Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Foreign Secretary Arthur J. Balfour to  Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Lord Robert Cecil

CIRCULATED TO THE KING AND THE WAR CABINET

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Decypher of telegram from Mr. Balfour to Lord R. Cecil.1

     Halifax

               R. 11 a.m. June 3rd.1917.

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Personal and Secret.

     Sir C. Spring Rice2 has had conversation with Colonel House3 on various matters. Following is a summary of latter’s views.

     If British Government wish to get special naval and military officers to help United States Government best plan would be to offer to invite United States officers to London to serve as special representatives of War and Navy Departments and at the same time to offer to send corresponding officers here; the thinks matter should be arranged with Navy and War Departments and not through President. It would be safer not to offer to send special officers here unless Departments concerned express willingness. He thinks British Government is in quite special position here and should not conclude that because French Government could safely send man like Tardieu4 we could do the same. Position is in high degree delicate and only great tact and skill of Mr. Balfour and Mission has prevented energetic press campaign against an “English War” – President is very sensitive on this point – Danger is that this essential difference between French and British position here may not be understood in England. Should His Majesty’s Government send anyone corresponding in position to Tardieu his activities should be strictly limited to control over British officers here. Even this should be done in an inconspicuous way and the less prominent the (?place)5 the better. House thinks present arrangement with Sir R. Crawford and Polk6 acts admirably but said he understands that public opinion in England may demand something more positive. But position of a prominent person here would be so unpleasant owing to probability of press attacks and necessary aloofness of United States Government that he would probably soon return home.

Source Note: Cy, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/1436. On an attached page is a note written by the director of the Admiralty’s Intelligence Division, Capt. William R. Hall, that reads: “In my opinion the safest course for us to pursue with regard to sending officers to America would be to increase Commodore Gaunt’s Staff by sending officers junior to him. He holds a unique position and I do not think that the fact of attaching officers to him would cause any comment in the American press. Admiral Sims is already proposing to increase his Staff over here, so that there should be no difficulty, if desired, in sending a few officers to assist Commodore Gaunt.”

Footnote 1: Balfour previously led a special mission to the United States.

Footnote 2: British Ambassador to the United States Sir Cecil A. Spring Rice.

Footnote 3: Col. Edward M. House was an advisor to President Woodrow Wilson, though he held no official position in the administration.

Footnote 4: André Pierre Gabriel Amédée Tardieu was the chief political editor of Le Temps of Paris and, since 1914, a member of the French Chamber of Deputies. He also served as a captain of infantry, participating in a number of battles on the Western Front. After June 1916 he served as controller of heavy ordnance for the French Army. In May 1917 he was sent as high commissioner to direct all French technical missions to the United States.

Footnote 5: This construction indicates that there was a problem with the coding at this point.

Footnote 6: Sir Richard Crawford was the Trade Advisor in the British Embassy in Washington; Frank L. Polk was the State Department’s Lead Counsel. At a meeting between House and Balfour on 22 April, which House discussed in his diary, Balfour reportedly asked House if Spring Rice “got on well” with Wilson. House replied that Spring Rice “never saw the President,” but that it would not serve to recall him as Spring Rice’s “subordinates” such as “[Naval Attaché Sir Guy R.] Gaunt and Sir Richard Crawford were working in such close harmony with us that it would be a pity to disturb existing relations by putting in a new man no matter how efficient he might be.” House Diary, 22 April 1917, quoted in Wilson Papers, 42: 143n.

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