Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Rogers) of a Conversation With the Italian Ambassador (De Martino)

The Italian Ambassador in connection with a general call spoke of the fact that a New York organization of Italians had united at the Ambassador’s suggestion with the Washington Bicentennial Commission in a celebration of Washington and Garibaldi; that they had made arrangements with Director Bloom and that he had asked for the use of the auditorium of the Department of Commerce which had been granted.

The Ambassador understood, since then, that Mr. Fama and his anti-Fascisti group had complained against the Italian Government purporting to speak for the spirit of Garibaldi as Garibaldi had represented freedom and liberty and they were denying it. The Ambassador said he thought the complaining group were merely publicity seekers and wanted to know whether we had heard anything about it, hoping that we would not interfere with the celebration. He said he understood the protestants had written to Senator Borah and others. I said we had heard nothing about it.

The Ambassador said the Italian Government had officially celebrated the Garibaldi tradition; that Mussolini had made an eloquent speech on one occasion and that Garibaldi represented a revolt against foreign domination of Italy as distinguished from individual liberty and that on the theme of foreign domination the Fascisti and Garibaldi ideas were in tune. I said merely I knew nothing about it and made no comment.

A few minutes afterwards Secretary Lamont 1 called me, said that with some hesitation on Representative Bloom’s request he had given them the use of the auditorium, that they now had a telegram from Hamilton Fish saying that the United States had no room for either Fascist or Communist propaganda and asking him not to give either any countenance. Secretary Lamont also said he had a letter from [Page 453] a lot of Italian residents in New York, not definitely protesting, but containing some intimation of protest. He said his position was that as a Government commission had requested use of the room he would not make any alteration in his plans. I told him that was my own judgment as to the wisest course. He said that was all right and he would follow that line.

I think somebody should talk informally to Representative Bloom and perhaps to the Italian Ambassador about the necessity of avoiding anything that could be considered as Fascisti or anti-Fascisti issues and the wisdom of carefully planning this along a purely Garibaldi topic to avoid any outbreak or discussion in the hall or the press.

J[ames] G[rafton] R[ogers]
  1. Robert Patterson Lamont, Secretary of Commerce.