Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Henry S. Villard of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs
Mr. Caldwell came in to report the present status of negotiations with the Italian authorities in regard to compensation for the properties of the United Presbyterian Mission in Ethiopia. He said that the Mission Board had arranged for an appraisal of the property at Addis Ababa by an Italian engineer, who had placed a valuation of $160,000 on the buildings. The Italian Government had offered to pay $52,000 for the same property.
Mr. Caldwell said that, after studying the protest of the Presbyterian Board, the Italian Government had now offered to pay $60,000 and had given the Board five days in which to accept. Apparently the Board was content with this compromise, and Mr. Caldwell indicated that the figure would be accepted.
Mr. Caldwell then discussed the Mission properties at Saio and Gore in Western Ethiopia. He said that, during the hostilities in 1936, the Italian authorities had “commandeered” these properties and had since set a valuation of approximately $50,000 on them, which was an acceptable figure to the Mission Board. However, nothing further had been heard as to a settlement and Mr. Caldwell inquired if he could request the Department to obtain some information in the matter from our Embassy at Rome. I said that if he would write a letter setting forth the status of the negotiations which had taken place thus far we would be glad to consider the question of seeking further information through the Embassy.
Mr. Caldwell observed that six Presbyterian missionaries were now left in Ethiopia, and that they proposed to stay on indefinitely. He said their relations with the Italian authorities were excellent, and that the Italians had even permitted six new Presbyterian churches to be started by the natives in Western Ethiopia.
According to Mr. Caldwell’s information, the Italians had made great progress in road construction in Ethiopia and had instituted good airplane and radio communications with Italy. One of the missionaries in Addis Ababa had telephoned the American Embassy at Rome recently and had spoken for six minutes by radio telephone at a total cost of $3.50. There was no loyalty, however, to the Italian Government on the part of the natives, who would be likely to revolt at once if a European war took place. Mr. Caldwell said that the British authorities in the Sudan had arranged to evacuate the region bordering Western Ethiopia in the event of war in Africa, and to permit the Italians to invade the Sudan as far as the Nile—where they [Page 518] would become bogged-down in the marshes. It was also reported by the missionaries that Haile Selassie might be induced to become a puppet ruler for Italy, but there was also the possibility that he might be used by the British to lead an uprising in case of war. Mr. Caldwell added, however, that Haile Selassie was not universally followed in Ethiopia and that the extent of his influence might be problematical.