Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)


The British Ambassador called to see me this afternoon at my request. I told him that in a conversation which I had had with the President this morning the President had asked me to say to the British Ambassador, for the information of his Government, that the President had further delayed taking the action envisaged in the plan which he had discussed with the British Government because of the recent acute situation which had developed in Germany and that until that situation should appear a little clearer than it as yet did, the President felt it would be unwise to go ahead. He desired the British Government to know, however, that he intended proceeding in accordance with his plan in the relatively near future and would send further word on this matter later on to the British Government.

The British Ambassador said that he fully understood the circumstances and that he knew that his Government appreciated these reasons without being told and undoubtedly had had these factors in mind; but that he would immediately transmit the President’s message and that he appreciated greatly the President’s courtesy in sending it.

I then asked the Ambassador if he had any further word as to what progress, if any, had been made in conversations between the British Government and the German or Italian Governments. The Ambassador said that he had had no further word with regard to the conversations with Italy since he and I had last spoken on that subject, but that from certain instructions he had received of an informative character [Page 125] he gathered that Sir Nevile Henderson, the British Ambassador to Berlin, had spent the past week in London reporting on the progress which had been made with regard to the conversations with Germany and that he understood that the conversations were actively proceeding. He did not feel, however, that any precise comments had been made on either side, and said that it would still be a considerable period, even if all went well, before a stage could be reached where bases could be agreed upon with any precision.

I then reminded the Ambassador that I had made it clear to him some two weeks ago that this Government would gladly receive any commitments or specific suggestions that the British Government might care to make with regard to the President’s plan or any of the features thereof. I said that the silence of the British Government in this regard might possibly be construed as an indication of apathy on the part of Great Britain, and that I wondered if he had any impressions on that point which he cared to communicate. The Ambassador reminded me that he had told me with the most complete frankness everything that had gone on between the receipt by the President of Mr. Chamberlain’s first message18 and the receipt by the President of the second message,19 and that he had confided to me the split in the Cabinet which had occurred between Sir John Simon,20 on the one side, and Mr. Eden, on the other. He said, however, that he did want to assure me in the most positive manner that the decision of the British Government had been reached as communicated to the President and that the British Government was committed to support with every means within their power the successful realization of the President’s objectives. He said that we could count upon his Government’s carrying out this commitment with the utmost loyalty and energy. The Ambassador said that he had always assumed that the suggestions which the British Government might desire to make would be made after the President’s proposal had been made public and that they would relate possibly to the governments which the British Government thought the President might consult advantageously and to the specific points to be taken up for consultation in elaboration and implementation of the general problems specified by the President in his proposal. I told the Ambassador that if that was the thought of the British Government, I need merely reiterate the fact that we would be very happy to have such comments or suggestions as they might desire to make at any time they might care to make them.

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S[umner] W[elles]
  1. January 14; p. 118.
  2. Not found in Department files.
  3. British Chancellor of the Exchequer.