The Acting Secretary of State to the Chargé in Great Britain (Atherton)6

No. 165

Sir: Reference is made to the Geneva Consulate’s despatch No. 235 Political of February 17, 1932, a copy of which was transmitted direct to your Embassy. This despatch reported the passage by the Council of the League of Nations of a resolution approving an Agreement concluded on October 31, 1931, between the British and French Governments with regard to the frontiers of Syria and the Jebel Druze on the one hand and Transjordan on the other.

The question of the transfer of any of the mandated territory of Palestine, within which is included Transjordan, is governed by the Provisions of Article 5 of the Mandate which reads as follows:

“Article 5. The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of, the government of any foreign Power.”

The consent of the United States to the administration by Great Britain of Palestine was limited by the terms of the American-British Convention of December 3, 1924,7 Article 1 of which reads as follows:

“Article 1. Subject to the provisions of the present Convention the United States consents to the administration of Palestine by His Britannic Majesty, pursuant to the mandate recited above.”

When the United States gave its consent to the administration of the Palestine mandate by Great Britain, such consent was necessarily limited to the territory then legally established as the territory of Palestine and could not, without the concurrence of the United States, be regarded as applicable to any area not within the boundaries of the mandated territory at the time the Convention was signed. It would seem to be clear, therefore, that the recently effected changes in the boundaries of Syria and the Jebel Druze constitute a material alteration of the terms of the mandate. While those changes have been approved by the Council of the League of Nations on behalf of the members of the League, they have not been approved by the United States, as required by Article 7 of the American-British Convention of December 3, 1924, in order to make them applicable to the United States and its nationals. This Article reads as follows:

“Article 7. Nothing contained in the present convention shall be affected by any modification which may be made in the terms of the mandate as recited above unless such modification shall have been assented to by the United States.”

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The Department therefore considers that the transfer of territory accomplished by the terms of the British-French Agreement of October 31, 1931, is legally inapplicable to the United States and its nationals until such time as this Government shall have assented to the changes in question.

It is desired that you seek an early occasion to bring this matter to the attention of the Foreign Office at which time you should point out that although this Government has no desire to be obstructive and although it will probably have no occasion to object to the boundary changes when officially informed of their nature, it considers the principle involved to be of importance. You should add that although apparently through inadvertence the consent of this Government has not been sought to these frontier alterations, the Department entertains no doubt that the Foreign Office shares the view that territorial changes in the mandated territory of Palestine are inapplicable to the United States and its nationals unless such changes have received the assent of the United States.

A similar instruction, mutatis mutandis, has been addressed to the American Embassy at Paris, to which you are requested to furnish a copy of your reply to the present instruction.

Very truly yours,

W. R. Castle, Jr.
  1. The same instruction, mutatis mutandis, was sent on August 18 to the Ambassador in France as Department’s No. 1280.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. ii, p. 212.