The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 29—5:40 p.m.]
2948. My 2933, August 29.89 The Cabinet is advising Lothian to tell the President that while they accept his proposition they want the right to announce that they offered these bases as part of reservations and that they are making the deal this way because of legal and constitutional difficulties in the United States.
Now, of course, as I told you, I know nothing about the background in the United States for all these negotiations but I am sure that [Page 72]there is a complete misunderstanding on the part of the British Cabinet as to the situation in the United States. Halifax wants to do it any way the President wishes it done, believing that the idea of the England–United States tie-up on anything is of more value than either bases or destroyers.
Beaverbrook,90 who has persuaded the Prime Minister says, “If we are going to make a gift, well and good, if we are going to make a bargain, I don’t want to make a bad one and this is definitely a bad one.” Another opinion has been advanced that the President will make great political capital out of getting these valuable bases for destroyers that are worth nothing to anybody except England for a few months and if that is the case then England should stand out for a better deal.
Don’t misunderstand me, England never gets the impression they are licked and therefore they never can understand why they should not get the best of a trade. I have seen these undercurrents growing here and realize that delays have taken place but because I had no background I have not been able to do anything about it. I have told Halifax, however, that the provision he is sending to Lothian about making the announcement here was in my opinion a bad one. Besides we shall continue legal and constitutional difficulties, about which I am not informed, it strikes me that a very definite idea might arise that, although the British were willing to give all the bases for nothing, the President’s insistence that they allocate some against the destroyers will persuade the United States that it was the President’s method of getting the destroyers to the British. Therefore, I don’t see how you can agree to their desire to make a public announcement that they were willing to give something for nothing, because it may give a completely wrong impression but again I may be completely out of tune because I am not familiar with the background.