500.C114/1578

Memorandum by Mr. John S. Dickey, Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State ( Sayre )

Yesterday Mr. Sayre, accompanied by Mr. Dickey, discussed with Senator Pittman2 at his office the matter of action at this session of the Senate on the three World Court protocols.3 Mr. Sayre stated that the President was prepared to urge clean-cut adherence to the three protocols, which were now before the Senate, and that he had been requested by the President to go over the matter with Senator Pittman. Mr. Sayre stated that the President was anxious if possible to have the resolution of adherence passed without any of the restrictive provisions which were attached to the resolution recommended in the Walsh-Fess report of June 1, 1932.4

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Senator Pittman, in considering the first of these provisions, the so-called “Reed Amendment”, indicated that it was his belief that the Committee on Foreign Relations would insist on retaining such a stipulation. He thought this was so inasmuch as very few of the Senators agreed with Mr. Root’s5 and Secretary Stimson’s6 interpretation of the fifth reservation as accepted in the Protocol of Accession.7 Senator Pittman stated further that he recognized that such a provision would have no legal effect unless it were referred back for the approval of the other signatory States and that for this reason he had supported the so-called Moses Reservation.8 Mr. Sayre stated that the Reed Amendment in itself was less objectionable than any of the others and that he did not believe an issue should be made on it but that if it were retained, its wording ought to be slightly altered so as to substitute the phrase “over an objection by the United States” for the present words, “without the consent of the United States”. Senator Pittman said he would have no objection to seeing such a change made in the phraseology of this provision.

With regard to the so-called Moses Reservation, Senator Pittman said he could offer no opinion as to the position of the present Committee on Foreign Relations. He personally felt that it was desirable, and he thought that it would weaken possibility of securing favorable action in the Senate if this reservation or any of the others were eliminated. He recognized that there were two sides to the question of what the fifth reservation meant, and in reply to Mr. Sayre’s question whether he did not believe that the interests of the United States were better protected under any interpretation by our going in rather than staying out, he replied, “That depends on how much you want the Court”. He said that personally he was “bitterly opposed to advisory opinions” and that he felt strongly and firmly about the need for preserving our position in this matter. He said that he was committed in writing and in debate to this position and that he could not now alter it. He therefore suggested that Mr. Sayre say to the President that in view of this he felt that he ought not to assume the leadership in [Page 385] this matter, either in the Committee or on the floor of the Senate, and that he thought it would be better, both for the measure and for himself, if the President could secure another Senator who was more in accord with the Administration’s view of the matter to handle it. He suggested Senator Robinson.9 Senator Pittman said that he would be glad to write the President in the above sense and that in the meantime it would not embarrass him in the least if Mr. Sayre would like to approach Senator Robinson with regard to his views on the Court.

In reply to a question from Mr. Sayre, Senator Pittman stated that he might have to vote against any attempt to eliminate either the Reed Amendment or the Moses Reservation but that otherwise he was for the Court and would be “a friendly neutral”; and, of course, he was willing “within reason to do anything for the President”. It was the Senator’s opinion that there would be a bitter fight on the floor of the Senate, and while he had no doubt that there were enough votes in Committee to report the measure, he was not certain whether it could be brought to a vote on the floor as there were at least four strong Senators who were prepared to filibuster; he named Senators Borah, Johnson, Shipstead and LaFollette. He said further that it was his opinion that these Senators would have a good opportunity to pick up other recruits if the proponents were split on the question of eliminating the reservations and understandings included in the Walsh-Fess report.

Senator Pittman agreed with Mr. Sayre that it was undesirable to have further hearings on the matter and he said that he would vote against any further hearings. The first regular meeting of the Committee on Foreign Relations is scheduled to be held Wednesday, January 9, and the Senator thought that the Court would come up for disposition at that time.

J[ohn] S. D[ickey]
  1. Senator Key Pittman of Nevada, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  2. Submitted to the Senate on December 10, 1930; see Congressional Record, vol. 74, pt. 1, p. 504. The protocol texts are printed in Foreign Relations, 1920, vol. i, p. 17, and Ibid., 1929, vol. i, pp. 44 and 53.
  3. Senate Report No. 758, 72d Cong., 1st sess. The text of the resolution, p. 1, reads:

    Resolved (two-thirds of the Senators present concurring), That the Senate advise and consent to the adherence by the United States to the said three protocols, the one of date December 16, 1920, and the other two each of date September 14, 1929 (without accepting or agreeing to the optional clause for compulsory jurisdiction), with the clear understanding of the United States that the Permanent Court of International Justice shall not, without the consent of the United States, entertain any request for an advisory opinion touching any dispute or question in which the United States has or claims an interest.

    The signature of the United States to the said protocol shall not be affixed until the powers signatory to such protocol shall have indicated, through an exchange of notes, their acceptance of the foregoing reservations and understandings as a part and a condition of adherence by the United States to the said protocol.

    Resolved further, as a part of this act of ratification, that the United States approve the protocol and statute hereinabove mentioned, with the understanding that recourse to the Permanent Court of International Justice for the settlement of differences between the United States and any other State or States can be had only by agreement thereto through general or special treaties concluded between the parties in dispute; and

    Resolved further, That adherence to the said protocol and statute hereby approved shall not be so construed as to require the United States to depart from its traditional policy of not intruding upon, interfering with, or entangling itself in the political questions of policy or internal administration of any foreign State; nor shall adherence to the said protocol and statute be construed to imply a relinquishment by the United States of its traditional attitude toward purely American questions.

  4. See message from Elihu Root, transmitted in telegram of March 4, 1929, 3 p.m., from the Consul at Geneva, Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. i, p. 4.
  5. See letter from the Secretary of State to President Hoover, November 18, 1929, Ibid., p. 31.
  6. Ibid., p. 53.
  7. Second paragraph, resolution of adherence, footnote 4, p. 382.
  8. Senator Joe T. Robinson of Arkansas.