World Affairs Institute

THE BRUSSELS CONFERENCE AND CONFLICT WITH JAPAN Author(s): LEON E. BOOTHE Source: World Affairs, Vol. 135, No. 3 (Winter 1972), pp. 240-259 Published by: World Affairs Institute Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20671383 . Accessed: 28/01/2011 01:56
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THE BRUSSELS CONFERENCE AND CONFLICT WITH JAPAN
By LEON E. BOOTHE

O

Polo Bridge. This

clashed the at Marco and n July 1937,Japanese Chinesetroops 7,
belligerent action on the simmering Sino-Japanese

to be a for war was territory.' The decision troops invaded Chinese and control China both efforts to penetrate culmination of Japanese

border in China signaled the beginning of general war as Japanese

economically and politically. China's defeat at the hands of Japan in the Sino-JapaneseWar of 1896 marked the beginning of Japan's overt
efforts to control China. The ease with which

to successful, was steady path empire in China, while smooth. For example, rivalries in not, however, always imperialistic War in 1904. Additionally, led to the Russo-Japanese Manchuria Empire. Japan's checked which China.2 The 1937 invasion attempts. was to be on far different the Nine from Japan's other It had tremendous international Power

and supposedly weaker nation, defeated China foredoomed theChinese

Japan,

a much

smaller

Japan's gains during the early part of the 20th century had been
or frustrated sought to prevent by America's the economic paternalistic and political open-door policies of dismemberment

imperialistic because of The torial since helped and the

Japan's of signatories political

signature that covenant sovereignty

interestof Japan had changed considerably in the decade and a half Japan had a sense of destiny inAsia. By extending her influencepro gressively, Japan could become a stabilizing force in the Far East.4 Despite the change of interest,Japanese actions were a clear viola tion of the 1922 agreement. The main question was whether the other signatories of the pact would take collective action to preserve the treatycommitments. 240
signing of the Nine Power agreement. The Depression to convince in Japanese the militants society Nippon had that

had pledged of China.3 However,

significance of 1922. Treaty to respect the terri the national

BRUSSELS CONFERENCE
Reaction The 16, inAmerica first major 1937. and Abroad reaction of the American of State came government a Cordell Hull,

241

American

Wilsonian idealist, tried to rise to the tense situation by making his
famous statement any maintenance abstinence future of principles for the settlement of the present and In brief summary, Hull proposed international disputes. of and international national self-restraint, peace, use of force, abstinence from interference in the from the nations,

Secretary

on July staunch

of problems by peaceful adjustment and strengthening of and agreement, faithful observance negotiation of international and laws, and limitation and reduction agreements internal affairs of other armaments. of ways. While Reflective

lacked precision of language and could thus be interpretedin a variety
of that inherent failure of precision was the

laudatory

in their general

aims, Hull's

proposals

so very evident in in this lesson was to be ignored generally paradox later American foreign policy.' Britain also was the Far Eastern concerned about situation. The British demonstrated to the International conferred with leader this interest to Norman Conference Chamberlain in delegate In London, Davis about world events. While 1937. in take reference advantage in Europe. to Davis, American

adoption of these principles by everymajor power. Unfortunately the

Sugar Prime Minister

Chamberlain indicated a policy of appeasement in Europe, the British
a more espoused positive policy that Japan would Chamberlain's fear was weakness could in the Orient in case Japan. of British Prime

Minister felt that only a resolute standby theUnited States and Britain
stem the tide of Japanese imperialism.6 to the United Britain suggested States government States ruled out such a on October 1,

of general war

The

United

1937, the possibility of a joint boycott against Japan. Officially the
this negative course. The basic arguments policy of the major covered response categories

legalism,moralism, departure from tradition, and even sheer prag matism. The American officials agreed that the proposed policy went American legislation,named an aggressorand thuswas beyond existing and would mean aligning the United States and Great taking sides, Britain. The United States also feared that theAmerican fleetwould bear the brunt of any Japanese retaliation.Britain's proposal showed the weakness of the League of Nations. England felt it had to go outside of theLeague forpositive action.7

supporting

242
A the dramatic chain his

LEON E. BOOTHE
of events On famous of temporarily arrested the uncertainty October President Franklin 5, 1937, Quarantine in Chicago. The Speech States was the uncom throwing instead sounding a clarion call for little doubt that in China.' the talk of actions

diplomatic made Roosevelt President mitted

vacuum.

intimated

that the United and was could at be

past to the winds There action. concerted was aimed hours

quarantine Just 24 adopted Nine Nine

called for the signatoriesof the resolution implicated Japan and further
Power Washington Treaty to initiate consultations. Since the

Japanese squarely the League after Roosevelt's of Nations speech, a resolution made its Far Eastern Advisory Committee. This by

of contracting nations had pledged to support the integrity China, a
Power Conference seemed in order. The

relevant when it is realized that SecretaryHull had notified theLeague
before a the Chicago address that President Roosevelt The American and the United was major foreign policy speech. was acceded to by the League The U. President's States was going to make call for action encouraged

League's

action

is more

to

play a full role if it sowilled.9

took a bold step in issuing a statement S. State Department that Japan was in fact in violation of existing treaties. The communique of the United States has been forced stated in part: "The Government to the conclusion the principles. the Nine Power that the action . .between of Japan in China is inconsistent with nations and is contrary to the of provisions . ., and to those of the Pact." Kellogg-Briand in general accord with those of the League came announcement fact that the American adopted its resolution indicates that a

American of Nations

Treaty. conclusions were

The Assembly. on the same that the League day effort was being made.10 joint concerted Having

The trend of events indicated that theUnited States was devising a
that would go beyond policy the initial steps, Roosevelt taken moralistic waited condemnation. for domestic and

internationalreaction.''1 In Europe reactionwas mixed. The French, who were hard pressed because of the vulnerabilityof Indochina,were very enthusiastic about Roosevelt's speech. French officials thought the moves by the American governmenthad come at a very propitious time.Chamberlain of England hoped to channel suchmoves. He stated that the firststep of any concerted action would be the holding of a Nine Power Conference. Germany and Italy reacted negatively to the speech and

BRUSSELS CONFERENCE
the calling Manchuria Nine of a Nine in 1932.1 Power meeting. The Italian government

243
considered

that the Nine Power Treaty had died with the Japanese seizure of
2 Initial reaction

could not acquiesce Japanese herself. The Japanese military, resented American and British

among Japanese government circles indicated that the Pact was Power Treaty was obsolete and that the Kellogg-Briand to the "China incident." If invited, Japan's inclination was inapplicable to refuse any invitation to a Nine Power Conference. The proposed in any intervention between China and of the West, having little understanding 3 intrusion into the Chinese problem.'

American While Roosevelt's

Opinion Revisionist studies have indicated for strong support inter Administration

United States verified the reception of Roosevelt's
American citizenry. He reported to Berlin on October fanfare overwhelmingly quickly become Reaction against response, "the negative ) a call to retreat. . . .

quarantine speech, the domestic reaction as largely negative to the sudden change of preted There was a large outcry of public opinion against any foreign policy.'" to the kind of aggressive action German Ambassador against Japan. The 9 that, due has

the Roosevelt

speech by the
to the rather advised be in a

in Chicago

position similar to that of Britain in the Ethiopian crisis-making a
commitment Britain's with no

in the State Department varied. A minority group feared that the United States would strong action. Many follow-up support The from other nations. New York Times

feared that the United States would have to bear the brunt in fighting
battles in the Far East. echoed this idea general mitted unless in stating that the United States should remain it could be firmly convinced that the other major uncom nations

This group

with interestsin the Far East would actively take part in any adopted course of concerted action.' 6 Assistant Secretary of State G. S. Messersmithwas the spokesman for a groupwhich espoused a second viewpoint:
We are witnessing . .. a reversion to the doctrine of force and of might . .. to an entirely different internationalmorality. . .. This resurrected
law . .. is to replace present international law . . . and a whole new

system of public world.'"'

and private morals

. ..

is to be

imposed on the

244
Patience existed. would only lead

LEON E. BOOTHE
the United States to war, and there was no

shelter behind neutrality legislation or ignoring the facts as they A notable thirdgroup consistingof Secretary of State Hull, William Bullitt (Ambassador to France), William Phillips (Ambassador to Italy),
and Hugh Department and J. P. Moffat of the State Wilson, James Dunn, met on October 10. This group felt that the situation in

China might not be resolved even if the United States took strong action and if Japan completely backed down. The Soviet Union might
try to move into the chaotic vacuum and nothing would be gained.1"

Conference

at Brussels

an of opinion both at home and abroad, evident division Despite avenue still available in the Nine Power for possible action was had issued a convention Conference call. England, for which the League in communication conference. conference. susceptibility government pessimistically ment The The with the United States, first approached powers Dutch refused because however, government, to Japanese of their Asian empire reprisal. The that not it would attend a conference that itwas in favor of coercive measures. for such a began preparation to host the the Netherlands of the Dutch stated

announced

but

by stating that "no international alter the course of developments interests very unlikely, Belgian conference Because agreed for November

stronglyadvised his government against the holding of such a meeting
action short of force could . . ." Since in China. in any way such action was suffer.

advice, then asked the Belgian govern Britain, following American to to serve as conference host. The Belgian Ambassador Japan

spite of such ominous warnings, Belgium did accept and scheduled the
3, 1937.1 9 of the crisis, Britain of the magnitude nonsignatory and the United of the Nine States Power

in Japan would

necessarily

In

to invite certain

governments

Treaty to the conference, notably Germany and the Societ Union. Trying to bolster the roster of the conference even more, British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden sent a personal message to Foreign Minister Ciano of Italy and Reich Foreign Minister Constantin von Neurath asking each to attend at the head of theirdelegations. Both later refused.20o The United States officially accepted the League's invitation on October 16, 1937. One United States diplomat unofficially remarked

BRUSSELS
about the League There

CONFERENCE

245

we

was

ifwe do and damned if invitation, "We are damned was that until the time of little doubt, though, Roosevelt's it looked as if the League would try to quarantine speech handle the Far Eastern dilemma. The American president's speech thus don't." the genesis of the Nine Power Conference.2

Policy Planning
Norman

Roosevelt appointed the following to theUnited States delegation:
Davis as the sole as as delegate, J. P. Moffat Bohlen the President a vital need Davis at was European as Far Eastern Stanley Hornbeck Robert Pell as Press Officer, adviser, Secretary of State Hull could not go

adviser, because

and Charles There was Norman the President conferences. situation. in 1934:

Secretary. had called for Hull

the Congress back into special session. to stay in Washington.22 Roosevelt's and had served ambassador-at-large international meetings, especially disarmament Davis's indicated that he was in background

previous Ambassador

favor of a stronger approach by the United States to the world
Davis's "It

to promote peace and solve such questions of international concern as can only be dealt with effectively by concerted action." He felt that such as treaties were insufficient. Davis things nonaggression had additionally quarantine statements which If Roosevelt prepared Those speech. Roosevelt selected Davis two of the four memoranda two memoranda toned down because contained for Roosevelt's very desire

an endeavor

was an article written general outlook clearly stated in . .to should be possible for the United States. in cooperate

strong for a

in the final draft.23 of the Ambassador's

felt that theUnited States should go slow lestJapan retaliate and those who thought that Japan should be stopped now lestwe be faced by a While Davis did not advocate theUnited Empire toAmerican security. States becoming a lackey for Britain, he felt that a prime aim of American foreign policy should be to prevent the Empire from becoming endangered.At the other extremewas Moffat's position. His preoccupation was to prevent American involvement in hostilities anywhere and to prevent an entangling common front formation of democratic powers. He felt the destruction of Japan would leave a power vacuum which could only augment communism.24
stronger threat later. Davis emphasized the importance of the British

stronger policy, the rest of the delegation was not so firmly convinced. in the United States entourage developed Divisions between those who

246
The division among

LEON E. BOOTHE
in the the delegation was matched by confusion echelon of Roosevelt's Administration. Secretary were

guided by the outline of principles The Secretary of State listed national security previously made public. of the maintenance of peace as the first objective of and the promotion American foreign policy. He stated further: You will bear inmind that public opinion in the United States has expressed its emphatic determination that the United States keep out
. . . The forum for function primary constructive discussion and ... bring the of the conference ... is to to formulate together possible through provide bases peaceful of

higher foreign policy to Davis Hull's instructions

of war.

a

settlement, negotiation.25

parties

at Hyde Park to receive instructions. personal courses of action-from the possible discussed together They banding for collective action to such neutral action as verbally ostracizing Japan. Davis visited Roosevelt Roosevelt of public delegation indicated opinion. "to make that the ultimate it clear guide would In a memorandum Roosevelt at every step. be the development told the American States

. .that the United

was the leader, or suggester of future action." The American contingent not to take the lead as Japan might direct its animosity toward the arouse the clamor of the such action would United States. Additionally, isolationists. After role, Roosevelt clash with ultimate had not to assume the leading instructing the delegation told Davis that if the United States were to avoid an practical means of checking sad fact was that Roosevelt action but he could aspect was officially unfortunate Japanese also told use only that the before

policy does not envision theUnited States being pushed out in frontas

conquests that there was Davis American

Japan some to be found. The a need had

for collective Another three days

the tools of bland moralism.

only delegation 6 sailing for the conference.2 The policies of ambivalence continued sailed. Roosevelt told was the nation with to work

to prepare up

to the time the delegation that the purpose of to find a solution.

in a fireside chat other signatories

the conference

Then indicating that theUnited States was thinkingin termsof a more activist policy, the President said: "I want our great democracy to be wise enough to realize that aloofness fromwar is not prompted by an
unawareness of war. In a world of mutual suspicions, peace must be

reached for. It cannot just be wished for. It cannot just be affirmatively waited for." The President, however, retracted any image of collective

BRUSSELS CONFERENCE

247

on the eve of the planning by announcing delegation's sailing that Mr. on the enter the conference Davis would "without commitments any part of this government the international situation impossible conference.

Undoubtedly Roosevelt was being influenced by developments on
scene. Secretary-General the Alexis Leger of the French

to other governments."27

Foreign Ministry notifiedWashington on October 16 that due to the
in Europe for France France of Indochina, it was vulnerability to the use of force at the upcoming adopt have to protect said that the United States would and by Japan if economic for Indochina of protection sanctions were by America was

the small power to be considered. paramount The British

from retaliation

A pledge in French minds.2"

on October in an aide-mimoire 19 tried to government the American Britain felt that if the only result of pinpoint position. was moral the conference of Japan, be this would condemnation to this futile in the aggression. Added acquiescing situation would be the creation of frustrated feelings in Japan and an of their inferiority complex. The only solution was positive embedding or economic to the Chinese action in the form of active assistance the United States would have to give to any countries who would partici in such positive action against Japan. Britain felt that if assurances pate were of restraining there would be a good possibility forthcoming, and making an early peaceful settlement. Japan sanctions assurances against Japan. However, of military protection be outside purpose the bounds of the conference. as being The United States viewed tantamount to

The United States considered such action as proposed by Britain to
the of the conference to induce an armistice in China,

which was to be followed by peaceful negotiation and a stabilizingof
the situation. there was The the Roosevelt Administration realized that Pragmatically, little public of American support for a guarantee military prerequisites for any strong action were apparently

support as suggestedby the British and theFrench.29
initial

beyond the limitsof American foreignpolicy.With this realization, it can be seriously questioned why the United States pursued a course that could only lead to frustration all parties involved. for Belgium asked theUnited States on October 30 for theproposals and
procedural American plans that were ".. to be .we have submitted no proposal to the conference. worked The answer was: out to submit

to the conference nor have we any plan of procedurewhich we propose

248

LEON E. BOOTHE
that delegates

to dryly, the United States suggested support." Almost arrive two or three days early to thrash out the agenda.

Boycott by Japan and Germany
Since no other nation

Belgian official circles panicked at the thought of playing the leading role by default. Added to this dilemma was the fact that the Belgians
themselves did not know what the conference was supposed that The to accomplish.34 Japan shook

expressed

a

willingness

to lead the conference,

would not attend themeeting. Nippon claimed that itwas fightingin
China out of self-defense reasoned Japanese Power Nine Treaty conference even and to stamp out the communist menace. that communist in China had made espionage obsolete. Deviating from basis such excuses, the Japan

the preconference

atmosphere

by announcing

it

realistically said that it felt that it could not obtain a fairhearing at the
if itwere to attend. The for this viewpoint was was under the aegis of the

the fact that the convening of the conference had the League condemned Since League. Japanese Japan. saw the conference as In the Japanese

belligerency in the Far East because it gave China some hope that they
might

more nothing the conference estimation, and aid." Germans declined

the Japan previously, than a forum to abuse only added to the

not attend obligation

added to the difficulty announcing that it would Germany further by
the conference. to attend The because (not being a'signatory that there was little prospect end a moral to the Treaty), that the conference

receive foreign support

no they felt and because would

they thought achieve a successful was

result. Germany concluded that the aim of the condemnation of Japan. The Third Reich did conference that if it appeared leave open the possibility of later joining the meeting was a movement there toward the achievement of "practical goals." As a signatory to the Nine Power Agreement, Italy announced that it

would attend the Brussels Conference. Under German and Japanese diplomatic pressure, Italy agreed to representand explain the Japanese viewpoint. ForeignMinister Ciano announced thathe would not attend the conference because he felt therehad not been adequate preparation for the conference. Ciano felt that nothing tangible would be accomplished.3" The Soviet Union announced its acceptance of the invitation to the meeting. While Russia expected little in termsof accomplishments, it

BRUSSELS

CONFERENCE

249

did have a faint hope for some sort of a strong stand. Moffat viewed the as an effort to embarrass the powers at Soviet acceptance represented the conference and The

an effort to prevent any sort of a peaceful to keep Japan latter goal was in a war of agreement. occupied resources to threaten attrition that would hopefully weaken Nippon's the Soviet Union.33

Proceedings
With the list of powers now the preconference planning on November 2, Eden meeting go as far as the United States to arrive for complete, delegates began a In and maneuvering. preconference told Davis that Britain was could to prepared not afford to actions on

but no further. Britain a to base

in Europe. Eden American policy. every effort on

be lefton a diplomatic limb again, especially during this crucial period
proclaimed willingness British

Davis replied that Britain and theUnited States should concentrate
exerting a moral influence through their diplomacy.

Such a process would crystallizepublic opinion and the forces of peace
and order. These were Davis to be the weapons reiterated to combat the lawlessness Davis

that

prevailed at that time. Meeting laterwith the French and Belgian
representatives, this idea. However,

to the State Department of the difficultyin convincing the French and the Belgians of the importance of building up and educating public
opinion because such

complained

roadblock,Davis notified SecretaryHull thathe would continue to urge

concepts

were

foreign

to them. Despite

such a

the importance of the "constructive part" of the American policy. In trying to give support to the American Assistant delegation, of State Sumner Welles the American Secretary viewpoint emphasized to the British Ambassador stated: inWashington. Welles
Every effort is to be made to rally moral opinion in every other country

of the world in favor of the principles embodied in the Nine Power Treaty and the effort to make perfectly clear to public opinion everywhere the attitude which . .. Japan had assumed in connection therewith. . .. The whole premise of this government in going to the Brussels Conference was the keeping alive ..,. of international law and
morality. . ..34

With no visible format for conducting the conference and with one of the belligerents being absent, the Brussels Conference convened on

250
November where 3, 1937. Moffat

LEON E. BOOTHE
reflected the morale of the delegates under never known a conference

such gloomy circumstances by stating: "I have are even before we meet, people discussing ways to end it." the working Davis American session with a mild opened delegate

Britain and France and principles." seconded the treaty provisions Count Aldovandi, Italian delegate, American the indicated position. by stating that past attempts at cynical view of the Italian government international settlements had ended in failure, citing such things as the of Nations. He left very little doubt that of the League Lytton Report would also end in failure. The he believed that the Brussels Conference Count establish judge Delegate said who

speech calling for a peaceful settlement "within the scope of these

deal directly with each other. The course of opening speeches changedwith the address byMaxim
Soviet Commissar action collective there was powers, concerted rocked

to and, therefore, impossible problem the Japanese the Italian guilty. Echoing position, said that the best course would be to let the two belligerents was

Italy deplored the facts in the China

that

the situation,

but

it was

impossible

to

Litvinov,

for Foreign Affairs. His blunt call for the conference. He stated that unless

plunder, Love your aggressor, resist not evil." Dr. Kee the Chinese of China position presented as the forces considered the conference representing

a strong successful solution arrived at by the assembled in essence adopting the maxims: the world was "Take your take what you have seized by force, and peace be with you. in detail. China

and justice that would
With

correct the wrongs being inflictedupon the

of righteousness

Chinese

at would

s would also refuse.3 A diplomatic bombshell hit the conference on November 6, 1937, with the announcement of Italy's entrance into theAnti-Commintern Pact. Ciano's absence was clear in perspective. Such news prompted many smaller nations to propose appointing a negotiating team and adjourning. However, the major powers were able to keep the conferencegoing.36s Negotiations behind the scenes added another dimension to the

as as Japan was absent. The conference be meaningless long to send Japan a second invitation, which, in time, Japan then decided

peoples. the initial round of speeches completed, the conferees were at a loss as to what to do next. Any specific solution that might be arrived

BRUSSELS CONFERENCE
conference. Soviet Litvinov

251
felt that his career was

on trialwith thisgathering.Litvinov had been the ardent supporterof a Russian policy of collective action with theWest against the rising
Fascist menace. If the Commissar returned home without success, he would suffer the consequences. His dismissal would mean the waning of his position of Litvinov stated that the working with the democracies. Soviet men leaders would who had advisers with younger replace him and his major little or no knowledge of Europe and who were very Litvinov's fears turned out to be

delegate

apparently

Russia would most likely follow a policy suspicious of all foreigners.
of the West.37 independent prophecy of what was to come. a

The French government had become disturbed over the driftingof policy. While consulting with the United States about France's membership on any negotiating team that might be appointed, the
French Premier lectured the American Ambassador:

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

policy on the part of the United States merely leads the dictatorships to believe that the democracies are full ofwords but are unwilling to back up theirwords by force, and force is the only thing that counts today in theworld.38 the apparent failure of moralistic diplo on In a and British representatives with the French macy. meeting November that the final draft 10, the American suggested delegate became include a refusal to Davis restive over

of acting

in any way

that

can be

effective....

Such

a

as well as a Japanese aggressive gains recognize refusal to extend loans and credits to Japan. However, Davis said that he spoke only for himself and not his government. the State Department. laws as negating "our He verbally affirmation assaulted the

The American delegate's rebellion showed up on that same day inhis
of high moral

with communiques American Neutrality

principles and advocacy ofmoral pressuresupon Japan."Words spoken outside the realm of power could have little impact upon such a
situation. ourselves invitation conference Davis clearly stated or Davis that ifmoral impotent." stated pressure If Japan be failed "we may refused impossible the to keep find the embarrassed as expected, going. second

itwould

Reflecting the lack of a positive atmosphere was the statement of
Canada on November 12: "Condemnation if you will, but no

252
sanctions." ranking The

LEON E. BOOTHE
Scandinavian to the that was sent who second governments only conference stated that they were openly

delegates

critical of Japan. against anything to Davis was Hull's response negative. After conferring completely the President and congressional with said there was no leaders, Hull bargaining position. Nonetheless, strengthen the American be kept in session for world that the conference opinion's Hull urged sake. Hull

hope for repealing or suspending theNeutrality legislation in order to

Power

ordered Davis to emphasize the principles and provisions of the Nine
The American felt that the conference had Treaty. Secretary 9 clarified a few issues, if only in a negative way.3 to orders, Davis in a speech on November 13 stated Acting according that the Sino-Japanese conflict was destroying the "integrity of certain two chances to explain its case and argued that if Japan really was

principleswhich we hold sacred." Davis pointed out that Japan had had interested in internationalgood will, then the Japanese should take this opportunity to prove it.
The State

Davis positive could be accomplished by the conference and instructed
on November 13 to make no new to a discussion Davis sent a initiative, and to confine his speeches of platitudes.40

Department

soon

concluded,

however,

that

nothing

Being bitterly disappointed in this communique of abandonment,
strongly-worded of his views. He to on November 16 message Washington stated that, unless the United States was

in support

to in some positive steps, "most countries will lose prepared participate Eden supported Davis their nerve." Anthony that "we cannot usefully to an and with dignity continue much longer to confine ourselves expression he felt was

of principles and pleas to Japan. . . ." Davis outlined what the "minimum of gains and step" of nonrecognition of loans. The American said there were delegate signs that prohibition was nervous about this conference. However, "if we go on much Japan . .," Japan would become satisfied that there was no danger of

longerwithout any evidence of intention to do anythingmore than

preach.

with her plans of expansion.41i any interference

Futile Results On November 15 the Conference adopted a General Declaration accusing Japan of violating the principles of theNine Power Treaty and of international law. The Declaration closed by noting that Japan's

BRUSSELS CONFERENCE
reluctance recognition government all to cooperate with the other powers showed was in

253
itself a

nervousness of guilt. Japanese of Japan notified American Ambassador

itself when

the

on effortstoward peace Department that, if the United States insisted
within the framework States was of collective

was a reasonable peace "and not they wanted . . .42 Grew will be taken. realistically noted territory

Joseph Grew that a foot of Chinese to the State

be effective.This was a strong statementof the futilityof the policy
the United The American message attitude on the use of force came in a government's 15. Hull instructed: ". . .we from Hull to Davis on November pursuing at Brussels.4 3

security, force and only force could

of feel that a strongreaffirmation the principleswhich should underlie
the vast of offsetting the best method" .would be relationships.. was clear that Washington would not It criticism of the Conference.44 This statement was,

enunciations. back anything other than moralistic "I bow to your judgement." Davis answered: a for a strong plea for more however, decoy

of that most had revealed survey by Davis believed a mere reaffirmation would not contribute In noting Japan's should past actions, Davis to do

A responsible at Brussels the powers action. to a solution of the that the matter

problem.

of Japanese actions inChina should be eitherdropped gracefullyor else
a decision be made something "more definite." Again,

suggested

Davis repeated his minimum plan of nonrecognition and restrictionof loanswhich he felt could realisticallybe achieved. He emphasized that
time was a crucial factor lest the situation worsen with

reportswhich stated that the United States was primarily responsible for the lack of success of the conference. Journalists indicated that other nations waited for action by theUnited States as the signal for the adoption of positive pressure against Japan. The American Secretary of State cabled Davis that he wanted the situation arrested since the pressmade it hard "to maintain a position in defense of our principles." Hull sent additional suggestions for bringing the conference to a

embarrassed officials were American by the by Davis, issued a public statement trying to impotency of the conference. Hull "sets a precedent offset the evident fact. He stated that the Conference to of international mor the doctrine for concerted action uphold . . ." However, disturbed Hull, press particularly dispatches ality. advocated

stance Though the State Department did not take the positive

delay.

254
close. would He wanted the

LEON E. BOOTHE
conference to a final resolution which a

to be a reaffirmation Hull stated,
. . those other

listingof eventswhich would implicate Japan as the villain. There was
of the principles of the Nine Power Treaty; plus,

serve as a report

to the world.

adopt Such

a report would

contain

theiruniversal validity of those principles cannot be destroyed by force; cannot be denied; and their indispensability to civilization applicability
and progress cannot be gainsaid.

principles

which

are

essential

to world

peace....

The

The meet

recess of the conference again if the situation

was

availed

to be on the stipulation ' itself.4

that itwould

however, controversy between Davis and the State Department, that there were various concepts as to where continued. Davis reported of pressure or positive left off and measures measures of persuasion the Brussels considered for example, The action Japanese, began. in the minimum as a measure of pressure. Even Conference program The that had been no time presented, Davis or contemplated any measures suggested action and we have at no emphasized that "our delegation which we time would

has at

of pressure." The circles of any measures that the other nations had never suggested the United delegate reported or assume outstanding for any positive States act alone responsibility every the powers had of failure. Although power sought talked of a cooperative effort, Davis noted that the United States would be blamed for the negative results of the conference. program. coming to escape the onus sort of victory, the American a broader basis could provide international relationships. stated that the Conference Secretary for the support of principles governing Hull stated: "I feel that each nation should action Now that the Conference was to a close,

as involving positive regard in Conference considerations

initiated

Hull's answer came in principled language. Trying to salvage some

make every effort to educate itspeople as to theurgent importanceof the principles of peace and. . .to build up. . .an understanding of the principles essential to orderly and healthy relations among nations." Davis cabled back that he was runninginto resistance from the other Britain felt delegations as to the implementationof Hull's instructions. it inadvisable to make any furtherdeclarations of principles as they could not think of anything furtherto say without being repetitious
and monotonous.4 6

BRUSSELS CONFERENCE
On November not 21 Hull again rebuked the American

255
contingent for over such indignant which said: "The

was handling the press properly. Hull especially as comments the New York Herald printed by American and British delegations, with.. .the Belgian Foreign Minister, were to a first class funeral." preparing give the Nine Power Treaty

to the constructive Secretary Hull instructed the delegation emphasize achievements of the and noted in that "the Conference gathering own way to take the opportunity in its recessing gives each government toward keeping alive and educating in its people appropriate measures . .broader regard to the fundamental importance of the. principles and issues which are of world The rebuke on handling concern." the press the delegation. Hornbeck called the censure a "stinkbomb."

at Brussels. Moffat indicated surprise policy rather than the delegation that the news stories were not worse. As the leader of the delegates, Davis informed Hull of the attitude news columnists had taken at the the newsmen thought Roosevelt's for concrete action quarantine speech would the Conference. The by cooperation 7

Pell considered the press dispatches as being critical of Washington

enraged

beginning of the Conference. When the delegation had arrived in
Brussels, provide the leadership

was

results. Many

initial enthusiasm had faded as the Conference dragged on without
newspapermen and consisted meaningless suggestions. bitterly felt "that American exclusively of fine phrases."4 to Hull:

basis of Hull's statements Conference 24. With convene All came

The Conference stumbled along hoping to adjourn on themodified
Davis reported "To get a meeting of

theminds with the British,we had to permit some cuttingdown of the
of principles" adopted, with in the text of the final report. The Brussels a final report on November Italy abstaining, the Conference recessed. It was

this task

completed, about the

never to

again.48 the forecasts true with

the uselessness recessing of the

and failure of the Conference Conference. The Brussels

Conference was the height of themoralistic approach to international problems and at the same timewas the nadir of pragmatic diplomacy. The vacuum of power that existed in the 1920s and early 1930s was no longeran internationalfact. The United States could no longerdelude itself into thinkingthat itwould always be able to settle a situationby pious rhetoric.A question was asked appropriately at that time as to what the United States expected to achieve by displays of mass anger and moralistic lectures.49~ Unfortunately, the answer was always the

256

LEON E. BOOTHE
far of

answer alone shows how arousing of public and world opinion. That had strayed from the diplomatic mainstream the American people power politics. In retrospect, the Roosevelt Administration's handling

of the crisis

of 1937 reflects a lack of understanding of the internationalsituation.
The American government's adherence to the Wilsonian employing moral verbiage instead of positive concrete interest but created confusion the national scene. Defenders block of the Roosevelt States the isolationist in the United of approach not action only on the national was large and

neglected and international argued force that

Administration

could not have supported a policy aimed at stemming the Japanese by
rationalization In addition if necessary. that the Allied to this there is the point of cleavage, was in an appeasing mood. leadership also have required the

at home, but would only have threatened unity United States to go it alone internationally.

Forceful policies adopted by the American government would not

Weakness of American Policy The internationalistschool of writers which has tried to vindicate Roosevelt Administration policy has overlooked the opportunities for
collective action which 0 Had existed in 1937.

failed to examine critically the events surrounding the Brussels
Conference.5 decisive measures been it seems clear that the United meeting, brunt of Japanese reaction. Britain, France, adopted States would at this international not have borne the

In particular,

these writers

have

and the Soviet Union

were

willing to join with the United States in a vigorous program to stem
Japanese intent. Failure by the United States to seize the initiative was a clear signal to the aggressive powers. The American nation had long established in China as well as being party to international traditions diplomatic

country.The point overlooked in agreements concerning that ill-starred studies is that the Brussels Conference was the one case where the past United States was obligatorily involved by its 'signatureto the Nine Power Treaty.5' In the other major incidents of the 1930Osprior to 1937, theUnited States was always an outsider observing the crises.s52 In such cases, the role theUnited States might play in the event of a major conflagration could never by accurately assessed by the aggressor powers. In failing to respond to Japan's patent violation of historic

BRUSSELS CONFERENCE
American

257

interests, those nations bent on imperialism now felt assured not bring its power to bear against them. that the United States would to collaborate At the same time those nations who with the sought States became United by the inaction of the American discouraged government. With the failure Britain and France resorted sought nonagression Conference appears pacts to frame a collective eventually The Brussels powers. not only because it revealed the clear significant a crucial it was of moralistic but also because failings diplomacy, turning point between peace and war. to set the stage for what was The Brussels Conference in happen to appeasement, the martial with policy and Russia at Brussels,

Munich in 1938. Brussels dramatically demonstrated the inabilityof the
in the anti-fascist powers camp to unite against major imperialistic a reaffirmation of the evident bank endeavors. Munich represented was a at Munich ruptcy of the anti-fascist powers. Appeasement continuation of appeasement at Brussels.

3 to the consequences Those few writers of the Brussels Conference.s treat the who in the wrong the conference frame of subject place rather it as a study of internal American reference, viewing politics, culminated

It is not surprisingthat diplomatic historians pay so little attention

than as one of the major failures of American foreign policy which
inwar.

NOTES
1. A. W. Griswold, The Far Eastern Policy of the United States (New York: Yale University Press, 2. Theodore Russia strong 1938), pp. 454-458. Roosevelt limited and balance

to check

nullify Japan's Twenty-One seizure of Manchuria in 1932.

War by keeping Japanese gains from the Russo-Japanese U. S. support of China during World War I helped Japan; the Stimson Doctrine refused to recognize Demands; Japan's 25, 1937 (1938), p. 396. July 3-December (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1958), pp. Policy, 1931-1941 (1942), pp.

of State, Press Releases, 3. U. S., Department 4. Mamoru Shigemitsu, Japan and her Destiny 43- 44. 5. U. S., Department 44- 45. Vol. 6. Dorothy Borg, "Notes on Roosevelt's LXXII 1957), pp. 409-410. (September Congress), Boxes 8, 51, and 55. of State, Peace

and War, U. S. Foreign

'Quarantine' Speech," Political Science Norman Davis Manuscript Collection

(Library

Quarterly, of

off at Papers (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956), 7. Nancy H. Hooker, ed., The pp. 152-153. and 8. New York Times, October The Public Papers 20, 1937. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Addresses 1937 (New York, 1941), Vol. VI, pp. 418-423. Norman of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Davis Manuscript Collection, op. cit., Box 55. 9. U. Government S., Department Printing Office, of State, Foreign Relations of the United 1954), Vol. IV, pp. 58-61. States, 1937 (Washington:

258
10. U. pp. 153-154.

LEON E. BOOTHE
of State, Press Releases, S., Department Cordell Hull, Memoirs of Cordell Hull 1937, Vol. XVIII, p. 285. Hooker, op. cit., (New York: Macmillan Co., 1941), Vol. I,

p. 544. 11. Hooker, op. cit., p. 155. of State, Foreign 12. U. S., Department New York Times, October 9, 1937. 13. U.

Relations.

. ., op. cit., Vol.

I, p. 134; Vol.

IV, p. 78.

. ., of State, Foreign Relations. S., Department IV, p. 56. Shigemitsu, op. cit., Vol. 150. op. cit., p. . .," 14. Borg, "Notes. op. cit. See also, Dorothy Borg, The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1933-1938 Harvard University Press, 1964). (Cambridge: on German 15. Hull, op. cit., pp. 552-554. U. S., Department of State, Documents Foreign Government 1918-1945 Series D, Vol. 1949), I, pp. Policy, (Washington: Printing Office, . .," 634-635. op. cit., pp. 426-430. Borg, "Notes. 16. Hooker, 20, 1937. op. cit., p. 154. New York Times, October . ., 17. U. S., Department of State, Foreign Relations. I, pp. 140-141. op. cit., Vol. 18. Hooker, op. cit., pp. 155-156. Norman Davis Manuscript Collection, op. cit., Boxes 27, 41. 19. U. 90-97. . ., 20. Ibid., pp. 67-68, U. S. Department on German of State, Documents Foreign Policy. I, pp. 20-21. op. cit., Vol. . ., 21. U. S., Department of State, Foreign Relations. IV, pp. 82-83. Hooker, op. cit., Vol. op. cit., pp. 150-156. 22. 23. New U. S., Department York Times, S., Department of State, Foreign Relations. . ., op. cit., Vol. IV, pp. 70, 74-75,

. ., of State, Foreign Relations. IV, p. 73. op. cit., Vol. Endowment 16, 1937. Hooker, op. cit., pp. 153-154. Carnegie July for International Conciliation Peace, International 1934), no. 298, p. 25; no. 308, (Washington, Collection, p. 34. Norman Davis Manuscript op. cit., Boxes 8, 47, 55. Hooker, op. cit., pp. 157, 182-183. U. S., Department of State, Foreign Relations. Collection, op. cit., Boxes 4, 5, 27. Manuscript 25. 26. U. S., Department of State, Foreign Relations. cit., pp. 156-157. Hull, op. cit., pp. 551-552. Norman Boxes 4-5. 27. 1937 28. 29. Roosevelt, (New York: op. cit., p. 133. Council on Foreign Relations. 1938), p. 226. of State, Foreign 97. 24. . ., op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 84. Norman Davis op.

. ., IV, p. 85. Hooker, op. cit., Vol. Davis Manuscript Collection, op. Relations, The U.S.

cit.,

in World Affairs,

Harper,

U. S., Department Ibid., Vol. IV, pp. 90-91, 30. Ibid., Vol. 108. 1,94-95,

. ., op. cit., Vol.

I, p. 422.

Ibid., pp. 80, 112-113. New York Times, October 28, 1937. on German of State, Documents 32. U. S., Department Foreign Policy. pp. 26, 764-769. . ., of State, Foreign Relations. 33. U. S., Department op. cit., Vol. 31. Hooker, op. cit., pp. 158-159. 34. U. S., Department of State, 161-162. 154-155, Foreign Relations. . ., op. cit., Vol.

. ., op. IV, pp. IV, pp.

cit., Vol. 119-120. 146-148,

I,

35. Hooker, of State, Press Releases 1937, op. cit. op. cit., pp. 158-172. U. S., Department Vol. XVII, pp. 352-355. Times (London), November 4, 1937. . ., of State, Foreign Relations. 36. U. S., Department IV, pp. 157-158. op. cit., Vol. Vorman Davis Manuscript Collection, op. cit., Box 41. 37. Hooker, op. cit., p. 174. . ., 38. U. S., Department of State, Foreign Relations. IV, pp. 172-174. op. cit., Vol. 39. Ibid., pp. 175-181. Hooker, op. cit., pp. 177-180. Hull, op. cit., p. 556. 40. U. S., Department of State, Press Releases, 1937, op. cit., Vol. XVIII, pp. 376-377. . ., 41. U. S., Department of State, Foreign Relations. IV, pp. 184-185. op. cit., Vol.

BRUSSELS CONFERENCE
Hooker, op. pp. 376-377. 42. 43. cit., p. 182. U. S., Department of State, Press Releases, Relations. . ., op. cit., Vol. 1937,

259
op. cit., Vol. XVIII, 189-193. 1937, 189, op. cit., 197-210.

U. S., Department Ibid.

of State, Foreign 194-196. U.

IV, pp.

44. Ibid, pp. 184-185, Vol. XVIII, pp. 380-382. 45. 46. 47. 48. U. Ibid., S., Department pp. 212-221.

S., Department Relations.

of State, Press Releases, . ., op. cit., Vol. IV, pp.

of State, Foreign

Ibid., pp. 221-226. Hooker, op. cit., pp. 186-187. Relations. of State, Foreign U. S., Department Norman Davis Manuscript Collection, op. cit., Boxes 4-5. 49. Times 50. Langer

. ., op.

cit., Vol.

IV, pp.

226-227.

4, 1937. (London), November Roosevelt The Challenge and Gleason, Roberty E. Sherwood, of Isolationism; The Passing of American Neutrality; F. Drummond, and Hopkins: An Intimate History; Donald to Pearl Harbor. From Munich Basil Rauch, Roosevelt: Far Eastern Crisis. . ., op. 51. Borg, "Notes...," op. cit. Borg, The United States and the Review and the Aftermath of the Quarantine "Roosevelt Speech," cit.; John McV. Haight, Jr., 1926). Politics, Vol. XXIV (April, of Civil War, 1936; invasion of Ethiopia, 1935; 52. Manchuria, 1931; Spanish Italy's of Rhineland, 1936. occupation Robert H. Ferrell, 53. Samuel History of the United States; Flagg Bemis, A Diplomatic A. Bailey, A Diplomatic Thomas A History; American of the American History Diplomacy: A Alexander DeConde, Julius W. Pratt, A History of United States Foreign Policy; People; The Growth of American Richard W. Leopold, American Foreign Foreign Policy; History of Policy.

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