THIS article is an attempt to indicate some of the general aims and purposes which have underlain the foreign policy of the Hoover Administration. In scope it is confined to the efforts which have been made towards political stabilization and peace, and does not attempt to take up the important efforts which have been made towards economic stabilization. Its object is to explain the principal steps taken in this one direction in the light of the conceptions and purposes which underlay them. It is an attempt to show the philosophy and creed of the Administration rather than to catalogue its actions.

One fundamental postulate of the Administration was that the experience of the World War had produced among the civilized, and particularly the industrialized, nations of the world, a definite turning point in the evolution of public opinion in respect to war. We believed that the revulsion against war, developed during and after that great struggle and exemplified by the expression that it was "a war to end war," was so definite that it should not be permitted to become merely transitory, as has been the case after former wars, but that there was a real chance to make it a vehicle for a permanent, beneficial change in world organization against war. We believed that there was a reasonable probability that such a change could now be predicated upon definite economic and evolutionary facts, and that it could be relied upon as a permanent foundation for the development of a new international effort. For the first time, the full effects of the mechanical inventions of the preceding century and the subsequent revolutionary changes in industrial and social organization had been made manifest in their relations to war. The leading nations of Europe and of North America had all become much less self-contained and much more interdependent. The populations of industrialized states had become much larger and more dependent for their food and other supplies upon far distant sources. These leading sections of the civilized world had thus become very much more vulnerable to war. On the other hand, the same mechanical progress had rendered modern armies larger and more destructive. By these changes the inconsistency of war with normal life had become much sharper and more acute, and its danger to civilization more emphatic. Modern civilization was thus shown to have become too fragile to endure the stress of modern war as a function of recognized international policy, and this fact was so generally recognized among the leaders of thought in these nations as to indicate that one of those periods in civilization had probably arrived when a very definite step forward in evolution could be taken. For ages, pioneer thinkers have looked forward to a time when public war may be superseded by pacific and judicial means of solving international disputes, just as individual combat has been superseded by such methods in solving individual disputes. In the light of the evolutionary factors which I have described, it seemed that now the time had arrived when that dream had a reasonable chance of becoming a reality.

Limitations and obstacles to this realization were of course apparent. Only among highly industrialized states can the full nature of the threat of war to civilization be appreciated, and such states, although leaders in the family of nations, still occupy only a comparatively small portion of the inhabited surface of the globe. The development of the theory of pacific and judicial settlement of disputes and of the still more important national self-control which accepts peacefully an unpopular decision, is even more restricted. Great tracts of the earth's surface are still occupied by races and tribes of men who are not only not so much incommoded by war as we are, but to whom its passions and destruction are much less abhorrent than they are to us. Yet the truth had to be recognized that in the world at large, political and commercial inter-connection had already so far developed that war anywhere in the world, even among those nations whose economic and social organization is less complicated, is always a potential danger to the rest of civilization. It is like a prairie fire; and a war once started in any portion of the earth is likely to envelop the whole. Nowhere can war be neglected as entirely innocuous to the rest of the world.

Furthermore, in the very face of the facts and the evidence which were making plain the necessity of curbing war and replacing it by less destructive international machinery, the experiences felt in the World War itself had developed in almost every nation a wave of extreme nationalistic feeling which tended to make such a solution more difficult. But however difficult such an outburst of nationalism might make the task, clearly that nationalism is only transitory and cannot in itself offer a permanent solution. Our own experiences since the war have already demonstrated that the people even of the United States, with all of their advantages of geographical situation and self-contained resources, cannot retire within their own borders and lead a life of isolation from their neighbors. The irresistible trend of discovery and invention, and of the trade and commerce and industrial organization which have been built upon them, has already gone too far and cannot be reversed. We have become too dependent upon the rest of the world for benefits and comforts which we will not give up. Irrevocable decision by mankind has already been taken, and the only direction in which progress can be made is forward.

The facts and principles which I have so roughly sketched out indicated the duty of including in future American foreign policy a vigorous attempt to support and develop the efforts which had already sprung up in the world to effect a new and broader organization of its peace machinery. The situation, of course, did not justify the abandonment of the reasonable measure of military and naval preparedness upon which this country traditionally has relied both for the stability of its internal order and as a defense against the accident of war; that measure, fortunately, has always been so moderate as not to furnish a provocation to other countries or an obstacle to such a development as I have mentioned.

The terrible economic depression which almost immediately enveloped every nation in the world served to render constructive progress much more difficult. On the other hand, the depression itself was universally recognized as a direct and inevitable result of the World War. It thus only served to demonstrate even more emphatically the importance of the principles we were trying to follow.

In 1929, when Mr. Hoover's Administration came into office, the efforts which had been made by the nations during the past decade looking towards the political stabilization of the world could be classified roughly along two general lines -- first, the steps which had been taken to liquidate some of the evils and perils resulting from the war in the form of excessive armaments, and second, the constructive efforts at a positive reorganization of international relations which were embodied in the Covenant of the League of Nations, the so-called Nine Power and Four Power Treaties of 1922, and the Pact of Paris.

In the first class, the only progress which had been made was in the direction of the limitation of naval construction. In 1922, in the Washington treaty limiting naval armament, the five leading naval Powers had taken a very definite and constructive step in the limitation of their capital ships. They had failed, however, in the effort to carry this restriction throughout the other categories of their respective fleets. During the succeeding eight years, a new rivalry in these other classes of their vessels, particularly in cruisers, had grown up between those nations. This rivalry had involved the United States and Great Britain and had produced considerable irritation in the public opinion of the two countries. This was particularly unfortunate, because these two nations by reason of their customs and traditions would be natural leaders in a commercial and non-military stabilization of the world. There was therefore presented not only a problem of great importance in respect to completing the work of terminating entirely naval competition and rivalry between the naval Powers, with all of its attendant dangers, but also one of perhaps even greater importance in these other indirect and psychological aspects. For this problem lay directly across the threshold of further progress in that development of mutual goodwill and leadership upon which the stabilization of the unsettled world depended.

Its solution was taken up by Mr. Hoover himself immediately after his inauguration. On his initiative, a proposal in this direction was made by Mr. Gibson, the American delegate, in a speech at one of the Preparatory Disarmament Conferences held in Geneva in April 1929 under the auspices of the League; and the suggestion was warmly reciprocated by Mr. Ramsay Mac-Donald's Labor Government when shortly thereafter it took over the reins in Great Britain. The two Governments then promptly proceeded to work out the details of the problem in a spirit of mutual goodwill and earnest coöperation. It is a truism in international conferences that patient and quiet negotiation is a necessary condition precedent to success. Agreement upon controversial questions and the reconciliation of antagonistic interests are not arrived at between nations by public debate. The public opinion of one country is not often persuaded by arguments put forward in another country, and the publicity which necessarily attends the formal meetings of an international conference usually serves only to make opposing leaders dig in deeper in their respective positions. Furthermore, the possibility of a reduction in armament usually depends upon the prior successful solution of some political problem, and the solution of this problem must therefore precede, and not follow, disarmament. In this case, fortunately, the only pertinent political question between Great Britain and the United States was the application of the principle of parity in naval power, and this principle had already been adopted by the two nations as to their capital ships. Owing to the differing requirements of the respective national defense of the two Powers, the application of the principle to cruisers presented considerable difficulty. But long and patient negotiation during the summer of 1929 brought them within the range of a fair compromise. Then followed the invitation to Prime Minister MacDonald to visit America, and his personality and tactful addresses while in this country assisted in arousing the requisite momentum of public sentiment for bridging the gap and overruling the extremists in both nations.

The Naval Conference at London followed in January 1930. The American and British Delegations speedily reached an agreement as to their navies, and then, by careful negotiation in which they no longer had differences with each other, they reached an agreement with Japan. A treaty was thus finally agreed upon between the three largest naval Powers, so evidently fair to each one as to enable it to be ratified by each of the respective home governments. The failure to obtain the assent of France and Italy, though regrettable, was far less important than the success of reaching a complete agreement as to the three largest navies. This failure was explicable by the dependence of the Franco-Italian naval problem upon certain peculiarly European political questions which, unlike those between the United States and Great Britain, had not previously been ironed out. These political problems being thus exclusively European in their nature, their solution had not been within the possible scope of American diplomacy.

The result of these negotiations, and of the Treaty which ensued, was to unite the Governments of Great Britain and the United States into a cordial working coöperation which lasted unimpaired throughout the joint duration of the two administrations which engineered it, and which also may be hoped to have laid a foundation of good understanding which will last much longer. It was an indispensable first step towards progress in other work of a more constructive nature.

The second class of efforts towards world stabilization during the decade before Mr. Hoover's Administration, included, as I have already said, the execution, among others, of the two treaties known as the League of Nations Covenant and the Pact of Paris. The former had been in operation for a decade and had met with a very considerable and encouraging success, principally in dealing with problems which had arisen in Europe during that time. In that Covenant there were provisions enabling the nations to be called into compulsory conference, on the threat of war, for the purpose of conciliation, as well as of investigation and public report. This machinery had on several occasions proved of value in the prevention of war. Furthermore, the regular conferences held periodically between representatives of the different member nations had developed a tendency among the nations to act in mutual coöperation to prevent war, and the discussions which took place at these conferences had proved to be effective agencies for the settlement of dangerous controversies and thus for war prevention. By these various means, there had been developed among the nations of Europe (which nations had been most active in the operation of the Covenant) a community spirit which was steadily working against war.

In 1919 the United States had declined to join the League of Nations. This decision, primarily based upon the policy of its people not to become entangled in the political affairs of the European Continent, with the activities of which the League was mainly concerned, also represented the disapproval by many American leaders of the proposal for the use of sanctions of force by the community of nations against a violator of the League Covenant. Mr. Hoover shared this latter disapproval. He also was fully alive to the wisdom of the traditional policy of this country, shared by other parliamentary nations, not to enter into undertakings binding the government to apply any sanctions to the undetermined facts of cases arising in the unknown future, instead of reserving each case for the independent judgment of the representatives of the nation at the time when it arose. On the other hand, he was quite prepared to have his government coöperate with moral sanctions in each single instance as it might arise where there was a direct interest of the United States involved, or where there was a major danger to the peace of the world.

The decision of 1919, and the political acrimony which had accompanied it, had resulted in almost complete abstention on the part of the United States from coöperation with the nations organized under the League. We were not only disentangled, but there was a strong tendency to become completely isolated. This was a serious handicap to all efforts towards world stabilization after the Great War. It not only deprived the world's peace efforts of the coöperation of the United States, with the potential strength of its enlightened moral influence, but the members of the League were constantly under a feeling of apprehension lest the efforts which they made through the machinery of the League might meet with frustration by reason of some different policy on our part. The waste as well as the danger of such a situation was manifest.

In 1928, under the administration of Mr. Coolidge, the Pact of Paris -- the so-called Briand-Kellogg Pact -- had been signed. In this Pact substantially all the nations of the world united in a Covenant in which they renounced war altogether as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another, and agreed that the settlement of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature among them should be sought only by pacific means. At the time when Mr. Hoover's Administration came into office this Pact had not yet been ratified by all of its signatories. It was still a mere document, as to the meaning of which there were not lacking scoffers who considered it a mere idle gesture without force or potency.

Mr. Hoover and his Administration took an entirely different view from these skeptics. From the beginning they recognized that in this Pact lay the basis of a system of organic law into the development of which the United States could throw its whole weight and strength; and from the day of the promulgation of its ratification on July 24, 1929, on each occasion when the meaning or efficacy of the Pact came into question, the determined aim of this Government was to follow out this development and to make the Pact a living force of law in the world. In accordance with this view, in October 1929, President Hoover joined with Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, the British Prime Minister, in a joint statement at the Rapidan, in which they declared: "Both our Governments resolve to accept the Peace Pact not only as a declaration of good intentions, but as a positive obligation to direct national policy in accordance with its pledge."

The Administration believed that under such an interpretation the Briand-Kellogg Pact might serve as a vehicle on the part of the United States for coöperation in the work of world stabilization and peace, and that it might perform this service while still conforming strictly to the American views against foreign entanglements and the use of force to promote peace, which I have described.

This policy has been consistently followed by the American Government in every successive issue which has arisen in respect to the Briand-Kellogg Pact. Thus in 1929 when hostilities threatened between Russia and China in Northern Manchuria, this Government made the Pact the basis of a communication with all of the fifty-odd signatories of the Pact, suggesting that they urge upon Russia and China a peaceful solution of the controversy. Again in 1931 when hostilities had broken out between the armed forces of Japan and China in Manchuria, and the situation had been brought before the Council of the League of Nations, which was sitting in Geneva and which thereupon took jurisdiction over it, this Government made the Pact the basis of a direct conference with those Powers on the subject of that controversy, and laid the foundation, through it, of coöperation with and encouragement towards those other nations in their efforts towards peace. These efforts resulted among other things in the creation of the Lytton Commission, whose unanimous report on that controversy has been one of the most significant steps ever taken under international coöperation in such a crisis.

Again, through its note of January 7, 1932, the American Government made the Pact the means of suggesting the policy of nonrecognition of the fruits of aggression, which was adopted unanimously in March 1932, at a meeting of all the nations in the Assembly of the League of Nations as a definite policy to be applied in aid of the Covenant of the League and of the Pact of Paris. Again, more lately, in the same way, the Pact has been used as a means of organizing public opinion to prevent hostilities between Peru and Colombia in regard to Leticia on the part of the nations who were signatories of the Pact and also of those signatory of the Covenant of the League. In this latter case, the action taken by this Government under the Pact corresponded in all particulars with that taken simultaneously by the Council of the League; and thus the two treaties served to reinforce each other in the cause of organizing the public opinion of the world against a breach of the peace.

By this series of steps, taken pursuant to a consistent policy of interpretation of the Briand-Kellogg Pact, the foundations of a constructive policy of world stabilization have been laid in the following particulars.

First, there has been established a definite policy of consultation by this Government with the other governments of the world, on the subject of major emergencies. In crises where the peace of the world or the sanctity of international obligations were involved, we have broken through the false spell of isolation and have been enabled to throw into the scale the rightful weight and influence of the United States.

Second, by the same action the fear of working at cross purposes, or of even a positive clash with the League of Nations, has been minimized. The nations organized under the League Covenant have been relieved of their former apprehension and have been encouraged to work out the purposes of their own organization free from fear of avoidable misunderstanding with us.

Third, by these results the mobilization of an effective world opinion has been made not only more easy and prompt, but its potency and weight have been increased. In practically all of these cases it has been shown that an almost unanimous opinion among the nations could be organized and brought to bear upon a threatened breach of the peace.

These fundamental results have been attained by bringing to the clear and unambiguous language of the covenants contained in the Pact of Paris an interpretation which should be both courageous and sympathetic with the great purpose of that treaty. This interpretation has now received the compelling sanction of these successive precedents.

This conception of the creation by these multilateral treaties of a system of positive law among the nations, which should guide their course toward peace, is in basic accord with the view of the Administration as to the importance of adherence by the United States to the World Court. Under the direction of President Hoover this Government has signed the Protocol of Adherence to that Court and has urged its ratification by the Senate. In our opinion, the most important benefits which that great tribunal is destined to render to the world are probably not those confined to its solution of controversies between nations, but rather the broader and more permanent benefits which will come from the gradual development by its decisions of a harmonious and effective system of international law.

Some of the most important problems connected with the general task of stabilization and reorganization following the World War were situated in the Orient, and these problems were very directly connected with the United States. The principle of respect for the territorial and administrative integrity of China had for many years been the keystone of the "Open Door" policy agreed upon in various commitments between the Powers in and since 1899. After the close of the World War, this policy was reaffirmed at the Washington Conference and made a binding covenant in the so-called Nine Power Treaty, participated in by the principal Powers interested in the Orient. At that time, China had become engaged in an attempt to develop the free institutions of a self-governing republic, and during the World War and the period of the civil wars which had arisen in China after the fall of the Empire events had taken place which were regarded as a threat against China's territorial integrity. Accordingly, the Nine Power Treaty was adopted as a virtual covenant of self-denial among the signatory powers in respect to relations with China and as a part of a general policy to re-define on a basis of peace the situation in the Orient. The plan of stabilization thus arrived at was an important factor in making possible the Naval Disarmament Treaty, reducing the navies of the leading naval Powers and limiting the fortifications and naval bases in specified territories and possessions of those Powers in the Pacific. The end sought in the efforts of the successive administrations of this Government (as well as of other governments), which culminated in the treaties concluded at the Washington Conference, was that the interests of the various Powers in China should be preserved and safeguarded, not by the exercise of force but by an engagement on the part of each signatory to refrain from activities which might impede the development of China and prejudice the legitimate interests in China of the other signatories.

The military operations and other developments in Manchuria in the autumn of 1931 were followed in January 1932 by extensive military operations at and around Shanghai. The first of these operations presented questions relating to the administrative and territorial integrity of China, and the second set of operations directly involved also the immediate and tangible interests of Powers in no way party to the original issues out of which the conflict between China and Japan arose. In the case of the hostilities at Shanghai, the hazards and havoc of modern warfare could not be confined to the armed forces of the disputant Powers or to their nationals and property. The hostilities threw into confusion and danger one of the world's most important ports and occasioned damage, calculable and incalculable, to the property and interests of nations not at all party to the dispute between China and Japan.

In elucidation of the thought upon which were in part based its identic notes of January 7, 1932, to the Chinese and Japanese Governments (to which reference has already been made), the American Government on February 23, 1932, stated, by means of a public letter from the Secretary of State to Senator Borah, its views with regard to the relations of the Nine Power Treaty and the Pact of Paris to this situation and problem in the Far East. On March 11, the Assembly of the League of Nations, which had been vested with jurisdiction in respect to the Sino-Japanese controversy, by a unanimous vote (Japan refraining from voting) adopted a resolution declaring that "It is incumbent upon the members of the League of Nations not to recognize any situation, treaty, or agreement, which may be brought about by means contrary to the League of Nations or the Pact of Paris."

The principle of nonrecognition was thus recognized as implicit in the Covenant of the League. The Assembly resolution of March 11 has been one of the bases of the discussions which have taken place at Geneva since December last, and although the manner in which the provisions of the resolution may be implemented is a question which devolves upon states members of the League, reiteration by the League of this principle will estop the legalization of any situation or act prejudicial to the rights of the Powers whose interests in the Far East are evidenced by their participation in the Nine Power Treaty. Faithful adherence to the terms of the resolution by those upon whom it is incumbent to observe them should adequately maintain in clear relief the aims which were sought in the conclusion of the Treaty. To those who are skeptical of the effectiveness of this course, it may be helpful to recall that the spokesman of the Tokyo Foreign Office, when announcing on May 11, 1932, the withdrawal of the Japanese forces from Shanghai, attributed (according to an Associated Press despatch from Tokyo) this decision to the desire of the Japanese Government to conform to world opinion and to "end worldwide odium which has fallen upon" Japan. It may be contended that this conclusion of the Shanghai incident cannot be regarded as presaging ultimately an analogous ending to developments in Manchuria. I believe that such a contention fails to take full account of the moral consciousness of a thoughtful nation which has in the past contributed in generous measure to the support of the peace movement.

This description of the fundamental purposes and philosophy of this Administration would not be complete without reference to the illustration furnished by its conduct towards Latin America. It has not hesitated to impose upon itself, in the interest of the development of the peace of the world, the same standards which it has insisted upon in respect to the world at large. It has not allowed the preponderance of the material and military power of the United States in this hemisphere to prescribe a different rule of conduct here from that which it has believed to be necessary to the development of peaceful relations elsewhere throughout the world. This has been true in spite of the fact that one of the localities which has called for the exercise of these principles has been the one spot external to our shores which nature has decreed to be most vital to our national safety, not to mention our prosperity, namely, the narrow isthmus of Central America and the islands of the Caribbean Sea commanding the entrance to the Panama Canal, that vital link in our national defense.

From the beginning, Mr. Hoover's Administration has been determined to better the relationship of this Government with our Latin American neighbors. We have sought to make our policy towards them so clear in its implications of justice and goodwill, in its avoidance of anything which could be even misconstrued into a policy of forceful intervention or a desire for exploitation of those republics and their citizens, as to reassure the most timid or suspicious among them. We have been withdrawing our marines as rapidly as possible from Santo Domingo, Haiti, and Nicaragua, completing in the last-named country, amid the grateful recognition of all of its parties, a successful educational experiment in the fundamentals of self-government in the shape of free elections. We have re-declared once again our national policy against the use of military pressure to collect business debts in foreign countries. We have promptly lent friendly assistance permitted by international law to the Mexican Government in quelling a military revolt against its authority. We have reëstablished the sensible practice of our forefathers as to the recognition of new governments in conformity with their rights to regulate their own internal affairs, and, in view of the economic depression and the consequent need for prompt measures of financial stabilization, have accorded to them recognition under this policy with as little delay, as possible in order to give them the quickest possible opportunities for recovering their economic poise. We have coöperated with the Latin American states in their efforts to restore peace among their numbers in the Chaco and on the Amazon. We have completed the settlement of Tacna-Arica. And in social and intellectual ways we have endeavored to establish the nations of Latin America as our associates and our friends in intellectual and commercial intercourse. Mr. Hoover, as President-elect, visited them in a journey through South America for the very purpose of dissipating the fears and antagonisms which had grown up amongst some of them as to the intentions and policies of this Government. Subsequently, we have entertained as national guests the Presidents-elect of Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia. We have enlisted our great institutions in the undertaking of systematic intellectual exchange with them; and together with them the United States has become officially represented in many world conferences upon scientific and welfare advancement. These acts have all been designed to impress them, as well as the other nations of the world, that the United States is aiming for progress by the creation of good will and human advancement, and not by exploitation.

In the foregoing article I have attempted to describe the mainsprings of purpose which have actuated Mr. Hoover's Administration in the efforts which it has directed towards the organization of peace and stability in the world. In such a world effort, the spirit of mutual confidence and good will on the part of the respective nations is necessarily the controlling factor. Proper machinery of organization can furnish only the vehicle by which the efforts of such a spirit may be facilitated and not thwarted.

During the years through which we have labored the task has been made infinitely more difficult by the world's economic distress, which many times and in many places has brought bitterness of spirit and destroyed hopefulness and good will. Nevertheless I believe that important foundations of progress have been laid, upon which it will be possible for an enduring structure to be erected by the labors of our successors.

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  • HENRY L. STIMSON, Secretary of State throughout the Administration of President Hoover; Governor-General of the Philippines, 1927-29; Secretary of War, 1911-13
  • More By Henry L. Stimson