882.01 Foreign Control/476: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Wilson), at Geneva

61. Please deliver the following personal message from me to Viscount Cecil:

“I appreciate your frank and helpful message of January 25 from London. I only recently became aware of an apparent misunderstanding between the Liberian Committee and the Firestone interests, and I have discussed the matter very thoroughly and completely with the latter in recent days. I do not minimize the differences of opinion between the Firestones and certain positions held by the League Committee, but from my personal examination of the case I believe them to be the honest views of men who have embarked on an important and creditable enterprise in a very difficult country and I think it would be quite unfair to attribute to them the oppressive intentions towards the Liberian Government which you describe as being the view of some of the League Committee. On this point the favorable report25 as to the humanitarian record of the Firestones made by the slavery investigation seems pertinent. I have obtained from them a clarification of their position which should I think satisfactorily clear up the situation and reassure the Committee that once the current difficulty in Monrovia has been liquidated by the withdrawal of Liberia’s illegal actions, actual negotiations at Geneva between the Firestones and Liberia can promptly begin. I have already communicated with Mr. Reber in this connection.

However, to bring about this withdrawal by Liberia, I think it will be necessary for the Committee to take a strong affirmative position. I think you will agree that the recent actions of Liberia are clearly indefensible and that if the Barclay administration is permitted to persist therein it might end in undoing all the work which we have accomplished to date with regard to the international plan of assistance.

Another matter which is a source of no little apprehension to American interests is the socalled ‘Dan-Lib concession’26 being considered by the Liberian legislature and which, if made effective, would apparently violate not only certain provisions of the Loan Agreement but also the Firestone plantation contract. I do not know whether there is as yet sufficient connection between the proposed concession and the League plan of assistance for the Committee to take official cognizance, although I should think that the Committee might at this time request information from Liberia with a view to determining whether such a monopoly would not in fact jeopardize the successful execution of the League plan.

I feel that we both entertain fundamentally the same view of the nature of the Liberian problem as well as the desirability of continuing [Page 893] international efforts for its solution. I have recently spoken with equal frankness to Sir Ronald27 about the Liberian situation.”

Please furnish Reber with a copy.

  1. See Department of State, Report of the International Commission of Inquiry into the Existence of Slavery and Forced Labor in the Republic of Liberia, Monrovia, Liberia, September 8, 1930 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1931).
  2. The Danish-Liberian concession of September 15, 1932, granting road building, mining, and other privileges to a Danish syndicate.
  3. Sir Ronald Lindsay, British Ambassador at Washington.