890F.001 Abdul Aziz/3–345

The Minister in Saudi Arabia (Eddy) to the Secretary of State

[Extract]
No. 80

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(c) The Meeting of the President and the King.

Even the slightest incident of the historic meeting of these two great men deserves to be recorded.18 During the more informal visit on deck before lunch (11:30 to 1:00 p.m., February 14) a very friendly relationship was quickly established. The King spoke of being the “twin” brother of the President, in years, in responsibility as Chief of State, and in physical disability. The President said, “but you are fortunate to still have the use of your legs to take you wherever you choose to go.” The King replied, “It is you, Mr. President, who are fortunate. My legs grow feebler every year; with your more reliable wheel-chair you are assured that you will arrive.” The President then said, “I have two of these chairs, which are also twins. Would you accept one as a personal gift from me?” The King said, “Gratefully. I shall use it daily and always recall affectionately the giver, my great and good friend.”19

After lunch, the King made an equally sincere and characteristic gesture in offering Arab coffee to his host, as related in the appendix.20 They talked as friends of the responsibilities of governing, of the encouraging progress of the Allies in the war, of compassion for the multitudes, rendered destitute through oppression or famine. The King smiled in knowing assent to the President’s jovial confidence about the English: “We like the English, but we also know the English and the way they insist on doing good themselves. You and I want freedom and prosperity for our people and their neighbors after the [Page 8]war. How and by whose hand freedom and prosperity arrive concerns us but little. The English also work and sacrifice to bring freedom and prosperity to the world, but on the condition that it be brought by them and marked ‘Made in Britain’.” Later in the day the King told me, “Never have I heard the English so accurately described.”

More important, the King told me several times, “I have never met the equal of the President in character, wisdom and gentility.” At mixed receptions, as at a banquet after his return to Jidda, the King (in the presence of Saudi and British notables) referred to the President in glowing terms not used in referring to other persons met on his voyage. The princes and ministers who accompanied him have made it abundantly clear that the King was captivated by the President. He told Shaikh Hafiz Wahba, “The high point of my entire life is my meeting with President Roosevelt.”

When the King told me in private audience February 20 about his conversations with Mr. Churchill (reported in Legation’s Despatch No. 74, February 2221), he said to me, “The contrast between the President and Mr. Churchill is very great. Mr. Churchill speaks deviously, evades understanding, changes the subject to avoid commitment, forcing me repeatedly to bring him back to the point. The President seeks understanding in conversations; his effort is to make the two minds meet; to dispel darkness and shed light upon the issue.”

(d) Spheres of Influence vs. the Open Door.

It is not my place to report on the confidential conversations between the President and the King. An agreed memorandum of conversation on certain specific subjects was preserved by each, and (with the permission of the President) a third copy was transmitted by hand to the Secretary of State. One topic of general interest to our future in Saudi Arabia, discussed in general terms, was not recorded in that memorandum. It has been very much on the mind of the King, who has referred to it since, and I believe his interest in the topic should be a matter of record.

The King never mentioned supply or subsidy to the President except as economic aid is involved in this topic. He inquired, “What am I to believe when the British tell me that my future is with them and not with America? They constantly say, or imply, that America’s political interest in Saudi Arabia is a transitory war-interest; her aid as short-lived as Lend-Lease; that Saudi Arabia lies in a path bounded with sterling controls, connected by British communications; defended by the Royal Navy and Army; that my security and economic stability are bound up with British foreign policy; and that America, after the war, will return to her preoccupations in the Western Hemisphere. In short, they tell me that the joint ‘partnership’ in Saudi Arabia is [Page 9]temporary, and that Britain alone will continue as my partner in the future as in the early years of my reign. On the strength of this argument they seek a priority for Britain in Saudi Arabia. What am I to believe?”

The President replied that plans for the post-war world envisage a decline of spheres of influence in favor of the Open Door; that the United States hopes the door of Saudi Arabia will be open for her and for other nations, with no monopoly by anyone; for only by free exchange of goods, services and opportunities can prosperity circulate to the advantage of free peoples.

The King expressed gratification over this prospect, but it was evident that he expected British pressure to continue as before to claim a sphere of influence around and over his country. This fear is no doubt well-grounded and will be dispelled when and if the United States gives material substance to plans for long range economic and political accords with Saudi Arabia22 to open up the Open Door.

Respectfully yours,

William A. Eddy

[President Roosevelt, aboard the USS Quincy, left Great Bitter Lake at 6 p.m., on February 14, 1945, for Alexandria. There during the afternoon of the following day the President conferred with British Prime Minister Churchill for about three and a half hours. At this meeting they discussed the subject of Japan and the war in the Pacific (see Department of State Bulletin, February 25, 1945, page 290). After this conversation the President left Alexandria on the Quincy on his homeward journey. He reached Washington on the morning of February 28.]

  1. For an account of further observations by President Roosevelt on his conversation with the King, see letter of March 5 by Lieutenant Colonel Hoskins, p. 690.
  2. The wheel chair presented to the King proved not entirely satisfactory because of its size, and the President requested Mrs. Roosevelt to arrange for a shipment of a new one to the King. This was done in August 1945.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Post, p. 689.
  5. For documentation on these matters, see pp. 845 ff.