Memorandum From President Roosevelt to the Secretary of State

I wish you would read this personally.29 It looks to me as if this is a sheer case of bluff on the part of the British.

As I pointed out to you in Cabinet meeting, discovery does not constitute national possession for the country to which the discoverer belongs unless discovery is followed within a reasonable period of time by permanent occupation.

Furthermore, a purely temporary occupation such as, for example, occupation for the purpose of recovering guano and nothing else does not give sovereignty to the country to which the guano company belongs.

In the case of Canton Island, the United States has claimed it by proclamation, as well, I think, as by discovery.

The point is that nobody has occupied it for years and years and it is open to occupancy by us today.

I suggest immediate action from Honolulu.

Will you please return these confidential reports.

F[ranklin] D. R[oosevelt]
  1. Evidently refers to confidential reports mentioned in last paragraph; reports not printed.