The Chargé in France (Marriner) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 17—8:05 a.m.52]
697. Your 326 , August 15, 6 p.m.53 I brought your point of view to the attention of Léger54 late yesterday afternoon who said that the meetings thus far had made no progress whatsoever since the whole procedure had been an exposé of the points of view of the three Governments, the Italians maintaining an extreme thesis (see Embassy’s telegram 694, August 16, 1 p.m.55). He said that it appeared that Mussolini did not properly realize the gravity of the situation nor the importance which the powers of the world attached to his action in Africa. One of the great difficulties seemed to be that none of the Italian Ambassadors dared remark that truth to Rome and [Page 736] contented themselves with reporting only those things which they presumed Mussolini desired to hear. He said that the present status of the negotiations was that they were held up while Aloisi should endeavor in so far as he dared to describe the situation to Mussolini in its real terms stating the concern of France and England and their determination not to permit aggression by one state member of the League of Nations on the territory of another.
Therefore it was regarded that the United States Government might serve a useful purpose if the President or Secretary of State would be willing to call in the Italian Ambassador and inform him that the United States shared the world’s preoccupation for peace and the maintenance of obligations by all signatories of the Pact of Paris; that any failure to attain a peaceful result would be viewed by the United States as a world calamity. In order to make sure that such a message would not be too attenuated in its transmission to Mussolini it might be well to cable a memorandum of the interview to the Chargé d’Affaires in Rome for his transmission to the Italian authorities in whatever way thought best.
Léger felt that the matter was extremely urgent as he understood that Mussolini was in a very nervous condition counting on his possible friends in case he should embark on the Ethiopian exploit. He hoped that the Duce was becoming persuaded of the firmness of the British Government and public opinion and knew that de Chambrun, the French Ambassador in Rome, had told him that if it ever came to a choice between Italy and the League of Nations there was no question but that all French weight and influence would be given to the League of Nations. Therefore in casting about for possible support, either moral or material, Mussolini was always relying on the hope that the United States would remain at least indifferent or disinterested.
I discussed the matter likewise with Campbell, formerly Counsellor of the British Embassy here and now attached to the British delegation, whose impressions were practically to same purpose. He was strongly of the opinion that the United States might at this moment most usefully indicate to Italy the moral isolation in which she would find herself if she carries out her project for war in Abyssinia.