Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Moore)87

In talking with Senator Pittman, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, yesterday I found that Senator Tydings88 has not asked for a hearing and I have otherwise heard that he is not satisfied with the form of the Resolution,89 which I suppose was not drafted by himself.

The Department knows nothing officially about the Resolution, except that it has received a copy from the Committee with the ordinary routine letter inviting consideration and comment, but it has not been thought desirable that there should be anything more than a mere acknowledgment of the Committee’s communication.

What follows is a result of some examination I have made this week:

Of course, it is within the authority of Congress by a concurrent resolution to express its opinion on any subject, but the present Resolution goes beyond that in providing that the President shall be requested to make representations and protests to the German Government, and should the Resolution be passed containing such a request, while it is not legislative in its character and would not require the President’s signature, nevertheless it would place him in an embarrassing position. If he declined to comply with the request, he would be subjected to considerable adverse criticism. On the other hand, if he complied with it he would not only incur the resentment of the German Government, but might be involved in a very acrimonious discussion with that Government which conceivably might, for example, ask him to explain why the negroes of this country do not fully enjoy the right of suffrage; why the lynching of negroes in Senator Tydings’ State and other States is not prevented or severely punished; and how the anti-Semitic feeling in the United States, which unfortunately seems to be growing, is not checked.

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Aside from the question of the constitutional right of Congress to direct or request the President to take action relative to purely domestic affairs of another country, it seems that there has been only one case of action of that kind. That case arose in 1867 when a Joint Resolution was passed expressing the sympathy of the people of the United States for the people of Crete,90 Crete then constituting a part of Greece which was under the dominion of Turkey and making it the duty of the President to communicate the Resolution to the Government of Turkey. Secretary Seward instructed our Minister in Turkey “to seek an interview with the Ottoman minister for foreign affairs, and to read to him the resolution”.91 In 1919 Senator Fall introduced a Resolution92 requesting the President to withdraw the recognition that had been accorded the Carranza Government of Mexico and to sever diplomatic relations between that Government and ours. Thereupon President Wilson wrote Senator Fall as follows: “I should be gravely concerned to see any such resolution pass the Congress. I am confident that I am supported by every competent constitutional authority in the statement that the initiative in directing the relations of our Government with foreign governments is assigned by the Constitution to the Executive, and to the Executive only”.93

The Resolution does not belong to that class of resolutions in which the President is requested by Congress to take action relative to a governmental matter which concerns ourselves, as for instance, when he was requested to participate in the Disarmament Conference.94

I am handing you this memorandum with the thought that possibly you may be invited to discuss the matter with the Committee.

  1. Memorandum prepared for the Secretary of State.
  2. Millard E. Tydings of Maryland.
  3. S. Res. 120, January 8, 1934, Congressional Record, vol. 78, pt. 1, p. 176.
  4. 15 Stat. 31.
  5. See instruction No. 151, July 22, 1867, to the Minister in Turkey, Foreign Relations, 1867, pt. ii, p. 14.
  6. S. Con. Res. 21, 66th Cong., 2d sess., Congressional Record, vol. 59, pt. 1, p. 73.
  7. See letter of December 8, 1919, Senate Document No. 285, 66th Cong., 2d sess., p. 843D.
  8. See Congressional Record, vol. 77, pt. 1, p. 501.