884.512 Consumption/49

The Minister in Ethiopia (Southard) to the Secretary of State

No. 835

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Legation’s No. 831 of October 8th, 1931 enclosing copy of the reply made by the Ethiopian Government to the recent British-French-Italian note of protest on the excise tax law.25

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The next and latest step taken was a reply two days ago (on October 10th, 1931) by the British, French and Italian representatives, to the Ethiopian communication referred to in the opening paragraph of this despatch. This reply was brief (the Legation has not yet a copy) and stated merely that the three representatives could not negotiate on the basis of the Ethiopian proposal. The next step is presumably up to the Ethiopians.

My three colleagues a few days ago approached me with a request that I visit the Emperor and discuss with him the negotiations as to Articles three and seven of the Klobukowsky Treaty, hoping that I could thereby find some way out of the impasse into which they had apparently gotten themselves. I declined to take up any such discussion in a formal way, but promised to mention the matter informally to the Emperor at the first opportunity and discover, if possible, what he might be actually thinking in the connection. I had occasion on October 9th, 1931, to see the Emperor on other business, and mentioned the excise tax law protest. His Majesty thereupon gave me a sketch of his negotiations with the British, French and Italians (with which I was already familiar from other sources) and confessed that he was in considerable doubt as to what he should finally do. He thought that perhaps he ought to insist on the cancellation of Article three of the Treaty, and had been so advised by Messrs. Colson, Kolmodin, and others. But he didn’t feel at all sure about insisting, and thereupon asked my advice. Naturally I evaded any definite reply to this request. I did, however, suggest that he might find assistance in making up his mind by an informal discussion with all the heads of Legation assembled with him for that purpose. He appeared to favor this suggestion but didn’t say definitely that he would follow it. I am inclined to think, however, that he may shortly act on it.

I also obtained the impression from my conversation with His Majesty that he resented being approached by the three powers alone [Page 234]for the negotiations already reported upon. He appears to have the opinion that negotiations in connection with the Klobukowsky Treaty should be taken up with the Ethiopian Government either by the Diplomatic Corps as a whole or by only the French interest as signatory of the Treaty. I informally communicated this impression of the Emperor’s opinion to my British, French and Italian colleagues. They thereupon called a meeting of the Diplomatic Corps and proposed that decision as to the next step in the negotiations be taken by that body as a whole. The decision arrived at was that we had best wait a while and find out whether the Ethiopians would make any reply, or otherwise give an opening for resumption of negotiations, to the three-power note of October 10th, 1931, mentioned in the third paragraph of this despatch.29

On the occasion of my informal conversation with His Majesty I took opportunity to indicate to him that the American Government would expect some definite statement in connection with Article seven of the Klobukowsky Treaty should we become party to any modification in connection with Article three. I intimated that there would be expected from him a definite statement that Article seven, or an at least equally favorable arrangement in place thereof, would continue in force for the next several (perhaps ten) years. He replied that he had as yet no intention of changing Article seven until he should have prepared an arrangement mutually satisfactory to the Ethiopian Government and the foreign powers concerned. He did not indicate that he had in mind any definite plan either as to the time or as to the substance of a new arrangement under Article seven.

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Respectfully yours,

Addison E. Southard
  1. None printed.
  2. A new excise tax law, modifying previous laws, was decreed by Ethiopia on August 3, 1933, further reducing taxes.