The Portuguese President of the Council of Ministers ( Salazar ) to President Roosevelt 20


Mr. President: It was particularly gratifying to me to receive Your Excellency’s letter and to have been apprised through a direct [Page 854] message from Your Excellency, of the sentiments of the United States and of their Government towards Portugal and of their precise position as regards Portuguese territories in the Atlantic in relation to the security of North America.

I have always declined to believe that in any statements by Your Excellency one should of necessity detect disregard for the sovereign rights of Portugal or the veiled intention to violate them in certain circumstances. Since, however, the true sense of Your Excellency’s statements in your speech of May 27th was not made quite clear, there was left in the minds of many a doubt which it was desirable to dispel.

For this there was—it must be confessed—some reason. The thesis that American defence is dependent on certain strategic points repeatedly referred to without allusion to a foreign sovereignty which must needs be respected, lent itself, in these calamitous times in which violence has repeatedly been resorted to the world over in the guise of preventive action, to the most unfavourable interpretation. Without doubt this interpretation was seized upon by interested propaganda for its own ends, but the American press, with some exceptions, was not, in its characteristic briskness, at pains to see to it that it did not provide the antagonists with erroneous versions and occasions for accusations.

In the absence of satisfactory clarification, which we hastened to request in friendly terms, there was left to us, to enable us to hold to the favourable interpretation of Your Excellency’s words, the valid reason that, notwithstanding that a certain passing inferiority might thereby be created for them, nations should remain faithful to their ideal and cannot, in their political action, violate the very principles they claim to defend or for which they are ready to fight. In the light of this consideration, the Portuguese press, which could hardly have failed to react in the name of the aggrieved national sentiment, soon realised that it must not take things to excess and thereby disturb the good relations existing between us.

Although the Portuguese military authorities did not share the fears of an attack on the Azores by German forces, since control of the Atlantic is not theirs, the Government, out of prudence and in order to ensure the security of Great Britain, our centuries-old ally, have spared themselves neither effort nor expense to see to it that the Azores Islands and also those of Cape Verde are kept in conditions of efficient defence. We believe that the forces and the material already accumulated there, together with a certain amount of aviation and anti-aircraft material the British Government have undertaken to supply forthwith, will place the islands beyond the possibility of a successful attack being launched against them, resolved as we are to see that Portuguese sovereignty and our neutrality are respected.

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This assurance Great Britain has received and we have also spontaneously given it to Brazil insofar as our control of the Atlantic Islands may concern her defence. In the event, however, that Britain should find difficulties in connection with the provision of the supplies referred to above or of others acknowledged to be necessary, I should be gratified to receive from the United States Government facilities for the attainment of an end which is also of such particular interest to them.

At the moment, I am, of course, considering only the continuance of the neutral position which Portugal adopted from the outset of the European conflict; should however, that position change in consequence of a violation of her sovereignty, the situation resulting therefrom would have to be examined in a different light and the new position would have to be defined. I have no wish to forsee this future, but I give full weight and value to Your Excellency’s statement and, having regard to the closeness of our relations with Brazil, I am confident that Portugal would, in such an emergency, be able to count on that country’s solidarity and on its full support.

It remains, Mr. President, for me gratefully to thank you for the initiative of your letter and for the frankness and loyalty of your declarations, and to assure you that your desire that the relations between our two countries and the two Governments should always be firm in friendship and that no misunderstanding should disturb them coincides with our own most vehement wish. We have been fortunate in uninterruptedly maintaining the best of relations with the United States and their Government; we fought side by side in the last war; many thousands of Portuguese nation[al]s, precisely from the Azores, work and rely for their livelihood on the American economy and on American hospitality; and we cannot forget that we owe to one of Your Excellency’s predecessors in the Presidency of the United tories. These are all weighty reasons for us, on our side, to watch States precisely the recognition of our rights to some colonial terri-with careful attention whatever concerns the clarity and consistency of our relations. I am confident that, on Your Excellency’s side, I shall always meet with the same understanding and good will.

I beg [etc.]

Antonio de Oliveira Salazar
  1. No Portuguese text of this document was found in Department files. The files did contain, however, an English translation with the notation “Non guaranteed translation” but no clue as to origin. In reply to a request for permission to print the “non guaranteed translation”, the Portuguese Foreign Office prepared and authorized for publication the translation herewith printed (023.1/3–1258).