125.226/4b

The Acting Secretary of State to the French Ambassador (Henry-Haye)

Excellency: I have received Your Excellency’s communication of April 9, 1942, containing certain observations of the French Government at Vichy with regard to the announcement of the establishment of a Consulate General of the United States at Brazzaville.

In this communication Your Excellency informs me that your Government trusts that the Government of the United States will make it known publicly that this step on the part of the United States should not be interpreted as having any political implications, and that it should likewise not be interpreted as being a step in derogation of the “exclusive rights of the French Government over the territory in question”.

The considerations advanced in the communication addressed to me by Your Excellency provide an appropriate and welcome opportunity for the Government of the United States to reiterate with the utmost clarity its policy with regard to France and with regard to the French people.

From the earliest days of the independence of the United States of America the relations between the people of France and the people of the United States have been founded upon ties of more than ordinary friendship and confidence. The Government of France and many citizens of France, assisted the people of the United States in achieving their freedom. The great principles of liberty, equality and fraternity proclaimed by the French revolution have been an inspiration to the American people throughout their national existence, and the traditional understanding between our two nations has in no small part been due to their common faith in democratic institutions and in their like devotion to the cause of human freedom.

Only twenty-five years ago the armies of France and of the United States were fighting side by side against the same ruthless aggressor who has now once more invaded France.

As this Government has informed Your Excellency’s Government upon several occasions, the Government of the United States recognizes the sovereign jurisdiction of the people of France over the territory of France and over French possessions overseas.

The Government of the United States fervently hopes that it may see the reestablishment of the independence of France and of the integrity of French territory.

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But only by the total destruction of the present criminal regime in Germany, and by the complete defeat of the armies of Germany and of the dictatorships which have aligned themselves with Germany, can that hope be realized. That is a fact well known to all of the people of France, including even that handful of Frenchmen who, in contempt for the high tradition of liberty and individual freedom which has made France great, have sordidly and abjectly, under the guise of “collaboration”, attempted to prostitute their country to that very regime in Germany which is bent upon nothing less than the permanent enslavement of France.

At the present moment continental France is in great part occupied by German armies. Your Excellency’s Government is bound by the terms of the armistice agreement into which it entered with Germany in June 1940.95

Marshal Pétain96 has had occasion to appreciate the full understanding of the Government of the United States of the difficulties under which he and his Government have been suffering because of these reasons, and the sympathy of the Government and people of the United States for the people of France in the tragic situation in which they have been placed.

A part of France’s territories overseas remains under the effective jurisdiction of Your Excellency’s Government. Still other territories of France are under the effective control of French authorities who do not recognize the jurisdiction of the French Government at Vichy, but who are fighting actively on the side of the forces of freedom.

This latter situation is the case in French Equatorial Africa and the Cameroons where the Government of the United States has recently appointed a Consul General at Brazzaville. This is the step to which Your Excellency’s communication under acknowledgment refers.

Were the French Government at Vichy in effective control of the territory in question, the Government of the United States would necessarily have communicated with Your Excellency’s Government prior to the establishment of this Consulate General of the United States, in accordance with the convention between our two countries of February 23, 1853 to which reference is made in Your Excellency’s communication.

The French Government at Vichy, however, is not in control of that territory.

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Consequently, until the final victory of the United Nations is won, and the people of France are once more in full and sovereign control of their own destinies, the Government of the United States, in accordance with the policy above set forth, will continue, with regard to French territories in Africa or in the Pacific areas, to maintain, or to enter into, relations with those French citizens who are in actual control of such territories.

The German invaders by deceit, and by their habitual propaganda of falsehood, are daily seeking to sow doubt and mistrust of their traditional and proven friends among the minds of the French people. That effort has failed, and will continue to fail. The people of France have never doubted the sincerity of the friendship of the people of the United States.

The French people may rest assured that the Government and people of the United States will continue to maintain unimpaired their full respect for the sovereign rights of the people of France. They may continue to be confident that by the victory of the United Nations those rights will be restored intact to them.

Accept [etc.]

Sumner Welles
  1. Signed June 22, 1940; for text, see Department of State, Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918–1945, series D, vol. ix (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1956), p. 671.
  2. Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain, French Chief of State.