800.85/606: Telegram

The Ambassador in Colombia (Lane) to the Secretary of State

688. Department’s 582, May 18, 11 p.m. The President told me during past week Italian Government, with a view to preventing sale of tankers to the United States, had stiffened its terms for the two tankers: $4,000,000 payable in gold coins—that is $6,800,000; and Italy to have the right to re-purchase vessels after the war. The President said that these terms are unreasonable.

On my persuading the President we are as anxious as Colombia to avoid litigation as a result of Colombia’s good offices and that we are [Page 201] prepared to pay Italians a price in accordance with requisitioning of vessels under the laws of United States, he agreed not to insist on his former point provided we would assume responsibility for consequences.

By this he meant, he said, not that we should guarantee any sum to the Colombian Government but that we should consider it our moral responsibility to relieve Colombia from any consequences which might ensue as a result of Colombian action.

When I suggested that, as in the case of our general military problems (see my telegram 687, May 22, 7 p.m.83) we might consider a gentlemen’s agreement to exist along the lines suggested by him, he agreed and said that he would immediately instruct the Minister for Foreign Affairs to issue a decree to permit sale of two tankers to the United States Government, on our terms.

While I admit that this informal agreement regarding our moral responsibility may be too general to be entirely satisfactory to the Department, I believe it is the best arrangement we can now make and therefore, I recommend its acceptance because of the urgency of the matter.

Please telegraph whether Department approves.

  1. Ante, p. 152.