881.00/2738: Telegram

The Chargé at Tangier (Childs) to the Secretary of State

6. Mulay el Larbi now in Tangier representing Sultan in estate negotiations called today and stated Nationalists would present this week a petition to Sultan embodying their aspirations. He added Sultan had asked him to inform me and my British colleague that these aspirations met with Sultan’s approval.

I made no observation as El Larbi is Shereefian functionary and in my opinion method chosen by Sultan for communication to American Government is improper and acknowledgment of it would have been inconsistent with obligations we assumed when recognizing French Protectorate.

I dined a few days ago with Marchal in Rabat where Puaux, French Resident General, was only other guest. At end of evening Puaux remarked “You have seen from your visit Morocco is calm with exception of some agitation in Fez which appears to have been stimulated from outside sources. Do you think Doolittle40 could have had anything to do with it”. I replied I did not see how Doolittle could be responsible as, so far as I knew, he was in Cairo.

Puaux remarked British Consul General had called on him and he was instructing his Consul in Fez to avoid giving any aid to Nationalists. Puaux asked if I had any idea who might be responsible for inciting Nationalists.

I replied I had no exact knowledge on subject but it was possible some irresponsible officers might have spoken in a manner which Nationalists might have misinterpreted.

Puaux then asked if he might assume any conversations of such officers with Nationalists were conducted on their own responsibility.

I replied it seemed perfectly obvious to me it was not in our common interest when winning the war was a paramount consideration that disorder should occur in French Morocco hampering the military effort. Puaux and Marchal replied that certainly seemed self-evident.

Puaux said he had had an audience within last few days with Sultan and had asked him to state his desires. Sultan had replied he was satisfied with reforms recently introduced in female education and justice and had nothing more to request.

Fez is extremely sensitive nerve center of Nationalism. Some American officers with more gift of gab than prudence may have encouraged [Page 534] Moroccans to believe we were ready to take their part against the French.

I do not consider it in our interest to provoke political activity in French Morocco at this time, or to give least opportunity to Moors to play us off against French as they are only too ready to do. Wilson’s self-determination41 when heralded after last war as equally applicable to all peoples set off a powder magazine in Egypt, and premature talking in Morocco about Atlantic Charter and Four Freedoms, in respect of a people who are several generations behind Egyptians in political development, is dangerous. It is unsettling for both Moroccans and French, creating in the minds of the one impossible [impossibility] of fulfillment in immediate or near future and distrust and suspicions in minds of other, already sufficiently distrustful of us.

I understand that in part of Italy occupied by Allies political activity has been prohibited on grounds of military necessity. If this is so in a relatively mature country, it should be the more essential in a backward country such as Morocco where native political development is still largely in a stage of feudalism.

Department will note Russell, Mayer and I are in complete agreement concerning this problem.

Repeated to Rabat with request that true readings be sent by pouch to Algiers, Casablanca and Tunis.

  1. Hooker A. Doolittle, First Secretary of Legation in Egypt.
  2. A reference to President Woodrow Wilson’s policies as expressed in such public statements as the “Fourteen Points” speech (address to a Joint Session of Congress, January 8, 1918) and the “Mount Vernon” speech of July 4, 1918, Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol. i, pp. 12 and 268, respectively.