The Chargé at Tangier (Childs) to the Secretary of State

No. 493

Sir: I have the honor to report to the Department that M. de Juge Montespieu of the Foreign Commerce Service of the French Residency General in Rabat, on the occasion of a call which he made on me recently, discussed at some length the matter of the supplying of the Tangier Zone from French Morocco.

M. Montespieu stated that the supplying of the Tangier Zone was in accordance with an agreement made by the French Protectorate with the International Administration in Tangier shortly after the beginning of the war and that this agreement had been continued after the Franco-German armistice and even after the Spanish occupation of Tangier.

My informant added however that the continued supplying under the agreement had been reduced gradually owing to the increasing lack of supplies in the French Protectorate. He gave me the following figures of the principal items being supplied under the agreement in December, namely: [Page 442]

Flour 5000 quintals
Fowls 30 quintals
Vegetables 200 quintals
Tomatoes 50 quintals
Salt meat 25 quintals
Pork products 25 quintals
Eggs 300 quintals
Pigs 30 units
Cows 150 units
Sheep 800 units

I asked M. Montespieu what the quid pro quo was in the supplying of Tangier and he stated there was none. I suggested that to me of course it indicated the continuing interest of the French Protectorate in Tangier and he stated that this was correct and that the French Protectorate considered the Sultan had certain obligations toward Tangier which were being met by the provisioning of Tangier on the part of French Morocco.

M. Montespieu stated that General Noguès had expected to utilize his proposed visit with General Orgaz on November 29, which had to be postponed on account of General Noguès’ illness, to discuss the question of the supplying of Tangier from French Morocco. He said that a great deal of dissatisfaction had been caused by the exorbitant prices demanded by Tangier merchants for the supplies furnished by French Morocco and the suggestion had been made that the French Protectorate authorities make known to the Spanish Zone authorities the prices of the products furnished by the French Zone in order that price control might be better facilitated in Tangier.

M. Montespieu stated that he had heard, or was under the impression, also that the feeding of Tangier by French Morocco was a result of interest expressed by the United States in the continuance of this provisioning.

To this I replied that so far as my knowledge went, I presumed this impression had arisen in the minds of the French Protectorate authorities as a result of a remark which I had made in the early part of the year when conversations were proceeding between M. Marchal, representing the French Protectorate Government, and Mr. David Eccles, representing the British Government, during discussions which took place in Tangier regarding a North African economic accord. At that time I stated that the status of Tangier and particularly the maintenance of its neutrality were of interest to my Government.

I recalled briefly to M. Montespieu the note of protest which the United States had made in November 19405 to the Spanish Government at the time of the Spanish occupation of Tangier and its incorporation [Page 443] politically in the Spanish Zone. I stated that we had made a very energetic protest to the Spanish authorities and that we had been at pains to make a copy of that protest available to General Noguès in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Sultan.

I stated these facts were all known to the French Protectorate Government and that General Noguès had expressed a particular interest in the receipt of the note of protest. M. Montespieu thanked me for this explanation and stated that he felt, himself, that the provisioning of Tangier from the French Protectorate was of a definite advantage to the French Protectorate Government in thus insuring a link between French Morocco and Tangier, if only economic in character at the moment. He also expressed the opinion that this provisioning was of definite interest to us and to all those who did not wish to see Tangier employed in the war against us.

This question of the provisioning of Tangier is one which may well recur, particularly if it develops that owing to increasing lack of foodstuffs in French Morocco, great difficulty may be encountered in the provisioning of Tangier from the French Zone. The question may well be raised by the Spanish Government or the Spanish Zone authorities with us at some future time as to how far we may be willing to go in the provisioning of Tangier or even of the Spanish Zone.

The Department will have observed from previous despatches of mine that I have already been approached on this subject on a number of occasions (see in this connection the Legation’s despatches no. 313 of August 22, 348 of September 13, 376 of October 6, 399 of October 17, 403 of October 19, 405 of October 20, 425 of November 1, and 436 of November 106).

Major Bentley7 was recently approached at a dinner party by the Spanish Consul in Tangier on this subject who stated that he wondered whether it might be possible for him, the Consul, to discuss informally and unofficially with me the question of an American boat calling at Tangier. (See in this connection my telegram no. 351, November 15, 11 a.m.8)

The fact that the Spanish authorities are approaching us even informally on the subject of the supplying of Tangier and Spanish Morocco are indications of the recognition of their dependence upon the Allies for the provisioning of this area. So long as that recognition exists, it is suggested that the supplying of Spanish Morocco and Tangier serves to bind Spain closer to us, particularly if we maintain a strictly hand-to-mouth policy in the furnishing of such supplies.

Should the question be raised officially with us of the provisioning of Tangier and the Spanish Zone, the Department, it is suggested, [Page 444] might take advantage of such a formal request to express our interest in the continued maintenance of the neutrality of Tangier. Should the question be raised officially concerning the provisioning of the Spanish Zone, we might express our interest, in that connection, in the non-belligerence of that Zone. It will be recalled that assurances of the maintenance of the neutrality of Tangier were given Ambassador Weddell in Madrid in June 19409 in writing, assurances which were recalled in the note subsequently addressed by our Embassy in Madrid to the Spanish Government in November 1940 concerning the status of Tangier.

Moreover, it is suggested that under any formal arrangements for the supplying of Tangier and the Spanish Zone concluded with the Spanish authorities, control officers from the South American countries which have shown their solidarity with us in the present conflict might appropriately be used for the purpose of ensuring that the supplies are not diverted from this area.

Pending the conclusion of any formal arrangements, it is recommended that we continue to supply Tangier and the Zone of Morocco with non-strategic materials such as foodstuffs in limited quantities to meet the strictly current needs of Tangier and the Spanish Zone.

Respectfully yours,

J. Rives Childs
  1. See telegram No. 297, November 9, 1940, 6 p.m., to the Ambassador in Spain, Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. iii, p. 789.
  2. None printed.
  3. Maj. William C. Bentley, Jr., Military Attaché at Tangier.
  4. Not printed.
  5. See telegram No. 192, June 14, 1940, 1 p.m, from the Ambassador in Spain, Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. iii, p. 783.