Memorandum by Mr. H. S. Villard of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

I discussed with Mr. Walton the contents of his letter of February 22, 1938, regarding a possible tripartite agreement between the United States, Great Britain and France in regard to the status of Liberia as a sovereign State. Mr. Walton said that the suggestion had originally been made to him by Secretary of State Simpson of Liberia, [Page 837]who had broached the subject to him very informally. In mentioning the matter Mr. Simpson had indicated that some sort of a treaty between the three Powers named, designed to insure the territorial integrity of Liberia, would be welcomed by the latter Government at this time.

Mr. Walton said that it was his impression that the idea had probably originated in the mind of President Barclay, who had used his Secretary of State to sound out our attitude on such a proposal. President Barclay had not taken up the matter direct with Mr. Walton and until some indication was obtained of our position, would probably disavow any interest in the matter. However, Mr. Walton had agreed to make informal inquiries in the Department and to let Secretary Simpson know the results.

I asked Mr. Walton whether, in view of Great Britain’s previous disfavor in Liberia, such a treaty would be welcomed in Monrovia. Mr. Walton replied that in view of the current discussions in regard to colonial areas in Africa, the Liberian Government was somewhat uneasy as to what the future might hold for it, especially since Germany had been reported as interested in the possibility of obtaining a foothold in Liberia. Mr. Walton felt that the Liberian Government’s attitude was that Great Britain, if a signatory to a tripartite treaty of the kind mentioned, could be depended upon to keep her word and to entertain no ambitions of her own in regard to Liberian territory. In respect to the German interest in Liberia, Mr. Walton felt that the British and French governments would be interested in preserving the independent status of Liberia because the country was situated between the British possession of Sierra Leone on the one hand and the French Ivory Coast on the other.

Asked what kind of a treaty the Liberian Government might have in mind, Mr. Walton said any agreement designed to respect the existing boundaries of Liberia would be acceptable. It need carry no implications as to military assistance or other aid. Any tripartite declaration, he felt, would be very reassuring to the Liberians and would, in particular, serve a valuable purpose at a time when colonial ambitions in Africa are being openly discussed.

H. S. Villard