The French Military Mission to the Department of State
The French Committee of National Liberation, which was created especially to ensure the administration, under a single provisional authority, of all French territory now under the control of the enemy, had had cognizance for several weeks past, through sources reporting identical information, of the will of the French population of Martinique and of Gaudeloupe to cast off the dictatorial regime of Admiral Robert and join other French territories united to resume the war in intimate and confident cooperation with all the Allies of France and, in particular, with the United States.
The Committee appointed Mr. Hoppenot, on July 3, 1943, Delegate Extraordinary to take over the powers of Admiral Robert, ensure the administration of the West Indies in the name of the French Committee of National Liberation, and centralize all negotiations with the American Government relative to economic, military and naval cooperation of the French Committee in all matters which pertain to the West Indies.
This decision of the National Committee was communicated to the American Government by Mr. Hoppenot himself.
The Committee was advised by Mr. Hoppenot of several questions mentioned by Mr. Atherton as being of particular interest to the American Government. Mr. Hoppenot is authorized by the Committee to state in writing, in the latter’s name, to the American Government that:
- The gold of the Bank of France now deposited in Martinique will be inventoried at the time of the transfer of the powers of Admiral Robert to Mr. Hoppenot with a view to giving Admiral Robert a receipt for delivery. The French Committee could agree to an American technical expert assisting Mr. Hoppenot for the purposes of the inventory in question. The inventoried gold could be temporarily retained in Martinique.
- The French Committee is introducing into Martinique and Gaudeloupe rules regarding exchange prohibiting transfers of credits [Page 247]to foreign countries and creating, in connection with these matters, a system which conforms to the regulations which may be established in agreement with the authorities who are charged with the direction of economic warfare waged in common.
- The commercial tonnage of the West Indies, while remaining under the French flag, may be placed at the disposal of the Allied effort under a form similar to that adopted for the French Merchant Marine in Africa, and the Commission for the Merchant Marine is ready to issue all necessary technical instructions to Mr. Hoppenot to that end or to negotiate the necessary arrangements with the Allied authorities in North Africa.
- The French Committee recognizes the military interests of the United States in the Caribbean zone and agrees that, as the result of such interests, the High Command of the entire area should be placed in the hands of the American military authorities. The French military authorities in the West Indies will therefore be ordered to collaborate with the competent American authorities in the closest and most trustful manner in the territories in question, which are subject to French sovereignty, for the defense of the Caribbean Sea.
Mr. Hoppenot likewise advised the Committee that, until the United States and Great Britain have made official their relationship with the French Committee, it would not be possible to deal with Mr. Hoppenot as Delegate Extraordinary of the French Committee.
Mr. Hoppenot ought, therefore, to be considered simply as the de facto French authority in the West Indies until the time arrives when the status of the relations of the French Committee and the United States and England has been determined. The Committee certainly realizes the juridical difficulties resulting from the fact that the French Committee is not officially recognized by the American Government. Although the American Government has established de facto relations as regards many subjects and agrees, consequently, to discuss matters of all kinds with the Committee, the latter can understand that the American Government wishes to avoid making, with respect to the West Indies, a decision which might, in its eyes, assume the aspect of official recognition. But, it is certain that this passing difficulty may, with mutual good will, be the object of a solution which, while accepting Mr. Hoppenot as Extraordinary Delegate of the French Committee, would not prejudice the settlement of the question of recognition, with respect to which the American Government wishes to continue to reserve its decision.
For many years, Martinique and the West Indies have had an essential status which is comparable, particularly as regards political rights, to the status of the French Departments. Moreover, one of the essential objects of the French Committee has been to place under a single central administration, in accordance with French tradition, all French overseas territories. The abandonment, even temporary, [Page 248]of this prerogative, even if the Committee were so disposed, as regards the West Indies more especially, would create in the public opinion of all French territories, as well as in France itself, a feeling of reprobation which might well impair the moral authority which is indispensable to the Committee for directing into the war all the forces and resources available to France.
For all the foregoing reasons, the French Committee feels that it must appeal in the most pressing manner to the spirit of understanding of the American Government with a view to achieving a satisfactory settlement of these questions, both as regards the preoccupations of the American Government as well as regards the French point of view.