882.20/443: Telegram

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

819. I asked Bonnet14 yesterday for information with regard to the question of defense for Liberia referred to in your 294, April 22, 3 p.m.

He said that he knew that such a request had been received but was unfamiliar with the matter and asked me to discuss it with Léger.15 I did so today.

Léger said that about 2 weeks ago the Government of Liberia had approached both the French and British Governments stating that Liberia felt that Germany might attempt to seize the country and asking for British and French naval and airplane protection. Léger said that up to the present time no reply had been made to the Liberian Government other than the statement that the French Government was considering the matter carefully. He said that the British Government had made a similar reply to the Liberian Government.

Three days ago the British Government had stated to the French Government that it believed that in case of war the Germans would attempt to seize Liberia and establish naval and aeroplane bases there and therefore the question was one which must be studied most carefully.

The British opinion at the moment was that the question was not an urgent one; but that in case of war the French and British would have to bring adequate support to Liberia to prevent German attack.

Léger went on to say that he did not wish to make any suggestion whatsoever with regard to American support for Liberia; but he recalled the interest of the Government of the United States in Liberia and he wondered if it might not be possible that the Government of the United States would wish to participate in any defense of Liberia which might be necessary. I replied that since nearly all our fleet had been sent to the Pacific I considered it unlikely in the highest [Page 572] degree that the Government of the United States would wish to send forces for the defense of Liberia.

Léger promised to keep me informed with regard to any decisions made by either the French Government or the British Government.

In conclusion Léger said that he felt it would be unwise for the French and British Governments to make any public statement of a guarantee to Liberia. Such a statement would provoke immediate demands for guarantees from nearly every other small country in the world.

  1. Georges Bonnet, French Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Alexis Léger, Secretary General of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs.