The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy)

No. 55

Sir: Reference is made to the Embassy’s unnumbered despatch of February 19, 1938, transmitting copies of the British White Paper containing the text of the notes exchanged at Lisbon on May 11, 1936 and December 28, 1937 between Great Britain and Portugal making certain changes in the boundary between Tanganyika Territory and Mozambique. Under the latter date it was declared that the Council of the League of Nations had approved2 the agreement of May 11, 1936 and that it was, therefore, proposed to put the agreement into effect on February 1, 1938.

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On a previous occasion involving the transfer of a portion of a mandated territory, this Government brought to the attention of the British Government its view that any changes made in the boundary of such territory could not be applied to the United States without its consent. In its instruction to the Embassy No. 165 of August 18, 1932,3 the Department took the position that the terms of an agreement concluded on October 31, 1931, between the British and French Governments4 with regard to the frontiers of Syria and the Jebel Druze on the one hand and Transjordan on the other, were legally inapplicable to the United States and its nationals until such time as this Government should have assented to the changes made by the agreement in question. It was pointed out that the changes effected in the boundaries of Syria and the Jebel Druze constituted a material alteration of the terms of the Palestine Mandate; and that when the United States gave its consent to the administration of the mandate by Great Britain, such consent was necessarily limited to the territory legally established at that time as the territory of Palestine. While such changes had been approved by the Council of the League of Nations, they had not received the assent of the United States, as required by Article 7 of the American-British Convention of December 3, 1924,5 in order to make them applicable to United States nationals.

The Department considers that the principle involved in the recent alteration of the boundary between Tanganyika Territory and Mozambique is in every respect similar to the above. The consent of the United States to the administration by Great Britain of Tanganyika Territory was limited by the terms of the American-British Convention of February 10, 1925,6 Article 1 of which reads as follows:

“Subject to the provisions of the present Convention, the United States consents to the administration by His Britannic Majesty, pursuant to the aforesaid mandate, of the former German territory described in Article 1 of the mandate, hereinafter called the mandated territory.”

Article 5 of the same convention clearly requires the assent of this Government before any changes in the boundaries of the mandate as then constituted can be made applicable to the United States. This article reads as follows:

“Nothing contained in the present Convention shall be affected by any modification which may be made in the terms of the mandate as [Page 1049]recited above, unless such modification shall have been assented to by the United States.”

In the case of the Syrian and Jebel Druze frontiers, the British Foreign Office replied to the Embassy’s representations by stating, under date of January 4, 1933,7 that while His Majesty’s Government did not propose to embark on a discussion of this Government’s views in the matter, they were “fully prepared to invite the United States Government to consent to the modified frontier and indeed they desire(d) to take this occasion to do so”. Having consulted with the American consular representatives at Beirut and Jerusalem, neither of whom perceived any objection to the frontier changes involved, the Department on May 18, 19338 assented to the alterations in the frontiers between Syria and the Jebel Druze on the one hand and Transjordan, on the other, as set forth in the British-French Agreement of October 31, 1931.

You should take an early opportunity to discuss the above matter with the Foreign Office, recalling the views previously expressed in this connection and pointing out that notification to the United States of the alteration of the boundary between Tanganyika Territory and Mozambique has apparently been overlooked. You should add that while this Government would probably have no grounds for objecting to such boundary changes when officially informed thereof, it continues to regard the principle involved as of importance. In the present instance you should make it clear that the Department considers any territorial changes in the mandated territory of Tanganyika to be inapplicable to the United States and its nationals until such alterations have received the consent of the Government of the United States.

For your information, there are enclosed copies of correspondence between the Belgian Ambassador and the British Chargé d’Affaires on the one hand, and the Department, on the other, in regard to the modification of the boundary between the mandated territories of Ruanda Urundi and Tanganyika.9 It will be observed that in acknowledging the receipt of a copy of a treaty between Belgium and Great Britain relating to the frontier in question, this Government took note of the treaty “without prejudice to any rights which it may have in the territory effected” under existing treaties and conventions.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Sumner Welles
  1. September 14, 1937. See League of Nations, Official Journal, December 1937, p. 898.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. ii, p. 1004.
  3. League of Nations, Official Journal, March 1932, p. 798.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. ii, p. 212.
  5. Ibid., 1925, vol.ii, p. 203.
  6. Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. ii, p. 1006.
  7. Ibid., p. 1009.
  8. For Departments notes of October 20, 1937, see ibid., 1937, vol. ii, pp. 939 940; notes of September 17 and October 4, 1937, from the Belgian Ambassador and the British Chargé are missing from Department files.