Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State ( Berle ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Welles )40

Mr. Welles: I think we should go very slowly about the Firestone suggestion that we protest against the labor law in Liberia. On examination it develops that the only major objection is that clause in the law which subjects the company to fine or imprisonment if there is abuse or discrimination against any worker by reason of his race. This, while relatively innocuous in and of itself, the company thinks will form the basis of a great many blackmail suits, augmented by the venality of the Liberian courts.

But it seems to me that our job is to step in if there is denial of justice. I should question whether the disturbance to the company was likely to be as great as they represent.

I think we were wise in not moving in to prevent enactment of the law as Firestone men wished; and my general feeling is that the Firestone people are crying before they are hurt. If the situation arises, we can probably untangle it without too much difficulty.

A[dolf] A. B[erle], Jr.
  1. Marginal notation by Mr. Welles: “I agree—SW.”