Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Phillips) of a Conversation With the French Ambassador (Laboulaye)

The French Ambassador referred to his recent conversation with Mr. Norman Davis and expressed his appreciation of the Department’s courtesy in sending him Mr. Davis’ memorandum of the conversation. It was fairly evident that the written memorandum had cleared up in the Ambassador’s mind the points concerning which he had been doubtful.

I told the Ambassador that I would avail myself of the occasion to express my sincere regret that the French Government had seen fit to communicate to us their note with respect to denunciation of the Washington Treaty. I reminded him that the Washington Treaty was based on a political arrangement and also on a naval armament ratio; that the French Government had been enjoying for a period of many years peace and tranquillity in the Pacific because of the Washington Treaty and that it was surprising and disappointing to us to receive this note expressing a desire to overturn an arrangement which had been so eminently satisfactory in maintaining peaceful conditions in that part of the world.

Mr. de Laboulaye replied that, while the United States had Japan to consider, France had Germany to consider and that it was the fear [Page 426] of German naval expansion which had made it necessary for the French Government to take a position of complete freedom of action; following our idea of equality of security, it was necessary for France, in view of the important development of the German navy, to improve its naval defenses. The Ambassador repeated that the situation in the Pacific was not in the minds of the French Government when they addressed us the note in question. Mr. de Laboulaye added that the reference to the other powers in any future naval conference probably referred to Russia. It was his personal opinion that, in view of the fact that Russia had so little naval armament, his Government would not insist upon the inclusion of Russia in the conference.

At the conclusion of the conversation I expressed once more my regret that the French note had been sent to us and that it had been sent to us just at a moment to convey the impression, certainly to the Japanese, that the French and Japanese Governments were acting almost simultaneously in their denunciation of the Treaty.

William Phillips