800.51W89 Great Britain/646½

Memorandum by the Secretary of State

The British Ambassador came in and stated that he had been studying considerably about the request, or suggestion, or inquiry which Dr. Feis, speaking for me, sought to make of the British Government through the Ambassador, relative to the idea of the British Government procuring and delivering to the United States Government a given quantity of tin to be stored by the War and Navy Departments of this country for future emergency purposes, the value of the tin to be credited on the account of the indebtedness of the British Government to the Government of the United States. The Ambassador stated that the bare suggestion was made by Dr. Feis without any details as to how, or when, or in what amounts the transaction should be carried forward, whether we had had this matter up through our [Page 381] Ambassador at London, or whether we knew anything about the present state of British sentiment towards a proposal of this kind; that these phases had occurred to the Ambassador as being of importance for him to know something about, as he was writing up his communication to be sent by pouch possibly today to the London Foreign Office.

I replied that I would be frank to say that persons in this country interested in high tariffs on certain commodities such as manganese, quick silver, nickel, tin, and a few other commodities not produced to any large extent in this country, were in the habit of predicating their demands upon the necessity of laying up supplies for emergency or war purposes, and that the Army and Navy especially should lay up such supplies; that in this connection a recent committee investigation in the House of Representatives had been conducted with respect to tin; that in the course of the discussions some five or six other commodities such as those I had mentioned were included in the list with respect to which it might be deemed good policy for the Army and Navy to store up supplies. I stated that at this stage the idea of bringing the matter to the attention of the British Ambassador and, through him, of his Government came into the mind of myself and Dr. Feis, and that with the naked approval of the President, Dr. Feis laid the matter before the British Ambassador some days ago. I then added that we had not had the matter up with anybody in London; that it was being treated as entirely confidential here; and that the matter was presented in an entirely oral manner by Dr. Feis.

The Ambassador still expressed considerable concern about the probability of the proposal being acceptable to his Government. He stated that, apart from the thinking people, the masses would not be favorable,—that the latter in fact considered the entire debt matter as behind their Government and ours; and that the British spokesman in Parliament would have serious difficulty in defending the necessary appropriation to pay for the tin in the present state of mind and present circumstances, notwithstanding the idea that sooner or later there would be worked out a final solution of this debt matter by the two Governments. He said it would be most unfortunate for the fact to become public that a request by this Government had been made to the British Government to pay something in kind on the debt due from the latter to the former and that that request had been turned down by the British Government.

I replied that this Government knowing the chief supply of tin in the world, or in Siam, was under the control of British capital and that some little payment in kind, such as proposed, would be a revival of and in harmony with the spirit behind the token payments which the British Government had been cheerfully making until the unfortunate [Page 382] effects of the Hiram Johnson Act10 were created, felt that in these circumstances this move would have a pleasing effect on the people of the United States in their state of mind towards the British Government.

The Ambassador did not especially endorse this view, although he did not at once take issue with it. He seemed considerably concerned about how the proposal would be received in London and continued to repeat his fears and even his belief that it would not be received favorably by the British Foreign Office. I finally inquired whether the Ambassador had any other or modified suggestions to offer. He did not undertake to offer any, and finally departed still in a disturbed state of mind.

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Cordell Hull
  1. 48 Stat. 574.