The White House, Washington,
16 March, 1919.
Former President Taft asks if he may cable to you direct, for your
consideration only, some suggestions about which he has been thinking a
great deal and which he would like to have you consider. He said that
these suggestions do not look to the change of the structure of the
League, the plan of its action or its real character, but simply to
removing objections in minds of conscientious Americans, who are anxious
for a league of nations, whose fears have been roused by suggested
constructions of the League which its language does not justify and whose
fears could be removed without any considerable change of language.
* * * * *
Received at White House,
March 18, 1919.
In reply to your number sixteen, appreciate Mr. Taft's offer of
suggestions and would welcome them. The sooner they are sent the better.
You need give yourself no concern about my yielding anything with regard
to the embodiment of the proposed convention in the Treaty.
* * * * *
The White House, Washington,
18 March, 1919.
Following from Wm. H. Taft:
Quote If you bring back the Treaty with the League of Nations in it,
make more specific reservations of the Monroe Doctrine, fix a term for the
duration of the League and the limit of armament, require expressly
unanimity of action in Executive Council and Body of Delegates, and add to
Article XV a provision that where the Executive Council of the Body of
Delegates finds the difference to grow out of an exclusively domestic
policy, it shall recommend no settlement, the ground will be completely
cut from under the opponents of the League in the Senate. Addition to
Article XV will answer objection as to Japanese immigration as well as
tariffs under Article XXI. Reservation of the Monroe Doctrine might be as
Any American state or states may protect the integrity of American
territory and the independence of the government whose territory it
is, whether a member of the League or not, and may, in the interests
of American peace, object to and prevent the further transfer of
American territory or sovereignty to any European or non-American
Monroe Doctrine reservation alone would probably carry the treaty but
others would make it certain. (signed) Wm. H. Taft End quote.
* * * * *
The White House, Washington,
21 March, 1919.
The following letter from Hon. Wm. H. Taft. Quote I have thought perhaps
it might help more if I was somewhat more specific than I was in the
memorandum note I sent you yesterday, and I therefore enclose another
memorandum End quote.
Duration of the Covenant
Add to the Preamble the following:
Quote From the obligations of which any member of the League may
withdraw after July 1, 1829, by two years' notice in writing, duly
filed with the Secretary General of the League End quote.
I have no doubt that the construction put upon the agreement would be
what I understand the President has already said it should be, namely
that any nation may withdraw from it upon reasonable notice, which
perhaps would be a year. I think, however, it might strengthen the
Covenant if there was a fixed duration. It would completely remove the
objection that it is perpetual in its operation.
Duration of Armament Limit
Add to the first paragraph of Article VIII, the following:
Quote At the end of every five years, such limits of armament for
the several governments shall be reŽxamined by the Executive Council,
and agreed upon by them as in the first instance End quote.
The duration of the obligation to limit armament, which now may only
be changed by consent of the Executive Council, has come in for
criticism. I should think this might thus be avoided, without in any
way injuring the Covenant. Perhaps three years is enough, but I should
think five years would be better.
Unanimous Action by the Executive Council or Body of Delegates
Insert in Article IV, after the first paragraph, the following:
Quote Other action taken or recommendations made by the Executive
Council or the Body of Delegates shall be by the unanimous action of
the countries represented by the members or delegates, unless
otherwise specifically stated End quote.
Great objection is made to the power of the Executive Council by a
majority of the members and the Body of Delegates to do the things
which they are authorized to do in the Covenant. In view of the
specific provision that the Executive Council and the Body of
Delegates may act by a majority of its members as to their procedure,
I feel confident that, except in cases where otherwise provided, both
bodies can only act by unanimous vote of the countries represented. If
that be the right construction, then there can be no objection to have
it specifically stated, and it will remove emphatic objection already
made on this ground. It is a complete safeguard against involving the
United States primarily in small distant wars to which the United
States has no immediate relation, for the reason that the plan for
taking care of such a war, to be recommended or advised by the
Executive Council, must be approved by a representative of the United
States on the Board.
Add to Article X.
(a) Quote A state or states of America, a member or members of the
League, and competent to fulfil this obligation in respect to American
territory or independence, may, in event of the aggression, actual or
threatened, expressly assume the obligation and relieve the European
or non-American members of the League from it until they shall be
advised by such American state or states of the need for their aid
(b) Quote Any such American state or states may protect the
integrity of any American territory and the sovereignty of the
government whose territory it is, whether a member of the League or
not, and may, in the interest of American peace, object to and prevent
the further transfer of American territory or sovereignty to any
European or non-American power End quote.
Objection has been made that under Article X, European governments
would come to America with force and be concerned in matters from
which heretofore the United States has excluded them. This is not
true, because Spain fought Chili, in Seward's time, without objection
from the United States, and so Germany and England instituted a
blockade against Venezuela in Roosevelt's time. This fear could be
removed, however, by the first of the above paragraphs. Paragraph (b)
is the Monroe Doctrine pure and simple. I forwarded this in my first
memorandum. It will be observed that Article X only covers the
integrity and independence of members of the League. There may be some
American countries which are not sufficiently responsible to make it
wise to invite them into the League. This second paragraph covers
them. The expression Quote European or non-American End quote is
inserted for the purpose of indicating that Great Britain, though it
has American dominion, is not to acquire further territory or
Japanese Immigration and Tariffs
Add to Article XV.
Quote If the difference between the parties shall be found by the
Executive Council or the Body of Delegates to be a question which by
international law is solely within the domestic jurisdiction and
polity of one of the parties, it shall so report and not recommend a
settlement of the dispute End quote.
Objection is made to Article XV that under its terms the United States
would be found by unanimous recommendation for settlement of a dispute
in respect to any issue foreign or domestic; that it therefore might
be affected seriously, and unjustly, by recommendations forbidding
tariffs on importations. In my judgment, we could only rely on the
public opinion of the world evidenced by the Body of Delegates, not to
interfere with our domestic legislation and action. Nor do I think
that under the League as it is, we covenant to abide by a unanimous
recommendation. But if there is a specific exception made in respect
to matters completely within the domestic jurisdiction and legislation
of a country, the whole criticism is removed. The Republican senators
are trying to stir up anxiety among Republicans lest this is to be a
limitation upon our tariff. The President has already specifically met
the objection as to limitation upon the tariff when the Fourteen
Points were under discussion. Nevertheless in this respect to the
present language of the Covenant, it would help much to meet and
remove objections, and cut the ground under senatorial obstruction.
Prospect of Ratification
My impression is that if the one article already sent, on the Monroe
Doctrine, be inserted in the Treaty, sufficient Republicans who signed
the Round Robin would probably retreat from their position and vote
for ratification so that it would carry. If the other suggestions were
adopted, I feel confident that all but a few who oppose any league
would be driven to accept them and to stand for the League.
* * * * *
The White House, Washington,
28 March, 1919.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES,
Following just received from Mr. Taft: Quote Venture to suggest to
President that failure to reserve Monroe Doctrine more specifically in
face of opposition in Conference will give great weight to objection that
League as first reported endangers Doctrine. It will seriously embarrass
advocates of League, it will certainly lead to Senate amendments embodying
Doctrine and other provisions in form less likely to secure subsequent
acquiescence of other nations than proper reservation now. Deems some kind
of Monroe Doctrine amendment now to Article Ten vital to acceptance of
League in this country. I say this with full realization that
complications in Conference are many and not clearly understood here. A
strong and successful stand now will carry the League End quote.
* * * * *
Letter from Mr. Taft.
New York, N, Y., April 10, 1919.
MY DEAR MR. TUMULTY:
We are very much troubled over the report that the Monroe Doctrine
amendment to the Covenant is being opposed by England and Japan. Will you
be good enough to send the enclosed to the President? We had a meeting to-
day of the Executive Council of the League to Enforce Peace. Doctor Lowell
and I, at the instance of the League, will be glad to have this matter
presented directly to the President by cable.
WM. H. TAFT.
HON. JOSEPH P. TUMULTY,
Secretary To The President,
The White House,
Washington, D. C.
* * * * *
The White House, Washington,
13 April, 1919.
Following is sent at the request of Mr. Taft: Quote Friends of the
Covenant are seriously alarmed over report that no amendment will be made
more specifically safeguarding Monroe Doctrine. At full meeting of
Executive Committee of League to Enforce Peace, with thirty members from
eighteen states present, unanimous opinion that without such amendment,
Republican senators will certainly defeat ratification of Treaty because
public opinion will sustain them. With such amendment, Treaty will be
(Signed) WILLIAM H. TAFT A. LAWRENCE LOWELL End quote
* * * * *
March 27, 1919.
For Secretary Lansing from Polk.
Following are proposed amendments to the Constitution of the League of
Nations which have been drafted by Mr. Root:
First Amendment: Strike out Article XIII, and insert the following: The
high contracting powers agree to refer to the existing Permanent Court of
Arbitration at The Hague, or to the Court of Arbitral Justice proposed at
the Second Hague Conference when established, or to some other arbitral
tribunal, all disputes between them (including those affecting honour and
vital interests) which are of a justiciable character, and which the
powers concerned have failed to settle by diplomatic methods. The powers
so referring to arbitration agree to accept and give effect to the award
of the Tribunal.
Disputes of a justiciable character are defined as disputes as to the
interpretation of a treaty, as to any question of international law, as to
the existence of any fact which if established would constitute a breach
of any international obligation, or as to the nature and extent of the
reparation to be made for any such breach.
Any question which may arise as to whether a dispute is of a justiciable
character is to be referred for decision to the Court of Arbitral Justice
when constituted, or, until it is constituted, to the existing Permanent
Court of Arbitration at The Hague.
Second Amendment. Add to Article XIV the following paragraphs:
The Executive Council shall call a general conference of the powers to
meet not less than two years or more than five years after the signing of
this convention for the purpose of reviewing the condition of
international law, and of agreeing upon and stating in authoritative form
the principles and rules thereof.
Thereafter regular conferences for that purpose shall be called and held
at stated times.
Third Amendment. Immediately before the signature of the American
Delegates, insert the following reservation:
Inasmuch as in becoming a member of the League the United States of
America is moved by no interest or wish to intrude upon or interfere with
the political policy or internal administration of any foreign state, and
by no existing or anticipated dangers in the affairs of the American
continents, but accedes to the wish of the European states that it shall
join its power to theirs for the preservation of general peace, the
representatives of the United States of America sign this convention with
the understanding that nothing therein contained shall be construed to
imply a relinquishment by the United States of America of its traditional
attitude towards purely American questions, or to require the submission
of its policy regarding such questions (including therein the admission of
immigrants) to the decision or recommendation of other powers.
Fourth Amendment. Add to Article X the following:
After the expiration of five years from the signing of this convention any
party may terminate its obligation under this article by giving one year's
notice in writing to the Secretary General of the League.
Fifth Amendment. Add to Article IX the following:
Such commission shall have full power of inspection and verification
personally and by authorized agents as to all armament, equipment,
munitions, and industries referred to in Article VIII.
Sixth Amendment. Add to Article XXIV the following:
The Executive Council shall call a general conference of members of the
League to meet not less than five nor more than ten years after the
signing of this convention for the revision thereof, and at that time, or
at any time thereafter upon one year's notice, any member may withdraw
from the League.
* * * * *
The first suggestion made by Mr. Root is not only substantially expressed
in Article XIII of the Treaty, but almost literally, in its very text,
appears in this section of the Covenant.
Mr. Root's proposition that "the high contracting powers agree to refer to
the existing permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague or to the court
of arbitral Justice proposed at the Second Hague, when established, or to
some other arbitral tribunal, all disputes between them," etc. This is
actually done by Article 13, the reference being not to the Hague or to
the proposal of the Second Hague Convention, but to a court of arbitration
"agreed on by the parties to the dispute or stipulated in any convention
existing between them."
As will readily be seen, Mr. Root's definition of "disputes of justiciable
character" is embodied literally in Article XIII of the Covenant, Mr.
Root's exact language having been appropriated at the Peace Commission.
Mr. Root's second proposed amendment provided for calling "a general
conference of the powers to meet in not less than two years, or more than
five years, after the signing of this convention for the purpose of
reviewing the condition of international law and of agreeing upon and
stating in authoritative form the principles and rules thereof."
In Article XIX of the Covenant it is provided that the Assembly meet from
time to time to engage in "the consideration of international conditions
whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world." If it may be
said that this provision of Article XIX does not make it mandatory upon
the council to meet at fixed periods, for the purpose of reviewing
international conditions, on the other hand it may be urged that it
empowers the Assembly to advise such a review at any time, and the Council
to make such review at any time and as often as the necessities might
permit. "The consideration of international conditions" certainly
comprehends a review of international law and a rectification of its
imperfections, so that substantially the whole of this suggestion by Mr.
Root is in the Covenant.
The third amendment of the Covenant suggested by Mr. Root is exceedingly
interesting in several particulars. Those who would invoke the aid and
sympathy of the Government of the United States in the effort for Irish
freedom will observe that Mr. Root herein precludes the United States from
having any interest in, or wish to intrude upon or interfere with, the
political policy of the internal administration of any foreign state.
Contrast this with Article XI of the Covenant, which President Wilson in a
speech on the Pacific coast said was peculiarly his own and in which it is
declared to be the friendly right of any member of the League to bring to
the attention of the Assembly or of the Council any circumstances whatever
affecting international relations which threaten to disturb the internal
peace or understanding between nations, and if this may be regarded as
outside the question, let it go, and turn to another significant phrase
contained in Mr. Root's suggested amendment. It will be noted that nowhere
in his suggested modifications of the Covenant does Mr. Root suggest any
alteration whatsoever of Article X, as it stands. On the contrary, in Mr.
Root's third suggested amendment he proposed to put the United States
definitely on record as acceding "to the wish of the European states that
this nation shall join its powers to theirs for the preservation of
The final proposition contained in Mr. Root's proposed third amendment is
broadly cared for in Article XXI of the Covenant relating to the Monroe
Doctrine, and by implication in paragraph 8 of Article XV, which prohibits
any recommendation by the Council as to the settlement of the matters
solely within the domestic jurisdiction of any member of the League.
It may, furthermore, be stated that the President cheerfully agreed to a
reservation presented by Mr. Hitchcock, of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, even more specifically withholding all domestic questions from
the jurisdiction of the League.
Mr. Root's fourth suggested amendment proposed to permit any member of the
League to terminate its obligations, under Article X, by giving one year's
notice of its desire. While no such modification of Article X was made,
the much broader right was given to any nation to renounce all of its
obligations to the League and to terminate its membership of the League
upon two years' notice at any time after joining.
The fifth suggested amendment by Mr. Root, proposing a modification of
Article IX, by empowering a commission to inspect and verify, either
personally or by authorized agents, all armaments, equipment, munitions,
and industries relating to the manufacture of war material, does not
appear to have been adopted, nor can any one rationally insist that it was
essential to accept this suggestion. Article IX provides for the
appointment of a permanent commission to advise the Council of the
execution of those provisions of the Covenant. relating to armament,
equipment, munitions, etc., in the military and naval branches of
A sane interpretation of this article would imply that the commission has
power to inspect and verify facts, because in no other way could it
Mr. Root's sixth proposed amendment makes it mandatory upon the Executive
Council of the League to call a general conference of members to meet not
less than five years or more than ten years after the signing of the
Covenant for purposes of revision, etc. This modification of the Covenant
was not made, but the fact that it was omitted by no manner of means
precludes the exercise of that particular function by the Council. Without
Mr. Root's amendment it is perfectly competent for the Council to convene
such a meeting of the members of the League at any time. It might do this
in less time than five years, or it might postpone the doing of it for ten
years or a longer period.