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


Mr. John M. Lovejoy, President of the Seaboard Oil Company, accompanied by Mr. Frederick G. Clapp who is associated with that company, called on me today prior to an appointment to see the Secretary, regarding recent concessions acquired by subsidiaries of the above-mentioned company in both Afghanistan7 and Iran.8

The principal purpose of the call from the two above-mentioned officials appears to have been to press upon the Department of State their desire for the establishment of resident diplomatic representation in Kabul. Mr. Clapp conveyed to the Secretary a personal message from the Prime Minister of Afghanistan expressing the earnest hope that an American legation would soon be established in the Afghan capital and stating that an appropriation had been carried for some time in the Afghan budget for the establishment of an Afghan legation in Washington.

Messrs. Lovejoy and Clapp were informed that the Department had been giving consideration to the question of its representation in Afghanistan for some time but that no early decision could be taken. It was pointed out that at the present time American interests in Afghanistan would hardly warrant the great expense that would be incurred in establishing any appropriate form of diplomatic representation in Kabul. It was made clear to the two officials that inadequate representation would be far worse than none at all and the Department was fully informed of the extensive outlay that would be necessary in case of affirmative action in this matter. As a great power represented in Kabul, where we have no political interests whatsoever and where economic interests are only just beginning to develop, we should have to maintain an establishment comparable to that of the British Government which has a vital political interest in all that happens to Afghanistan. It is known to the Department that in view of the primitiveness of the country the British Legation has to maintain several trucks plying constantly between Afghanistan and India in order to obtain the necessary supplies. There is the further question of protection for an eventual American diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, and this is a question which, in view [Page 606] of our experiences in Addis Ababa during the siege,9 cannot be ignored. Since we, unlike the British, could not call upon Indian troops to guard our Legation, we should be under the necessity of maintaining a considerable native guard, whose loyalty might be doubtful in the case of a crisis.

Mention was also made of the … administration of justice in … a Moslem country as Afghanistan, where foreigners have no capitulatory rights. The presence in large numbers of American nationals in Afghanistan in connection with the newly acquired oil concessions would, of course, raise this question acutely and it would have to be solved. It is clear, however, that the mere presence of an American minister in Afghanistan would not necessarily serve as a protection for American nationals who might fall into the toils of Afghan law as the Italian Legation there learned to its sad experience in 1924 in the notorious Piperno case, referred to elsewhere in the Department’s records.

Messrs. Lovejoy and Clapp admitted that their concession in Iran was rather meager in comparison with their original aspirations and covered only a fraction of the territory envisaged in the Sinclair concession of 1924 [1923].10 Mr. Lovejoy stated, however, that they hoped to extend their concession in due time.

[The remainder of this memorandum pertains to other matters.]

Wallace Murray