882.01 Foreign Control/931: Telegram

The Chargé in Liberia (Hibbard) to the Secretary of State

59. For McBride: Subsequent to sending my telegram No. 58, December 13, 3 p.m., I received yesterday the following message from President Barclay with the request that it be transmitted to you: [Page 832]

  • “1. That the three year plan has been submitted by me to the Legislature and has been approved by them and its execution authorized. Copy of this Act will be forwarded you within a few days.
  • “2. That the President has recommended to the Legislature, and they have agreed that the annual budget of the Government shall be limited to $450,000; and while one Legislature cannot control the action of succeeding Legislatures in this regard, still the Executive Government has accepted as a definite policy the limitation of all government expenditures, including cost of fiscal officers, specialists, and development, to an amount not exceeding $450,000 for the next 3 years. All excess revenue over and above this sum will be applied to interest on the external loan, and any excess over and above these two sums will be available for expenditure by the Government for amortization of the external loan and for other purposes.
  • “3. While Government is and always will be interested in the success of the operations of American missionary, educational and philanthropic institutions in Liberia, it is still impossible for them to give any specific undertaking to accord financial aid to these institutions in consequence of the budget limitations specified above. They will, however, maintain the traditional attitude of goodwill towards these institutions.
  • “4. The Liberian Government is very much surprised to learn that it has been charged with interference with the business activities of the Firestone Plantations Company. On the contrary, in Liberia, Government has been charged with being antagonistic to the Firestone Plantations Company precisely because they have not interfered nor in any way concerned themselves with the business activities of the company where they did not directly touch Government interest. This attitude of noninterference will be maintained so long as it is consistent with the protection of the Liberian laborers employed by the company and the security of the Government interests in the result of the plantations’ operation. In addition to this, Government will continue to observe such understandings as to customs regulations applying to the Plantations Company as are based upon the actual terms of the contract, but cannot undertake to agree to accept any unilateral interpretation thereof which do not conform to or are not reasonably implied in those terms.
  • “5. When the Firestone Plantations Company was granted the right to establish radio stations, this right was intended to be limited to the purposes of inter-plantations communication and, possibly, although not so expressed, to transmarine communication on the company’s business. It was never understood that this would be used by Firestone for Plantation’s commercial purposes. But so long [as] the special radio agreement between Government and the company is in force, Government will observe its terms strictly. They cannot, however, undertake not to insist upon a revision of those terms if that special contract expires and is sought to be renewed.
  • “6. The present Government has never interfered or prevented Firestone, directly or indirectly, from securing the laborers required for the operation of their plantation nor does it intend to adopt any such a policy of prohibition directly or indirectly. Evidence of this fact is that when Firestone agents in the early part of this year requested special permits for the purpose of securing laborers they were [Page 833] advised that such permits were not necessary but that their agents were at liberty to secure such laborers wherever they possibly could. Government will, however, not coerce laborers to work for Firestone by any sort of pressure. Laborers will be at liberty to take or not to take employment with Firestone.
  • “7. I have received a copy of the supplemented loan agreement proposed by Finance Corporation and I am awaiting the arrival of their agent who I am advised has already sailed for a discussion of the proposals. If an agreement mutually satisfactory and acceptable results from this discussion Government will then undertake to vacate all laws and regulations issued in pursuance of the Moratorium Act as well as the Moratorium Act itself.
  • “8. I realize the importance of definite understanding being arrived at between Government and the Firestone Plantations Company and I am prepared to go as far in meeting the views of Mr. Firestone provided ne on his part will meet in the same spirit the views of Government. I will not enter into the discussion in the spirit of bargaining over small things but will have to insist that Mr. Firestone recognize certain practical necessities of Government. It is my hope that he will meet me in such a spirit as will produce an understanding which is practical and just to both parties.”

I am not commenting on these points as the Department has information covering all of them. The tone of this message does not seem to me as friendly and cooperative as that in your note and I see as yet no reason for changing the views I have previously expressed.