740.00119 European War 1939/530a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in France (Matthews)

636. For your information. The following personal message was delivered yesterday to the French Ambassador28 from the President with the request that it be transmitted immediately to Marshal Pétain:29

“In the opinion of the United States Government the fact that the French Government alleges that it is under duress and consequently cannot act except to a very limited degree as a free agent is in no sense to be considered as justifying any course on the part of the French Government which would provide assistance to Germany and her allies in their war against the British Empire. The fact that a government is a prisoner of war of another power does not justify such a prisoner in serving its conqueror in operations against its former ally.

The Government of the United States received from the Pétain Government during the first days it held office the most solemn assurances that the French fleet would not be surrendered. If the French Government now permits the Germans to use the French fleet in hostile operations against the British fleet, such action would constitute a flagrant and deliberate breach of faith with the United States Government.

Any agreement entered into between France and Germany which partook of the character above mentioned would most definitely wreck the traditional friendship between the French and American peoples, would permanently remove any chance that this Government would be disposed to give any assistance to the French people in their distress, and would create a wave of bitter indignation against France on the part of American public opinion.

If France pursued such a policy as that above outlined, the United States could make no effort when the appropriate time came to exercise its influence to insure to France the retention of her overseas possessions.”

  1. Gaston Henry-Haye succeeded Count de Saint-Quentin on September 11, 1940.
  2. President Roosevelt informed Prime Minister Churchill of the substance of this message to Marshal Pertain in a message transmitted by telegram No. 3241, October 24, 7 p.m., to the Chargé in the United Kingdom (740.0011 European War 1939/6166).