740.00119 European War 1939/328

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The French Ambassador called to see me this morning. I told the Ambassador that I had received his letter of yesterday’s date, suggesting in the name of his Government that the United States request the other American Republics to support the President’s peace plea to Mussolini, too late to discuss the subject with the President or the Secretary of State. I said that otherwise I would have been glad to telephone the Ambassador the reply of this Government as he had requested. I said, however, that I had now been afforded the opportunity of talking both with the President and the Secretary of State and that we all felt that the step proposed by the French Foreign Minister would produce an effect counter to that desired by the French Government. To use the President’s phrase, it would give Mussolini the impression that the United States and the other American Republics were “ganging up” on him, and that under present conditions this would undoubtedly create an undesirable resentment on his part Furthermore, I said, if an appeal of this character were made by the United States to the other American Republics, the President would have to make known to them the text of his messages to Mussolini and this the President did not consider it expedient to do. I said, however, that I believed that if one or two of the largest South American republics where there was a considerable element of Italian population were willing spontaneously and of their own initiative to appeal to Mussolini to prevent the extension of the war, such steps might be beneficial rather than prejudicial. I said that I would be glad to see whether this was feasible.

The Ambassador said that he understood fully the views of this Government and thoroughly approved them.

The Ambassador inquired again with regard to the contents of the President’s interchange with Mussolini and I told him, as I had told him before, that the President believed it desirable that these communications be kept confidential and that I could, therefore, merely say that the reports published in the press alleging that Mussolini had [Page 709] outlined to the President Italian claims for compensation were entirely untrue.

S[umner] W[elles]