765.84/1847: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Consul at Geneva (Gilbert)

129. Your 508, October 15, 8 p.m. It is important that, if possible, daily newspaper rumors and reports from Europe about the attitude [Page 847] or policy of this Government toward some phase of the Italo-Ethiopian controversy, and especially reports that foreign governments or agencies are just about to inquire of this Government whether it can or will cooperate with foreign Governments or peace agencies in one way or another, shall be minimized to the greatest possible extent. My opinion is that you can anticipate most of these and head them off by casually and unofficially imparting all permissible information relative to our present and prospective course and attitude. Every leading official abroad knows that prior to the outbreak of the war our chief purpose was to aid in preserving peace, whereas after hostilities began our chief object is and will be to avoid being drawn into the war.

The lengthy succession of acts and utterances by this Government in an attempt to preserve peace should be well known in every foreign office and at Geneva. Our numerous steps taken after the outbreak of hostilities primarily and paramountly to keep out of the war, although incidentally and consciously calculated to be very helpful in discouraging a protracted war or spread of the war, should likewise be well known abroad. This Government preceded others in declaring that a state of war exists, in enforcing embargo on arms, ammunition and implements of war, in refusing Government credit in support of trade transactions, in warning all Americans that any transactions of whatever nature with the belligerent countries would be at their own risk, and that Americans traveling on ships of the belligerent countries would do so at their own risk, and finally in my public statement of October 11 it was made certain that the influence and attitude of this Government under the foregoing policies was definitely to discourage any and all economic transactions between our nationals and those of the belligerent countries. The American public is making a satisfactory response to the policy thus indicated.

Subordinate to this major policy of not being involved in war, this Government is keeping thoroughly alive its definite conviction that it and all nations have a real interest in peace in every part of the world, and hence a special corresponding interest and obligation to contribute to the cause of peace in every practical way consistent with our well known foreign policy of non-involvement or entanglement. The numerous acts and utterances of this Government, both before and after the outbreak of hostilities, offer definite and clear index of the course and attitude of this Government relative to the Italo-Ethiopian controversy in the future.

Foreign Governments and peace agencies are familiar with the extent and limitation of statutory authority of this Government to deal with the various phases of the existing war situation. It must be clear to them by this time that this Government is acting upon its [Page 848] own initiative and proceeding separately and independently of all other Governments or peace organizations. It is also important to keep in mind that in some vital respects the policy of this Government to the extent based upon the discretion of the President is intended primarily to apply to the present specific Italo-Ethiopian situation rather than as an inflexible and permanent policy. The purpose is to meet and deal effectively with conditions and circumstances as they may arise.

It is essential, therefore, that our representatives refrain from attempting to define in advance the attitude or policies of this Government.

You have an excellent opportunity to anticipate the possible circulation of disturbing rumors and reports about the supposed attitude, present or prospective, of this Government, and especially the frequently reported disposition of Governments or the League to make public inquiries of this Government relative to the same, when only injurious confusion and complications might thereby be created.

In transmitting copy of this telegram to the Minister refer to conversation with Massigli reported in his 331, October 15, 5 p.m.53

Repeat to London, Paris and Rome.

  1. Not printed.