The Under Secretary of State (Welles) to President Roosevelt

My Dear Mr. President: I am submitting herewith your suggested reply to the Prime Minister. The Secretary approves the draft. In accordance with our conversation on Saturday I notified Sir Ronald Lindsay that I would be able to give him a written message from you this afternoon. If the suggested message is satisfactory to you, will you let me have it back, and I shall then give it to the British Ambassador. If there are changes you wish made in it, please let me know accordingly.12

Faithfully yours,

Sumner Welles

Message From the President to the Prime Minister

I appreciate greatly the very frank and friendly spirit in which the Prime Minister has replied to the confidential message I sent him with regard to the proposal I contemplated making. The full and detailed information which the Prime Minister has been good enough to send me as to the steps already taken and at present contemplated by His Majesty’s Government has been particularly helpful to me. The Prime Minister fears that if the suggestions which I have had it in mind to make to the other nations of the world are put forward at [Page 121] the present time, Germany and Italy may take advantage of them both to delay consideration of specific points which must be settled between Great Britain and France and Germany and Italy, if appeasement is to be achieved, and to put forward demands over and above what the latter powers would put forward if direct negotiations between them and Great Britain and France were all that was in progress.

In view of the opinions and considerations advanced by the Prime Minister, I readily agree to defer making the proposal I had intended to make for a short while as he suggests in order that His Majesty’s Government may see what progress they can make in beginning the direct negotiations they are contemplating.

I must confess that I am concerned by the statement of the Prime Minister that His Majesty’s Government under certain contingencies “would be prepared for their part, if possible with authority of the League of Nations, to recognize the de jure Italian conquest of Abyssinia”. I take it, of course, for granted that the Prime Minister has given due consideration to the harmful effect which this step would have, especially at this time, upon the course of Japan in the Far East13 and upon the nature of the peace terms which Japan may demand of China. At a moment when respect for treaty obligations would seem to be of such vital importance in international relations, as proclaimed by our two Governments only recently at the Brussels Conference,14 and at the time when our two Governments have been giving consideration to measures of cooperation in support of international law and order in the Far East, as well as of their respective legitimate and legal rights in China, I cannot help but feel that all of the repercussions of the step contemplated by His Majesty’s Government should be most carefully considered. A surrender by His Majesty’s Government of the principle of non-recognition at this time would have a serious effect upon public opinion in this country. Public opinion in the United States will only support this Government in measures of pacific cooperation with the other peace-loving nations of the world, provided these measures of cooperation are destined to reestablish and maintain principles of international law and morality. The recognition of the conquest of Ethiopia, which at some appropriate time may have to be regarded as an accomplished fact, would seem to me to be a matter which affects all nations which are committed to the principles of non-recognition and which should consequently be dealt with as an integral part of measures for world appeasement, in which all the nations of the world have previously demonstrated [Page 122] their common interest and their willingness to bear their individual responsibility.

Finally, in view of the statement which the Prime Minister was good enough to make that he would be glad to consider any observations which I might desire to make upon his message and to give immediate consideration to them, I will express the hope that he may be good enough to keep me advised of developments with regard to some aspects of the direct negotiations with Germany and Italy which he now has in prospect. With regard to the political features of these negotiations, this Government of course has no connection. I feel, however, that it would be most helpful to this Government to be apprised of those features of the negotiations which would have a material effect upon the maintenance of those international principles and upon the policies of world appeasement which this Government endeavors to support, and in particular of those questions which have to do with treaty rights and economic and financial questions in which this Government, like other governments, may be directly concerned.

  1. The original of this letter was returned to the Department by the President with the notation “O. K. F. D. R.” (740.00/264½)
  2. See vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. iv, pp. 1 ff.