Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Phillips)

The Italian Ambassador87 came in this afternoon to ask me whether I could give him any side lights on European affairs as I had found them. I said that that was rather a tall order because I had received [Page 103] such a deluge of impressions of all kinds wherever I went. However, I would be glad to tell him of some of them in which he might be more especially interested. I said that during the weeks I had spent in England, I had met a great many people of different sorts and opinions but I had never heard one remark derogatory to the Italian people, nor had I seen anything in the press which was in any way critical of the Italian people. There was, of course, deep criticism of Mussolini and of the course which he had pursued and was still pursuing. In this respect there seemed to be a united opinion that Mussolini had acted, to say the least, unwisely. Furthermore, there seemed to be the impression in certain circles that Mussolini’s ambitions went beyond Ethiopia and were in fact directly against the interests of the British Empire as such. I admitted that, of course, I was no judge as to whether this was a fact or not. I merely mentioned it as a point of view which was freely expressed and discussed in British circles.

In other circles there was considerably more alarm expressed at the progress of German rearmament than in the Ethiopian affair. No one, I said to him, could go to Germany and not be impressed as I have been with the tremendous effort being made to rearm. The immense growth in military establishments in and around Berlin and the new academies for training this and that type of soldier were very striking and when it was realized that a concentration of this effort in and around Berlin was only one of several similar centers of military output, even the dumbest person would grasp what was happening.

The Ambassador admitted that the Ethiopian affair had been badly handled by the Italians in Geneva and elsewhere. It was regarded throughout Italy as a purely colonial affair and not one in any way involving the rest of the world. He felt that it was not unnatural in the circumstances that there should be so much public feeling against the British. The Ambassador mentioned during his call that a certain Senator had recently cautioned him that he should discourage efforts of Italians in this country from influencing Congress with respect to pending neutrality legislation. Rosso in reply told the Senator that he had nothing whatsoever to do with such activities; that he was well aware that they did no good whatsoever for the Italian cause, and actually did harm to that cause. It was true that he did receive a great many copies of letters, the originals of which were being sent to the State Department and to Members of Congress, but his advice was not sought nor could he very well do anything himself to control the activities which were being complained of and which were largely the result of sentiment of Italian-Americans for their home country. Most of these persons had family connections in Italy and he supposed that their letters to Congress were written as a result of their sentimental connection with their country of origin. The Ambassador [Page 104] wished me very clearly to understand that the Embassy had nothing whatsoever to do with the matter and that he wholeheartedly disapproved of the steps which had been taken by the Italo-American people and which he fully realized would not help in any way the Italian cause, rather the reverse.

W[illiam] P[hillips]
  1. Augusto Rosso.