech in French to Mr. Tardieu, the latter completely lost his temper and in a tantrum threatened to get up and accuse us of having tried to leave France defenseless and that he would end his remarks by demanding that we sink our battleships. Before his turn came to speak, however, he had calmed down appreciably and limited himself to parliamentary language. He stated [Page 85] that while France approved of the spirit in which the proposals were conceived France had always maintained the theory of the interdependence of armaments and he could not contemplate the singling out of certain arms alone for action as he felt that there were other arms notably planes and ships of war above 10,000 tons that were equally susceptible to the definition of aggressive. Furthermore, there were proposals which antedated the American proposals and they had a right to be discussed at the same time and not to be shelved for the benefit of the new proposals. He likewise said that action was apparently going forward on two bases, the first, that of the Hague Convention before the war, and the second, that of the French delegation based on the Covenant of the League of Nations and representing a consistent and complete conception.

The Chairman then suggested that as I had asked that a time be appointed for dealing with our resolution he would like to have the matter referred to the Bureau in order that he might have their advice as to the best manner of handling the question. I acquiesced and made clear that while we felt that our proposals were in the interest of simplicity and expedition we would not willingly give grounds for the feeling on the part of any delegation that we were seeking to prejudice proposals they had brought in before us and that as we all desired to achieve the same end I was satisfied that we would be able to work out agreement in the Bureau. Apparently the French press have been suitably stirred up so that a very bad reaction may be expected in tomorrow’s papers although Paul Boncour remained after the meeting to tell me his regret that the matter had been referred to the Bureau instead of receiving immediate discussion in the General Commission which he felt it merited as the only practical conception thus far brought forward which gave us something to take hold of. He said that he could not in any way see that our proposals need be considered hostile to the French conception as it was quite conceivable that these arms might be scrapped and forbidden while a limited number might be retained for the use of the League of Nations if it was possible to reach agreement to establish such a force. He assured me he would use his best efforts to bring Tardieu around to that view.

  1. Count Ugo Cavallero.