Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Moffat)
The French Chargé d’Affaires called this afternoon to read me the text of the confidential instructions sent the French Ambassador at London on August 31. These were to the following effect:
The French Government was very pleased with the recent speech of Sir John Simon and thought that the British Government was quite right to be preoccupied about not hurting Hitler’s pride. On the other hand, the French Government hopes that the British won’t believe that Simon’s speech or instructions based upon it will effectively stop Hitler if he and his advisers really plan to go ahead. Only a belief that it would be impossible to localize a German-Czech conflict would stop Hitler.
The French Government hopes that the British will give further thought to the position of Italy. Trouble in Central Europe would [Page 573] be the great opportunity for Mussolini to profit by the Rome–Berlin axis which thus far has brought him in no dividends except the Anschluss. Leaving aside the question of a possible move in North Africa, it is not improbable that the moment trouble should break out in Bohemia Italy would intervene more actively in Spain, to the great discomfort of England and France. In order to minimize any temptation to Germany in this respect the French Government agrees for the present not to make any change in its Spanish policy despite the unfortunate answer of General Franco on the non-intervention plan.
The French Government congratulates Lord Runciman and has noticed recent signs of Czech conciliation. The great problem is now to force the Sudetens to be more reasonable. One fortunate factor not to be overlooked is the following: As Hitler allegedly is only interested in backing up the Sudetens any time these declare themselves satisfied Hitler can claim a great diplomatic victory, and he can achieve this result at any time by instructing the Sudetens to declare themselves satisfied.
As the Reich has, in effect, mobilized, France has had to take certain precautionary measures but has made these public judging it more advantageous to spread the news.
The French Government’s final plea was that the British should recall that the smaller countries in Europe plus Poland will in the last analysis be guided by the British decision and that the more strongly Britain speaks at present the more firmly they can be held inline.
The Chargé d’Affaires hoped that this information would be of interest to the Secretary and the President. I thanked him for his courtesy in communicating it to us.
The Chargé then went on to say that he had been a little worried by the press reports that Great Britain was pressing us for a definition of what we would do and what our attitude would be in the event that Britain went to war. I told Mr. Truelle that the press reports were scarcely accurate. He was glad to hear that, but even so he felt that any attempt, direct or indirect, “to put pressure” on American public opinion was psychologically wrong; that American public opinion, which was already almost unanimous, would gradually move in the right direction under wise leadership but that it would move in the other direction if the impression arose that foreign interests were attempting to influence it.