Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Dependent Area Affairs (Gerig)37

Subject: Draft Reply to British Ambassador Regarding Mandated Territories

In view of the Secretary’s note to Mr. Villard of February 25, in which he questions the desirability of the United States asserting its right to be a state directly concerned because of the precedent it might set for the assertion of similar rights by the Soviet and British Governments as to the Pacific islands, I have drafted the attached alternative38 form of reply.

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This reply has the effect of maintaining our position under the Treaty of Versailles and the various conventions to be regarded as a state directly concerned, but does not ask the British Government at this time to acknowledge this claim. Instead, it proceeds immediately to a consideration of the terms of the agreements transmitted by the British Government and offers certain suggestions or amendments for their consideration. These amendments should be in an attachment to the reply, and the reply with these attachments might go out within four or five days if a brief acknowledgement of the British communication goes out today or tomorrow.

I am inclined to think that we will lose nothing by following the procedure suggested by the Secretary, provided we deal with the problem on purely practical grounds as a matter of urgency and without giving up our claims of twenty-five years standing. The British Government never has fully recognized our legal position and therefore it would probably be a protracted business to get them to accept our legal and treaty arguments in time to conclude the agreements by the next Assembly. Further, by pressing our legal position, we immediately raise a difficult question with the Soviet and Chinese Governments whose rights would be less strong by comparison, thus possibly opening a long controversy with them also.

I think it is possible without giving up any of our claims to influence the content of the draft trusteeship charters. In any case, the British Government as one of the states directly concerned would presumably have a veto power at any stage of the negotiations.

Finally, as to the changes or additions which we might propose on the British drafts, I would strongly recommend that we be very selective and reduce our observations to matters which are strictly essential. I doubt if we can get the British to accept a complete rewrite of their drafts which are largely based on the former mandate charters, though somewhat weaker in a few places. The appropriate divisions of the Department should at once formulate the suggestions which we have to make on the British drafts and DA is already prepared to make proposals.

  1. Addressed to the Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs (Hiss) and Leo Pasvolsky, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State.
  2. Marginal notation: “alternative to Villard’s new draft attached”. “Villard’s new draft” has reference to a second draft reply to the British Ambassador’s note of February 4, prepared in the Division of African Affairs on February 28; this replaced the first draft of February 21 described in Mr. Hickerson’s memorandum of February 23, p. 562. In the second draft there was no mention of a general U.S. position “in all of the mandated territories”. The emphasis was rather on the U.S. position in the British mandated territories in Africa resulting from the London conventions of February 10, 1925 between the United States and Great Britain. “The existence of these conventions,” read the second draft, “under the terms of which the United States has always considered that it had the right to be consulted in regard to the disposition of the territories in question, is regarded by the Government of the United States as affording ample ground for the contention that this Government is directly concerned in the terms of the proposed trusteeship agreements.” (862S.00/2–446)

    Mr. Gerig’s draft, prepared as an “alternative” to Mr. Villard’s second draft and described in this memorandum, is not printed (862S.00/3–446).