740.0011 European War 1939/62421: Telegram

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

830. My telegram JSTo. 826, October 26, 1 p.m.30 Charles-Roux31 sent for me for a “friendly and private chat” in company with Saint-Quentin, Jules Henry,32 and Seguin.33 He said he had not seen the Marshal or Baudouin since delivery of the message and could not therefore speak for them. He said that while he well understood the motives which prompted it (and they were all apparently in accord therewith) he could not but regret both the “painfully curt” terms in which it was couched and the substance, too. He feared that the effect might be contrary to that desired and whereas, if it had been phrased with some understanding of France’s difficulties and what the Marshal is up against, it would have been more effective. As to the substance, he felt that our assumption that the fleet would be turned over to Germany was not warranted—also that the problem was much more complex than merely the question of the fleet. Saint-Quentin interrupted to explain at this point the importance which both our Government and our people attach to the question of the fleet and Jules Henry backed him up. Charles-Eoux went on to say the King’s message, which was received last evening, had addressed the Marshal in a sympathetic understanding and “almost affectionate tone”. They all expressed the fear that if the text of our message is published, it will have a “very deplorable effect on French opinion”, Seguin remarking that “the Germans would pay considerable to have it made public”.

They read me a portion of the telegram received from Henry-Haye; while apparently it was similar in substance it did not indicate that the message was personal from the President or that it was addressed to the Marshal rather than Baudouin. Also, he wrapped it in softer phraseology.

They all begged as friends of our country and as “on our side” that we endeavor to understand the French position and show a little more confidence in the Marshal. I said by way of reply that while I had the greatest respect and admiration for Marshal Pétain, I could not feel the same confidence in some of his associates and that I hoped that they in turn would try to reach a better understanding how we viewed the problem and what the possibility of a hostile French Fleet means to us.

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The lobby of the Pare Hotel is jammed with the curious, anxious for crumbs of information concerning what today’s critical discussions may produce.

The latest rumors are that Baudouin is definitely out of the Government and that Laval34 will take over the portfolio of Foreign Minister.

  1. Not printed.
  2. François Charles-Roux, Secretary General of the French Foreign Office.
  3. French Ambassador to Turkey.
  4. Jean Seguin, Chief of the American Section of the French Foreign Office.
  5. Pierre Laval had been appointed Vice President of the French Council of Ministers on July 15, 1940