Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Llewellyn E. Thompson, Jr., of the Division of European Affairs

Participants: Mr. Winfield Riefler, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey;
Mr. James Clement Dunn, Adviser on Political Relations;
Mr. Llewellyn Thompson, Division of European Affairs.

Mr. Riefler called to discuss the invitation extended to the League of Nations by certain institutions at Princeton to transfer the technical services of the League to Princeton. After giving his views on the desirability of effecting the transfer and the advantages which would accrue to the United States from such a step, Mr. Riefler said he thought that Mr. Avenol had raised legalistic objections which could be overcome if there existed a real desire to do so. He urged that the Department put the matter up to the Secretary General in such a way that he would be obliged either to make possible the transfer or clearly accept the responsibility for preventing it.

Mr. Dunn explained that Mr. Avenol had insisted that the League’s technical sections could only be transferred here pursuant to a formal invitation from this Government which would insure their operation as a part of an international and intergovernmental organization. He said that we had informed the Secretary General that we were not prepared to issue such an invitation. He did not feel that the Department could reopen the question as the invitation of the Princeton group was a private one and of course this Government was not a member of the League. Mr. Dunn said that if the Princeton group [Page 324] wished to approach the Secretary General again it was free to do so. He said he also felt that it was highly desirable that the technical sections of the League be preserved and that while he could not speak for the Government, he thought that if the Secretary General were willing to let the personnel of the technical sections come here temporarily to carry on research work but not to be controlled from Geneva or to operate as a branch of the League, we might be able to make the necessary arrangements.

Mr. Thompson pointed out the difficulty which would arise in connection with visas. The League officials would be coming for an indefinite period and could scarcely be considered temporary visitors. In addition the contract labor clause would apply. They could not qualify for visas as Government officials unless they were accredited to this Government and they could only receive diplomatic visas if they were on an official mission to this country.

Mr. Dunn said that the visa laws and regulations would have to be complied with. Before attempting to obtain a definite decision on this, however, it was agreed that the Princeton group might address another message to the Secretary General. It was made quite clear that the position of the Department was entirely reserved and that if arrangements were made for any of the League personnel to come to the United States, they would have to comply fully with the visa laws and regulations.

A copy of the draft message which Mr. Riefler proposes to send to the Secretary General in the name of the Princeton group is attached.21

  1. For text of message sent July 12, 1940, see Documents on American Foreign Relations, vol. iii, July 1940–June 1941, p. 642.