800.51W89 Great Britain/444
The Under Secretary of State (Phillips) to the Secretary of State
Mr. Secretary: The British Ambassador called to tell me of the conversation he had with the President on March 16th. He said that the President welcomed the reports that Mr. MacDonald was going to Rome to consult Mussolini,27 whom he felt held the key to the European situation, that the President expressed the hope that Hitler and Mussolini would also have a meeting and that the President then expressed the idea that it might be a good idea if MacDonald came over here. The Ambassador thereupon remarked that MacDonald could not possibly come to Washington without talking debts, to which the President replied, “Why shouldn’t he come and talk debts also?” The Ambassador said that the British Government would never consent to allowing MacDonald to come to Washington to talk debts until there was some assurance previously arrived at that his mission would be satisfactory from the British point of view.
I told the Ambassador that the Department was hoping to send an answer to his February memorandum28 within a day or two and explained to him the Secretary’s feeling that if conversations did take place over here on debts and economic problems that the two subjects would have to be separately discussed, one relating to contractual relations between two governments (debts) and the other relating to subjects which might become contractual relations (international trade). The Ambassador thoroughly agreed with this. He felt the urgency of the matter and I heartily agreed with him.