851B.20/168a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Consul General in Martinique (Malige)

23. Your 23, January 13, 8 p.m. Please communicate the following message to the High Commissioner:

“1. Although the proposals set forth in the High Commissioner’s note of January 13 may be regarded as a step in the right direction, they represent merely a further elaboration of his previous counterproposals and consequently are inadequate in the light of the present situation as respects France and French territories.

“2. Our position can be put very briefly:

As the Government of the United States has repeatedly stated, it has no territorial designs on the French possessions in the Western Hemisphere and is prepared to continue to recognize French authority over them. However, events in Metropolitan France, where German and Italian control now covers the entire country, have brought about a situation which the United States Government cannot ignore. The fact that the former Vichy regime is no more than a mouthpiece for the Axis Governments is too obvious to require elaboration and deprives that regime of any claim either to represent the French people or to issue orders or to require guarantees, such as those recently sought by the German Government, in the name of France.

“3. In view of the above circumstances the United States Government regards fulfillment of the following conditions essential to further discussion with the High Commissioner, acting in the name of the French people as the recognized trustee of French interests in the Antilles and Guiana.

All communication of whatever nature and by whatever means between the French possessions in the Western Hemisphere and Axis-occupied France must cease, except that, if he so desires, the High Commissioner may make his new status known to Vichy, and may inform any belligerent Government through Vichy of future movements of the Duc d’Aumale, Saint Domingue, Guadeloupe, Angouleme, St. Laurent, Trois Ilets and of such other vessels as may be used for the purpose of supplying the French possessions in the Western Hemisphere. All such communications are to be subject to the approval of the United States Government before being sent.
In connection with their joint economy, it has become necessary for all countries in the Western Hemisphere, whether at war, or in a non-belligerent or neutral status, to collaborate both as regards shipping and supplies, in order to minimize the shock of war to the Hemisphere as a whole. In view of this fact and in order that the French Antilles and Guiana may continue to share in the Hemisphere economy it is necessary that the High Commissioner collaborate with the United States by making available, although operating under the French flag and with French crews, the Oregon, Sagittaire and the tankers. The routing of these vessels would have to be under United States control but the rights of France would be appropriately safeguarded.”

4. The Department desires to be consulted before any communication is sent to Vichy by the High Commissioner in accordance with, sub-paragraph a.

5. In addition to handing the above message to Admiral Robert you should inform him orally as follows:

There apparently exists a difference of opinion between the High Commissioner and this Government with regard to the nature and scope of the “Gentleman’s Agreement”. Admiral Robert seems to regard this informal modus vivendi as a rigid undertaking having the authority and inflexibility of a written signed agreement. However, (as indicated in the Department’s telegram no. 252 of November 1279) this Government merely expressed its willingness at that time to regard the results of the negotiations prior to November 7 as a basis; for its future relations with the High Commissioner, at the same time expressing its readiness to examine with him “whatever aspects of our relations may be necessitated by the new situation”. Obviously the situation in Metropolitan France since November 7 has changed and! is continuing to change in a number of important respects. The situation in the world at large has likewise changed and is continuing to change in important respects. Under these circumstances this Government feels fully justified in taking these changes into consideration in its future dealings with the French possessions in the Western Hemisphere. If the High Commissioner is unwilling to take this view of the basis for our future relations, this Government may be reluctantly compelled to consider it necessary to withdraw the gentle men’s agreement as any basis whatever for future relations.