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

Mr. Ghaffar Djalal, the Iranian Minister, came to see me this morning by appointment with regard to the note of December 6, 1935 addressed to him by the Secretary of State conveying the apologies of the Governor of Maryland and the sincere regrets of the Secretary on behalf of this Government over the incident of the Minister’s arrest, handcuffing and detainment on November 27, last, at Elkton, Maryland, upon a charge of speeding.

The Minister expressed himself satisfied with the apologies and regrets contained in the Secretary’s note under reference, but appeared considerably worried over the references in the note to the violation [Page 344] by his chauffeur of speed regulations in Elkton and particularly the final sentence of the note, reading as follows: “I feel confident that the Iranian Government will share the view that this Government is justified in expecting that foreign diplomatic officers accredited to the United States will manifest a similar regard for the laws and regulations in force in this country.” The Minister maintained that the Secretary’s note gave the impression that he was in the habit of violating the laws and regulations of this country, which was not the case. I pointed out to the Minister that specific reference in this connection was made to his chauffeur, and not to him personally, and added that the above quoted final sentence of the Secretary’s note logically followed the statement made in the last paragraph thereof setting forth the attitude of this Government regarding the observance by its own diplomatic officers in foreign countries of the laws and regulations of such countries.

I reminded the Minister at the same time of the great concern which is being shown all over the United States at this time over the alarming increase in fatalities resulting from automobile accidents and I referred to the energetic “safety campaign” which is being conducted at present in the national capital as well as in many other parts of the United States. I also pointed out that there has existed for many years in this country a widespread resentment over the unfortunate attitude of some diplomatic officers—generally subordinate ones—in this country to regard their privilege of diplomatic immunity as a license to violate our laws and regulations. This feeling in the United States must necessarily be taken into account by the Secretary of State in handling an incident of this kind. While in no way justifying the unwarranted and deplorable action of the Maryland police authorities for which the regrets and apologies of both the Federal government as well as the State government of Maryland had been extended to the Minister, the Secretary felt it only proper to point out that the incident in question would not have occurred had the Minister’s chauffeur not been guilty of violating the speed regulations of the town of Elkton.

The Minister asked me whether we could not communicate with our Legation in Teheran in this matter, clarifying the misapprehension which he feared might exist in the mind of the Iranian Government regarding his customarily law-abiding behavior. While assuring the Minister that we had not intended to give the impression that he or members of his staff had repeatedly violated our laws and regulations, I said that due consideration would be given to his present request.

Wallace Murray