• U.S.

THE CABINET: Tourist in Rome

5 minute read

Last week the U. S. formally accepted the League of Nations’ invitation to participate in its general disarmament conference at Geneva which sits Feb. 2, 1932. Also last week Secretary of State Henry Lewis Stimson landed upon the shores of Italy where official sentiment for disarmament runs higher than in any other European country. During the week Statesman Stimson’s status was that of an ordinary U. S. tourist, but he behaved like a full-fledged U. S. official on high diplomatic business.

When the S. S. Conte Grande docked at Naples. Secretary Stimson, followed by his wife, four secretaries, a code clerk and a military aide, marched down the gangplank to the pier. U. S. Ambassador John Work Garrett, his black whiskers curling into a wide smile of welcome, limped quickly forward to greet him. Curious crowds cried Viva l’America! Secretary Stimson climbed up on a baggage truck to acknowledge their applause. Then he motored to the Hotel Excelsior. To newsmen who insisted upon an interview he declared: “I have absolutely no political mission. I wish to be a mere tourist with no brass bands and I hope to be trusted as such. While I’m here I expect to do a certain amount of observing—but, remember, I’m in Europe purely in a private capacity.”

Out to Pompeii he drove with his party for a picnic luncheon, after Ambassador Garrett had started back to Rome. Later Secretary Stimson inspected Sorrento and Amain. Next day he motored slowly up to Rome, stopping along the way to examine an old palace, an ancient battlefield. He put up at the U. S. Embassy around which was thrown a special police cordon to prevent curious newshawks from spying on Tourist Stimson.

Next morning the U. S. Secretary of State went to call on the Italian Foreign Minister, spade-bearded Dino Grandi. at the Palazzo Chigi. For 45 minutes they reminisced about their work together at. the London Naval Conference last year. That afternoon Minister Grandi returned the call, spent 120 minutes with Secretary Stimson at the Embassy.

At 6 o’clock Ambassador Garrett escorted Secretary Stimson to the ochre-colored Palazzo Venezia, there introduced him for the first time to Premier Mussolini, quietly bowed himself out while the two statesmen talked for an hour. The gist of their conversation ran as follows:

Stimson: Your Excellency, I’m just a mere tourist and my visit is unofficial.

Mussolini: Ah, yes, my dear Mr, Stimson, that is all right, but you are the Secretary of State of the world’s greatest republic just the same.* How can you say your visit is unofficial when you are calling on Prime Minister MacDonald, Chancellor Brüning and myself?

Stimson: If the Geneva Disarmament Conference is successful, there is bound to be a revival of prosperity throughout the world.

Mussolini: I concur, the conference must be successful. If it failed the people’s confidence in their governments would be destroyed.

Stimson: Next year the world will be at a parting of the ways. Each nation must choose between war and peace.

Mussolini: Italy has already made her choice—Peace. She is ready to go to any limit in disarmament. If it is desired to leave Italy with only 10,000 rifles, that is all right—if nobody else has 15.000—because that would be like pitting a man with a stick against a man with a revolver. But disarmament is the thing. The method is of secondary importance.

After agreeing that under no circumstances should the Geneva conference be postponed, Premier Mussolini and Secretary Stimson bade each other goodbye. Mr. Stimson returned to the Embassy, to dress for dinner while // Duce, breaking a nine-year rule, summoned the entire corps of foreign correspondents for a mass interview. Clad in a double-breasted white linen suit, sunburned from his surf bathing at Ostia, he greeted each newsman with a handshake, beamed animal satisfaction, talked long and easily in English and Italian. Once he spied a stenographer jotting down a confidential aside, crossed the room, smilingly closed his notebook. Declared Premier Mussolini:

“The voyage of Mr. Stimson to Europe has great importance—although it is without official character. I formed a high impression of him. He is not only a pleasant, cordial gentleman but also a farsighted statesman. He breathes wisdom. . . . Mr. Hoover’s initiative in the debts holiday I consider one of the greatest of post-War political moves. … I am optimistic over economic recovery in the next few years. … I, as a former journalist who sometimes feels a nostalgia to return to writing, salute you.”

That evening Ambassador Garrett gave an Embassy dinner which Il Duce did Secretary Stimson the honor of attending. There were no toasts because the Italian court is in mourning.

Next day Mr. Stimson lunched with Minister Grandi, spent the afternoon poking around among old Roman ruins. In the evening he and his entourage were treated by Prince Boncompagni-Ludovisi, Governor of Rome, to a special display of red, white & green lights playing on the Forum.

With newsmen he refused to discuss his official conferences on the ground that he was a guest in a foreign country and the host should do all the talking. Said he: “I’m the receiving set, not the broadcast-ing station. We are becoming tourists again over the weekend. Where, rests with Mrs. Stimson.”

Asked if he would call on Secretary of the Treasury Mellon, who was resting (with a cold) at his daughter’s villa at Cap Ferrat after the debt negotiations in Paris, Secretary Stimson replied: ”No, Mellon is probably tired and wishes to be left alone. The last thing he would desire is to see a colleague.”

Over the week-end Secretary Stimson visited Minister Grandi at the seaside resort of Nettuno. Thither came Premier Mussolini in his motorboat. took Tourist Stimson for a short breath-taking ride around the bay.

*Il Duce was careful not to repeat Prime Minister MacDonald’s burble of last fortnight and say “world’s greatest nation.”

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