The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)
Personal for the Former Naval Person from the President. In regard to the proposed exchange of notes relating to Article 7 of the interim Lend-Lease Agreement, referred to in your message No. 25,27a I want to make it perfectly clear to you that it is the furthest thing from my mind that we are attempting in any way to ask you to trade the principle of imperial preference as a consideration for Lend-Lease.
Furthermore, I understand something of the nice relationships your constitution requires of your home government in dealing with the Dominions. Obviously the Dominions must not only be consulted but I assume you must have their approval on any affirmative changes in existing arrangements which might be developed in the broad discussions which you and I both contemplate.
It seems to me the proposed note leaves a clear implication that Empire preference and, say, agreements between ourselves and the Philippines are excluded before we sit down at the table.[Page 536]
All I am urging is an understanding with you that we are going to have a bold, forthright, and comprehensive discussion looking forward to the construction of what you so aptly call “a free, fertile economic policy for the post-war world”. It seems perfectly clear to me that nothing should now be excluded from those discussions. None of us knows how those discussions will turn out, although, as I told you when you were here last, I have great confidence that we can organize a different kind of world where men shall really be free economically as well as politically.
The idea of attaching notes to this interim agreement would seem to me to give an impression to our enemies that we were overly cautious. I believe the peoples not only of our two countries but the peoples of all the world will be heartened to know that we are going to try together and with them for the organization of a democratic post-war world and I gladly accept your intimation that we might get going at once with our economic discussions.
What seems to be bothering the Cabinet is the thought that we want a commitment in advance that Empire preference will be abolished. We are asking for no such commitment, and I can say that Article 7 does not contain any such commitment. I realize that that would be a commitment which your government could not give now if it wanted to; and I am very sure that I could not, on my part, make any commitment relative to a vital revision of our tariff policy. I am equally sure that both of us are going to face in this realistic world adjustments looking forward to your “free and fertile economic policy for the post-war world”, and that things which neither of us now dreams of will be subjects of the most serious consideration in the not too distant future. So nothing should be excluded from the discussions.
Can we not, therefore, avoid the exchange of notes which, as I have said, seems to dilute our statement of purpose with cautious reservations, and sign the agreement on the assurances which I here give in reference to the matter that seems to be the stumbling block.
I feel very strongly that this would demonstrate to the world the unity of the American and British people.
In regard to coming to a meeting of minds with you at an early date, I only need to say to you that there are very important considerations here which make an early understanding desirable.
In saying this, I want again to tell you that I am not unmindful of your problem. We have tried to approach the whole matter of Lend-Lease in a manner that will not lead us into the terrible pitfalls of the last war. [Roosevelt.]
[The preliminary agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom regarding principles applying to mutual aid in the prosecution of the war against aggression, was signed at Washington February 23, 1942; for text, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 241, or 56 Stat. (pt. 2) 1433. For statement issued by the White House February 24 with explanation and text of agreement, see Department of State Bulletin, February 28, 1942, page 190.]
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