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The President's News Conference

January 27, 1931


THE PRESIDENT. I have an inquiry here about Niagara Falls. Some years ago we appointed a joint control board on Niagara Falls with the Canadian Government. And in view of the press inquiries this morning that I had from this neighborhood, I have asked the War and State Departments to suggest that that board should have another meeting and see what revision they might need to make in their previous proposals, or alternatively, how imminently necessary it is for the Senate to proceed with the treaty which was formulated to cover the question of the failure of the scenery at Niagara. 1

1 The press inquiries, to which the President referred, related to a recent massive rock slide at Niagara Falls.

On February 18, 1931, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to reject the treaty that had been presented to the Senate by President Calvin Coolidge. The chief objections were to the portions of the treaty calling for agreements with private power companies.

For the message transmitting the final report of the Special International Niagara Board, see 1930 volume, Item 109.


The matter I would like to talk to you about today is absolutely as background and not for publication at all, but I want for you to understand the problem which is coming along a little later--nothing for quotation or even for publication about it, but simply to have you forearmed.

It is with relation to the World Disarmament Conference in February 1932. As you know, there has been a great deal of preparation and work done in the last 6 years, in which this Government has participated during the preliminary conference leading up to this final conference which is to be held, as I have said, in 1932.

We have regarded that matter as one of a good deal of importance, both as to the promotion of peace and especially the reduction of economic burdens in Europe. The progress made with naval limitation in the meantime is such that naval questions are not likely to be a matter of any great importance at that Conference. It is likely it will be almost wholly confined to land armaments. We have already demobilized our Army down to the point where it is not a threat against nations. As a matter of fact, it is in numbers less than the number of policemen on our streets. So that we are not primarily concerned. Our interest is purely one in promotion of a general cause and, therefore, one of friendly interest in promoting the negotiations. The economic importance of it is somewhat indicated, in direct importance to us by the fact that there are about 3 million men in standing armies outside of Russia, not including their reserves in it, and there is a large budget of $1,500 million for their support. All of which has an interest to us in the promotion of economic progress.

But we have felt that with the experiences of the [London] Naval Conference we are progressing, and assurance of success in conferences of this kind requires a large amount of preliminary negotiation between the governments which are primarily concerned. Those negotiations, of course, we are hopeful will go forward but are not negotiations in which we have any direct interest at all, and which we could not be a party to otherwise than perhaps just friendly suggestions.

Furthermore, we do not believe that in the situation where we are so indirectly concerned that we should undertake the leadership of such a conference; that that responsibility must rest on those nations which are primarily concerned, and who must, if the Conference is to be a success, make the sacrifices and arrangements that lead to limitation and reduction of arms.

I want you to have just that much when the problem arises, which is likely to be at any time. It is an attitude of entire friendliness and desire on our part to wish to help in anyway we can. It is not our major problem, and the success of such a conference must come from the nations which are concerned.

Otherwise than that I have nothing.

Q. Will our interest in air armaments, Mr. President, be taken up at the Conference ?

THE PRESIDENT. I hadn't given that any particular thought, so I cannot give you any competent answer to it. The development of air transportation has not reached a point where it can get across the Atlantic, so it is not very direct. Our air armament, I might mention, is on a parity with any other nation in the world right now.

Q. Mr. President, in connection with not using this in anyway, Secretary Stimson talked about this at his conference yesterday--that we did have a vital interest in the question. I was just wondering if we could not more or less use this as background.

THE PRESIDENT. I would a little rather you would not give publication at all now. You can have this in mind when the subject will come up in the next few weeks, and you will know what our attitude is.

Note: President Hoover's one hundred and sixty-ninth news conference was held in the White House at 12 noon on Tuesday, January 27, 1931.

Herbert Hoover, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/208011

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