881.00/2739: Airgram

The Consul at Rabat (Mayer) to the Secretary of State


A–2. The Nationalist leaders Hadj Ahmed Balafrej and Mohamed Lyazidi called at the Consulate yesterday to inform it of the intention of their party to present in the near future to the Sultan, the Resident General and the American and British Consulates a memorial calling for a revision of the international status of Morocco. They said that the wording of the memorial had not yet been definitely decided, but the tentative draft which they read called for nothing less than independence. I told them that although I should be glad to see a copy of the document when its text was definitely decided, I did not think the Consulate could appropriately receive formally such a paper.

In reply to an inquiry concerning the nature of their complaints against the Protectorate authorities, my visitors replied that Morocco was being administered solely for the benefit of the French. They would not concede that the country had benefited in any way from French administration. They hedged in replying to a further inquiry as to whether or not they thought that Morocco was prepared to rule itself, saying simply that they would abide by whatever the Sultan decided. I asked if their movement enjoyed the Sultan’s approval to which they replied that they had reason to believe that he was informed about their plans and that they hoped to obtain his [Page 528] support. They made no satisfactory answer to a question concerning the number of Moroccans who shared their views.

In reply to their request for my views and advice, I stated that I did not think that the American people and Government would look with favor upon any political movement which would tend to distract us from our present all-encompassing absorption in the prosecution of the war. Having in mind our desire to see agricultural production increased in Morocco, I suggested that the best way to evidence their sincere interest in democratic government would be to encourage Moroccans to contribute as much as they could to the war effort and thereby to earn the gratitude and admiration of the United Nations. I also advanced the opinion that broad changes might be anticipated after the war in the concepts of colonial administration and the administration of mandates and protected countries. My interlocutors replied that they could not wait until after the war to take action because then France, having presumably regained her power, could not be driven from her privileged position in Morocco. They protested that they had no intention of provoking a disturbance, but added that they did not know what their partisans might do if the French took reprisals against them for presenting the memorial. In closing the conversation, they said that they wanted the American Government to know that their plans had not been instigated by the Germans, a theory that, they said, the French would be sure to advance. They affirmed that they were true democrats and, in support of their assertion, added that before the war they had been in close touch with the French socialist and communist parties.

In view of the potential consequences of the move contemplated by the nationalists, I deemed it expedient to acquaint the Protectorate authorities with the information I had received and therefore called yesterday afternoon upon the Chief of the Civil Cabinet. I told M. de Hose that I had learned on what I thought was good authority (I did not of course state who my informants were) of the nationalists’ plan to present a petition for far-reaching reforms to the Sultan and Resident. I suggested that the authors of the petition might hope thereby to provoke the French authorities into taking harsh repressive measures which would enable them to emerge as martyrs of the nationalist cause, not only in their own country but also in Great Britain and the United States, where they might hope to gain the support of an aroused public opinion. M. de Rose told me that the Residency had received similar reports from other sources but had understood that the plan had been abandoned for the time being. He added that the British Consul General had called on the Resident General on New Year’s eve to inform him about rumors to the same effect which had been reported by the British Consul at Fez. M. de [Page 529] Rose assured me that the Residency would not take any hasty action against the nationalist agitators.

I called this morning on the Resident General, at the latter’s request. He thanked me for the information I had given M. de Rose and referred to the remark that he had made to me on New Year’s day (see my A–1, January 4, 10 a.m.29). In view of the reports he had received concerning the alleged plans of the Nationalists, he had made a point of asking the Sultan if he had any changes or reforms to propose, pointing out that under the Protectorate treaty it behooved the Sultan, rather than the latter’s subjects, to propose changes and reforms. The Sultan denied that he desired any change in the administrative structure of Morocco and took occasion to express his satisfaction over the dahir concerning the instruction of Moslem girls, which is referred to below.

I pointed out to the Resident how, in view of the interest of the American Government and people in the broad principles of the Atlantic Charter30 and the Four Freedoms,31 any harsh measures which might be taken against nationalist agitators in Morocco might cause profound reactions in American opinion. The Resident assured me that he would deal “with justice but firmness” with any situation that might arise. He would not in any event take preventative measures (i.e. arrest the agitators before they acted) as some of his predecessors had done under similar circumstances. He then inquired about the extent of American interest in native affairs. I said that I thought it was considerable and, in answer to his further inquiry, indicated that it was not centered particularly on Morocco but extended to all Arab countries generally. He asked if I thought the Arab nationalists had received any encouragement from Americans, to which I replied that I thought they may have received some encouragement in the past from certain Americans who were no longer in Morocco.…

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

M. Puaux then spoke of the reforms decided upon or contemplated for Morocco. A dahir providing for the instruction of Moslem girls had already been signed. The Sultan was very interested in this question and the dahir had been prepared at his suggestion. Reforms in the system of moslem justice were also being studied (I had learned previously from a Residency official that what is contemplated is the training of legal advisers to the cadis—the dispensers of native justice—in an effort to bring about greater uniformity in the interpretation [Page 530] and application of Koranic and customary laws). Mr. Puaux mentioned other measures which are projected. In answer to my inquiry if greater opportunity for education was to be given to the natives, he replied in the affirmative, adding that in particular the establishment of trade and agricultural schools was contemplated. He said that he had been shocked to find upon his arrival in Morocco that not more had been done in this sense for the natives.

The Resident General also volunteered the information that he had been studying the cases of the exiled nationalists Brahim El Wazzani (who is interned at Itzer in the Sahara) and Si Allal Fassi (who is interned in Gabon32). He had decided, he told me in confidence, to permit El Wazzani to take up residence at Mazagan, where he would enjoy a better climate and the usual amenities of Moroccan life; he had concluded after careful consideration, however, that he could not permit the return of Allal Fassi, whom he described as an incorrigible fanatic.

Following this interview with M. Puaux, I called upon the British Consul General. Mr. Bird told me that he had visited M. Puaux on December 31, following the receipt of more alarming reports from the Consulate at Fez. He read to me extracts from reports he made to his Government following this conversation with the Resident General. I noted with interest that Mr. Bird had reported that M. Puaux felt, as I had, that the plan of the nationalists was to provoke precipitate action on the part of the Protectorate authorities in an endeavor to arouse sympathy abroad, particularly in America and Britain. The report also stated that M. Puaux had expressed concern that the nationalists may have received encouragement from certain American officials.

Mr. Bird shares my view that since apparently neither the British nor the American Governments are desirous of assuming any responsibility for the maintenance of order in Morocco, it is unfair to the French to give any encouragement to Moroccan nationalist agitators or to the intriguers in the Sherifian hierarchy.… We are both inclined to believe, furthermore, that M. Puaux intends to respect the obligations that France assumed when it took on the role of protecting power in Morocco and, unlike most of Marshal Lyautey’s33 successors, will not attempt to administer the country primarily for the benefit of French commercial and industrial enterprises.

The foregoing has been reported in detail not so much because serious trouble is anticipated (although the possibility must not be overlooked) as because this would seem to be an appropriate occasion to review our attitude toward the French administration in Morocco. [Page 531] The writer does not believe that Morocco can be said to have any national aspirations.…

Neither group34 is representative of the Moroccan people as a whole, nor, it is suggested, merits encouragement from the American authorities. Yet both groups appear to feel that they have received, in different ways, such encouragement.…

  1. Not printed.
  2. Joint statement by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, August 14, 1941, Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i, p. 367.
  3. Contained in President Roosevelt’s message to the Congress, January 6, 1941, Congressional Record, vol. 87, pt. 1, p. 44.
  4. In French Equatorial Africa.
  5. Louis H. G. Lyautey, first French Resident General in Morocco following the establishment of the French Protectorate in 1912.
  6. i.e., the officials of the Shereefian Government and the intellectual class.