793.94 Conference/208: Telegram

The Chairman of the American Delegation (Davis) to the Secretary of State

22. For President and the Secretary. Enlarging somewhat on the paragraph of my 19, November 6, 11 a.m. dealing with the French attitude, I feel that I should telegraph at greater length regarding a conversation I had with Delbos the other evening.

Delbos told me that while he agreed we should make every effort to bring about a peace by agreement he was frankly skeptical of any [Page 163] successful issue of the Conference. He accordingly felt that France, England and the United States should discuss together even at this early date and outside the Conference what we might do in the event of failure. He was not in favor of sanctions against Japan but he was in favor of aid to China. Even this, however, involved certain risks of retaliation and he thought that we should begin discussing probable contingencies. He felt that as Japan would undoubtedly tighten the blockade of the Chinese coast and interfere further with foreign shipping we might begin to consider some system of convoy or mutual protection of our ships in Chinese waters. We might also be considering the situation of Indo-China which was one of the principal means of entry into China. Already Japan had politely warned France that if supplies were sent to China through Indo-China Japan would take a serious view of the matter and although Delbos did not go so far as to suggest that Britain and America should guarantee Indo-China he did suggest that we consider steps to insure free entry to and egress from Indo-China.

I pointed out that in a democracy such as ours it would be impossible to make any such commitment in advance and that decisions of this sort are in the final analysis dependent upon conditions at the time and upon public opinion. Furthermore we were now engaged in an attempt to bring about a settlement by agreement and that while so engaged we were reluctant to discuss alternatives in case of failure.

Later in the conversation Delbos showed more clearly what was in his mind. He urged that we make a political alignment of the democracies against the dictators. Civilization had been retreating and only an organized front of free nations could put a stop to this retreat. There was only one leader in the world who could organize such a peace front and this was President Roosevelt. He suggested that the latter might call a world conference after adequate preparation to clear up all outstanding political problems. He again reiterated that we should start concerting possible action in the Far Eastern crisis, just Britain, France and ourselves. He claimed that it was useless to expect 18 nations to decide what should be done. I told Delbos that I doubted if this would appeal to the President and that he would probably feel it was useless to try to settle all of the world problems at once if we weren’t meanwhile able to settle this one. I do not feel, however, that the Far Eastern problem could be solved at this stage by two or three powers; I conceived the solution to lie in education and moral pressure exerted by all nations big and small and I again urged upon Delbos the advisability of enlisting the active cooperation of the smaller countries in our deliberations.

Since this conversation the French delegation has evinced little spirit of cooperation; apart from minor difficulties it has in effect [Page 164] blocked the appointment of a negotiating committee by insistence on being a member regardless of its size. De Tessan,75 who has succeeded as head of the French delegation in the absence of Delbos, told me frankly that the primary purpose of France is that in all circumstances she shall be side by side with the United States and Great Britain on a basis of complete equality. I told him we could not combine with either or both.

The foregoing is of interest not only in itself but should be considered as background in connection with my next succeeding telegram.

  1. François de Tessan, French Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.