856B.01/20

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

The British Ambassador2 came in at my request. Having definitely in mind the real possibility of Holland proper being overrun and occupied militarily by the Germans, as in the case of a number of other small countries heretofore, with the result that there arises questions concerning the colonies of the Netherlands located throughout the world, including those in this hemisphere, as was the case of Greenland after the occupation of Copenhagen,3 and in the light of the report that the British were proceeding to occupy Curaçao, off Venezuela, I said that countries throughout this hemisphere would be liable to construe that action as assumption of more or less jurisdiction by the British over the island of Curaçao, regardless of the real intention of the British to the contrary. In these circumstances, I felt that the possible arousing of adverse comment among the American nations in this hemisphere would do the British needless harm, assuming that they had no intention of violating the Monroe Doctrine.

The Ambassador at first seemed to resent the raising of this question by bluntly and with some feeling inquiring of me whether we would guarantee the oil resources from being sabotaged on the island of Curaçao. I replied that that was not the question I was undertaking to raise; that the only question I was endeavoring to raise was that whatever might be the motive of the British in occupying Curaçao militarily, they could very easily develop misunderstanding and criticism throughout the American continent and thereby do themselves more harm than good; whereas the point I had first in mind was to suggest that there was undoubtedly a different method of approaching the whole problem in lieu of British military occupation under circumstances calculated to arouse criticism. This method was one of conference in advance between the British and interested countries in this hemisphere in order to find a way to solve the matter to the [Page 731]satisfaction of the British, while avoiding suspicion and criticism on the theory that the British had some secret intention to occupy Curaçao more or less permanently. The Ambassador seemed finally to understand and appreciate what I was undertaking to say to him, and he said he would take it up with his Government.

C[ordell] H[ull]
  1. Marquess of Lothian.
  2. See pp. 343 ff.