548.G1/64: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Chargé in the United Kingdom (Matthews)

1443. Sir Ronald Campbell11 telephoned me on the evening of March 3 to protest against publication of our note to the British Embassy on the refugee question (radio bulletins 53 and 5412) on the ground that the consent of the British Government had not been obtained before publication, nor had it been received in its entirety by the Foreign Office.

At Lord Halifax’s request he called on me on March 4 to say that the action taken had seriously embarrassed the British Government in [Page 145] as much as it made it appear that this Government had taken the initiative whereas the British Government had actually done so and because Mr. Eden,13 although under considerable pressure in the House of Commons to state British policy on this question, had delayed doing so because of the lack of a final reply from us, and was now confronted by a publication of our views before Mr. Eden had had a chance to make a statement.

I reiterated in the first place what I had told him by telephone, namely, that I would feel at complete liberty at any time to make public for the information of American public opinion any communication addressed by this Government to a Foreign Government provided it had received the text before publication. Our note had been delivered to the British Embassy on February 25. I continued that the question he had raised involved a much more important and far-reaching matter than any question of diplomatic procedure. I said I had been regretfully forced to the conclusion for some time past by many incidents that the British Government was permitting the impression to be created that it was the great outstanding champion of the Jewish people and the sole defender of the rights of freedom of religion and individual liberty and that it was being held back in its desire to undertake practical steps to protect the Jews in Europe and elsewhere and to safe-guard individual rights and liberties by the unwillingness of this Government to take any action for the relief of these unfortunates beyond words and gestures. Under the circumstances I could not admit any valid reason for the British Government to complain of the natural, logical, and justified desire of this Government to let the American people and the world know its record in assisting Jewish refugees and in endeavoring to safe-guard the individual rights of oppressed people.

I said further that while I would not for a moment assert that such actions were due to or favored by responsible officials of the British Government, it was well-known to us that such a campaign of undermining our foreign policy had been pursued by certain elements in the British Government for a long time. I said he must be fully aware of the complaints which the Secretary had repeatedly made during the last 2 years to the British Government concerning the continuing and insidious and propagandist efforts of certain elements in the British Government against our policy with respect to Vichy and later with respect to our policy in connection with North Africa. I added that while the reply had often been made that the responsible British officials could not control press reaction in England, I could only point out that within the past few days the British Government [Page 146] had very effectively caused the cessation of objectionable comment in the British press on Soviet-Polish relations.

I reiterated that this Government would take such steps as it saw fit to inform public opinion here and abroad of its policies and its record, and that in the present instance I naturally regretted any embarrassment that might have been occasioned Mr. Eden and the British Government but that I considered the step which had been taken not only justified but completely necessary.

Sir Ronald said that he would advise Lord Halifax who would doubtless wish to talk with me personally.

The foregoing is for your information should Mr. Eden or any one else in the Foreign Office discuss the matter with you.

  1. British Minister in the United States.
  2. The text of the Secretary’s note of February 25 had been released to the press on March 3.
  3. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.