500.C1112/42: Telegram

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

395. My 394, October 3, 5 p.m.

1. In my conversation with Spinasse I ascertained that the French had fully taken up the matter with the British here. Spinasse said that it had been presented to both of us in precisely the same terms and that I could feel entirely free to talk with Morrison. Morrison had previously asked me to lunch with him today.

2. Morrison outlined his understanding of the French position which agreed in all respects with what Spinasse had said to me. Morrison then stated that in what he might say to me he was giving his own views, that he had solicited advices from London which had not been received. He said that nevertheless that he believed his own views represented the probable British attitude.

He indicated that the British were favorable to the project provided we would participate. On the other hand he did not believe that London would consider going into it without us. The reasons he gave for the British being favorable were in substance as follows.

(a) They felt that something should be done and that to have efficacy it should be begun as soon as possible.

(b) There might be various ways of achieving the same end but the method the French had proposed appeared to be simple and reasonable and one which lent itself to immediate action.

(c) The British felt that for anything to be accomplished it must be done outside the League. Both for psychological and for other reasons the League was not a favorable medium.

People and governments had grown weary of high sounding phrases from Geneva which come to no fruition. There was too much accumulated skepticism to be overcome for the League to take [Page 474] effective action. Furthermore, any project advanced in the League would probably be carried on on an indiscriminate multilateral basis, which was something which everyone desired to avoid at the present juncture. Moreover, in the League, such an endeavor could not be kept apart from a number of undesirable political connotations. The British did not intend either to advance or even warmly to support any implementation by the League of the Economic Committee’s report. Should the French not find some reasonable method outside the League they will presumably be forced to advance some project within the League which would almost certainly be futile if not definitely disadvantageous to any international effort.

(d) The British also felt that such a move as the French proposed would lend support to Blum which they believed desirable from almost any international point of view.

Morrison felt strongly that there should not only be no political motivation in such an endeavor but that the possibility of a political construction being put on it should be avoided at the outset and at every step, that its purely economic and essentially international character should be made clear at all times.

Morrison did not feel that the French had any arrière-pensée in their suggestions. He regarded the French action as arising from reasonable and entirely understandable France [French] internal political and economic necessities.

As to the parties to the conversations which the French envisaged, Morrison is inclined to be favorable to widening participation in any useful way. He felt that even if this served no other purpose it would emphasize their nonpolitical character and international objectives, nevertheless he said that the French had not particularly raised the matter of participants with him and that he had not thought the matter through.

3. In response to my inquiry as to the purpose of such conversations in respect of action, he said that he regarded them as for the very purpose of exploring what action might be taken.

Having in mind your 115, October 2, 2 p.m. I asked him why he felt it to be essential that the United States participate and what he felt we could contribute. He replied that the announcements of the three powers had been striking in the action already taken and in their implications respecting future action and that our having been parties to the announcements our abstention from the first further efforts suggested therein would have an adverse effect even though our support respecting any action which might be worked out might be only moral.

4. In my conversations reported in this telegram and in my telegram under reference I made no statement or indication which could be construed as suggesting our possible attitude.