Memorandum of Trans-Atlantic Telephone Conversation72

Mr. Dunn: We had a despatch this morning on the United Press. Shall I read it to you?

Mr. Atherton: Yes.

Mr. Dunn: It is as follows: [Page 860]

“The assurance to the U. S. regarding action on oil sanctions at Geneva said the Penalties Committee of 18, which was to have met at Geneva on Friday,73 will meet soon, probably on Dec. 5. The information was conveyed to Washington after Ray Atherton, Counsellor of the U. S. Embassy, visited Sir Samuel Hoare, Foreign Secretary, on Monday.

“Atherton asked the reasons for postponement of Friday’s meeting and was told it was at the request of the French Government. Then, fearing that the United States would feel it was being ‘left out on a limb’ on sanctions, Sir Samuel gave Atherton the assurance.”

The point is this, there is another despatch from United Press saying:

“London—The British Government has officially assured the U. S. that the imposition of the oil embargo against Italy will be considered at Geneva shortly.”

Now, I am going to read you a memorandum which we have prepared. Can you take some notes? The Secretary has asked me to take this up with you. The memorandum reads as follows:

“We are not sensitive about our relations with our friends in London or other capitals, but, as you know, we have from the outset been conducting an independent program with regard to the action by this Government with respect to the Italo-Ethiopian controversy. We have had no agreement either directly or indirectly, nor any communication or exchange of views with any Government or group of Governments or any Peace Agencies with regard to our policies with respect to that conflict.

“The manner in which this despatch is framed gives the opposition in this country an opportunity to Chargé that we are working in agreement with the League or with other Governments, such as England. We naturally expect to receive reports about what is going on, but the use of the word ‘assurance’ looks to the opposition here like acting in agreement with some other Governments. In order to obtain our complete independence of action we have even refrained from calling in advance for any information with regard to acts of other Governments, nor have any other Governments or groups of Governments attempted to obtain previous information with regard to what we intended to do.

“It would be advisable for you to get in touch with the UP and perhaps the AP representative and any other representatives of the press you might consider should be included and explain to them that with regard to your visit to the Foreign Office you neither sought nor received assurances as the independence of the American policy with regard to the Ethiopian situation in itself precluded any such communication of that kind with or from the British Foreign Office.”

Mr. Atherton: Of course, you know the interview never took place; I never saw Sir Samuel Hoare.

Mr. Dunn: You haven’t seen him?

Mr. Atherton: No, not for over two weeks.

[Page 861]

Mr. Dunn: Well, did you go to the Foreign Office?

Mr. Atherton: Yes, I went to the Foreign Office about the Franco-British disagreement.

Mr. Dunn: You went to the Foreign Office, and what happened there?

Mr. Atherton: I went to the Foreign Office and asked as to the truth of the Franco-British disagreement and they read to me a statement from Geneva saying that Laval had asked that the Friday meeting be postponed. I asked if that had been communicated to Washington, and they said no. I said that I thought it might interest Washington very much.

Mr. Dunn: Yes, I see.

Mr. Atherton: That is the whole conversation, which took place with one of the secretaries.

Mr. Dunn: I understand. Here is the point—

Mr. Atherton: In the first place, the whole thing is all wrong.

Mr. Dunn: I understand that and that is what we expected, but it would be important now to try to have the press there straightened out on the matter, if you can, because, of course, we are going to deny here that there was any question of assurances being conveyed from the British Government to this Government, because there isn’t any such question. We are not seeking any assurances. The use of that word “assurances” gives the impression here that there is an agreement. This is what we are driving at.

Mr. Atherton: But no such word was even used.

Mr. Dunn: Yes, but the press has used it. It isn’t the question that it was used at the Foreign Office, but used in the press. We understand the position of the Foreign Office, but we want the press given the correct impression. That is the idea.

Mr. Atherton: I will do that here?

Mr. Dunn: Yes, you do it there. The Secretary is going to do it here. We want to do it with the press here, and we don’t want anything to creep into our position here, which, as you know, has been maintained on a completely independent status. What the other nations do with regard to the sanctions program thereon does not concern us at all.

Mr. Atherton: That is perfectly clear. My conversation at the Foreign Office was on the question of Franco-British disagreement and had nothing whatever to do with sanctions.

Mr. Dunn: We are sending you a telegram, also, with regard to an article by Kuhn in the New York Times this morning. He has given a rather erroneous impression in connection with the appointment of our delegation. I am not going to talk to you about this now. It will go on the wires in a few minutes. If you will try to correct the word “assurances” with the press—now the point with regard to [Page 862] this word “assurances” is that it is a very, very delicate matter. Our position here is very delicate because the Secretary has been maintaining and insisting every day along the whole development of this program that our policy is completely independent, based entirely on our own policy and reasons and viewpoints here in this country, and we don’t want to have anything like assurances or information with regard to what they propose to do—nothing of that sort to creep in. I know you understand this thoroughly but just want to be sure you realize-

Mr. Atherton: Did you receive our telegram?

Mr. Dunn: We received one last night.

Mr. Atherton: Well, there was nothing in that.

Mr. Dunn: I know exactly. We received your 58974 and the one that referred to it. The only phase that has come up now is the one in regard to the press.

Mr. Atherton: All right, I will try to straighten the matter up here.

Mr. Dunn: That’s fine. Goodbye, Ray.

  1. Between Mr. Dunn in Washington and Mr. Atherton in London, November 27, 1935, at 2:50 p.m.
  2. November 22.
  3. Not printed.