500.A15A4 General Committee/238: Telegram

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

585. Henderson issued the following communiqué last night:

“In view of the discussions now going on between certain powers as the result of Mr. MacDonald’s visit to Rome which have as their object better cooperation in Europe, and in view of certain suggestions concerning a possible adjournment of the meeting of the General Commission, originally fixed for Thursday next, for a general discussion on the United Kingdom draft convention, the President of the Conference has decided to convoke the Commission for a meeting on Thursday morning, March 23rd, at 10:30, in order to consult the Commission on the desirability of an adjournment until after the Easter holidays.”

We learn confidentially that Simon yesterday telephoned Henderson and told him that in view of the Mussolini four power proposals it was considered desirable to adjourn the Conference until after Easter; he dictated approximately the present text of a communiqué over the telephone conveying at the same time the assurance that this was in harmony with French views. The French, on the other hand, say that they were not in agreement with this method of approach and that while they were not adverse to adjournment for other and technical reasons they had not given their assent to discussions among the four powers being utilized as a reason for adjournment of the Conference.

A number of the smaller powers are incensed at the attempt to adjourn the Conference for discussions in which they are not expected to participate and it appears probable that tomorrow’s debates may give rise to some protests. We propose to take no part in the debate unless something unforeseen should arise, such as an attempt to justify adjournment on grounds of consideration for the United States.

Massigli called this afternoon and described to us the meeting of MacDonald and Simon with the French Ministers in Paris. He said that they had brought with them two texts, one submitted in Rome by Mussolini and the other a text embodying alterations made by the British. Only the first of these was given to the French. Massigli was struck by the slap-dash method of dealing with a matter of such far reaching consequence. MacDonald laid great emphasis on the fact that he had entirely reserved the British position and was in no way committed, but he appears to have done this with such emphasis as to raise suspicions in the minds of the French Ministers. They feel that the reference to treaty revision is bound to fill the smaller [Page 72] powers with such caution that they will be unwilling to approach the British plan of disarmament until they know what is likely to come out of the Italian proposal and that we can not expect much from any discussion of the British plan at this time. Massigli said that, as reported in our 579, March 18, 8 p.m.,2 the French Cabinet met on Monday to discuss the British plan but that the time was given entirely to discussion of the Italian proposal and that consequently the French Government had reached no definite decision on the British plan. Therefore they will acquiesce in adjournment but only on the ground of insufficient time to prepare their position on the British plan. Drummond3 informs us confidentially that both the Italians and the Germans are desirous of adjournment until approximately April 26th.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Secretary General of the League of Nations.