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Chapter 6 Tentative cooperation with the League of Nations, 1921-1924 PDF Print E-mail
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Books - American Diplomacy and the narcotics traffic
Written by Paul Goldstein   

Throughout the 1920's and 1930's the participation of the United States in the antidrug campaign was complicated by the question of the degree to which this country would participate in League of Nations activities. In the early months of the Harding administration, the probability of cooperation with the League appeared to be slight, for communications from the League were not even acknowledged.' Gradually, however, indirect communication was established by a tortuous route beginning with the League Secretariat and leading via the Swiss Minister for Foreign Affairs to the American minister at Berne and finally to the State Department.2 Later, an alternate route was established, from the League Secretariat to the American consul at Geneva to the State Department. Matters relating to narcotiCs were routed at first through the government of the Netherlands, which still served as the channel of communications regarding the traffic among parties to the Hague Convention who were not members of the League. Under that Convention the Dutch government was charged with taking the initiative in obtaining the deposits of ratifications and in instituting negotiations to solve disputes growing out of the Convention, and with acting as an intermediary for the exchange of information among the parties in regard to regulations and statistical data on opium and other narcotic drugs.

About a month before the Wilson administration went out of power, the State Department responded to a query from the Dutch legation as to whether the Department approved of the decision to accept the deposit of ratifications of the Versailles Treaty as ratification of the Hague Convention as provided for by Article 295 of the Treaty of Versailles, expressed gratification at the procedure, and asserted its inability to see why any other party to the Hague Convention should object to it.3 In the light of the subsequent attitude of the Harding administration it may be interesting to conjecture what its reply might have been, for about a month and a half after the Harding administration took office, the Netherlands government requested American concurrence in the transfer of its obligations under the Hague Convention to the League and asked if the United States would cooperate with the League in this regard.4 Thus the United States was faced inescapably with the question of what its relations with the League would be. The Division of Far Eastern Affairs of the State Department, which had charge of international matters concerning narcotics, did not feel competent to give an answer to this basic question.3 The Solicitor's office suggested that the United States might avoid embarrassment by interpreting Article z 3c of the League Covenant, entrusting the League with supervision of the Hague Opium Convention, as implying the necessity of future agreement among the members of the League to entrust it with such functions. The possibility would then exist that the League members would not vote to do this and the Convention would be administered, as in the past, among both members of the League and nonmembers. Thus the United States would escape the dilemma of having to decide whether or not to cooperate with the League.6

The suggestion from the Solicitor's office appeared to be based largely on wishful thinking. Feeling that the United States was not yet ready to recognize the League, even in the matter of narcotics control, the Far Eastern Division drafted a reply signed by Secretary Hughes declaring that the United States would not acquiesce in the proposed transfer and would continue to look to the government of the Netherlands for the execution of the Convention. Reasons given for the position taken were that the United States had signed but had not ratified the Treaty of Versailles, but that it did sign, ratify, and put into force the Hague Opium Convention and was thus bound by it. Thus "any departure from its terms. . . would be in the nature of an Amendment to the Convention the acceptance of which would require the sanction of the Senate."' The Netherlands government therefore replied that it would continue to fulfill its duties in regard to states not members of the League, but would cooperate with the League as much as possible.8 No other major state, however, took the position that the United States did.

Meanwhile the League of Nations was proceeding to assume the duties entrusted to it by the Covenant. In accordance with a resolution adopted by the First Assembly on December 15, 1920, the Council appointed an Advisory Committee on the Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs consisting of representatives of China, France, India, Portugal, Japan, Siam, Great Britain, and the Netherlands—nations held to be most interested in the opium problem. Three assessors were also appointed, not as representatives of governments but in their individual capacities as experts on the drug problem. They were Henri Brenier of France, Sir John Jordan of Great Britain, and Mrs. Hamilton Wright of the United States. The Committee was charged with "general supervision over the execution of agreements with regard to the traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs and the consideration of all such international questions relative to the traffic in opium which may be submitted for consideration." At its first meeting, in May '92 1, the Committee issued an appeal to all countries to become parties to the Hague Convention and drew up and sent to all countries a questionnaire on the cultivation, production, and manufacture of opium and other narcotic drugs. At its second meeting in April of 1922, the Committee drew up a draft importation certificate which it requested all states to accept and put immediately into force; prepared a form of an annual report which it recommended to all countries for adoption, giving information for each country as to the general control of the drug traffic, import and export regulations, control of specified drugs and all prepared opium, and statistics on the production, manufacture, and trade in the various manufactured drugs; and requested information from all governments as to their requirements for domestic consumption of the various drugs in order to determine the quantity needed for the world's legitimate consumption.

For nearly a year the United States refused to respond to the Advisory Committee's request for information. The Netherlands government had sent the first forms of the Advisory Committee requesting information on July 14, 192i. The State Department took the position that the United States should have nothing to do with the League machinery in regard to the opium question but should continue to rely solely on the Netherlands government.° Finally it decided to furnish the information requested to the government of the Netherlands for transmission to the signatories of the Hague Opium Convention, thus establishing the fiction that it was communicating with the Hague Convention signatories, but not with the League." This was the procedure followed for a considerable period in the communications between the League and the United States in regard to narcotics. The State Department tried to act as if the League did not exist.

The League could not long be ignored, however. On September 19, 1922, on the basis of a recommendation of the Advisory Committee, which felt that lack of information from the United States was hampering its work, the Third Assembly of the League adopted the following resolution:

The Assembly, convinced of the urgent necessity of securing the fullest possible cooperation in the work of the Advisory Committee on Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs, and considering the fact that the United States of America is one of the most important manufacturing and importing countries, recommends to the Council of the League that it should address a pressing invitation to the Government of the United States to nominate a member to serve on the Committee.12

On September 26, 1922, the Council instructed the Secretary General of the League to issue the invitation. It was sent on October 14, 1922.13
Before receipt of the invitation, the State Department, having been apprised on September 20 of the Assembly's resolution,14 was already considering its response. Edwin L. Neville, who was charged with the international aspects of the narcotics problem in the Division of Far Eastern Affairs of the State Department, urged acceptance of the invitation, pointing out that the presence of an American representative on the Advisory Committee would strengthen the hand of the committee in getting its recommendations for control of the traffic accepted by the League Assembly and Council. Furthermore, this would redound to the benefit of the United States, since its efforts at control were thwarted by widespread smuggling.15 After the receipt of the invitation, Neville reiterated his stand, adding that as the Advisory Committee contemplated recommending the calling of a conference, the United States should be represented on the committee so as to influence the nature and scope of such a conference and also to smooth the way for American participation in such a conference without offending the members of the League and without "arousing political susceptibilities" in the United States. He recommended, however, that in order to avoid the necessity of obtaining the consent of Congress to such representation, there should be appointed an informal and unofficial representative to the committee to serve in an advisory capacity, preferably someone in the Public Health Service who would be familiar with both medical and administrative aspects of narcotics contro1.16

Meanwhile, the State Department was receiving communications from other sources urging it to resume active leadership in the anti-narcotics campaign. Prior to the receipt of the League invitation, various individuals and groups in the United States had urged the government to call an international conference to be held in the United States. After receipt of the invitation, many voices were raised urging its acceptance!' One who had consistently pressured the Department to cooperate with the League from the very beginning was Mrs. Hamilton Wright, who brought to the movement a dedication and zeal which seemed to surpass even that of her late husband." Within the State Department itself, largely as a result of Mrs. Wright's representations, influential voices were raised in support of the resumption of actual leadership on the part of the United States in the antiopium movement." Thus it appeared that the government would have ample public support for a decision to send a representative to sit on the Advisory Committee. From abroad too came pressure for United States cooperation. Sir John Jordan, former British minister to China, a veteran of previous opium conferences, and now an assessor to the Advisory Committee, sent an urgent appeal to the State Department not to turn the invitation down. He pointed out that since the Committee as then constituted represented countries which were "immediately and vitally interested in the production of opium," and which were at that very moment favorably considering the establishment of an opium monopoly in China as the best means of controlling the traffic there, the influence of the United States—the only large and influential country not interested in opium production—was desperately needed on the committee, or the future results in regard to the opium traffic would be disastrous.2°

The arguments of Sir John Jordan, especially his appeals to the American desire to thwart any movement for the establishment of an opium monopoly in China; public opinion in favor of American representation on the committee (or at least the lack of opposition to the idea); Germany's representation on the committee; and the desire of the United States to reestablish American preeminence in the international movement—all combined to make it easy for the Division of Eastern Affairs to gain the consent of Secretary of State Hughes and President Harding to sending someone in an informal and unofficial capacity to represent the United States at the next session of the Advisory Committee.21 Undoubtedly the government's decision was also influenced by its earlier selection in October 1922 of Miss Grace Abbott, Chief of the Children's Bureau in the Department of Labor, and Dr. Morison Dorset of the Bureau of Animal Industry in the Department of Agriculture to serve, respectively, on the League's Advisory Committee on the Traffic in Women and Children and on the Anthrax Committee of the International Labor Office." At the suggestion of the Treasury Department, Dr. Rupert Blue, Assistant Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, was chosen to "serve in an unofficial and consultative capacity" as the American representative.
Dr. Blue attended the fourth session of the Advisory Committee at Geneva held from January 8 to 14, 1923. In its instructions to him, the State Department set forth the reasons for its current interest in the drug problem and therefore the reasons why the United States deemed it advisable to participate, though unofficially, in the meetings of the Advisory Committee. Of primary importance was the desire of the United States to protect its own nationals. In this regard the first concern was with domestic measures to prevent narcotic drugs from reaching its nationals for illicit purposes. Of subsidiary interest were the regulations of other manufacturing and producing countries to control the export of the crude and manufactured products, and measures for the prevention of the accumulation within any ferritory of a surplus which would supply the illicit traffic. Second in importance was the desire to prevent American nationals from engaging in the illicit international traffic. To achieve these ends the United States placed emphasis on the control of the manufacture of narcotics with a view to inducing other powers to bring their domestic and export regulations up to the standards proposed and adopted by the United States. Stressed third in order of priority was the desire of the United States to continue its historic efforts to help China eliminate her opium problem. It was therefore declared that "the American policy remains committed to the complete suppression and prohibition of the production and traffic in narcotics except for scientific and medical purposes and is therefore opposed to any legitimization of the traffic for other than scientific and medicinal purposes by the establishment of a government monopoly in China." Finally, it was felt that American participation would constitute a recognition of and response to the historic interest of Americans in efforts to control the traffic in narcotics through the participation of the United States in international conferences, conventions, and bilateral agreements.23

Blue was instructed to avoid "apparent acquiescence" in the actions of the Advisory Committee that were contrary to the traditional policy of this country and to let the committee know that the United States interpreted the term production of opium, as referred to in the Hague Opium Convention, as the growing of the poppy for the production of raw opium as well as the manufacture and refining of the raw product. Thus. stated in simple terms, the American position in regard to the traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs embraced the principles that production and manufacture should be limited to the legitimate needs of the world; that the only legitimate use of these products was for scientific and medical purposes, any other use constituting an abuse; that the best system for the suppression of the misuse of these drugs was prohibition; and that the solution to the problem lay in strict control by each country concerned of the production (including cultivation of the raw plant), manufacture, and distribution of the drugs.

The United States had now notably reversed its order of priorities since the pre-World War I conferences. Before the war the main emphasis was on helping China solve her problems; the problem in the United States and its possessions was considered secondary. Now China stood third in the list of priorities, behind the concern with America's own domestic problem and the desire to prevent Americans from engaging-in the illicit traffic. This change in attitude reflected the growing realization that at this time the problem in the Orient and that in Western countries were not necessarily one and the same, but actually constituted two separate though related and sometimes overlapping phases of the worldwide problem.24 The United States and other Western countries suffered primarily from manufactured products compounded in western Europe from raw opium produced in Turkey, Persia, and the Balkan states and from the coca leaf produced in South America—Bolivia and Peru. The use of prepared opium produced in the Far East constituted a very minor factor in the problem. The Orient, however, suffered from both aspects of the drug evil—the use of raw and prepared opium, whose source was both indigenous and foreign, and also the traffic in the manufactured products whose source was western Europe and Japan. It was thus believed that through the control of the manufacture and the distribution of alkaloids the problem of Western countries, and especially the United States, might be considerably mitigated even though the Far Eastern problem remained chronic. Furthermore, because of the stability of the governments in the Western countries involved with manufacture and distribution, the Western phase of the problem appeared to be more susceptible of solution. Then too, there was a growing shift in the concern of the American public from China to America's own internal situation. This can be adduced from the fact that to the voices of the missionary and religious groups were added increasingly, after the war, the voices of individuals and groups of a civic and secular nature, most of whom were specifically organized to protect and combat the dope menace in America—hence the top priority claimed by America's domestic problem.

At its session in January the Advisory Committee had before it two major subjects for discussion. One was a resolution of the Assembly of the League that governments party to the Hague Opium Convention should boycott imports from nonsubscribers to the Convention who had not adopted the system of import-export certificates approved by both the Council and the Assembly in 1921 for the control of the international traffic in narcotics. The object of the resolution was to force certain countries, particularly Turkey and Persia, which were major producers of raw opium, and Switzerland, which was a major manufacturing country, to ratify and put the Convention into force. In the ensuing lively discussions several objections were made to this proposal, the principal of which were the contentions that it would give India a monopoly of the production of raw opium, increase the illicit traffic, increase prices, and deprive countries of necessary medicines. Blue did not take much part in this discussion. No decision was reached and the matter was carried over to the next meeting of the Committee.25

The second important item on the agenda was the report of the Mixed-Subcommittee, consisting of members of the Health Section of the League and the Advisory Committee, whose function was to examine questions of a medical nature. In their report the subcommittee undertook to answer two questions: (i) What was the object of the League's work in regard to dangerous drugs? and (2 ) What constitutes abuse of these drugs? In answer to the first question, the subcommittee held that the object of the League's work was to limit and prevent the abuse of opium, morphine, and cocaine and their products. Here Blue intervened to set forth the American position that investigation of production was one method by which this object might be attained and that the United States understood production of raw opium to include the growing of the poppy. The first part of Blue's contention was acceptable to the committee, since it had already discussed this point in previous meetings. The League had refused to accept the contention, however, that control of production of raw opium as mentioned in Article I of the Hague Convention embraced the idea of control of poppy cultivation."26

Blue took vigorous exception to the Mixed-Subcommittee's endorsement of the use of opium and cocaine as stimulants in the unfavorable climate and social conditions of the Far East. As a physician he could speak with some authority. He declared that these products were dangerous habit-forming drugs which should be administered only under the orders of a physician. As a result of his observations the subcommittee's position was thrown out of the report and a directly opposite viewpoint was incorporated which declared that only the medical use of opium should be considered legitimate, and that any other use of opium could not be considered legitimate even in tropical countries. Discussion of this part of the subcommittee's report was postponed to the next session of the Advisory Committee. Thus in two respects the meeting of the Advisory Committee revealed a possible rift between the United States and some of the other members as to what constituted control of production and legitimate use of opium and other drugs. A definitive statement by the committee on these subjects had to await its next session.

Indicative of the probable results was the great difficulty experienced by Mrs. Wright and Sir John Jordan, two of the assessors, in getting the American point of view on the legitimate use of opium incorporated in the Advisory Committee's report to the Counci1.27 Sir Malcolm Delevingne, the chairman of the committee, and John Campbell, the Indian delegate, led the opposition to their efforts, the latter insisting that Blue's opinion should be confined to the minutes. Blue himself declined to press the issue. The matter was important, however, for the members of the Council read and considered the report, but few read the minutes of the committee's meetings. Therefore, in order for the American position to be given proper consideration by the League, it would have to be brought before the Council and perhaps eventually before the Assembly through the medium of the Advisory Committee's report, unless, of course, some member of the Council or the Assembly wished to raise the issue. All efforts at this having failed in the committee, Mrs. Wright, on the occasion of the meeting of the Council in Paris after the committee session had adjourned, protested to Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, and Sir Eric Drummond, the League Secretary General, at the treatment accorded to Blue's statement and pointed out the possible repercussions in America. Agreeing that the suppression of the American position was a serious mistake, Sir Eric and the secretary of the Advisory Committee persuaded the rapporteur of the committee, M. Hymans of Belgium, to point out in a foreword to the report to the Council the importance of American participation in the committee's work and to draw attention to the annexed report of the Mixed-Subcommittee and to the fact that the question of the definition of the legitimate use of opium had been placed on the agenda of the next session of the Advisory Committee at the request of the American representative."29

Thus the first contact between the United States and the Advisory Committee was not altogether a satisfying one. With a more forceful representative from the United States it might well have soured the two bodies on each other. As a matter of fact, a more definite and forceful position on the part of the United States had been expected.29 The reason that such a position was not taken lay in the absence in Blue's instructions of a clear and definitive statement of that position, as well as the lack of orders to present vigorously the American viewpoint. It must be remembered, however, that the United States was taking only a tentative and somewhat tremulous step toward cooperating with the League. Blue had been confidentially instructed to "report very carefully his considerations as to whether the League affords the proper machinery to effect the desired international cooperation for the suppression of the opium evil."" In a confidential report on this matter, Blue declared that in the Advisory Committee the League had quite the proper machinery, but that as then constituted and directed, it would not likely deal with the root of the opium problem—the growth of the poppy for raw opium production. He pointed out that on this matter the committee operated under a ban imposed indirectly by the Assembly when it reversed a decision of the Council in 192 I to investigate the production of opium in the Far East with a view to its eventual restriction. He pointed out further that of the nine voting members of the Advisory Committee only the representatives of China and Siam favored restricting production, while the representatives of Great Britain, France, India, Holland, Japan, Portugal, and Germany were opposed to it. Furthermore, under the League's interpretation of the term control of production the establishment of a government monopoly for the control of the acreage devoted to poppy cultivation would meet the terms of the Hague Convention regardless of the amount of opium produced.31

As a result of the above situation and the unsatisfactory response of the Advisory Committee to the American viewpoint on poppy cultivation and the nonmedical use of narcotic drugs, Blue recommended that the American observer make it clear at the next meeting of the committee that further United States cooperation with the League on narcotics would be contingent upon the League's recognition and acceptance of the American principles.32 Mrs. Wright made the same observations and recommendations.33

Although the Advisory Committee accomplished little at the session in which the United States made its debut, its net effect upon the issue of American cooperation with the League was salutary. It impressed upon the State Department the necessity of American representation on the committee if the American viewpoint was to be understood and given proper consideration by the nations most concerned with the narcotics question.34 There was no outcry in American isolationist circles against such participation. As a matter of fact the State Department had received an unexpected ally in Representative Stephen G. Porter, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who was anti-League in sentiment. Prior to Blue's embarkation for Geneva for the January i 923 meeting of the Advisory Committee, Porter had called on Undersecretary of State William Phillips and implicitly endorsed the step by revealing his plan to introduce in Congress a resolution on opium calling on the President to make direct representation to foreign governments to cooperate in the suppression of poppy cultivation and of the production and traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs. In support of the resolution the Congressman planned to hold hearings and to prepare a "formidable document" embodying the most up-to-date information on drug production and traffic throughout the world. Such action, he thought, would strengthen Blue's hand at Geneva. Although promising to keep the State Department fully informed on his actions, Porter expressed the desire to remain independent of the Department in this regard, so that it might not be held responsible for any steps he took which might prove embarrassing.35

With Porter's backing as well as the support of various pro-League organizations and antidrug groups the government did not hesitate to prepare to send a delegation to the fifth session of the Advisory Committee, which was to meet in May 1923. To give the Americanposition due weight, an impressive delegation was appointed consisting of Porter as chairman, Bishop Brent, Dr. Blue, and Edwin L. Neville as technical assistant. The necessity for such a delegation had been clearly revealed in the fourth session of the Advisory Committee when Blue, whose experience in American legislative work in regard to narcotics was certainly not meager, had still found himself at a great disadvantage in contending with the representatives of other nations, most of whom were long-time experts in the field.36 Since the American position before the League was primarily based on American legislation and administrative measures, the need for someone thoroughly grounded in the details of those measures and their effects was apparent. Edwin L. Neville filled this requirement admirably, and as a result, proved to be perhaps the most valuable member of the delegation. Porter, Brent, and Blue lent political, moral, and scientific prestige to the delegation.

This time the American representatives were fortified with a specific set of instructions which set forth the American view on the items on the agenda of the Advisory Committee as well as on the narcotics question as a whole with clarity and vigor. The principles there laid down constituted a summation of the American position as it had developed over the previous years and as it was to be maintained throughout the remainder of the period covered by this study.

The American position rested upon two pillars—the Hague Opium Convention and the legislation which the United States enacted to carry out its provisions and to deal with the domestic drug problem. The United States maintained that it would cooperate in the international movement and with the Advisory Committee only on the basis of the Hague Convention, the only convention common to all the powers, and that therefore it could not acquiesce in any interpretation of that convention which weakened it. Where it was defective the American government favored measures to strengthen it. The American legislation carrying out the provisions of the Convention, it was asserted, represented "the conviction of the American public that the best method of controlling the traffic in narcotic drugs is to do so by means of control at the source; that is, . . . that control should begin with the new product and should be carried on through all the processes of mawafacture so as to prevent the illicit or non-medical use of narcotic products at any stage of their manufacture."37

In a statement drawn up to be delivered by Porter at the meeting, the provisions of the Hague Convention, the American interpretation of them, and the American legislation putting them into effect were summarized at some length. On the basis of this statement, five resolutions embodying the American viewpoint were presented with the request that they be adopted and embodied in the committee's report and recommendations "as the basis upon which the effective international cooperation can be expected." The resolutions set forth the following propositions:

1. If the purpose of the Hague Opium Convention is to be achieved according to its spirit and true intent, it must be recognized that the use of opium products for other than medicinal and scientific purposes is an abuse and not legitimate.

2. In order to prevent the abuse of these products it is necessary to exercise the control of production of raw opium in such a manner that there will be no surplus available for non-medical and non-scientific purposes.

3. The nations which are parties to the Hague Opium Convention are urged to bend every effort to induce the nations which are not parties to the Convention, or which have not yet enacted legislation to put it into effect, to do so at once.

4. Those nations which have well developed chemical and pharmaceutical industries are urged to prohibit the importation of all narcotic drugs except such quantities of crude opium and coca leaves as may be necessary to provide for medicinal and scientific needs.

5. All nations are urged to prohibit the exportation of narcotic drugs, including opium in whatever form and coca leaves and derivatives of these drugs, to those countries which are not parties to the Hague Opium Convention and which do not have domestic systems of control—including import and export certificates.38

The first two resolutions were the crucial ones, as they were the ones upon whose acceptance by the Advisory Committee future American cooperation with the League depended. The first draft of the instructions drawn up by Neville contained a statement whiCh the American delegation was to make in case the resolutions were not adopted, expressing disappointment and regret, and grave doubt as to the utility of further attendance by the United States at the meetings of the committee and therefore the necessity for independent action by the United States to obtain the desired international cooperation.39 This was deleted from the final instructions, however, at the suggestion of William Phillips, who thought that it would be better to await action by the committee and then instruct the delegation by telegraph as to what to do in case the committee rejected the American proposals.4° Nevertheless, this was the card which the United States was prepared to play, and it showed that it was the intention of this government not to cooperate with the League in regard to the problem except on American terms.

The third resolution had already been recommended by the Advisory Committee and endorsed by the other League organs. The fourth and fifth resolutions represented legislative and administrative measures of the United States already in force.

The other principal item on the League's agenda was the question of boycotting the imports of nonadherents to the Hague Convention. On this the State Department adopted Mrs. Wright's view that the better policy would be to continue the efforts to get these countries to adhere rather than attempt a boycott, especially in view of the fact that in the Balkans and Asia Minor, the principal American sources of raw opium, political conditions in regard to the restoration of peace and the fixing of territorial boundaries were in such a fluid state that a boycott would not affect the illicit traffic which was the source of American difficulties." Emphasis was thus placed on withholding manufactured drugs from nonadherents to the Hague Convention rather than boycotting the raw products of such countries as Turkey and Persia.

In addition to a prestigious membership and a set of clearly stated principles, the American delegation was buttressed by resolutions from both the American and Pan American Congresses. Porter had succeeded in getting his resolution passed, the preamble of which contained a lengthy dissertation on the world narcotics problem and its effect on the United States. The resolution called on the President to urge the producing nations to limit the growth of the poppy and the coca leaf and the production of the raw drugs to medicinal and scientific purposes as the only effective way to control the traffic in and use of these drugs.42 During the meeting of the Fifth Pan American Conference in April 1923, the State Department instructed the American delegation to that conference to secure the supporting views of the conferees in order to strengthen the American position before the Advisory Committee.43 This assignment, in effect, had already been carried out two days earlier when the conference had unanimously adopted a resolution submitted by the delegation of the United States declaring its approval of the Hague Convention and urging the American states which had not done so to ratify the Convention and enact legislation to put it into force."

Although the American delegation on the Advisory Committee was limited by its instructions to a "consultative" role, the activities of the delegation came under extensive scrutiny. The entrance of the United States into League opium activity had attracted the attention of various interested groups and individuals in America. Prominent among those observing and attempting to influence the delegation at Geneva were Mrs. Helen Howell Moorhead of the Foreign Policy Association; Miss Ellen La Motte, author of several books and articles on the subject of opium; and a representative of the Hearst newspaper chain, which was violently anti-League in its sentiments. These individuals were to play an influential role in the issue of cooperation between America and the League on the drug problem.

League officials welcomed the American delegation to Geneva with some trepidation. They expected that the Americans would insist on the acceptance of the first two proposals in their program, and if successful, would then present detailed measures to carry them out. The League officials felt that as these proposals would constitute a revision of the Hague Convention, a matter beyond the Advisory Committee's power, the committee would find it impossible to accept them unreservedly, and thus a stalemate would ensue and future cooperation between the League and the United States on the drug problem would be jeopardized.° Although subsequent events were to relieve the officials of their fears, the initial action of the American delegation seemed to justify their apprehension. Porter, who headed the delegation, became the dupe of his own anti-League inclinations and propaganda when on his arrival in Geneva he committed the naïve blunder of approaching the League as a sovereign entity in itself, a superstate, to be dealt with on an equal basis by the United States as one sovereign power with another. He therefore laid the American proposals before Sir Eric Drummond, the Secretary General, with the idea that their acceptance by Drummond on behalf of the League would be binding on the member states. Drummond was both astonished and perturbed at Porter's naïveté and with some difficulty managed to explain to him that the League was not a superstate, that he was merely the Secretary General of an organization in which over sixty sovereign states were represented, and that Porter would therefore have to deal with the nine member states of the Advisory Committee in their capacities as individual sovereign states.°46

Drummond's explanations were not sufficient to cause Porter to surrender entirely his concept of the nature of the League. After their initial speeches and the presentation of the American proposals in the Advisory Committee, the American representatives, taking care to avoid acting in a way that could be interpreted as an acknowledgment that they were a constituent part of the committee, refused to participate in the committee's discussions. They regarded the committee and themselves as separate entities, the committee negotiating on behalf of the League, and the American delegation on behalf of the United States. Thus they presented the American proposals as "the settled position" of the United States, leaving it up to the committee on behalf of the League to present counterproposals, if any, to the American delegation for consultation.47 Later Porter went so far as to suggest to Sir Eric Drummond the idea of forming a new committee or commission consisting of five members from the United States and five from the League. Sir Eric cryptically informed Porter that the members of the League would not agree to being equaled by one sovereign state, even if that country was the United States."

The Americans did not attend the first meetings of the Advisory Committee on May 24, which were devoted to organization, because they had not received a reply to their communication to the Secretary General informing him of their desire to present the American proposals at the committee's convenience. The following day, however, in speeches by Brent and Porter, the American views were laid before the comm- ittee. In a masterly statement, Bishop Brent stressed the moral and humanitarian considerations which underlay the need for the limitation of the production of the narcotic drugs and the raw material from which they were derived to the medical and scientific needs of the world. The main barrier to such limitation, he asserted, was revenue considerations, which if eliminated would likewise end the interest of governments in the production of such products. As science had clearly established that the nonmedical use of opium was an abuse, and as nine-tenths of the world's production was for revenue and in excess of medical and scientific needs, the nations concerned, for the sake of their colonies as well as for themselves, and to help rather than take advantage of weaker nations, should subordinate all economic considerations and administrative difficulties in coping with the evil to the moral, humanitarian, religious and scientific determinations. He called for limitation at the source—restriction of poppy cultivation—and made a special plea in behalf of China, which, he declared, was the "victim of former exploitation and her own present weakness." He therefore urged the committee to dissuade China from the idea of establishing a government monopoly of the traffic in opium.°49

In his speech, Porter, after assuring the committee that the purpose of their presence was not to criticize but to establish common strategy, read the statement in his instructions setting forth the provisions of the Hague Convention, the American interpretation of that Convention, the American legislation putting it into effect, and the views of the United States as to the legitimate use of opium and the control of production. He urged the committee to adopt and to recommend to the Council and the Assembly the adoption of the American resolutions which declared that the only legitimate use of opium products was for medicinal and scientific purposes and which called for the restriction of the production of raw opium to those purposes. In support of the two resolutions he presented a statement which the delegation itself had drawn up at Geneva citing and interpreting Chapters II and III of the Hague Convention and referring to them as "the heart" of that Convention.50

The Advisory Committee, having expected a more vigorous presentation, was both impressed and relieved by the two speeches; Brent's on moral grounds and Porter's setting forth the legal position.51 As already mentioned, after taking part in the discussion of items connected with the Hague Convention, the American delegation withdrew when the American proposals came up for discussion, holding that as the United States was not part of the Advisory Committee, they would not act until the committee accepted or declined the proposals. The initial reaction to the proposals saw Germany, Portugal, Siam, and China approving them without reservation; Japan, India, the Netherlands, and France opposing them; and Great Britain taking a noncommittal attitude. The Indian delegate, John Campbell, declared that the American propositions were contrary to the Convention; France insisted on a dictionary definition of the term legitimate; and the Dutch held that effective action could be taken only after the contraband traffic was ended.

Since India led the opposition to the American proposals, Porter wished to challenge Campbell's right to vote on the ground that India, as a part of the British Empire, had no independent relationship to the Hague Convention. Great Britain had signed, ratified, and put the Convention into effect on behalf of her colonies and possessions, and India was thus not an independent signatory. The State Department, however, while agreeing with the validity of Porter's objection, pointed out to him the embarrassing position in which the American delegation would be placed if, representing the United States only in a consultative capacity and being unable to vote, it nevertheless challenged India's right to vote in a committee of the League.52 Thus Porter did not pursue the matter.

The question for crucial consideration was what constituted the legitimate traffic in and use of opium. The powers with Far Eastern possessions insisted that under the Hague Convention the traffic in and use of prepared opium were legitimate. The Indian delegate contended that the customary manner in which opium was used in India—primarily eating—was also legitimate under the Convention. The British and German representatives initially upheld the Indian position, but later abandoned it. Campbell, however, remained adamant. The other major opposition to the American principles came from the French representative, who adopted an obstructionist attitude not only toward the American proposals but also to the British resolution calling for stricter police measures to bring about the suppression of the traffic in prepared opium as called for in Chapter II of the Hague Convention. The British, in general, were inclined to support the American viewpoint."

After several days of heated discussion, the Advisory Committee drew up a series of resolutions which embodied only in part the American principles. This was unacceptable to the American representatives, and they presented a counterproposal based on an earlier British resolution. But this too was rejected by the committee. Thereupon Porter presented an ultimatum to the committee threatening cessation of American cooperation with that body." As a result, Sir Malcolm Delevingne, the chairman of the Advisory Committee, appointed a drafting committee on which Porter and Neville were included, but from which the obstructionist Indian representative, Campbell, was excluded, to bring forth a formula that would be acceptable to all.

The resolutions drawn up by the drafting committee were adopted by the Advisory Committee with the approval of the American delegation. They were divided into four parts. In Paragraph x the American proposals were recommended to the League "as embodying the general principles by which the Governments should be guided in dealing with the question of the abuse of dangerous drugs, and on which, in fact the International Convention of 1912 is based. . . ."55 This statement was modified by the reservation of the representatives of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Siam to the effect that "the use of prepared opium and the production, export and import of raw opium for that purpose are legitimate so long as that use is subject to and in accordance with the provisions of Chapter II of the Convention."56

Paragraph 2 consisted of an expression of appreciation for the cooperation of the United States with the League and of the desire of the governments concerned to cooperate with the United States in "giving the fullest possible effect to the Convention."

Paragraph 3 recited the ways the Advisory Committee had already worked toward the goals expressed in the American proposals, such as trying to secure the adhesion of all countries to the Hague Convention; seeking information in regard to the world medical and scientific needs for manufactured drugs with a view to restricting production to those needs; attempting to suppress the illicit traffic by recommending the system of import certificates, arranging for exchange of information among countries concerned, and suggesting other measures for international cooperation; attempting to get China and the powers with Far Eastern possessions to consider measures to solve the problem of the use of prepared opium; and the collection and publication of information from the various countries as to the conditions in their respective territories and the measures taken by them to carry out the provisions of the Convention. This particular paragraph had been drawn up through the instrumentality of Sir Eric Drummond at the instigation of Mrs. Moorhead of the Foreign Policy Association, who wanted this recitation for the benefit of the American delegation in order to show them and the American government and people that the League and the United States were seeking and working toward the same objective, and that therefore they should cooperate with each other.57

Paragraph 4 recommended to the Council that to give effect to the American principles as well as to the policy of the League, a conference consisting of the manufacturers of opium and coca leaf products and the producers of raw opium and the coca leaf for export, and a conference of the powers in whose territories prepared opium was used should be held with a view to reaching an agreement providing for (i) the limitation of the production of manufactured drugs and their raw materials to medicinal or scientific needs, (2) the reduction of the quantity of raw opium to be imported for smoking purposes where it was presently used, and (3) the suppression of the illegal production and use of opium in China. To this recommendation India appended a reservation specifying that "the use of raw opium, according to the established practice in India, and its production for such use are not illegitimate under the Convention."57

The resolution was indeed a forward step in the relations between the United States and the League. But it was not wholly on American terms. For the sake of agreement the American delegation was forced to concede the reservations modifying the American definition of legitimate use by accepting the view of all the member states of the Advisory Committee except China that the use of prepared opium was legitimate under the terms of the Hague Convention. Although they opposed the Indian contention that opium eating was legitimate, they finally accepted a negative statement of that same argument to the effect that such use of opium was "not illegitimate." The delegates justified their concessions on the ground that they merely constituted a reaffirmation of Articles 6 and 7 of the Convention.58 In this the delegates were undoubtedly correct, but their instructions had interpreted these articles differently.

If the original positions of the Advisory Committee and the United States are interpreted as being contradictory, the American representatives did score a moderate victory. In addition to getting qualified acceptance of the American principles in regard to the legitimate traffic in and use of opium, they succeeded in getting incorporated in the resolution of the Advisory Committee the American suggestion for the inclusion of producing nations in a conference for the purpose of devising means to reduce the supply of raw opium and coca leaves—reduction at the source.

Yet, as Paragraph 3 of the resolution and the discussions in the committee revealed, the United States and the committee were together on many issues. Most of the governments seemed to favor strict international control of the traffic in manufactured drugs. The British were particularly keen on this. The complicating factor, however, was the fear of nonmanufacturers that restrictions on the existing basis of manufacture would give a monopoly to the few countries which were then manufacturing. The British likewise were responsible for the inclusion of a call for a conference of states in whose territories prepared opium was used. These states, however, including British India, seemed to the American delegation to be more interested in protecting their opium revenue from the competition of the illicit traffic in and consumption of opium for smoking. Their representatives contended that efforts to suppress opium smoking would be nullified by the cultivation and smuggling of opium in China and by the importation of Persian opium into the Far East. Only Siam frankly admitted that it opposed the suppression of opium smoking because opium was a source of necessary revenue.58 Thus the American delegation was able to make virtually no headway where the interests of particular members of the committee appeared to be entrenched.

The session of the Advisory Committee was fruitful in several respects. Aside from the modified acceptance of the American position, the groundwork was laid for another conference covering all aspects of the narcotics problem—cultivation, manufacture, and trade. Also the discussions opened Porter's eyes to the complexity of the problem—to considerations other than mere desire for revenue that hindered its solution. Furthermore, Porter gained a new understanding of the nature of the League to the extent that he was moved to praise the work of its permanent staff.° Although there was some grumbling in regard to Porter's dictatorial methods and the refusal of the American delegation to enter fully into the discussion of the Advisory Committee, those who honestly desired progress in regard to the solution of the drug problem realized more than ever the desirability and necessity of American cooperation. Further steps in this direction awaited the action of the Council and the Assembly of the League.

On the recommendation of the Council, the Secretary General invited the United States to send a representative to sit in on the meetings in September of the Fifth Committee of the Assembly (the committee of the Assembly concerned with social and humanitarian questions) at which time the report of the Advisory Committee containing the American proposals would be considered. The presence of an American representative was desired so that the United States might explain its views and to enable the members of the Fifth Committee to consult with the American representatives." The United States accepted the invitation and sent the same delegation that attended the Fifth Session of the Advisory Committee to the meeting of the Assembly to act in a consultative capacity. They were given no detailed instructions, but were merely advised to make clear that the American position was the same and to try to secure the acceptance of that position as embodied in the recommendation of the Advisory Committee."

At the beginning of the discussion in the Fifth Committee on September 18 some confusion arose as to the meaning of the Advisory Committee's resolution calling for the conferences. The American, French, and Dutch representatives thought the resolution contemplated two conferences: one concerned with the production and export of the raw materials, the international restriction of their derivatives, and the production and export of raw opium for smoking; the other to be confined to the consideration of the opium smoking problem in the Far East. On the other hand, the British also thought that them resolutions called for two conferences, but that one would be a conference on manufacturing and the other a conference on the production of raw materials, while the production of and traffic in raw opium for smoking purposes would constitute only a tentative agenda on one phase of the narcotics problem.

The American delegation was prepared to support a proposal for one conference to deal with different aspects of the question, but when Porter's suggestion to this effect was put as a motion by the South African delegate, it was amended by the British to call for two conferences. The issue was then referred to a subcommittee, which after two days of deliberations reported back a recommendation for two conferences. The Fifth Committee of the Assembly endorsed this in the form of two resolutions requesting the Council to call first a conference on prepared opium and the illegal production and use of opium in China, to be followed immediately by a conference of all the member states of the League and the parties to the Hague Convention. The subjects to be considered by the latter conference would be the, limitation of the manufacture of derivatives and limitation of imports of raw materials for that purpose, and the restriction of the production of raw materials for export to medical and scientific purposes, thereby giving effect to the principles of the United States and the policy of the League.63 The Fourth Assembly adopted the resolutions of the Fifth Committee, and in December 3923 the Council instructed the Secretary General to take steps to put them into effect.

By its participation in the discussions of the Advisory Committee and the Fifth Committee of the Assembly the United States bridged the gap that had occurred in the international antinarcotics campaign during the years of World War I and the early hesitant steps of the League. During this period American interest had been largely dominated by its own internal problem and the situation in China. Antipathy toward the League served to delay a vigorous reentry into the international movement. By 1924, however, the United States seemed prepared to reassert its leadership in that movement, whose center was now Geneva, just as it had pushed through the work at the Hague from 391 to 1915.


1. The most comprehensive study of the relations of the United States with the League is Denna F. Fleming, The United States and World Organization, 7920-1933 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1938). A briefer summary is that of Clarence A. Berdahl, The Policy of the United States with Respect to the League of Nations (Publications of the Graduate Institute of International Studies, No. 4; Geneva: Libraire Kundig, 1932).

2. Berdahl, ibid., pp. 97-103.

3. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby to Jonkheer W. H. de Beaufort, Chargé d'Affaires ad interim of the Netherlands, Feb. 5, 1921, SDR 5ir.4A1/1565.

4.W. H. de Beaufort to the Secretary of State, April 19, 1921, SDR 511.4A 0568.

5. Memorandum by Nelson T. Johnson (Division of Far Eastern Affairs) to the Secretary of State, May i8, 1921, SDR 5114AI/1572.

6. Memorandum from the Office of the Solicitor to the Division of Far Eastern Affairs, June 11, 1921, SDR 51r.0.1/1568.

7. Secretary of State Charles E. Hughes to W. H. de Beaufort, June 18, 1921, SDR 511.4A1/1568.

8. Netherlands Legation to the Secretary of State, Dec. 9, 1921, SDR 511.4AT/1580.

9. For a brief summary of the establishment of the Opium Advisory Committee and its work up to October 1922, see Foreign Relations, 1923, 1, 90-93.

10. Memorandum of the Office of Assistant Secretary of State Fred M. Dearing, Jan. 27, 1922, SDR 511.4A1/1584.

11. Secretary of State Hughes to the Secretary of the Treasury, April 8, 1922, SDR 511.4A1/1575. Hughes to J. C. A. Everwijn, Minister of the Netherlands, April 28, 1922, SDR 511.4A1/1584.

12. Foreign Relations, 1923, I, 89.

13. Eric Drummond, Secretary General of the League of Nations to the Secretary of State, Oct. 54, 1922, SDR 511.4AI/1687.

14. Minister Joseph C. Grew (Berne) to the Secretary of State, April 12, 1922, SDR 511.4A1/1599.

15. Memorandum by Edwin L. Neville to William Phillips, Sept. 21, 1926, SDR 511.4AT/1687.

16. Memorandum by Neville to Phillips, Oct. 27, 1926, ibid.

17. Missionary and other religious organizations, antiopium societies, governors and congressmen from Pacific coast states, civic and social organizations, and private individuals all urged active participation by the United States either in cooperation with Or without the League. See decimal files SDR 5II.4A r/i57o, 1571, 1583, I591, 1604, 1663, 1688, 1689, 5707, 1710, etc.

18. Mrs. Elizabeth Wright to Phillips, July 24, 1922, SDR 511.4AT/166o; also memorandum by William R. Castle, Acting Chief, Division of Western European Affairs, Feb. 25, 1922, SDR 51 i.4Ar/1596.

19. Memorandum by Castle to the Secretary of State, March zo, 1922, SDR 511.4A i/ 595.

20. Memorandum by Nelson T. Johnson to John V. A. MacMurray, Chief, Division of Far Eastern Affairs, Nov. 21, 1922, SDR 511.5A1/17o0.

21. Memorandum by MacMurray to the Secretary of State, Nov. 2i, 1922, SDR 511.4A1/17oo; Secretary of State Hughes to the President (Harding), Nov. 25, 1922, SDR 511.4A1/1687.

22. Berdahl, The Policy of the United States, p. 105.

23. Hughes to the Secretary of the Treasury, Dec. 14, 5922, SDR 511.4A1/1707a.

24. Memorandum in Division of Far Eastern Affairs, Oct. 16, 1922, SDR 511.4Az/ 1720.

25. Rupert Blue to Joseph C. Grew, Jan. 25, 1923 and Blue to the Secretary of State, Feb. 28, 1923, SDR 511.4A1/1743.

26. Ibid.

27. MTS. Wright to William Phillips, Feb. 7, 192.3, SDR 511.4A1 /175i.

28. Ibid.   

29. Ibid.

30. Phillips to Grew, Dec. 16, 1922, SDR I 1.4A /1736a, This paragraph was deleted from the original draft of Blue's instructions because his instructions and report would become public documents.

31.Blue to Grew, Feb. 7, 1923, enclosed in Grew to Phillips, Feb. 19, 1923, SDR 511.4A1/1743.

32. Ibid.; also Blue to Grew, Jan. 25, 1923, ibid.

33. Mrs. Wright to Phillips, Feb. 7, 1923, SDR 51r4AT/1751.1t is obvious that Mrs. Wright influenced Blue in making his assessment of the Advisory Committee as well as in making the above recommendations.

34.Memorandum by MacMurray to Phillips, Feb. 8, 1923, SDR 511.4A1/1743.

35. Memorandum by Phillips of conversation with Stephen G. Porter, Nov. 29, 1922, SDR grI.4A1/173o.

36. This was attested to by numerous observers at the meeting, including Blue himself, all of whom urged that thereafter the United States be represented on the committee by an expert who would have a position of permanence. See Mrs. Wright to Phillips, Feb. , 1923, SDR 511.4A1/1751; MacMurray to Phillips, April 7, 1923, SDR 5ii.4Az/9o; Phillips to the Secretary of State, April 5, 1923, SDR giz.4Ai/i757.

37. Secretary of State Hughes to Porter, Brent, and Blue (the American Delegation), May 10, 1923, grnit 5 I I .4A I / I 777a, see also Foreign Relations, 1923, I, 103.

38. Ibid.

39. Memorandum by MacMurray to the Secretary of State, April 24, 1922, SDR 511.4AI/1777.

40. Memorandum by Phillips to the Secretary of State, April 27, 1923, SDR gil.4AI/ 1777.

41. Secretary of State Hughes to the American Delegation, May bo, 1923, SDR 511.4A1/1777a.

42. Lewis, Opium and Narcotic Laws, pp. 29-22.

43. Secretary of State Hughes to the American Delegation to the Fifth Pan American Conference, April 28, 1923, SDR 511.4A1/1769.

44. Henry Fletcher to the Secretary of State, April 29, 1923, SDR sr 1.4A1/1814.

45. American Legation (Berne) to the Secretary of State, July 12, 1923, SDR 51r.4A1/1814.

46. This incident was later reported confidentially and with some consternation to the State Department by the American legation at Berne and by Mrs. Moorhead. See ibid., "Confidential Report on Trip to Opium Commission of the League of Nations, Geneva, May 1923," Moorhead to Castle, received July 23, 1923, SDR 51 r.4AI/1816; Confidential Memorandum from the Division of Western European Affairs to the Secretary of State, June 22, 1923, SDR 511.4A i/r938.

47. Porter to the Secretary of State, May 27, 5923, SDR 521.4A1/1788; Brent to the Secretary of State, June 16, 1923, SDR 511.4A1/1799.

48. Moorhead to Castle, received July 23, 1923, SDR 5ir.4A1/18i6.

49.A copy of this speech is in Brent Papers, Box 18.

50. Porter to the Secretary of State, May 25, 1923, SDR 51 1.4Ai/i787; May 22, 1923, SDR 5r1.4Ar1r785; Aug. 2, 1923, SDR 511.4Ai/i824.

51. American Legation (Berne) to the Secretary of State, July 12, 1923, SDR 51r.4A1/184.

52. Porter to the Secretary of State, May 27, 1923; Secretary Hughes to Porter, May 29, 1923, SDR 51'4AI/1788.

53. Moorhead to Castle, received July 23, 1923, SDR 511.4A1/1816.

54. Ibid.; also Brent to the Secretary of State, June 16, 1923, SDR pi.4AT/1799.

55."Resolutions of the Advisory Committee on Traffic in Opium of the League of Nations (June 5, 1923), Accepting the Proposals of the United States with a Reservation Reaffirming Chapter II of the Hague Opium Convention relating to Prepared Opium," enclosed in Porter to the Secretary of State, June 6, 1923, SDR 511.4A Om. All the resolutions adopted are contained in this document.

56. Ibid.

57. Moorhead to Castle, received July 23, 1923, SDR 511.4AI/1816.

58. Porter to the Secretary of State, Aug. 2, 1923, SDR 511.4A1/1824.

59. Ibid.

6o. Ibid.

61. American Legation (Berne) to the Secretary of State, Aug. 9, 1923, SDR 511.4A1/ 1821.

62. Secretary Hughes to Porter, Brent, and Blue, Aug. 24, 1923, SDR 511.4A1/1832a.

63. These were Resolutions 5 and 6 adopted by the Fifth Committee. For the report on the proceedings of the committee in regard to narcotics, see Porter to the Secretary of State, Oct. zo, 1923, SDR 5114AI/186o.


Our valuable member Paul Goldstein has been with us since Monday, 20 February 2012.

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