851B.20/193: Airgram

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

A–55. Admiral Robert has issued today a communiqué, of which the following is a close translation:

“Since December 19, these French possessions have been the subject of various démarches and requests on the part of the American Government and on the part of representatives of various dissident French authorities. The Admiral-High Commissioner believes it useful to bring to the knowledge of the people of the Antilles and Guiana his position in the matter.

“The relations between these colonies and the United States were defined in a document, the terms of which were fixed on November 7, which consolidated, as a counterpart of the immobilization of the war ships, the strict neutrality of the Antilles and Guiana. In addition, this agreement guaranteed, on the American side, the free navigation and the security in the ports of the Hemisphere of our supply ships, as well as the grant of the dollars necessary for our imports. On the other hand, the other belligerent conceded this definition of our status and of our existence, and accepted and agreed to respect our ships.

“A few days later, November 13, the American Government confirmed to me, with the approval of the President of the United States, this basis of our relations90—on November 13, after the American action in North Africa, after the rupture of diplomatic relations between France and the United States, after the invasion of the free zone of Metropolitan France and the occupation of our frontiers by the German and Italian troops.

“Since then, on the basis of our agreement, the French promises—and mine—have been fulfilled. No consideration, to my knowledge, would authorize the American Government not to hold its own. It has only informed me of its desire to find here a formula better adapted to certain necessities of the war.

[Page 231]

“I am negotiating regarding this matter in the spirit of reciprocal confidence that I have always maintained in our relations with the United States. I am doing everything possible to conserve the political status, permitting the French of the Antilles and Guiana, after almost four years of war, to live honestly, with freedom, without harming anyone, witnesses and examples of the era of peace that humanity aspires to find again; witnesses and examples for France also, since we remain, Antilles and Guiana, the only territories where our flag flies without proximity to another. I excuse the French of London and of Algiers for being a little jealous about it. I would like them to remain so.

“Our material and moral position merits that we hold fast to it at the price of momentary sacrifices should some difficulties of supply arise.

“I think of you, people of the Antilles and Guiana, and I think of our mother France—France, covetous of your blood, generous with her gifts, faithful to your present, anxious for your future. I have served her longer than any of you. I believe I have served her well and have no other end than to serve her well in watching over you. I know how she suffers. I know that she is not dying. I know what she hopes for. There remains for me one ambition at the bottom of my heart, and it is that which guides me: one day to return the Antilles and Guiana free to France liberated.

“If in the harshness of war which destroys the works of men, if in the necessities of war which sometimes scorn human morale, if in the passions of war we should one day be put to the proof, know that what I shall ask you to defend with me is your present and your future—it is today your life, your children, your honor, your property; it is tomorrow your right to liberty.

“Such is my thought, such is the road on which I am leading you, according to the directives that have not varied since the Marshal assumed the responsibility for the destinies of France.”

It has always been Admiral Robert’s practice to issue public statements of the above character, either in speeches on public or semi-public occasions or in communiqués, whenever word as to important matters regarding these possessions has developed into rumors of disturbing character. In addition, since the events of last November, he has given to local propaganda an emphasis on popular loyalty to Marshal Pétain through him (Admiral Robert) rather than direct to the Marshal.

The last general statements of his position were those of last November (my A–123, November 30; despatch No. 316, December 591). The attempted visit of Rear-Admiral Battet, the Guadeloupe incident, recent army exercises and naval gun-practice, all of these and other considerations against the North African background have produced a state of nervousness. The “various démarches and requests [Page 232] of the American Government” were not actually known publicly, although rumors are constantly arising about this or that demand made by us, whether true or not.

  1. See letter of November 14, 1942, from the French High Commissioner in the French West Indies to Mr. Samuel Reber, Foreign Relations, 1942, Vol. ii, p. 648. Mr. Reber, Assistant Chief of the Division of European Affairs, and Adm. John Hoover were sent to Martinique in May 1942 to negotiate with Admiral Robert regarding the relations of the United States with French possessions in the West Indies.
  2. Neither printed.