740.0011 European War 1939/17639

The Ambassador to the Polish Government in Exile ( Biddle ) to the Secretary of State
Polish Series No. 75

Sir: I have the honor to report that under date of December 1, 1941 Monsieur Dejean, Free French National Commissar [Commissioner] for Foreign Affairs, addressed a letter to me68 enclosing a communication of November 28 [29], 1941 from General de Gaulle requesting me to notify the United States Government, as a signatory of the Franco-American Convention of April 4, 1924, of measures taken by the Free French affecting Syria and the Lebanon. At the same time, Monsieur Dejean enclosed a copy of a similar notification which General de Gaulle had sent to the Secretary General of the League of Nations.68 Copies of this correspondence are enclosed.

As will be noted, General de Gaulle states, among other things, that as leader of the Free French he has since July 14, 1941 assumed, in the States of the Levant under French Mandate, the powers and responsibilities which France derives from the Mandate Act of July 4, 1922; that he has invested General Catroux, Delegate General and Plenipotentiary in the Levant, with the powers exercised by the French High Commissioner in the States of the Levant; that General Catroux, acting in the name of the leader of the Free French, has, by virtue of and within the framework of the Mandate, proclaimed on September 27, 1941 the independence and sovereignty of the Syrian State; and that on the same basis, and taking account of the special relations between France and the Lebanon, General Catroux, acting in the name of General de Gaulle, leader of the Free French and President of the French National Council formed at London on September 24, 1941 has proclaimed the independence and sovereignty of the Lebanon on November 26, 1941.

Monsieur Dejean called on me this afternoon and I explained to him that while I welcomed any information that he or General de Gaulle might supply to me informally, I felt that in asking me to notify my Government regarding these matters they had adopted a procedure which raised questions touching on relations between the United States Government and the French Government, the legal [Page 809] position of these Governments in regard to the Mandates and the possible relationship of the Free French and the United States Government. In the circumstances, I felt that it would be preferable to make any approach in this matter through their representative in Washington.

Monsieur Dejean indicated that he understood the force of these considerations and he accordingly withdrew the above mentioned letters. He added that he would proceed in the manner suggested.

Respectfully yours,

A. J. Drexel Biddle, Jr.
[Enclosure—Translation]
The Leader of the Free French ( de Gaulle ) to the American Ambassador to the Polish Government in Exile ( Biddle )

Mr. Ambassador:

(1) Since the attempt to transform Syria and Lebanon into a German military base has led the Free French Forces, in cooperation with British troops, to take in hand the defense of these countries, I have the honor to inform you that, in my capacity as Leader of the Free French, on July 14, 1941 I assumed in the Levant States under French mandate the powers and responsibilities which France has under the Mandate Act of July 24, 1922, which entered into force September 29, 1923.

(2) I have vested General Catroux, Delegate General and Plenipotentiary in the Levant, with the powers exercised by the French High Commissioner in the Levant States.

(3) In conformity with the principles laid down by the Mandate Act and with the traditional policy of France, General Catroux, acting on behalf of the Leader of the Free French, on September 27, 1941 proclaimed, by virtue of and within the framework of the Mandate, the independence and sovereignty of the Syrian State, of which Sheik Taj-ed-Din has become the President.

On the same bases, and taking into account the special relations between France and Lebanon, General Catroux, acting on behalf of General de Gaulle, Leader of the Free French and Chairman of the French National Committee formed in London on September 24, 1941, proclaimed, on November 26, the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon, with Mr. Naccache as President.

(4) The independence and sovereignty of Syria and Lebanon will not, in fact, involve limitations other than those resulting from the exigencies of the war.

(5) They do not, however, affect the juridical situation as it results from the Mandate Act. Indeed, this situation could be changed [Page 810] only with the agreement of the Council of the League of Nations, with the consent of the Government of the United States, a signatory of the Franco-American Convention of April 4, 1924, and only after the conclusion between the French Government and the Syrian and Lebanese Governments of treaties duly ratified in accordance with the laws of the French Republic.

(6) General Catroux will continue, therefore, to exercise on behalf of the French National Committee, with due regard for the new de facto situation, the powers of the High Commissioner of France in Syria.

(7) I should appreciate it very much if you would be good enough to inform the Government of the United States, which, together with the French Government, signed the Franco-American Convention of April 4, 1924.

I have the honor to enclose the text of the proclamations of General Catroux with respect to the independence and sovereignty of Syria and Lebanon.70

Accept [etc.]

C. de Gaulle
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.