740.00/143: Telegram

The Chairman of the American Delegation to the General Disarmament Conference ( Davis )93 to the Secretary of State

For the President and the Secretary: I called upon Eden yesterday at his invitation. He expressed himself as highly pleased that I was here and said there were several questions he wanted to talk with me about more at length within a few days when he has disposed of pressing matters accumulated during his absence on vacation.

In substance he said they are fully aware of the economic consequences of rearmament which was forced upon them and realize something must be done within a reasonable time to bring about economic rehabilitation and disarmament. He hoped we agree with them that it was not yet the time to make an effective move towards international agreement particularly with respect to armaments which is essential to a general settlement.
He said that while the British rearmament program was already having an effect on Japan and Germany Mussolini seemed to believe they were bluffing and would not carry it through.
He also thought it was necessary to wait some on the Spanish situation about which he was more hopeful now but which he thought might serve as a means of bringing about a general European settlement. He remarked that neither side would win in Spain. I asked if there was not danger that Mussolini might not make a more determined effort than ever in support of the rebels. He said there was some danger that he might be foolish enough to do it but he would find stiff opposition from the French as well as the British. He said that any initiative the British might take for a European settlement would now be construed as weakness and that when the time comes to make a move it would probably be best for the United States to take the lead or act as mediator. I told him that while there had been much speculation about the United States taking the initiative which originated largely from wishful thinking, that while we are naturally concerned about the inevitable disaster that will come unless something is done within a reasonable time to reverse the suicidal policies that are now being followed through the strangling of trade and the unbearable expenditures on armament, I was sure the President had no desire or intention of interjecting himself in the European political situation.
I remarked that while we are vitally interested in economic rehabilitation and disarmament and desirous of collaborating to that [Page 73] end it would be futile to attempt anything until Europe makes up its mind that it wants peace and unless and until the British who are an essential factor in any effective steps for recovery and peace are prepared to get behind any efforts that may be made by anyone to achieve such a result.
I also said that it was absurd to think it was possible to make any substantial progress toward economic League [sic] political stability as long as our two greatest nations are pursuing diametrically opposite trade policies. He heartily concurred with this and said he had been giving considerable attention to the question of an Anglo-American trade agreement and had talked at length with Chamberlain and Runciman.94 He said he could tell me in confidence that Chamberlain agreed with him fully that there were compelling reasons why our two countries should negotiate a commercial agreement for political as well as economic considerations and that Runciman really was desirous of doing so but that in view of the Ottawa agreements95 there were considerable difficulties and limitations as to what could be done.
He said that we would discuss this more fully within the next 2 or 3 weeks but that for the present he wanted me to tell you they have every desire and intention of doing everything possible but that it will require some little time to work this out. He also wanted to assure me positively that Chamberlain is as ardently desirous of Anglo-American economic collaboration and close friendship as he is which they deem vital to world peace and progress.
I told him this was reassuring but expressed the hope that they would not wait until they missed the boat. I said that until we can get together on economic policy little headway can be made towards real peace and towards the prevention of economic collapse with all of its political and social consequences.
I told him that while I was here I would be very glad to be of any help to Bingham and to them in pushing forward a commercial agreement.
He then said he would like to discuss with me later the naval and the Pacific and Far Eastern situations which I told him I would be glad to do. He said they were still pressing the Japanese with regard to the naval question but that he was not fully conversant with the latest despatches. While Japan had refused to bind herself to the naval treaty96 or even to the 14-inch gun97 they had asked Japan to tell them just what their intentions are. I suggested to him that [Page 74] since Japan was constantly reiterating her desire to avoid a naval race they might suggest to them that nothing provokes a naval race so much as suspicion or the building of new types and ask them if they would at least agree that in case they should decide to depart from the types stipulated in the naval treaty or to build a gun in excess of 14 inches they will give notice of their intention in advance of the laying of the keel.
Eden thought this was an excellent suggestion which Japan would find it difficult to refuse. He made a note of it and said he would do something about it.
With regard to the meeting of the Bureau of the Disarmament Conference at Geneva on May 6,98 he said they had felt nothing could be accomplished but that since the French and Scandinavian countries were eager to hold the meeting, partly for its psychological effect the British had felt they could not well refuse to participate. He said, however, that Cranborne99 who was in charge of this was away and that when he returns in the next few days he would like us to have a further discussion about it.
In concluding he said he wanted to arrange a quiet dinner soon where we could talk more at length.

If there is a reply to this telegram please do not number it.

  1. Mr. Davis was in London as Chairman of the American delegation to the International Sugar Conference (see pp. 931 ff.).
  2. Walter Runciman, President of the British Board of Trade.
  3. Commercial agreements between the United Kingdom and the Dominions, signed August 20, 1932, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxxxv, pp. 161 ff.
  4. Signed at London March 25, 1936; see Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. i, pp. 22 ff.
  5. See post, pp. 618 ff.
  6. See pp. 1 ff.
  7. Robert A. J. C. Cranborne, British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.