File No. 763.72/13420

Memorandum of the Counselor for the Department of State ( Polk )


On May 15 the Brazilian Ambassador read me despatches from his President and from his Minister of Foreign Affairs bearing on the future attitude of Brazil in this war. The gist of both messages was that Brazil was prepared to abandon its position of neutrality towards Germany. One note stated that they would be willing to grant our warships the right to refit in their ports, and the Brazilian Government might take over a portion of the patrol of the northern coast of Brazil. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs put it, Brazil would give their moral, economic, and political support to the United States in exchange for some trade guaranties and for some agreement, not necessarily a treaty, covering the position that this Government would take in case Germany should later consider Brazil an enemy as a result of this action.

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The Ambassador said he realized that it would be difficult to be specific as to what this Government would do to protect Brazil in case of attack by Germany, but he would like to bring the matter up for discussion and consideration. I asked him what he meant by trade guaranties, and in substance they mean that this Government would see they continued to receive from the United States necessary supplies, particularly wheat and coal, and that shipping used in trade with Brazil would not be withdrawn for use in transatlantic trade to a degree that would seriously embarrass Brazil. I asked him if he had any details as to the amount of shipping and foodstuffs and merchandise they would require. He said he had not but would make some investigations and let me know. He said that he had received this telegram last week, and he would like to have some sort of message to send his Government this week. …

The Ambassador returned to-day and said that although he did not yet have information as to food supplies necessary, he would like to have some message to send his Government as they were holding Congress until they could get a reply from us.

F[rank] L. P[olk]