The Ambassador in Italy (Phillips) to the Secretary of State

No. 995

Sir: With reference to the Department’s instruction No. 330 of June 24, 1938,13 transmitting a memorandum prepared in the Division of Near Eastern Affairs relating to the recent Anglo-Italian Accords and the provisions thereof concerning the treatment of British religious bodies, I have the honor to submit the following observations.

According to the basic ordinance drawn up for the organization and administration of Italian East Africa, Royal Decree Law No. 1019 of June 1, 1936, Article 31 (see Embassy’s despatch No. 1743 of June 17, 193613), “absolute respect of religion is guaranteed in Italian East Africa”. In so far as the Embassy has been able to ascertain no subsequent Italian legislation deals with the question of missionary rights in the Italian territories, but the Embassy will continue to follow the situation and will report immediately any new legislative developments.

It will be recalled, however, that the Minister of Foreign Affairs informed me on June 18, 1937 that

“… the Duce to whom the question regarding the foreign missions in Italian East Africa had been submitted, has in fact decided not to entrust to foreigners to whatever religion they may belong, the work of establishing schools of any grade in the territories of the Empire. The decision has a general character and responds to criteria of a general character.

If the said missions, outside the educational field, intend to carry on work of a humanitarian and philanthropic character, any requests will in due time be examined, when the juridical question of recognition of the Empire has become an established fact.” (see Embassy’s despatch No. 442 of June 23, 1937.14)

[Page 721]

It would seem that this criterion had also been applied in the negotiations with Great Britain, since the British Ambassador informed the Embassy at the outset of the conversations that he had been instructed to seek an agreement to afford facilities to missionaries in Ethiopia without distinction of nationality or religion or, in other words, to endeavor to apply the provisions of Article 11 of the Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye of 191915 to the former Abyssinian territory. He was unsuccessful in obtaining further assurances than those contained in Annex 7 of the Accord.

Respectfully yours,

William Phillips
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed, but see telegram No. 291, June 21, 1937, 1 p.m., from the Ambassador in Italy, Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. ii, p. 710.
  4. Convention for the revision of the General Act of Berlin of February 26, 1885, and the General Act and Declaration of Brussels of July 2, 1890, signed at Saint-Germain-en-Laye September 10, 1919. This convention was ratified by the United States, subject to an understanding, April 11, 1930, and was proclaimed by the President, November 3, 1934. For text, see Department of State Treaty Series No. 877, or 49 Stat. 3027.