851B.20/251: Airgram

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

A–94. As a matter of record, I transmit below in translation the text of a memorandum handed to me by Admiral Robert during an interview in which I asked him to state frankly the nature of his grievances against us; in reply, the Admiral handed me the memorandum, which he had already prepared in view of our conference:

“The events of November left a stable basis for the continuance of relations between the United States and the French possessions in America, namely, the Gentlemen’s Agreement of November 7, 1942, confirmed by a letter of November 13 from Mr. Reber.96 As foreseen by this letter, the necessary measures were taken at Washington and at New York in December, as soon as I was able to send there on mission Comptroller Lenoir in order to adjust to the new state of things the mechanism of the economic life of these possessions. Our relations were therefore established in December on a basis that is still valid and were developing in a satisfactory manner.

“On December 18, you informed me in an official note97 that in order to insure a proper service of supply to the populations of the Antilles a greater cooperation appeared necessary and your Government requests the placing at its disposition of the merchant ships immobilized in the Antilles.

“I reply on the 29th98 by explaining the political and material disadvantages which would result therefrom for these possessions. I propose nevertheless a collaboration of shipping at least limited to the Caribbean, at the same time pointing out the consequences that I must fear and asking you for guarantee in this respect.

“Since that time, because of the American Government, our relations are abnormal. On my side, all my efforts tend to modify in conformity with your material demands our existing accords. They are the propositions in my letter of December 29, in my letter of January 13,99 in my letter of February 24.1 During all of this period I do not cease to make démarches to my Government in order to be in a position to give you satisfaction without compromising the interests of which I have charge.

“On the American side, none of my acts of goodwill is taken into consideration. In contrast, we are the object of official injunctions (your notes of January 13 and January 252), of semi-official threats (conversation between Admiral Horne and Comptroller Lenoir, messages transmitted by Admiral Battet and by Mr. Morin de Linclays). [Page 237]Then the month of March brings an absolute blockade of our service of supply by means of the suspension of every administrative measure concerning us and the unloosening of a violent campaign of lies directed in the press and by the official services of the American radio.

“The avowed end of these inhuman and unjust measures is to bring about in these possessions a political change contrary to French interests of which I have charge by bringing about the annulment of the accords in vigor between your Government and myself. I review these interests, as they have been conserved up to the present:

  • “1). Maintenance of French sovereignty by (a) the spiritual bond with the mother-country, a bond that conserves for each inhabitant of these islands the full rights of citizenship; (b) the fact that I alone am charged with the defense and communications.
  • “2). The safeguard of the shipping immobilized in the ports of the Antilles.
  • “3). The security of navigation of the ships assigned to the service of supply.
  • “4). The integrity of the gold stock belonging to the Bank of France and stored in Fort Desaix, which must be maintained intact until the day when it will be returned to the disposal of the Bank free of foreign control.

“I am determined to defend these interests up to the point of sacrifice. I desire that your Government be good enough to understand that my attitude in fact has always been pro-American and that I cannot consider the measures taken by it since the first of March other than anti-French. I do not think that this situation is beneficial to the United States or to France. I therefore ask that your Government, which created it, be good enough to take into consideration again the basis of our relations, not to refuse the offers of economic cooperation that I have or will be able to make it and, by revoking the measures taken in March, return to these possessions their right to life.

“I point out that I am ready, since February 24, to assign the Sagittaire and the Oregon to maritime traffic in this Hemisphere. I am pursuing, with the firm hope of succeeding, my démarches with a view to assigning the tankers to that traffic. I am also ready to discuss any amendment to our accords that would take into consideration the French interests mentioned above.”

Malige

Note—I should add that the occasion for the question and the reply referred to in the opening paragraph of this airgram was a complete review of relations between the United States and Admiral Robert, preparatory to my forthcoming period of consultation at the Department with respect to those relations.

  1. Letter not printed.
  2. For substance of note, see telegram No. 275, December 17, 1942, to the Consul General in Martinique, Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. ii, p. 650.
  3. For Admiral Robert’s reply, see letter of December 29, 1942, to the Consul General in Martinique, ibid., p. 652.
  4. Concerning the letter of January 13, see telegram No. 23, January 13, 8 p.m., from the Consul General in Martinique, p. 221.
  5. Not printed.
  6. For latter, see telegram No. 23, January 23, 6 p.m., to the Consul General in Martinique, p. 223.