The Minister in Uruguay (Wright) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 259

Sir: In confirmation of my telegram of today’s date to the Honorable Hugh S. Gibson, Acting Chairman of the American Delegation to the General Conference on Disarmament at Geneva, in reply to a telegram from him concerning the attitude of this Government, I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of a memorandum of my conversation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the 14th instant—the original of which is being forwarded to Mr. Gibson, under covering letter, by official pouch.

Respectfully yours,

J. Butler Wright

Memorandum by the Minister in Uruguay (Wright)

In a conversation with Dr. Juan Carlos Blanco, Minister for Foreign Affairs, this afternoon upon other subjects, I referred to [Page 93] the recent discussions at Geneva (of course, making no reference whatsoever to Mr. Gibson’s telegram).

Even before it was necessary to determine the best manner of referring to Cosio’s speech86—and, therefore, to his reported opposition to Mr. Gibson’s proposal—Blanco brought the subject up himself by stating that the attitude of the Uruguayan delegation was actuated entirely by the devotion of this Government to the principles of the League of Nations and that the instructions given to the delegation were to support any proposal that might strengthen the League of Nations—in so far as practicable. Blanco further volunteered the information that the press reports of Cosio’s speech, which had come by way of Buenos Aires, had probably been exaggerated, and he laid stress upon the fact that neither Cosio nor the Uruguayan delegation should be considered as “in opposition” to the proposals of Mr. Gibson.

As this opening afforded me an opportunity to discuss the point in more detail, I asked him whether he believed that the proposal of Mr. Gibson or that of M. Tardieu represented the prevailing sentiment in South America. He said that it would be difficult to give an opinion on so broad a question, because he had observed from the very beginning of the League of Nations, since which time he had spent at least three years in Geneva or in London in connection with committees of the League—that South America was always incoherent on subjects pertaining to the League—especially disarmament proposals, and he cited the “unfortunate” observation of the Mexican delegate which “temporarily diverted” the proposal of the Uruguayan delegation,87 supported by our delegation, that an expression of Pan American sentiment be recorded.

I then asked him, more specifically, if he had formed an opinion as to whether South America in general would be inclined to approve strengthening the Covenant of the League by putting teeth into Article 16, or whether a proposal to do away with certain arms of offense, as proposed by Mr. Gibson, would be more efficacious from the standpoint of defense as well as of economy. He said that he could not answer that question either, citing as an example the fact that even when the question of disarmament among the A B C countries was broached at Santiago, at the time of the V International Conference of American States, in 1923,88 the attitude of these [Page 94] three countries on the question of disarmament,89 and the value of offensive vessels, could not be determined—chiefly on account of the fact that Brazil considered battleships as part of her system of protection of an extensive coastline. Furthermore, he observed that he thought the question whether Article 16 of the League would be of any value whatsoever if offensive arms of the kind mentioned were discarded by mutual consent, was at least open to discussion. In fact, his whole argument impinged upon support of the League.

He reiterated what he had said to me before: that the League, without the participation of Russia and the United States, was greatly lacking in authority—but he apparently desired me to draw the inference that Uruguay would continue to support it as long as there was sufficient breath in it to justify support (Here must be recalled the almost fanatical support of the League by Juan Antonio Buero).

Turning then to the question of any apparent difference of viewpoint between Senor Cosio and Mr. Gibson, Dr. Blanco—again upon his own initiative—said to me that “‘opposition’ by the Uruguayan delegation to the point of view of the United States is impossible,” for any member of the delegation taking such attitude would be immediately disavowed by this Government. In this connection he again referred to the attitude of his Government in reprimanding Senor Guani when the latter, in Paris, at the time of the VI Pan American Conference at Habana in 1928,90 took it upon himself to express opposition to the relations of the United States with Cuba by virtue of the Piatt Amendment.91

He voluntarily alluded to the cordial relations between the Uruguayan and American delegations, referred again to the action of the American delegation in endeavoring to support the Uruguayan proposal for a common expression on behalf of the American States toward the realization of the objects of the Conference, and once more expressed appreciation of the graceful act of Mr. Hugh Wilson in nominating Juan Enrique Buero as Chairman of the Land Armament Committee.

He further said that he believed the exact proposals, as well as the exact replies of the delegates, could only be studied intelligently upon receipt of the actual texts—and he would therefore await their [Page 95] receipt from Geneva. In view of the fact, he added, that the Uruguayan delegation was not “opposed to” the point of view expressed by Mr. Gibson and, further, that it had instructions to examine from all points the feasibility of such proposals as that of M. Tardieu, he would be obliged if I would inform my Government that the Uruguayan Government was entirely open-minded in this question (subject to the aforementioned condition that it was desirous of supporting the League whenever possible), that a true decision could only be reached after the subject had been fully discussed from all angles. I observed that I had immediately read between the lines of the press reports of Cosio’s remarks the fact that Uruguay was actuated by this motive more than anything else: he said that this assumption was correct.

In short, it may be said that while Cosio’s general attitude in support of Tardieu’s proposals was in conformity with his general instructions, his action is not necessarily the last word of this Government; that the desire of the Uruguayan Government is that its delegation should keep on terms of close accord with ours—not at any price, but certainly to the point of being open-minded in discussions: and that no attitude of “opposition to” any proposal of the United States will be tolerated.

I believe the situation, therefore, to be susceptible of further modulation by discreet action at Geneva—and, possibly, at this end.

J. Butler Wright

  1. See telegram No. 117, April 13, 3 p.m., from the Acting Chairman of the American delegation, p. 88; also Pedro Cosio, L’Uruguay à la Conférence du Désarmement (Montevideo, 1936), pp. 53–70.
  2. See telegram No. 18, February 9, 6 p.m., from the Acting Chairman of the American delegation, p. 31.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1923, vol. i, pp. 286 ff., especially p. 294.
  4. For statements on subject of disarmament by the delegates of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, see International American Conference, 5th, Santiago de Chile, 1923, Verbatim Record of the Plenary Sessions of the Fifth International Conference of American States, vol. i, (Santiago de Chile, 1923), pp. 665–694.
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. i, pp. 527 ff.
  6. See the President’s message to Congress, March 27, 1902, ibid., 1902, p. 320; also treaty between the United States and Cuba, May 22, 1903, ibid., 1904, p. 243.