Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Secretary of State

The French Ambassador92 called to see me this afternoon at his request. The Ambassador said that his appointment with the President had been cancelled and that he consequently had asked to see me immediately. The Ambassador read to me the text of an instruction he had received by cable from his Government which constituted a protest against the sending of a consul general by the United States to Brazzaville. The protest ended with a demand that the United States make some public declaration to the effect that the action of the United States did not constitute political recognition of the Free French movement and the protest was based upon the allegation that the failure to obtain an exequatur for the consul general from the French Government at Vichy constituted a violation of the Treaty of 1851 [1853]93 between France and the United States.

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The Ambassador then went on to say that the action taken by this Government was in violation of assurances given his Government in November 194194 and on March 6, 1942 with regard to the policy of this Government not to give political recognition to the Free French authorities in Equatorial Africa.

I immediately stated that no assurances had been given the French Government and that in my previous conversations with the Ambassador on these points I had stated that the actions taken by this Government at the times mentioned had not then implied political recognition. I said that there was not the slightest useful purpose to be served by discussing these questions on a legalistic basis. I stated that it had been and would continue to be the considered policy of this Government to favor the maintenance of the independence and integrity of France. That was the basis upon which our policy rested—one of deep friendship for the French people and a sincere desire to see the French people restored to their independent position in the world. I said that the issues raised at the present time were issues of fact. The Ambassador was well aware of the fact that French Equatorial Africa was under the control of the Free French authorities and that for reasons which were notorious it was necessary for us to deal with the local authorities in French Equatorial Africa. I said I was quite sure that both he and his Government recognized this need on our part and likewise recognized the fact that any action which we had taken or would take in this regard was completely in accord with the general policy relating to France which I had now reiterated. I said I felt it would be preferable for the Ambassador to give me a written communication to which I would reply in writing and that any enunciation of policy which this Government desired to make would be contained in my reply to him.

The Ambassador attempted to get me to agree that my reply would contain a statement that this Government recognized the jurisdiction of the French Government in Vichy over all French territories and colonies.

I said I would make no such commitment and that while I could not prevent him speculating as to what I would say in reply, I had no present intention of detailing to him what the nature of the reply would be.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Gaston Henry-Haye.
  2. Consular Convention between the United States and France, signed at Washington, February 23, 1853. For text, see Hunter Miller (ed.), Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, vol. 6, p. 169.
  3. See memorandum by the Under Secretary of State, November 6, 1941, Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. ii, p. 582.