The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France ( Bullitt )

No. 1487

Sir: With reference to the Embassy’s despatch no. 3896 of February 24, 1939, regarding the French claim to sovereignty over the Antarctic area known as Adélie Land, you are requested to transmit to the Minister of Foreign Affairs a note couched in the following terms:

“Excellency: I have the honor to refer to Your Excellency’s note of February 21, 1939, regarding the legal status of the Antarctic area known as Adélie Land, the contents of which I did not fail to bring to the attention of my Government.

“My Government understands that France bases its claims to the territory in question on the discovery of the coast of that region by the distinguished French explorer, Admiral Dumont d’Urville, in 1840; on the subsequent publication of the facts of his discovery and the action taken by him in connection therewith; and on the decrees of March 27, 1924, November 21, 1924, and April 1, 1938. So far as my Government is aware, Admiral Dumont d’Urville did not even land on the coast claimed for France by him, nor has any French citizen visited the area south of the 60th parallel south latitude and between the 136th and 142nd meridian east longitude since then.

“While my Government believes that it is unnecessary at this time to enter into any detailed discussion of the subject, nevertheless, in order to avoid misapprehension, I am instructed to inform Your Excellency that in the light of established principles of international law the United States Government cannot admit that sovereignty accrues from mere discovery.”

You are requested to transmit to the Department a copy of the text of your note to the Foreign Office,6 together with a copy of any further communication on this subject which may be received by the Embassy.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
R. Walton Moore
  1. Despatch No. 4424, May 26, from the Ambassador in France, not printed.