President Roosevelt to the Portuguese President of the Council of Ministers ( Salazar )18

My Dear Dr. Salazar: I am writing this entirely personal and informal letter to you in the belief that it may be easier for me, in this manner, to put an end effectively to certain misunderstandings which have regrettably arisen during recent weeks between our two Governments.

[Page 852]

May I say first of all that, in the opinion of the Government of the United States, the continued exercise of unimpaired and sovereign jurisdiction by the Government of Portugal over the territory of Portugal itself, over the Azores and over all Portuguese colonies offers complete assurance of security to the Western Hemisphere insofar as the regions mentioned are concerned. It is, consequently, the consistent desire of the United States that there be no infringement of Portuguese sovereign control over those territories.

This policy of the United States I made emphatically clear in the message which I addressed yesterday19 to the Congress of the United States concerning the steps which had been taken to assist the people of Iceland in the defense of the integrity and independence of their country.

I feel sure that there has never been any doubt in your own mind with regard to this question and that the questions which have been raised with regard thereto in the press have had their origin in false reports deliberately circulated by propaganda emanating from governments which have desired to impair the traditional relations between our two countries.

For all of the reasons I have mentioned above, this Government views with the greatest gratification the steps which already have been taken and which are being taken by your Government to strengthen the defense of the Azores and other outlying portions of the colonial possessions of Portugal so as to render any surprise attack upon them by Germany, or by powers cooperating with Germany, less likely of success.

I need merely add that in view of the vital importance to the United States that Portuguese sovereignty over the Azores and certain other outlying Portuguese possessions remain intact, this Government will stand prepared to assist the authorities of Portugal in the defense of those possessions against any threat of aggression on the part of Germany, or of the powers responsive to Germany, should your Government express to me its belief that such aggression is imminent or its desire that such steps be taken. Any such measures would, of course, be taken in full recognition of the sovereign rights of Portugal and with categorical assurances that any American forces sent to Portuguese possessions would be withdrawn immediately upon the termination of the present war.

In the event that this contingency were to arise and the Government of Portugal considered it desirable, because of the close relations which happily exist between Portugal and Brazil, to ask that the Brazilian Government participate in these measures of defense, such a step would [Page 853] be most satisfactory to the Government of the United States. I feel certain that Brazil and the United States would cooperate effectively and whole-heartedly in assisting the Portuguese Government and people in the defense of the Azores.

I have felt it desirable to clarify the situation completely in order to have the assurance that there may not be the slightest misunderstanding of these facts between you and myself.

Frankly, I have felt particularly chagrined that any question should have arisen concerning my own attitude with regard to complete respect for the sovereignty of Portugal. I say that because, as you will remember, during the World War of 1914–1918, the Government of Portugal made available to its allies and subsequently to the United States the port of Horta as a fueling base and the port of Punta Delgada as a naval base. At that time, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, I had the privilege of visiting those ports in the interest of the United States Navy and I was thus afforded the opportunity of seeing for myself how particularly close and friendly the relations between the Portuguese people and the members of the naval forces of the United States had become. There existed a complete spirit of cooperation between them and of course as soon as the international emergency had passed, all of the forces of the allied and associated powers were immediately withdrawn without the slightest detriment to the sovereign jurisdiction of the Portuguese Government. Because of this experience which I had, I should have a personal interest in seeing to it that the relations between our two Governments and between the peoples of our two countries were always conducted with a full reciprocal respect for the sovereign rights of each and that in any form of cooperation which might be undertaken between Portugal and the United States the best interests of the Portuguese people were completely safeguarded.

With the assurances [etc.]

Franklin D. Roosevelt
  1. Photostatic copy obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N. Y.
  2. The word “yesterday” was probably inadvertently retained from an earlier draft. The reference apparently is to message of July 7, 1941, printed in Congressional Record, vol. 87, pt. 6, p. 5868.