Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray)

The Italian Ambassador1 called on me this morning and said he wished to convey to me quite informally the substance of a telegraphic instruction which he had just received from his Government and which in translation is more or less as follows:

“The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is informed that the Ford Motor Company is furnishing to the Ethiopian Government large quantities of motor cars for military use by that Government.

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“Please take this matter up in a friendly and informal way with the State Department, inquiring whether it cannot exert its influence with the Ford Company with a view to preventing the shipment of the above-mentioned supplies, which as well as all other supplies contribute to the strengthening of the aggressive tendencies and intransigeance of Ethiopia towards us and consequently render more problematic a pacific solution of the present Italian-Ethiopian dispute.

“Similar representations have already been made by the Italian Government to certain European governments and we have received assurances, from the British, Czechoslovak, Belgian, Danish, Swiss and the German governments that steps will be taken to prevent military supplies being sent to Ethiopia from those countries. The Italian Government is confident that the American Government will follow the same line of action.”

The Italian Ambassador then went on to state that he had information to the effect that the Ethiopian Government had contracted with the Ford representative in Addis Ababa for the delivery in May of thirty chassis.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

With regard to the Ambassador’s instructions respecting the sale of Ford cars to Ethiopia, I reminded him that while it was the traditional policy of this Government not to encourage the export of arms and munitions, and this policy has been and is being rigidly enforced, the President was entirely without authority in the absence of specific legislation to prevent the export of military supplies to any country. I recalled the specific legislation authorizing the President to prevent shipments of arms and munitions to either Paraguay or Bolivia at the present time.

I reminded the Italian Ambassador, however, that the purchase of Ford cars by Ethiopia could hardly be described as “arms and munitions of war”. I also ventured my personal view that public opinion in this country would be unfavorably impressed by any endeavor to give effect to the present request of the Italian Government in view of the publicity which has been given to the large Italian shipments of troops and munitions of war to Ethiopia.

The Ambassador said he agreed with me thoroughly and was sure that we could do nothing to assist his Government in the present instance but that he felt under the necessity of making the request.

In this general connection it may be observed that although the Joint Resolution approved January 31, 1922,2 authorizes the President to prohibit the export of arms and munitions of war to “any country in which the United States exercises extraterritorial jurisdiction” when conditions of domestic violence exist, it does not appear that such conditions exist in Ethiopia at the present time. Accordingly, [Page 786] it is apparent that it would hardly be in order for the President to issue an embargo proclamation under the existing situation in Ethiopia.

Wallace Murray
  1. Augusto Rosso.
  2. 42 Stat. 361.