Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

The British Ambassador called at my request. Without preliminaries I proceeded to say that the manner in which his Government, whatever might be its intention, is dramatizing the restrictions it has placed and is placing on American exports of agricultural products is a matter of very great concern to this Government. I remarked that those who put out the publicity on this subject seemed to do so fairly frequently and to dramatize to an increasing extent the detailed commodities comprised in the restrictions. Furthermore, the definite impression created in the United States by this publicity is that an absolute embargo continuing indefinitely is being imposed by Great Britain on all or virtually all American agricultural exports to Great Britain, with each commodity listed separately and conspicuously. I then said that if the British officials would announce instead that they were imposing certain restrictions on some of the agricultural imports from the United States, with the view not of prohibiting all imports indefinitely, but with the idea of enabling the British Government to restrict the amount of imports of a given commodity or commodities to conform to the ability of Great Britain, by reason of war conditions, to make purchases of such agricultural products from the United States; and that the British Government expects from time to time in the future to be in the market for [Page 113] American agricultural products to the extent and in the light of the foregoing. I elaborated to some extent regarding the danger and the injury which is threatening his own country by this sort of extremely hurtful publicity for which there is absolutely no excuse. The Ambassador agreed to everything I said in this connection and seemed very much interested and concerned.

The Ambassador wrote down the substance of my remarks and said that he would be glad to return at once to his Embassy and telephone to the appropriate official in London in an earnest effort to have the publicity situation dealt with in accordance with my suggestion. He said it would be necessary for him to leave at once to enable him to get in touch with the appropriate official in London before night and before it was too late to deal with tomorrow’s publicity.

One or two hours later I received a message from the British Embassy to the effect that the Ambassador had contacted the proper official and hoped that he had accomplished his purpose in calling him.50

C[ordell] H[ull]
  1. On the afternoon of March 20 the Marquess of Lothian informed the Secretary of State that he had just received a telegram from Lord Halifax stating that the British Government was issuing a statement to the press somewhat along the lines here suggested (641.116/2646).