The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Wallace)

No. 818

Sir: The Department refers to your despatch No. 1703 of October 13, 1920,41 transmitting a note dated October 12, 1920,41 received from the French Foreign Office relative to the applications of the Western Union and Commercial Cable Companies for permission to open offices in France so that they can deal directly with the public. The note states that “in view of the laws and regulations governing the telegraphic service in France which has been instituted as a State Monopoly, the Under-Secretary of State for Posts and Telegraphs has not deemed it possible to give the Commercial Cable Company satisfaction on that point.”

The Department encloses herewith a copy of a letter dated April 7, 192141 received from the President of the Commercial Cable Company setting forth the grounds on which it is believed that his company should be allowed to open public offices in France and to deal directly with the public as reciprocal to the right granted to the French Cable Company to open public offices in the United States and to deal directly with the public here.

You are requested to transmit a copy of this letter to the Foreign Office and to invite its attention to the statement that messages collected by the French telegraph offices bearing no routing directions are turned over to the French Cable Company, which of course [Page 155] makes it necessary for senders desiring to use the lines of the American companies to add routing directions indicating the cable over which it is desired that the messages shall be transmitted. You will point out that the necessity for routing directions would apparently be removed to a large extent if American cable companies were allowed to open offices in the principal cities of France in which they could deal directly with the public.

You will also call attention to the discussion in the Company’s letter of the French law of November 29, 1850, referred to in the note of the Foreign Office, dated October 12, 1920, and you will inquire whether this law was not intended solely for the purpose of preventing telegraphic installations without the consent of the Government, as apparently there is nothing in the law to forbid the Government from granting any concession it may decide to grant. You will add that the Department is informed that an examination of the French laws on the subject does not disclose that any law has been enacted that expressly forbids the French Government from granting the applications in question. You will also state that in any event the reference of the French Government to the law of November 29, 1850, as having created a monopoly in favor of the French Government for communication by telegraph, is not considered by this Government as responsive to its representations that American cable companies doing business in France should be given more liberal treatment than they at present enjoy. If the granting of such treatment is prohibited by existing French law, it is the view of this Government that the law should be modified so as to make it possible for the French Government to accord to these American companies a measure of the liberal treatment accorded French companies in the United States. You will remind the Foreign Office that at the present time the French Cable Company has seven offices in New York City at which messages are received from the public and from which messages are delivered to the public; that the French company also leases and owns land lines in the United States between its various telegraph offices and its cable termini at Coney Island, New York, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and that these privileges in the United States are identical with those enjoyed by American cable companies. The desirability for reciprocity in these matters will doubtless be apparent to the French Government. Presumably, the French Government does not expect that the French Cable Company should continue to enjoy the liberal treatment now accorded it under the laws of the United States, if American cable concerns in France are deprived of the facilities necessary to efficient operation there.

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You are requested to ask the French authorities to give careful consideration to the particular privileges which the Commercial Cable Company desires to obtain and which are summarized at the end of the letter enclosed herewith.

You will please use your best efforts to bring about a prompt and satisfactory settlement of this question, which is of considerable concern in this country at the present time.

I am [etc.]

Charles E. Hughes
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