The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Wilson)
193. Your 338, October 21, 8 p.m. You are instructed to make the following reply to the communication addressed by the President of the Committee of Coordination to the Secretary of State:
“His Excellency Dr. Augusto de Vasconcellos,
President of the Committee of Coordination,
League of Nations, Geneva.
Excellency: I have received your communication of October 21, transmitting certain documents in the Italo-Ethiopian dispute, including the minutes of the Council of October 7, the minutes of the Assembly from October 9 to 11, and the recommendations of the Coordination Committee, for which I desire to express appreciation.
In regard to your statement that the governments represented on the Coordination Committee would welcome any communication which any non-member state may deem it proper to make to you, or notifications of any action which it may be taking in the circumstances, it is, of course, well known that the Government and people of the United States are deeply interested in the prevention of war, and hence in the sanctity of treaties and promotion of peace in every part of the world; that as a corollary to their abhorrence of war, with the human sufferings, the impoverishment of states and peoples, business dislocation and embittered feelings engendered by warfare, we are by tradition strong proponents of the principle that all differences between members of the family of nations should be settled by pacific means.
I need only call attention to the Hague Convention of 1907 for the Pacific Settlement of International disputes,60 the Pact of Paris,61 in the negotiation of which the Government of the United States played an important part, the Anti-war Pact62 sponsored by the Argentine Government and signed at Rio de Janeiro on October 12 , 1933, and the various conventions of conciliation and arbitration to which the United States is a party. These instruments of peace impose upon all nations parties thereto most solemn responsibilities, and no nation can look with complacency upon their non-observance.[Page 853]
As regards the situation now unhappily existing between Ethiopia and Italy, I may point out that the Government of the United States put forth every practicable effort to aid in the preservation of peace, through conferences, official acts, diplomatic communications and public statements, and emphasized particularly the principles of the Pact of Paris and the high legal and moral obligations of the signatories thereto. This Government repeatedly expressed its anxiety and the hope that the controversy would be resolved without resort to armed conflict and the conviction of the entire nation that failure to arrive at a peaceful settlement of the dispute and the subsequent outbreak of hostilities would be a world calamity.
When, however, it was found that hostilities actually existed between Ethiopia and Italy, this Government, acting on its own initiative, promptly announced a number of basic measures primarily to avoid being drawn into the war, and which also would be not without effect in discouraging war.
The President of the United States on October 5, 1935, issued a proclamation63 bringing into operation under an Act of Congress an embargo on the exportation of arms, ammunition and implements of war to both belligerents.
The issuance of this proclamation automatically brought into operation another provision of the Act of Congress making it unlawful for any American vessel to carry arms, ammunition or implements of war to any port of the belligerent countries or to any neutral port for transshipment to or for the use of either of the belligerents.
On the same day the President issued a further proclamation64 warning American nationals against travel on belligerent vessels and stating that such travel would be at their own risk.
In addition to the three measures just mentioned, the President took a fourth and most important step by issuing a public statement definitely warning American citizens against transactions of any character with either of the belligerent nations except at their own risk.
This statement was later emphasized when I publicly pointed out that the warning given by the President ‘certainly was not intended to encourage transactions with the belligerents’ and that ‘our people might well realize that the universal state of business uncertainty and suspense on account of the war is seriously handicapping business between all countries, and that the sooner the war is terminated the sooner the restoration and stabilization of business in all parts of the world, which is infinitely more important than trade with the belligerents, will be brought about’ and that ‘This speedy restoration of more full and stable trade conditions and relationships among the nations is by far the most profitable objective for our people to visualize, in contrast with such risky and temporary trade as they might maintain with belligerent nations.’65 This policy with respect to transactions with the belligerents I now reiterate and reaffirm.
These steps have been taken for the purpose of dealing with this specific controversy and the special circumstances presented.
The course thus pursued in advance of action by other governments most of which are parties to one or more of the peace pacts to which [Page 854] I have referred, represents the independent and affirmative policy of the Government of the United States and indicates its purpose not to be drawn into the war and its desire not to contribute to a prolongation of the war.
Realizing that war adversely affects every country, that it may seriously endanger the economic welfare of each, causes untold human misery, and even threatens the existence of civilization, the United States, in keeping with the letter and spirit of the Pact of Paris and other peace obligations, undertakes at all times not only to exercise its moral influence in favor of peace throughout the world but to contribute in every practicable way within the limitations of our foreign policy to that end. It views with sympathetic interest the individual or concerted efforts of other nations to preserve peace or to localize and shorten the duration of war.
Accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
We are releasing for Sunday morning papers.