The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in Liberia (Walton)
33. Legation’s 47, December 24, 8 a.m. We appreciate very much your informing us of the desire of certain interests to obtain concessions [Page 830] in Liberia and the confidence which your informant has shown in this government in conveying these facts to you. While unwilling to make any official commitments of any kind whatsoever in such a matter we are desirous of rendering such assistance to the Liberian Government as may be proper. We suggest, therefore, that should your opinion in the premises be requested by Secretary Dennis or President Barclay you might in your personal capacity reply orally basing your comment on the observations reported in latter half of the Legation’s No. 33, September 16, noon, 1935,52 and the introductory and numbered paragraphs of the Department’s telegram No. 24, September 26, noon, 1935.52
[The Chargé in Liberia, Hibbard, informed the Department in telegram No. 33, September 16, 1935, noon, (882.6347 Consolidated African Selections Trust/1) that President Barclay of Liberia had requested his opinion of the agreement proposed by the Consolidated African Selections Trust, Limited, a British concern headed by Chester A. Beatty, to the Liberian Government for the exclusive exploitation, production, and marketing of diamonds for a period of 99 years within the Republic of Liberia. Hibbard reported as follows:
“After studying the agreement carefully I told him
- That I could only give my personal opinion on the question; I could not commit my Government as I did not know whether it would wish to give an opinion but certainly not without knowledge of the agreement;
- As far as I could observe there was no political commitment contained in the agreement, however, if rich mineral deposits were found they might be a temptation to any colonial power in Africa unless Liberia were strong enough to protect herself;
- The agreement seemed to me too inclusive and binding on the Government. I felt it unwise to commit the mineral resources of the entire country over such a long period of time; if deposits of great value were found friction would inevitably ensue;
- The agreement did not provide adequate compensation to the Government for such exclusive rights.
“The President has now returned the agreement to me with a request that I ask your advice on the matter. He says his entire present policy is based on the advice and assistance of the United States Government and that he does not wish to take such a step without your opinion. I realize that such a request may be embarrassing but it has been put to me in such a way that I could not refuse without offense.…”
In telegram No. 24, September 26, 1935, noon, (882.6347 Consolidated African Selections Trust/2) the Department gave the following instructions:
“The Department appreciates the confidence and trust which Barclay holds for this Government as conveyed to you through the Secretary of Treasury. On its part this Government desires to be of assistance to the Liberian Government when it may render such assistance in all propriety. The present request, however, would appear to come within this reservation and consequently you should inform Barclay that officially the Department regrets that it is unable to comply with his request in this case in so far as making specific comments on the agreement is concerned.
“As a personal observation, however, in negotiating the terms of any concession, it occurs to me that there are several cardinal considerations which should be kept in mind.
- “1. In order to avoid possible international complications it is desirable to limit the territory of a concession to specific areas which will not overlap the interests of another concession and that these areas should be restricted in themselves to a moderate size in reasonable proportion to the area of the country.
- “2. The minerals to be extracted should also be limited to specific items and not cover the whole range of a nation’s mineral resources.
- “3. The financial responsibility of the firm or organization to whom the concession is granted should receive particular examination and the very limit of financial return obtained in the terms to the government granting the concession.”]