Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Long)

The British Ambassador came in to see me by appointment arranged by the Secretary’s office. Prior to the arrival of Lord Halifax but after reading the ticker text35 of the quotation from the Caroe telegram to the British Foreign Office, and after talking again with Senator Connally36 I had talked with Senator Chandler.37 I told Senator Chandler that we were in a position of finding that a confidential message between the units of another government had been published without the authority and without the consent of a friendly government. I asked Senator Chandler if he would divulge the source of his information. He declined to mention the source. Upon pressing he stated that he obtained the copy directly from a high United States official and he broadly indicated that that official had obtained either directly or indirectly the document from some source in the British Embassy itself. In justification of his stand he aggressively [Page 244] stated that his original statement had been made to the effect that Phillips was “persona non grata to the British Government”, whereas Lord Halifax stated in the reply to the effect that the British Government had never declared that Phillips was persona non grata, and that it looked to those who did not examine the niceties of the language that he himself (Chandler) had been placed in a false position. Consequently he stated that he had no recourse but to publish the text of this telegram which showed on the face of it that his original statement was correct and that the British answer was evasive and wrong and harmful to him. I explained to him the serious deterioration which might take place at this particular time in regard to the attitude of a large number of our people toward Great Britain. He said that he realized that there was that danger but that the reason for it was the position in which he had been placed by the British Ambassador and his statement under reference.

When Lord Halifax came in he took up the subject and said that he wanted to discuss it separately from the merits or demerits of the telegram itself or of the matter in the original letter of Mr. Phillips addressed to the President. He said that he considered these two matters as within the provinces respectively of the two Governments. However, he would seriously question the propriety and the ethics of the publication by an official of this Government of a message which must have been known to be confidential and which was an internal message between different elements of his own Government. He thought the situation might deteriorate if something were not said on the part of the Secretary of State or by Senator Connally, though he preferred that a statement be made by the Secretary of State which would draw attention to the fact that the publication of a confidential message of another friendly government without previous consent of that government was hard to defend on ethical grounds or on grounds of propriety. He also feared that the publication in London of these particular facts would cause a considerable revulsion of feeling there against Americans because of the unethical use of information.

I stated to Lord Halifax that we, of course, regretted the publication by any official of an unauthorized message without obtaining the previous consent of the government concerned; that the Department of State always followed the procedure unless we were at war with a government and that in the publication of our formal documents we always obtained the consent of the government on the other end of the correspondence before publishing the papers. However, in this case it seemed that the original source of the leak was British and not American; that no American authority could properly have this information unless it had come from some British source. I further stated that I had talked to Senator Chandler and that it was my belief, [Page 245] after talking with, him, that the person from whom Chandler obtained a copy of this paper had himself either directly or indirectly obtained it from some person in the British Embassy itself. That, I considered, should be taken into serious consideration in evaluating this whole incident.

Lord Halifax replied that he realized that it was probably true that the information had come either directly from his Embassy or from one of the affiliated missions in Washington. He was not prepared to say just where and how, but he thought he was on the trail of discovering where information came from. He was concerned, however, not now so much with that for he considered that an internal question for his own attention, as he was concerned with the serious deterioration of American relations in England and he hoped very much that the Secretary of State would be able to make some prompt reference to it which would express his disappointment or disapproval of the act.

I told the Ambassador that I had talked this morning with Senator Connally on the basis of a statement he might make in the premises as they existed prior to the publication by Senator Chandler of this latest message. However, the facts had changed since then so that I had subsequently talked to Senator Connally and he felt that the matter should go over until Tuesday and that in the meantime it might be considered what steps the British Embassy might take. However, I stated that I would bring the matter to the attention of the Secretary of State and would advise him that the Ambassador thought it important to make some prompt statement and if it was possible to reach Mr. Hull before Monday, and during Sunday, that I would be glad to bring it to his attention, but that he was inaccessible for the rest of this day.

The Ambassador did not indicate that he would make any statement public or that he would treat it in any way except as a matter of internal administration in his own Embassy and in connection with the affiliated missions.

B[reckinridge] L[ong]

Text of United Press Ticker News Extract

Senator Chandler released the purported text of a cable from a British official in India declaring former Ambassador William Phillips “persona non grata” and stating that “we could not again receive him” should he be sent back to India.

[Page 246]

Chandler, who made a Senate speech on Wednesday denouncing “British interference” in American diplomatic affairs, released the cable in reply to charges by the British Ambassador, the Earl of Halifax, that “persons in responsible quarters” had made assertions “which are quite untrue”.

The cable released by Chandler was signed by Sir Olaf Caroe, of the Department of External Affairs in New Delhi, India, and was sent to the Secretary of State for India in London. It termed Phillips “persona non grata” and revealed that the British have used censorship in an effort to block republication of the Pearson article in India. No date was on the cable as released by Chandler.

“We have stopped this particular message from coming into the country,” the cable said, “and are doing our best to prevent entry of newspapers or letters carrying text of Pearson article.

“It is regrettable to have to use censorship in defense of such attacks by our greatest ally.

“We understand designation of Phillips is still President’s Personal Representative in India. Whether or not he was connected in any way with leakage, views he has stated would make it impossible for us to do other than regard him as persona non grata and we could not again receive him. His views are not what we are entitled to expect from a professedly friendly envoy. Viceroy has seen this telegram.”

  1. Printed as annex to this memorandum.
  2. Senator Tom Connally, Texas, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  3. Senator A. B. Chandler, Kentucky.