The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Geddes)

The Secretary of State presents his compliments to His Excellency, the Ambassador of Great Britain, and has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a memorandum dated May 18, 1922, in which the Ambassador renews the request contained in his memorandum dated November 15, 1921, that a statement should be published setting forth that certain observations included in Senate Document No. 272, 66th Congress, 2d Session, were erroneously made and are without foundation. The Ambassador states that his Government is collecting, for communication to this Government, copies of the relevant laws, ordinances and regulations which are now or have recently been in force in India relating to petroleum development. The British Government feels, however, that the request advanced by the United States Government for the communication of these regulations should not be allowed to delay the repudiation of the documents said to be contained in Senate Document No. 272, 66th Congress, 2d Session, to which reference was made in the memorandum communicated by the British Government on November 15, 1921, and which by their form and phraseology are said to be clearly the fabrication of an ignorant forger.

In reply, it should be observed that Senate Document No. 272, 66th Congress, 2d Session, to which the Ambassador refers, does not contain the documents alleged to be spurious, but refers to them as follows:

“American oil companies are expressly excluded from doing business in Burma by a proclamation signed by Queen Victoria and Lord [Page 358] Salisbury, Secretary of State for India, on September 24, 1884, and a blanket concession of ninety-nine years was given the Burma Oil Company (Ltd.) on August 23, 1885, protecting this Company from all foreign competition.”

It is understood that the British Government states that the proclamation and concession to which reference was made are spurious.

Mr. Hughes begs to assure Sir Auckland Geddes of his entire willingness to issue a statement to this effect for the purpose of correcting any misapprehension which may have arisen from references to documents which the British Government declares not to be genuine. It is, however, to be noted that the significance of the documents, to which reference was made, lay merely in the support of the statement that American oil companies are expressly excluded from doing business in Burma. It is the understanding of the Secretary of State that that is still the fact. If this is a misunderstanding and it is the intention of the British Government, in desiring the correction, to call attention to the fact that no exclusion of American nationals or companies in India is intended, it would be particularly gratifying to the Secretary of State to be able to state that the regulations in practice in India have been, or that they may be so modified as to accord to American nationals and companies the same opportunity and treatment as those enjoyed by British nationals and companies. In this connection, it will be recalled that similar assurances, now carried out, were given by this Government with respect to foreign participation in petroleum development in the Philippines.

It is confidently believed that guarantees of reciprocal equality of treatment in the United States and in the British Empire with respect to this important resource would improve the commercial relations of the two countries and would provide further opportunities for the working out of cordial and mutual profitable cooperation between American and British interests.

The Secretary of State, while entirely willing to accept the statement of the British Government, and to make announcement to the effect that the documents above referred to are spurious, would not be able to make such an announcement with the implication that no exclusion of American nationals or companies in India is intended, unless the British Government is prepared to give an assurance to that effect; otherwise the repudiation of the documents must be accompanied with a statement, according to the information of the Secretary of State, that in fact American oil companies are excluded from doing business in Burma.