882.73/24: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Sharp) to the Acting Secretary of State

7245. Supplementing my 7173, February 12, 10 p.m.70 Following is translation of the note received yesterday from the Foreign Office giving French point of view regarding German Monrovia-Pernambuco cable:

“The American Embassy is not unaware that one of the first acts of England and France after the outbreak of hostilities, was to sever the submarine cables by which Germany assured her communications with foreign countries and her subjects residing therein. Subsequently and prior to the entry into the war of the United [Page 524] States the two Allied countries decided to share between them these submarine lines taken from the enemy which they intended using to develop their own means of communication, thus it was that France was allotted the German cable from Emden to New York via Brest and the Azores, and the Monrovia–Pernambuco cable. For the purpose of operating the northern line, the Federal Government at the request of the French Embassy was pleased to authorize the French cable company to land at its station at New York the German cable of which it had taken possession. For the operation of the southern line, it is a question likewise of obtaining from the Liberian Government authorization to transfer from the station of the Deutsche Sudamerikanische Telegraphen Gesellschaft to that of the French company the former German Monrovia-Pernambuco cable. The Government of the Republic which was happy to remark the good will shown by the United States Government when it was a question of granting these landing facilities upon the latter’s own territory, now wonders for what reasons the Federal Government does not show itself disposed to lend it its support with the Liberian Government with a view to obtaining the necessary authorization for the operation of the German cable by the Compagnie des Cables [Sud-Américains.] Yet the request of the Government of the Republic is justified by several reasons. In the first place the possession of the former German cable is most useful to France to double her line from Dakar to Pernambuco. In the second place France cannot admit that the concession for landing a cable at Monrovia should revert to Germany. [The latter] power must not be allowed the possibility of creating afresh a hotbed of intrigue in the very center Africa and to carry out there the realization of its imperialist[ic] schemes. The Government of the United States cannot deny that the question at stake is one of direct interest to the safety of France. The very reasons which oppose the restitution of this cable to Germany are those which make France the most interested in its possession. Moreover her rights upon that part of the cable at present out at sea are indisputable. In point of the fact, this is a case of capture of enemy maritime property. France has in fact actually taken possession of this cable by having repairs carried out on it by a cable ship placed at her disposal by the British Admiralty and for this purpose has invested considerable sums. Further, the Government of the Republic will not refuse to indemnify the German company for the loss of its property, the price at which the cable will be valued can be paid to it by the German Government, and the amount of this payment will be deducted from the sums which Germany will have to pay to France for damages.”

  1. Ante, p. 468.