Refreshed by three days of comparative quiet, chunky, white-chinned Raymond Poincare, Prime Minister of France, stepped quickly to the rostrum, of the Chamber of Deputies last week. It was his final chance to convince the truculent Chamber that they must ratify the Mellon- Berenger debt agreement, a matter upon which not only France's commercial credit but the future of the Poincare government depended. M. Poincare's step was confident. Since the Chamber adjourned the week before a new weapon, a new persuader, had come into his hands. Philip Snowden, British Chancellor of the Exchequer, had announced that if France paid the U. S. the $400,000,000 which nonratification of the debt agreement entailed, Great Britain would insist on the immediate payment of a like sum against her debt bill (see p. 23). Not 400 but 800 millions, therefore, was the price of non-ratification.
President of the Chamber Fernand Bouisson glanced at the bulky ream of manuscript which Prime Minister Poincare carried and quickly disconnected the system of null warning lights lately installed to speed parliamentary debate (TIME, July 8). The Chamber settled itself for a long session. M. Poincare piled high the sheets of paper in front of him, all written in his own microscopic hand, and poured out a formidable drink of water.
"My duty is painful," said he, shooting out his chin, speaking in quick staccato sentences, "but it is clear and categoric and I will fulfill it to the end. . . .
"We must ratify, and we must ratify in a form which will permit our creditors to accept our ratification. It is not a question of ratifying the debts. We have already recognized our debts. What we have got to ratify is the accords which have given us delays for settlement. . . .
"How can we ask Germany to bind herself to pay us during 60 years if we are not prepared to do likewise toward our creditors?"
The Deputies squirmed in embarrassment. Quickly he made use of Chancellor Snowden's statement:
"Our obligations are undeniable. . . . If we fail to ratify these agreements we have received warning from the [British] House of Commons notifying us that they will be modified to our disadvantage."