811.114 St. Pierre-Miquelon/463: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State

234. Last night I communicated to Delbos38 the substance of your 85 of February 15, 4 p.m. This morning Blum, to whom I had already spoken, telephoned and asked me to have a conversation with the Minister of Colonies who called on me this evening accompanied by his expert in the affairs of St. Pierre-Miquelon, Monsieur Merat, Director of Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Colonies. Merat, who stated that he had been in St. Pierre-Miquelon in 1935–36, conducted most of the conversation in behalf of the Minister of Colonies.

He asserted that when he had been in St. Pierre-Miquelon he had discussed the question of suppressing the contraband trade with our Consul, Mr. Gunsaulus, and that Mr. Gunsaulus had approved fully of the measures which the French Government now proposes to adopt. He suggested that our Government should communicate with Gunsaulus. He said he was confident that Gunsaulus would agree with [Page 303] him that the new method devised by the French Government for suppressing the contraband trade would be more effective than the method now in force.

He and the Minister state that their sole desire was to suppress completely the contraband from St. Pierre-Miquelon to the United States.

They said that with this object in view they had asked the Assembly at St. Pierre-Miquelon to vote a law forbidding the importation into St. Pierre-Miquelon of all alcohol except French alcohol; the law had been voted.

In return the inhabitants of St. Pierre-Miquelon had requested that they should be treated in the same manner as inhabitants of all other French colonies; that is to say the regime of export under bond should be suppressed.

The Minister and his expert both stated that the French Government was prepared to promise that no alcool de traite would be exported from France to St. Pierre-Miquelon.

They were further prepared to promise that if the American Government should find reason to object to the new regime in St. Pierre-Miquelon they would establish a quota for importation of alcoholic beverages to St. Pierre-Miquelon.

They stated further that one of their chief reasons in desiring to change the law was the wish to reduce the expenses of the French Government in maintaining St. Pierre-Miquelon.

They asserted that the revenues of the islands now amounted to approximately 1,000,000 francs and asserted expenses of the islands amounted to 8,000,000 francs which required an annual contribution by the French Government of about 7,000,000 francs. They wished to reduce the number of customs inspectors at St. Pierre-Miquelon in order to reduce the expenses of the French Government.

The expert of the Minister of Colonies there said that they would be very glad to put on more customs inspectors if the United States should be prepared to pay for them. I asked him if he were speaking seriously as we were willing to go to great lengths to prevent this traffic. He replied that of course the French Government would have to select and pay the agents with our money.

They finally said that if the new regime should be established and the American Government should find objections thereto they were prepared to reintroduce the regime now in force.

I asked if they would hold up the new decree and they said they could hold it up for a few days. The difficulty was that the law passed by the Assembly of St. Pierre-Miquelon forbidding the importation of alcohol except of French origin was now due to take effect. They had secured the passage of this law by promising that the regime of export under bond would be suppressed. Moreover, the bonding [Page 304] system was of doubtful legality. It would therefore be more embarrassing for them to delay the suppression of the bonding system. I asked why it would be embarrassing and they repeated that the colonists of St. Pierre-Miquelon had demanded to be treated on the same footing as all other French colonists.

I said that I did not believe that the French Government had to be too particular about the finer feelings of a lot of smugglers.

I said further that we did not believe the system they proposed to install would prevent the importation into St. Pierre-Miquelon of alcohol from other countries than France under false French labels and under false French certificates. I added that we did not believe that exports from France would be controlled properly and stated that we believed the only purpose of the new decree was to permit smuggling. After a vigorous discussion I was again assured that the only desire of the French Government was to put an end once and for all to smuggling from St. Pierre-Miquelon.

  1. Yvon Delbos, French Minister for Foreign Affairs.