Memorandum by the Secretary of State

The British Ambassador48 called to see me today and presented me with a note on the Chinese situation, which is hereto attached.49 He also read me a personal message from Chamberlain50 urging us to declare what position we would take if Shanghai was attacked by the Cantonese Army. I asked him if the Cantonese Army got there in the near future, if he thought the forces the foreign Powers have there would be sufficient to repel such an attack. He thought it would be.

I told him further that we had nationals scattered all over China; that in the far West, we were trying to get our nationals out of the [Page 59] remote districts and to the treaty ports where we could afford them protection; that it was impossible for us to protect Americans in the interior; that we had not taken measures to evacuate Americans from the districts controlled by the Cantonese forces as we had been urged by Eugene Chen, the Foreign Minister of the Cantonese Government, not to do so and he assured us that they would be protected.

I asked him if there should be a general battle between the Cantonese forces and the allied Powers at Shanghai, if this would not stir up reprisals by mobs all over China. He, of course, was not able to answer that. He informed me, however, that they were carrying on negotiations at Hankow but, as expressed in his note, he did not seem very hopeful. However, they were going to continue the negotiations. In my own mind, however, the difficulty about the British negotiations is that there is a very hostile feeling to Great Britain and they are based on demands which I doubt very much if the Cantonese would be willing to grant. I told him that I was unable to answer him as to what the position of the United States would be at Canton in the event of such an attack; that our Naval Commander was instructed to do everything he could to protect American lives and property anywhere in China and especially in Shanghai in view of the danger to this large foreign settlement.

He repeated to me that they were perfectly willing to negotiate the giving up of the control of the foreign settlement but they did not propose to permit the Cantonese to take it by force or to march into it. He also said they were negotiating at Peking. I told him that I had understood that the Japanese had declined to join in any resistance to the Cantonese Army at Shanghai but simply to use such methods as they thought were necessary to protect their nationals. He said that was true and this is confirmed by the note which the British Ambassador gave me today.

  1. Sir Esme Howard.
  2. Supra.
  3. Sir Austen Chamberlain, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.