Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

Mr. Richard Law, British Minister of State, called at his request. He said that the British had an unusually difficult political situation in relation to the general question of commercial policy after the war. He stated that certain cross sections of British businessmen were in a state of fear.

He then brought up the economic discussions relating particularly to Article 7 of Lend Lease5 and of Lend Lease generally in connection with the settlements between our two countries. He dwelt at some length on the extreme difficulties with which Great Britain and the [Page 51] British Commonwealth were confronted and said that they needed a more elaborate discussion of any Lend Lease settlement that might be undertaken and that they would like most earnestly to request such an opportunity without being under too severe pressure as to time. He said that at the present our governmental agencies such as FEA were bearing down too severely in their restrictions of exports and urged me to get FEA to be more liberal during the coming months.

He then made a special request that discussions of Lend Lease, as carried into commercial policy mainly by Article 7, be postponed until next fall on account of British difficulties and their preoccupation with the war. I said that I could appreciate more or less what he said about the situation of his Government and country. I then proceeded to review the indispensable necessity for a broader and more liberal commercial policy in the whole international situation if we were to increase and broaden production and consumption generally after the war; that this course would require Herculean efforts, especially on the part of the United States and Great Britain, efforts such as Great Britain put forth during the years following the British-French commercial treaty in 1860.6 I said that unless the businessmen in our two countries recognized that we had to turn over a new page in economic affairs and go out as resolutely as the British did to support and carry forward a suitable policy, there would simply be no foundation for any stable peace structure in the future. On the contrary, there would be the inevitable seeds of future wars in the form of vast unemployment and hunger throughout the world. I elaborated on these phases. I then said that if we postponed such a tremendous undertaking, many of its supporters would take entirely too much for granted and would become quiescent and inactive, which would be fatal. I stated that I would have his Government consider this phase very carefully and see if in any event it could now start a real revival and awakening in support of the long-view program of commercial policy in the world situation, such as I described. I said that this was all-important.

I then spoke generally about the British situation in relation to that of the world and answered his statement about how desperate the British situation toward all economic matters was by referring, with apologies, to the long fight of myself and associates for our trade agreements policy, which commenced in 1916,7 and favorable action was had by Congress in 19348 when the country was overwhelmingly low tariff in its views. I said we proceeded resolutely to continue to go forward with our fight by making practical application [Page 52] of the policy under the act of Congress step by step over a period of nine years, at the end of which this policy was generally recognized by public opinion in this country. I added that I might be pardoned for suggesting that the British Government and British majorities would be submerged by high pressure selfish or prejudiced minorities unless it organized and fought as we had fought to make the first serious inroads in international economic isolation. I said that there was no other course except failure. I then remarked that, in no spirit of criticism but illustrative of the drifting policy in Great Britain, for some time we had seen the two opposite extremes of thought bantering and badgering each other about the question of dependent peoples; that the leftists would go their own distance and take charge of colonies and supervise the treatment of their populations by the parent governments. On the other hand the British Prime Minister merely stood on the policy that Great Britain would not be dismembered while he was in office. This included the Indian situation among others. I said that if all nations having special relations with backward peoples would proceed simultaneously with an awakening and a general forward movement relating to more opportunities, more facilities, more encouragement and any other feasible material cooperation to the end that all dependent peoples would make greatly increased efforts to improve their levels of existence, such as the course and policy of the United States toward the Philippines, this would be a grand thing in the end for all; that it would increase production and employment and purchasing power for surplus-producing countries, et cetera, et cetera. Mr. Law did not take serious issue with me on any of these matters.

I summed up by saying that it would be very hazardous to wait until the war was over when political chaos set in and emotional psychology got out of control for us to undertake these great tasks then, both political and economic.

The conversation was very agreeable and Mr. Law seemed in a much troubled state of mind about the problems in his country.

C[ordell] H[ull]
  1. Article VII of the Lend-Lease Agreement of February 23, 1942, is quoted in the memorandum by the Secretary of State to President Roosevelt, September 30, p. 61.
  2. Treaty of Commerce between Great Britain and France, signed at Paris, January 23, 1860, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. i, p. 13.
  3. See The Memoirs of Cordell Hull (New York, The Macmillan Company, 1948), vol. i, pp. 81–85.
  4. Trade Agreements Act, June 12, 1934; 48 Stat. 943.