Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of African Affairs (Villard)

I called on Vice President Simpson7 at his request and he informed me that a telegram had been received from President Tubman to the effect that the British Government had agreed to supply a trained Colonial Administrator to assist the Government of Liberia in handling problems relating to the native peoples of the hinterland. Mr. Simpson was not familiar with the background of this matter and could not explain the circumstances under which the arrangements had apparently been made with the British for the services of a colonial administrator. Mr. Simpson asked me what we thought of this development.

I expressed considerable surprise that the Liberian Government had entered into any such agreement. Mr. Simpson confessed that he too was at a loss to explain this seeming departure from a well-established [Page 589] Liberian policy, namely, not to encourage British influence in Liberia. I said that this development, however, might possibly tie in with certain signs we had noted in regard to increasing British interest in the country because of the recent growth of American interests, such as the port construction, economic mission, trade development, etc.

I suggested to Mr. Simpson that a British colonial expert in Liberia would be in an excellent position to obtain information about conditions relating to native welfare and to publicize those conditions if he saw fit. I said that, quite frankly, we had been somewhat concerned at the possibility of the British or some other colonial power making an issue in San Francisco of native conditions in Liberia if we continued to press our own strong views concerning trusteeship and general improvement for the lot of dependent peoples everywhere. I observed that the administration of the Liberian hinterland left a great deal to be desired and would undoubtedly be a source of public criticism in the near future by those who were beginning to become familiar with those conditions. I suggested the possibility that a British colonial administrator in Liberia might take advantage of the opportunity to counteract American views about dependent peoples under British control by presenting a picture of conditions in Liberia which was in some measure at least a responsibility of the United States.

To forestall any possible attempt by the British to give publicity to conditions in Liberia, I suggested that it might be advantageous to the Liberian Government if it could say that these problems were already under discussion with the United States Government and that a general program looking toward improved conditions was being worked out. I said I felt sure that this Government, if requested, would be in a position to assist Liberia in finding qualified personnel to advise and consult on administrative problems in the hinterland, as well as in matters affecting Liberia’s welfare. If Liberia wished to take such matters up with us, we would be prepared to discuss them at any time.

Mr. Simpson said that he appreciated the foregoing comments and that he would send a telegram immediately to Monrovia strongly advising against the employment of a British colonial administrator. He said it was his personal view that the British should not increase their influence in Liberia and that he would urge this viewpoint upon President Tubman. He made no comment upon my suggestion that public criticism might soon develop in regard to conditions in Liberia or that the United States would be glad to discuss such subjects with the Liberian Government.

Henry S. Villard
  1. Charles L. Simpson, Vice President of Liberia.