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which were invited to attend the 1925 conference on the supervision of the international trade in arms and ammunition and in implements of war,57 with a view to holding an international conference which might meet in Geneva in the autumn of 1927 if the general Disarmament Conference cannot take place before the eighth
ordinary session of the Assembly”.
I enclose the Report of M. Benes, which was approved by the Council simultaneously with the above Resolution (Document C.701.1926. IX), as well as Document A.47.1926.IX, which contains the draft Convention mentioned in the Resolution and other documents referring to this question.58
The preparation of a draft Convention for the supervision of the private manufacture of arms and ammunition and of implements of war was decided by the Council on December 12th, 1925, as the outcome of a Resolution of the Assembly of the League of Nations, in which the Assembly endorsed the declaration inserted in the Final Act of the International Conference for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition and in Implements of War, to the effect:
“that the Convention of to-day's date must be considered as an important step towards a general system of international agreements regarding Arms and Ammunition and Implements of War, and that it is desirable that the international aspect of the manufacture of such Arms and Ammunition and Implements of War should receive early consideration by the different Governments".
The Assembly and the Council of the League of Nations have several times put on record the importance which they attach to the question of the supervision of the private manufacture of arms and ammunition and of implements of war in connection with that of the supervision of the international trade, and notably in the following passage of a report adopted by the Council on September 26th, 1925:
"The Council has taken note of the Resolution adopted by the Sixth Assembly on the supervision of the manufacture of arms and ammunition and of implements of war. The Council is aware, as pointed out in M. Guerrero's Report, which was adopted by the Assembly, that this Resolution was prompted by two currents of opinion. On the one hand, all the Assemblies have shown a desire to put into operation the provisions of Article 8 of the Covenant with regard to the supervision of the private manufacture of arms and ammunition and of implements of war. On the other hand, at the Conference of MayJune, 1925, on the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition and in Implements of War, there was a strong tendency to assert the equality of non-producing and producing States. The non-producing States pointed out that, as the Convention for the Supervision of International Trade subjected the purchase of arms to
See Foreign Relations, 1925, vol. I, pp. 26 ff. so Enclosures not printed.
the regime of publicity, the producing States must, in order to re-establish equality, accept the same principle of publicity by concluding a Convention on the supervision of manufacture”.
I beg to draw your attention to the passage in the enclosed Report in which the Council refers to the collaboration of your Government in the work to be undertaken :
“Further, the Assembly has more than once recommended that the Government of the United States should be invited to assist in the preparation of the proposed draft convention; this assistance, we are happily entitled to hope will be forthcoming in view of the formal statements made by the representative of the United States of America at the Conference for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition and in Implements of War".
I therefore have the honour to invite you to appoint a Representative to sit as a member of the Special Commission created by the Council, as specified in the enclosed Report, to meet in Geneva on March 14th at 4 p. m. I have [etc.]
500.A16/15b : Telegram
The Acting Secretary of State to the Chargé in Switzerland (Marriner)
WASHINGTON, February 23, 1927-7 p.m. 21. Please transmit the following to the Secretary General of the League of Nations in the usual informal manner.59
“The Secretary of State of the United States of America refers to the note of the Secretary General of the League of Nations, dated December 17, 1926, in which he was good enough to invite the American Government to appoint a representative to sit as a member of a Special Commission created by the Council of the League of Nations, to meet at Geneva, March 14, 1927, to consider a draft convention with regard to the private manufacture of arms and ammunition and of implements of war, and to prepare a final draft which might serve as a basis for an international conference. It has been noted that the preparation of such a draft convention is stated by Sir Eric Drummond to have been decided upon by the Council of the League on December 12, 1925, as the outcome of a resolution of the Assembly of the League endorsing the declaration inserted in the Final Act of the International Conference for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition and in Implements of War, the purport of which was that the international aspect of the manufacture of such Arms and Ammunition and Implements of War' should be given consideration by the different Governments.
It is further noted that Sir Eric Drummond draws attention to a passage in the Report adopted by the Council on December 9, 1926,
** Transmitted to the Secretary General on February 25.
which based the hope of American participation in the forthcoming meeting of the Special Commission upon certain statements made by the Honorable Theodore E. Burton, Chairman of the American delegation at the Conference for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition and in Implements of War.
The statements of Mr. Burton to which reference is made were substantially to the following effect, viz: 1) that the United States Government has for many years collected and published statistics covering the production in this country of arms and ammunition, 2) that the United States would be willing to enter a suitable international agreement providing for the publication of such statistics by the governments parties thereto, 3) that such an agreement, to be effective, should cover the manufacture of arms and ammunition in both private and government factories.
The American Government believes that the principles enunciated by Mr. Burton would provide a sound basis for an international convention, and therefore has been pleased to designate the Honorable Hugh Ś. Gibson, American Minister to Switzerland, to attend the meeting of the Special Commission.”
The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Gibson) No. 598
WASHINGTON, February 28, 1927. Sir: In addition to your other duties, you are hereby designated to attend, as the representative of this Government, the meeting of the Special Commission which is to meet at Geneva, March 14, 1927, to prepare a Draft Convention which might serve as the basis for an international conference with regard to the supervision of the private manufacture of arms and ammunition and of implements of war. The membership of this Commission, which has been formed pursuant to a resolution of the Council of the League of Nations, adopted December 9, 1926, will comprise representatives of the present members of the Council and of the United States. It is understood that the Soviet Regime has been invited to send a representative to attend this meeting, but has declined the invitation. A copy of the invitation extended to the United States Government by the Secretary General of the League, under date of December 17, 1926, and a copy of this Government's reply thereto, dated February 23, 1927, are transmitted herewith for your information.
You will recall the history of the efforts which have been made from time to time by the League of Nations to bring about an international conference and a resulting convention dealing with the problem of the private manufacture of arms and ammuniton. Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations provides inter alia as follows:
“The members of the League agree that the manufacture by private enterprise of ammunitions and implements of war is open to grave ob
jections. The Council shall advise how the evil effects attendant upon such manufacture can be prevented, due regard being had to the necessities of those members of the League which are not able to manufacture the ammunitions and implements of war necessary for their safety."
This problem was discussed at the First Assembly of the League which requested the Council to instruct the competent Commissions of the League to investigate it without delay. The Permanent Advisory Commission, with whose constitution you are familiar, reached the following conclusions in February, 1921:
(1) No direct action other than that already provided for by the treaties of peace can be taken in the case of producing states against the right of their private factories to manufacture war materials.
(2) Even if at some future time measures were contemplated to diminish production, no action should be taken to prevent non-producing states from becoming producers if they had the will and the means.
In 1921 the Temporary Mixed Commission took up consideration of the problem.60 It had before it two proposed methods of dealing with the subject :
(1) The absolute prohibition of the private manufacture and, (2) The control of private manufacture.
Method (1) was rejected by the Commission as contrary to the interests of states which do not produce all the munitions they require. The Commission therefore decided to recommend a system of international control and suggested the following measures as likely to render that control more effective:
(1) The prohibition of all export of arms without a special license from the Government of the exporting country;
(2) The prohibition of all import of arms without a license from the Government of the importing country;
(3) Such licenses to be published by the League of Nations;
(4) No munitions or implements of war to be manufactured without a Government license, and, possibly, that such licenses should be published by the League of Nations;
(5) Conversion of bearer shares of armament firms to nominal shares;
(6) Armament firms to publish, at stated intervals, complete reports on their financial situation, and any contracts entered into by them;
(7) An audit of the accounts of private armament firms;
(8) No person interested in an armament firm to be permitted to hold stock in similar firms in other countries;
(9) Such persons not to be permitted to publish, or hold stock in companies publishing newspapers;
See League of Nations, Report of the Temporary Mixed Commission on Armaments, Geneva, Sept. 15, 1921 (A.81.1921.-C.321.1921), pp. 11-13.
(10) Non-nationals to be prohibited from holding stock in private armament firms;
(11) No patent relating to munitions or implements of war to be issued to non-nationals;
(12) No warship to be transferred from one flag to another without notice being given to the League of Nations.
It was realized, however, that to institute any system of control it would be necessary to base it upon an international convention. There appeared to be many difficulties in the way of framing such a convention, among them the traffic in arms which at that time was not regulated effectively. The Temporary Mixed Commission finally came to the conclusion that should the traffic in arms and munitions be subjected to a sufficient measure of supervision the continuation of private manufacture would be of little danger.
The efforts of the League were for that reason directed primarily to the formulation of an arms traffic convention rather than to the control of the private manufacture of arms.
Nevertheless, a considerable number of states members of the League consistently expressed the view that an arms traffic convention could never be fully effective unless it were accompanied by a convention supervising and controlling the private manufacture of arms. This view has not been shared by the United States which, while anxious to cooperate with all efforts which appeared calculated really to lead to the reduction or limitation of armament or to remove causes of international discord, did not for many reasons favor the elaborate and often impractical proposals that have been made looking to the control or supervision of the private manufacture of arms. As you are aware, the Arms Traffic Convention signed at Geneva, June 17, 1925,61 has not yet received the requisite number of ratifications and has not therefore come into effect. Certain countries which favored the simultaneous treatment of the problem of private manufacture with the problem of arms traffic have now advanced the belief that the arms traffic convention will prove ineffective if not totally useless unless a further convention regarding the private manufacture of arms is concluded. It is in response to this appeal that the Special Commission upon which you are to represent this Government has been created. In order that you may have clearly in mind the policy of this Government in regard to international agreements regarding the private manufacture of arms and munitions and may be in a position to explain and carry out that policy at the forthcoming meeting, you are advised as follows:
In its instructions to me while I was American Minister to Switzerland and in subsequent instructions to you in regard to participation
a Foreign Relations, 1925, vol. I, p. 61.