Memorandum of the Assistant Secretary of State (Phillips)

De Chambrun53 brought de Sartiges54 with him this morning and left him to take up Liberian matters. He made two requests, First, that we should support the French request already made on Liberia for permission to make the new connection for the old German cable at the French terminus in Liberia. I replied that this would create a French monopoly in the cable situation and that we had not asked Liberia to grant the French request because we were not sure that any monopoly would be in the interest of Liberia.

The second point raised was in regard to the French railroad concession. De Sartiges thought that if the United States was sincere in its advocacy of the “equal opportunity” status of Liberia, we should demonstrate our sincerity by supporting the French request for this concession. I replied that beside the French concession, the British had a similar one connecting with their railroad; that we could not as the first friend of Liberia urge them to grant concessions which would sap the very life blood of the country; that this sapping process would not normally take place if there was an effective government with an income of its own and in a position to look after its own interests, but that when a government was down and out as is that of Liberia at the present time, the granting of two such concessions would put the country out of business and it might be just as well turned over completely to its neighboring States; that consequently I felt that Liberia should first be placed in a healthy position and then the railway concessions could follow and be a benefit to the country itself. I explained that the colored population in this country had recently come together and were taking a renewed interest in Liberia; that it was necessary, therefore, for us to endeavor to give the country another deal and that we were convinced the proposed course was the only way of doing it. He said that it would be very difficult for the Foreign Office to get away from the idea of an American protectorate. I replied that on our part we could easily raise the objection that the concession requested carried political control and that it was for that reason that France was interested in the railroad concession.

I promised to send him a memorandum covering all the arguments in the case.

W[illiam] P[hillips]
  1. Charles de Chambrun, French Chargé.
  2. L. de Sartiges, Second Secretary of the French Embassy.