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

No. 547

Sir: Referring to the Department’s telegraphic instruction no. 127 of October 12, 7 p.m. and related correspondence, the Board of Foreign Missions of the United Presbyterian Church of North America has now submitted to the Department a report from Dr. John A. Cremer and the Reverend Duncan C. Henry setting forth the circumstances attendant upon the expropriation of the mission property at Addis Ababa, the endeavors of the mission to conclude satisfactory arrangements for a settlement, the expulsion from Ethiopia of Dr. Cremer, and the threatened forced departure of the Reverend Mr. Henry. The Department is seriously concerned at the treatment which is reported to have been meted out by the Italian authorities to these American nationals and desires you to bring their statements, as set forth in the enclosures to this instruction,12 immediately to the attention of Count Ciano.

You will observe that according to Dr. Cremer the first intimation that the Italian Government desired to take over the hospital at Addis Ababa was conveyed to him on May 31, 1939, by Dr. Giaquinto of the medical department at Addis Ababa, who however agreed subsequently [Page 520] to embody the “demands and proposals” of his Government in a letter for presentation to the Mission Board in Philadelphia. No such letter was ever received, instead of which a formal notice of expropriation was served on August 22. During the five days allowed for the purpose, Dr. Cremer entered a formal protest on the basis of a private survey previously made by an Italian engineer who had placed the valuation of the property at more than three and one-half times the appraisal made by the Italian authorities. As reported in your despatch no. 1570 of September 29, Dr. Cremer also telephoned the Embassy to request its assistance in the matter.

No reply was received by Dr. Cremer to his protest and on September 16 an order was issued directing that the property be turned over by September 21. Dr. Ceci, head of the Department of Civil Affairs, is reported to have been “inflexible” in his insistence that the hospital and dwellings should be evacuated by the date set; that no time could be allowed to prepare inventories; and that payment could not be made except in lire. Having no alternative, the mission was compelled to sell to the Government its equipment and furnishings at sacrifice prices arbitrarily set by Dr. Ceci, and to seek shelter elsewhere in Addis Ababa. Not until these summary proceedings had taken place does Dr. Ceci appear to have informed Dr. Cremer that the valuation of the property had been raised from 980,000 lire to 1,370,000 lire, with a warning, however, that if the latter sum were not accepted the former price would come into effect again.

It will be noted further that an attempt by Dr. Cremer to obtain an interview with the Viceroy at this juncture met with failure. A few days later Dr. Cremer was shown a decree at the police station to the effect that he had been “asked to abandon Italian East Africa as there is no longer any reason for his staying and his presence is no longer desired”, and that his participation in professional activities was henceforth forbidden. Refused a copy of the decree, Dr. Cremer was informed by the officer in charge, in what appears to have been wholly unwarranted language, that it was solely for the Italian authorities to decide whether he might delay his departure for a week or two, that “no one can tell us what to do in our own house”, and that “when a person in our house is no longer desired we give him two or three days in which to leave”.

The Board understands that Dr. Cremer is now on his way to the United States, but that the Reverend Mr. Henry is being permitted temporarily to remain in Ethiopia in order to negotiate a final settlement for the property at Addis Ababa, as well as the properties taken over at Sayo and Gore in 1936. However, the Board considers it urgently necessary to ascertain why the Reverend Mr. Henry may not remain indefinitely in Addis Ababa, since his relations with the [Page 521] local authorities hitherto have been reported as excellent and since there is said to be a need among the natives for his services.

In bringing the foregoing to the attention of Count Ciano, you should state that this Government takes emphatic exception to the discourteous manner in which the members of the Presbyterian Mission are reported to have been treated, at the hardships they were forced to endure in evacuating their properties on five days’ notice, at the scant consideration given to their protest as to the property valuation, and at the failure of the Italian Government to furnish any reason for the order of expulsion pending against the Reverend Mr. Henry. You should recall, in this connection, the conversations which you had with Count Ciano in April and June 193713 regarding the policy of the Italian Government with respect to American missionaries in Ethiopia, reminding him particularly of the statement made in your aide-mémoire of June 1614 that the Government of the United States would lend its full support to claims for compensation which might be submitted by American nationals in return for properties taken over by the Italian Government. You should add that your Government now wishes to make it clear that prompt, adequate and effective payment is expected in the case of all such expropriated properties, and that your Government assumes in the case of the United Presbyterian Church properties at Addis Ababa, Sayo and Gore that satisfactory provision for the transfer of payments will be made at an early date.

Please inform the Department by telegraph as to the results of your interview.

Very truly yours,

Cordell Hull