882.01 Foreign Control/485a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Consul at Geneva (Gilbert)

11. For Reber. The following developments on Monrovia are reported for your information and discretionary use:

On January 24, Mitchell telegraphed that he had delivered the communication (quoted to you in the Department’s telegram No. 8, January 23, 4 p.m.) that morning, but that it had been returned unopened to the Legation 15 minutes later. The Minister was instructed on January 25, to make no further move pending the receipt of instructions, which have not yet been sent. Mitchell was authorized, however, to discuss the general situation with his colleagues and to acquaint them with the contents of his undelivered letter.

Your telegram 20, January 25, 6 p.m.: I agree that it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for you to obtain affirmative action from the Committee with respect to Liberia’s violations of the loan contract, without prior definite assurance from the Firestone interests that if and when the status shall have been returned to that prevailing before December 17, they will immediately send a representative to Geneva to begin direct negotiations with Liberia. The following letter, dated January 28, has finally been obtained from the Finance Corporation:

“We wish to advise that we continue to stand ready to send a representative to Geneva to cooperate with Mr. Reber, and to participate in discussion of Liberian problems with the Liberian Committee of the League of Nations and League officials when notified by you that the Government of Liberia has repealed the joint resolution of the Liberian Legislature, dated December 17, 1932, and other legislation and governmental orders in contravention of the Loan Agreement of 1926.

Yours very truly,

Finance Corporation of America,
William P. Belden, President.”

We have also discussed at length with the Firestones the difficult situation which has arisen in their relations with the International Committee (see Cecil’s message, sent you by mail by the Embassy in London on January 25). We have obtained their assent to the following additional statement which you are authorized at the appropriate moment to convey to the Committee on their behalf:

“The Firestone interests regret that a misunderstanding appears to have developed concerning their statement of October 11.16 The Finance Corporation, not unappreciative of the present fiscal difficulties of Liberia irrespective of their origin, would be prepared (in the event that the legislation and subsequent actions referred to in their letter quoted [Page 888] above, had been withdrawn) to recognize the de facto existence of a moratorium for such time, not to exceed 2 months from the date of the anticipated Liberian withdrawal, as might be required for the inauguration of their direct negotiations with Liberia at Geneva.”

A lengthy press release on the present situation and its background17 was given out today for the newspapers of January 29. It contains a statement of the successive events in Monrovia from December 17 to the present, mentions our talks with the British Ambassador, and your conversation with Cecil on December 30 (but not the exchange of personal messages between me and Cecil), and describes Mitchell’s letter of December 23 to Barclay. With respect to the forthcoming meeting at Geneva it states:

“Mr. Reber has reported to the Department that arrangements are being made to call a special meeting of the International Committee on Liberia during the next few days. The Committee will be urged by the American Government to bring pressure to bear upon Liberia to withdraw its actions in contravention of the Loan Agreement and to reinstate the fiscal officials, in order that the situation can revert to the status prior to December 17, and the way be cleared, if possible, for the inauguration at Geneva of direct negotiations between Liberia and the Finance Corporation concerning the modifications in the Loan Agreement necessary to the establishment of the League plan of assistance.”

  1. See telegram No. 157, October 11, 1932, to the Consul at Geneva, Foreign Relations, 1932, vol. ii, p. 773.
  2. Department of State, Press Releases, February 4, 1933, pp. 75–80.