Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conversation With the Danish Minister (Brun)

The Danish Minister called this morning to say that he had received from his Government another dispatch in regard to the suggested sale to the United States of the Danish West Indies. He said that he was under a considerable embarrassment about a question which his Government had asked but which he had hesitated to present to me. It was this: Whether he thought that in case the Danish [Page 502] Government did not agree to a sale of the Islands whether the United States would feel it necessary to take possession of them.

I told the Minister that while I had not had in mind such action at the present time, as I had hoped that some form of negotiations would result in the transfer of the sovereignty of the Islands to this Government, that I could conceive of circumstances which would compel such an act on our part. He asked me what those circumstances were, and I replied that the possible consequence of absorption of Denmark by a great power would create a situation which it would be difficult to meet other than by occupation of the Islands, and such action would undoubtedly cause serious consequences.

The other circumstance was that if Denmark voluntarily, or under coercion, transferred title to the Danish West Indies to another European power, which would seek to convert them into a naval base.

He said that he appreciated our position and would communicate with his Government. I urged him to lay before his Government the possibility of preserving by special privilege all the commercial opportunities which the ownership of the Islands gave to Denmark, even if the sovereignty was ceded to the United States and that I was convinced that such transfer would be acceptable to this Government.

Robert Lansing