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

The British Ambassador4 called to see me this morning. The Ambassador inquired what action the United States Government would take in the event that German agents engineered a sudden putsch in Uruguay which would result in the overthrow of the present government and its replacement by a government sympathetic to the present German Government. The Ambassador said that his nationals and his ministers were greatly alarmed with regard to the present situation and he inquired what our feelings would be, in the event that British nationals in Montevideo were attacked by Nazi sympathizers or the agents of a new revolutionary government in Uruguay which was favorable to Germany, were the British to land some of the marines available on their cruisers in that vicinity.

I said that I would reply first to the second contingency mentioned by the Ambassador. I said I felt that any such action on the part of the British authorities would have highly prejudicial effects and that it would give rise to many serious problems with the nature of which the Ambassador of course was familiar. I stated that the situation which would arise from a German engineered revolutionary movement of the kind he mentioned would obviously create a situation which would be of the utmost gravity and of immediate concern to the United States, as well as to all of the other American Republics. I said that I assumed that a revolutionary movement of this kind, if successful, would be undertaken under the guise of a domestic movement and that the sponsors of it would allege that inasmuch as it was purely an internal question involving the Uruguayan people, any action taken by the other American Republics or by any other foreign country would constitute direct intervention in the domestic concerns of the Uruguayan people. I said that consequently this Government would undoubtedly act with the greatest circumspection and that presumably the first move would be to request immediate consultation on the part of all of the other American governments to determine what the facts might be and that if it were then clearly shown that such a revolution had been undertaken as a result of foreign instigation, together with the use of foreign monies, and that it was not in any sense responsive to purely internal politics in Uruguay, the American Republics together would undoubtedly adopt a policy which they considered would serve to isolate the danger and to prevent the independent people of Uruguay from being subjected to a government [Page 1151] directed by a foreign and non-American power. The Ambassador inquired whether by this he was to understand that this Government would view with the utmost seriousness an incident of this kind. I said that he was entirely correct in his understanding.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. The Marquess of Lothian.