740.0011 PW/2313a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)

1528. For Harry Hopkins from the President. Please give immediately the following message to the former naval person. We must make every effort to prevent a breakdown.

“I most earnestly hope that you may find it possible to postpone Cripps’s departure from India until one more final effort has been made to prevent a breakdown in the negotiations.

I am sorry to say that I cannot agree with the point of view set forth in your message to me that public opinion in the United States believes that the negotiations have failed on broad general issues. The general impression here is quite the contrary. The feeling is almost universally held that the deadlock has been caused by the unwillingness of the British Government to concede to the Indians the right of self-government, notwithstanding the willingness of the Indians to entrust technical, military and naval defense control to the competent British authorities. American public opinion cannot understand why, if the British Government is willing to permit the component parts of India to secede from the British Empire after the war, it is not willing to permit them to enjoy what is tantamount to self-government during the war.

I feel I must place this issue before you very frankly and I know you will understand my reasons for so doing. If the present negotiations are allowed to collapse because of the issues as presented to [Page 634] the American people and India should subsequently be successfully invaded by Japan with attendant serious military or naval defeats for our side, the prejudicial reaction on American public opinion can hardly be over-estimated.

Consequently, would it not be possible for you to have Cripps postpone his departure on the ground that you personally have sent him instructions to make a final effort to find a common ground of understanding. I read that an agreement seemed very near last Thursday night.57 If he could be authorized by you to state that he was empowered by you personally to resume negotiations as at that point with the understanding that minor concessions would be made by both sides, it seems to me that an agreement might yet be found.

I still feel, as I expressed to you in an earlier message,58 that if the component groups in India could now be given the opportunity to set up a nationalist government similar in essence to our own form of government under the Articles of Confederation with the understanding that upon the termination of a period of trial and error they would then be enabled to determine upon their own form of constitution and, as you have already promised them, to determine their future relationship with the British Empire, a solution could probably be found. If you made such an effort and Cripps were then still unable to find an agreement, you would at least on that issue have public opinion in the United States satisfied that a real offer and a fair offer had been made by the British Government to the peoples of India and that the responsibility for such failure must clearly be placed upon the Indian people and not upon the British Government.”

  • Roosevelt
  • Welles
  1. April 9.
  2. Dated March 10, p. 615.