Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Phillips)


The President asked me to sit in at a conference which he had this afternoon with Mr. Emmanuel Monick, French Financial Attaché in London.

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After the usual exchange of courtesies by the President with regard to Messrs. Blum and Herriot,13 Mr. Monick asked permission to state [Page 540] the real reason of his visit to Washington. He proceeded to give a brief outline of the European political situation, of the weakening trend of the little countries surrounding Germany, notably Poland; he regretted that the French Government had not responded to Poland’s offer made sometime ago to cooperate in the event of the devaluation of the French franc; at the time this offer was made, however, France was preparing for elections and it was, therefore, not possible to consider devaluation. Mr. Monick touched on the defenseless conditions of Holland and Belgium and said that, should the 1914 situation be repeated, Belgium would not and could not resist the German military movement through Belgian territory. He drew this dark picture of European conditions, in order to show the importance of lending strength to the French Government and he admitted that the present government was in a somewhat precarious situation. Continuing Mr. Monick said he now wished to state the real purpose of his mission to this country.

The French Government needed the support of the United States and Great Britain in the program of devaluation. He himself was an ardent devaluationist, but was in entire agreement with the French political leaders that it could not be undertaken without international approval and support. His thought was that France could develop its program in this respect if it was known that the United States would hold the dollar at its present value in face of French devaluation. Mr. Monick did not mention the point at which the French would devaluate vis-à-vis the dollar; if the French Government could be assured of the American attitude in this eventuality, it would be a simple matter to approach the British Government and to obtain its support. I asked Mr. Monick whether the French Government, in fact, had made any approach to the British Government along these lines during the last week or ten days, to which he replied in the negative.

The President then took up the thread of the conversation. He reminded Mr. Monick that the British Government and people held very definite views about London as being the center of international banking and that, in dealing with the British Government, one always had to consider their “amour propre”. The President felt that the British Government would be very reluctant to accede to the French request unless the French Government had made a direct approach to them and that, in his opinion, three-cornered conversations should be held simultaneously. Mr. Monick thought this was an excellent idea and proposed that such conversations should be held now in Washington, he acting for the French Government, the British Embassy for the British Government. The President demurred and said that, from the British viewpoint, such a three-cornered conference would be considered in London as under the aegis of the American [Page 541] Government and that, here again, one must consider British “amour propre”. In his opinion, the best way to go about it would be for the French Government to send similar and simultaneous communications to London and Washington. In that event, London would presumably inform Washington that it had received such and such a message from Paris and would request the views of the American Government. A quick exchange of views, therefore, between Washington and London would take place and, in this way, the purposes of the French Government might readily be achieved.

Mr. Monick accepted the President’s views and gave the impression that he would act on them at once.

At the conclusion of the conference, the President asked me to get in touch with Secretary Morgenthau and it was my impression that Mr. Monick desired to have a further conference with the Treasury head. I assured the President that I would at once communicate with Mr. Morgenthau and I did so at his private residence.

William Phillips
  1. Edouard Herriot, President of the French Chamber of Deputies.