The Chargé in France (Armour) to the Secretary of State

No. 9819

Sir: With further reference to my despatch No. 9793 of August 27, 1929,54 and to previous correspondence concerning customs franchise extended to American religious and philanthropic institutions in Syria and the Lebanon, I have the honor to inform the Department that, in a conversation which I had with M. Corbin55 at the Foreign Office on September 3 last, I had occasion to refer once more to this matter.

I called M. Corbin’s attention to the Foreign Office note of August 22, 1929, adding that from its wording it appeared to be in reply to the Embassy’s note No. 5620 of August 19, 1925, (based upon the Department’s Instruction No. 1648 of August 6, 192556), rather than to the proposal submitted by Mr. Knabenshue to M. Hoppenot now almost a year ago. I reminded M. Corbin that on January 11 last I called upon him and explained to him Mr. Knabenshue’s proposals, as contained in Mr. Knabenshue’s letter to M. Hoppenot of August 30, 1928, with which proposals M. Hoppenot appeared to be in accord as stated in his reply to Mr. Knabenshue of September 1928;57 that M. Corbin had made notes of the points raised in Mr. Knabenshue’s letter and had promised to have the matter taken up with the High Commission with a view to seeing what could be done to meet our Government’s desires.

M. Corbin replied that he remembered very distinctly the conversation but that the records of the Foreign Office did not appear to contain a complete draft of Mr. Knabenshue’s proposals as M. Hoppenot had apparently not submitted a full report on the question. I accordingly handed to M. Corbin the Embassy’s file copy of Mr. Knabenshue’s letter to M. Hoppenot of August 30, 1928, as well as a copy of M. Hoppenot’s reply. I remarked that he would notice from M. Hoppenot’s letter that the latter made the definite statement that if Mr. Knabenshue succeeded in obtaining the Italian Government’s consent to the proposal, the adoption of the project would immediately be made possible.

M. Corbin seemed to be somewhat embarrassed by this definite commitment on the part of M. Hoppenot, but remarked that it was a conditional rather than a definite agreement and that the Italian Government’s consent had, so far as he knew, never been obtained. He then went on to say that, as he understood it, our original request was based [Page 272] upon France’s agreement with Italy; that the promises contained in M. Poinearé’s letter to Mr. Herrick of November 2, 1923, referred to this agreement and that, as the American institutions in Syria were receiving treatment similar to that accorded Italian institutions, he did not see that our Government could very well complain. He reiterated what he had said in our previous talk—a similar statement is made in the Foreign Office note—that the system at present in force in Syria is the same as that in effect in all the territories in the Levant under mandate and is the same as that applied by the British in Palestine. M. Corbin also said that American institutions in Syria and the Levant were on a very large scale; that their requirements had been steadily increasing and that to permit free entry on all articles would probably be objected to by the local population, to say nothing of the fact that similar courtesies would then have to be extended to institutions of other nationalities, including French philanthropic institutions. (Remembering the statement contained in Mr. Knabenshue’s despatch to the Department No. 1606 of October 1, 1924,59 Page 5, Paragraph 2, that “French institutions, surreptitiously if not almost openly, receive free entry of all goods imported by them” I was tempted to ask M. Corbin whether the same restrictions were applied to French institutions as to those of the United States and other countries, but I contented myself with remarking that I hoped that, in spite of the objections brought out by him, the French Government would be willing to give further study to the matter with a view to the acceptance of a plan similar to that suggested by Mr. Knabenshue).

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have [etc.]

Norman Armour
  1. Not printed; for its enclosure, see supra.
  2. Chief of the Political and Commercial Division, French Foreign Office.
  3. Not printed.
  4. M. Hoppenot’s reply not printed.
  5. Not printed.