793.94 Conference/227½: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State

1588. For the President and the Acting Secretary only. Your No. 568 of November 9, 5 p.m. After luncheon today Chautemps said that there were two important matters with regard to which he wished to speak to me. The first was “the effort which Davis was making in collaboration with the English to exclude France from a sub-committee to be appointed by the Brussels Conference to deal with the Sino-Japanese conflict.” Chautemps went on to say precisely what Delbos had said to me previously. (See my Nos. 1570, November 6, 4 p.m., and 1576, November 8, 9 p.m.) France, in view of the importance of her interests in the Far East, especially in view of her possession Indo-China, could not permit the formation of any subcommittee on which she was not represented.

I said to Chautemps that I had already communicated to Davis the view of the French Government with regard to this matter, and that I felt Davis now understood the French position completely.

Chautemps then went on to say that the second matter was far more important. When Delbos had attempted to have a serious conversation with Davis with regard to eventualities in the Far East Davis had indicated that the United States was not interested in any way in any action in the Far East beyond a request to the Japanese and the Chinese to stop fighting and begin conversations. This did not tally with the information he had received from Jules Henry in Washington with regard to his conversation last Saturday with the President. Henry had received the impression that the President was prepared to take some (undefined) action in the Far East in case the Japanese should attack Indo-China.

I then repeated to Chautemps as accurately as possible the substance of your No. 568, November 9, 5 p.m. which incidentally I was deeply grateful to have.

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Chautemps said that he had sent the President today a personal message through Henry; and went on to comment that it was quite true that France and England and the other democracies were behaving like scared rabbits but so nearly as he could see the rabbit which was behaving in the most scared manner since there was no gun pointed toward it was the United States.

Chautemps then became intensely serious and said:

“Look here. I know you well enough to tell you exactly what is in my mind and I am sure that neither you nor the President will object to my speaking with absolute frankness. I can understand that it is a perfectly honorable and reasonable line of policy for the Government of the United States to say that it will not involve itself actively in any war which may develop anywhere. Such a policy would lead to the United States being able to remain out of any war which might develop for a certain number of years but in the end, the United States would be drawn in. Nevertheless, that is an understandable policy.

“What I cannot understand is that you Americans from time to time talk as if you really intended to act in the international sphere when you have no intention of acting in any way that can be effective. I understand how much the President may desire to do something today to preserve peace; but I should infinitely rather have him say nothing than make speeches, like his speech in Chicago, which aroused immense hopes when there is no possibility that in the state of American opinion and the state of mind of the Senate he can follow up such speeches by action. Such a policy on the part of the United States merely leads the dictatorships to believe that the democracies are full of words but are unwilling to back up their words by force, and force is the only thing that counts today in the world.

“For my part I am convinced that unless the United States is prepared either to announce that it will use at least all its economic strength against any aggressor and eventually perhaps its military strength as well, or unless the United States will make a constructive effort to establish peace on the earth, the world will rapidly enter the most horrible of wars.

“As I see it, there are two constructive courses of action open to the United States. First, to announce that the United States will throw its physical strength against any aggressor. In that case no nation would dare to start a war. Second, to make now a constructive effort for peace.

“I understand that in view of the constitutional limitations on the power of the President of the United States it is perhaps impossible for him to make any promise to bring the United States into war against the aggressor or even to promise economic sanctions. It certainly is not impossible, however, for the President to make an effort for peace.

“There is, I believe, exactly one way of making peace in Europe and the world. That is through reconciliation between France and Germany. I can promise you that I and the whole of France are ready to make any settlement with Germany which looks like an enduring settlement even though it may cost us great sacrifices. We are ready for example to make sacrifices in the colonial domain which [Page 174] will displease greatly our friends, the British, when they are asked to make similar sacrifices. Hitler and many of his closest advisers have said recently that they had no quarrel with France and desired ardently to reach a reconciliation with France. I believe that the influence of the President could be decisive today in making peace between France and Germany. I do not believe that Germany could refuse to enter into conversations suggested by the President of the “United States.

“I do not wish to suggest ways and means; but I wish you would tell the President for me that I consider it of vital importance to world civilization that he should take the initiative. If he should wish to invite me and Hitler to Washington I should be overjoyed to come. If he should wish to come to France I should be overjoyed to give him the greatest welcome ever given anyone on this continent.”

At this point Bonnet84 joined us and Chautemps repeated for his benefit,

“I have just been saying to Bullitt that I believe the world is definitely doomed to war unless the United States either can take an engagement to enter war against an aggressor state or can take some effective action for peace, and that I am convinced that the only way to peace in Europe and in other parts of the world is by way of reconciliation between France and Germany.”

Bonnet expressed his complete agreement with these statements of Chautemps and then added that he felt certain from his conversations with the President that the President was as convinced as he and Chautemps that no peace was possible anywhere in the world unless France and Germany should become reconciled. Before I left, however, Chautemps again returned to the subject and asked me please to transmit to the President precisely what he had said with all the emphasis of which I was capable.

I said that I would be glad to take up the matter; but cautioned him that if he should let it be known that he had made the statements he had made to me, every effort would be made by those who desired to keep France and Germany apart to kill his projects by premature publicity. He replied that he would say nothing to anyone.

  1. Georges Bonnet, French Minister of Finance, formerly Ambassador at Washington.