860c.56/63: Telegram

The Minister in Poland (Gibson) to the Secretary of State

10. Department’s 4, January 21st [22d], 7 p.m. Earnestly request reconsideration be given consul general’s 1923, January 20th, noon,1a and January 24th, 4 p.m.,2 as I feel Department’s decision on this subject of principle will largely determine our ability to afford effective future protection to American interests. Consul general’s 1923 was perhaps over conservative in describing conditions. Representative of the United States Lines was peremptorily called upon for immediate signature of license agreement on totally impossible terms prepared by Polish authorities. In addition to showing clear discrimination as compared with conditions granted British and Continental navigation companies, terms were [offered?] which solely from business and operating standpoint are preposterous, and representative of the United States Lines properly [Page 740] took the ground that agreement was not only discriminatory but as business proposition could not be given serious consideration. As immediate signature was not forthcoming offices of United States Lines were within one hour closed by the police and a guard posted to prevent transaction of business or any access to the office. This behavior is in striking contrast to attitude toward French lines which, having been proposed [sic] much more favorable, have withheld signature and are still permitted to operate freely without a license. French Legation informs me business will continue in this way pending an agreement which may not be reached for two months. While the Polish Government constantly emphasizes its, gratitude to America it is [consistently discriminating] against American interests and resorts to all sorts of evasion in order to achieve its purpose. Reasons offered are clearly frivolous and contradictory. The real reason is a desire to enforce a boycott against German ports at our expense. In order to accomplish it they presume to dictate the travel routes not only of Poles but also of foreigners in transit after leaving Polish territory. This also applies to American consular agency inasmuch as license governs sale in Poland of all second- and third-class passenger tickets. If this claim recognized it may constitute a troublesome and dangerous precedent here in Poland and elsewhere in case other governments decide to assume similar powers.

I have discussed this matter at length with consul general and commercial attaché. We are all firmly convinced that some such vigorous measure as that now taken is essential to any satisfactory settlement. In order to be effective it must have full and open support of the Department. Discussions have now continued for over two years during which time Polish authorities have sought by every subterfuge, often characterized by absence of good faith, to avoid granting us the rights and privileges accorded to other nations. On our side we have been handicapped through our inability to press the American interest in this matter because of the German connections of the United States Lines. Now that this has been removed and the issue is a clear one of whether American navigation companies are to have equal rights, we believe there is an excellent chance to bring the matter to a successful conclusion. If the Department reverses stand taken by consul general and reopens the matter for consideration it will seriously prejudice former contracts and no modification of concession terms will be possible as the Poles will conclude that American Government does not attach much importance to this principle of equal rights for its commercial interests [and] will be stiffened in their resistance to any demand for reasonable terms. Can see no benefit to be derived from yielding at this [Page 741] time as the Polish authorities make no serious pretense of being ready to discuss matter in a different and more friendly spirit. If visa section opened we will merely face a more serious problem than before.

  1. Evidently refers to unnumbered telegram of Jan. 20, 10 a.m., p. 738.
  2. Not printed.