The Portuguese Legation to the Department of State
The Portuguese Government have taken cognizance by excerpts circulated by news agencies and by complete broadcasts, of the fireside chat made by His Excellency President Roosevelt in the evening of May 27.13
The Portuguese Government would not feel justified in addressing itself to the Government of the United States to refer to an address made by the Chief Executive of the Great American Nation to its citizens, were it not for the fact that it contains direct references to Portuguese territories which, coupled with some of the theses set forth by President Roosevelt, and unaccompanied by any express mention of respect for the complete and centuries old sovereignty of Portugal over those territories, are open to diverse interpretations and, therefore, could not fail to surprise the Portuguese people.
Portugal has maintained during the present war a neutral position which does not imply the breach of any of its international undertakings. On the contrary, her policy has had the consistent concordance of the Government of Great Britain, her ally. This Neutrality has been impeachably [impeccably] observed and has provided Europe and the two Americas with their last direct contact. In order to ensure it and to assert their sovereignty in an unmistakable way in the present conjuncture or any other with which they may be confronted, the Portuguese Government have endeavoured to set up a state of efficient defense, with all the means at their disposal, in the territories which it is said are more exposed to attack, precisely those very same ones to which His Excellency President Roosevelt made direct and repeated references: the Islands of Cape Verde and the [Page 845] Azores. The sending of troops to the said possessions together with other defense measures already accomplished and in progress were not kept secret, and the Government of the United States are certainly aware of them.
The Portuguese territories have not, therefore, presented any harm, hindrance or menace to any of the belligerents or their allies, in the first place owing to the irreproachable attitude maintained; secondly, because the Portuguese Government declare and manifest their disposition to defend such an attitude against whoever may be; and, in the third place, due to the fact that such territories have not been the object of any threat by any of the belligerents or third powers. It is therefore not possible to understand the specific reference by name to those Portuguese possessions which by itself could not fail to surprise the Portuguese people and Government.
Furthermore, those references are involved with the expounding of the thesis that it devolves on the United States to define and decide whether, and when and where they are threatened and how their forces are to be used to defend themselves or others. And in expounding such a thesis there is not the slightest reference to the fundamental principle of respect for the sovereignty of others exercised and maintained without prejudice to anybody.
Regarding such a thesis, in so far as it may involve their territories, the Portuguese Government deem it their imperative duty to request a clarification otherwise it might be interpreted as conducting to the admission that in order to defend other countries or for its own defense, a great nation would be at liberty to commit a violation similar to those the threat of which is said to exist from third States.
The Portuguese Government, having recently received, with satisfaction and gratitude, from the United States Government through the words of the Secretary of State, assurances of the respect for their sovereignty, would now appreciate being placed in a position to assure that in the references made by His Excellency President Roosevelt and in the thesis that he expounded nothing exists that is contrary to the former declarations or which may be interpreted as derogatory of the sovereign rights of Portugal.
From their own part, the Portuguese Government reassert their indefectible determination to defend to the limit of their forces, their neutrality and their sovereign rights against all and any attack to which they may be exposed, though continuing to state they do not anticipate any such event.
- For text, see Department of State Bulletin, May 31, 1941, p. 647.↩