Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Dunn)

This afternoon I telephoned to Ray Atherton10 at London to obtain some information with regard to steps now being contemplated with regard to the Italo-Ethiopian situation. I explained to him that within probably two or three days, or even at almost any moment, it might become imperative for the President to issue an embargo against shipments of arms to Italy and Ethiopia required under the neutrality resolution. I said that the Secretary was considering advising the President to make a statement at the same time the embargo proclamation was issued and that with particular reference to that statement the Secretary desired to have (1) Mr. Atherton’s views as to its effect upon the British Government, and (2) that not only would the Secretary [Page 796] like his views, but he would like to know what will be the reaction of Sir Samuel Hoare to such a statement. I told Mr. Atherton that we wanted it distinctly understood that we were not asking the advice of the British Government with regard to the issuing of such a statement, nor was there to be any question of giving the impression that we were presenting it to them for their recommendations with regard to it. We simply wanted to know, for our own information, what in general were their impressions with regard to such a statement.

Mr. Atherton said it might not be possible to see Sir Samuel Hoare until Monday. I thereupon suggested that he communicate by telephone with the Foreign Secretary as soon as possible and give us the results of his conversation. Mr. Atherton said that he would do so. I then read the statement to Mr. Atherton, as follows:

“In view of the situation which has unhappily developed between Ethiopia and Italy, it has become my duty under the provisions of the Joint Resolution of Congress approved August 31, 1935, to issue, and I am today issuing my proclamation making effective an embargo on the exportation from this country to Ethiopia and Italy of arms, ammunition and implements of war. Notwithstanding the hope we entertained that war would be avoided, and the exertion of our influence in that direction, we are now compelled to recognize that the simple and indisputable fact that Ethiopian and Italian armed forces are engaged in combat, thus creating a state of war within the intent and meaning of the Joint Resolution.

“In order that our country may by no possibility be involved, it is the plain duty of our citizens to refrain from placing themselves in positions where, were conditions peaceful, they would be entitled to seek the protection of this Government. Accordingly, in these specific circumstances, I desire it to be understood that any of our people who voluntarily engage in transactions of any character with either of the belligerents do so at their own risk.”

Acting upon a suggestion of Judge Moore,11 I asked Atherton whether the British Government expected that action at Geneva would result in sanctions against Italy. Mr. Atherton said that from what he had learned in conversation with the Foreign Office today, Italy would be adjudged the aggressor very likely today or on Monday; that it was the opinion of the British Government that sanctions might not be agreed to immediately at Geneva, but that eventually there would be sanctions. The Secretary then desired to know what was the attitude of the British Government as to whether a state of war now existed or not. Mr. Atherton said that the British Government were not very clear on the subject as they had not come to a conclusion of the juridical study now being made in that respect.

James Clement Dunn
  1. Counselor of Embassy in the United Kingdom.
  2. R. Walton Moore, Assistant Secretary of State.