Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs (Hickerson)

In the absence from Washington of Mr. Balfour, Mr. George Middleton, First Secretary of the British Embassy came in to see me today. [Page 565] I handed to Mr. Middleton the Department’s note dated March 739 acknowledging the British Embassy’s note of February 4 last, transmitting copies of the draft trusteeship agreements for Tanganyika, the Cameroons, and Togoland.

I told Mr. Middleton that it appeared to us desirable that I supplement our note of acknowledgment with the following information. We are now considering in the Department the whole question of states directly concerned in connection with trusteeship agreements. It is clear to us that the United States could assert an unassailable legal claim to be a state directly concerned in respect of these three mandates. This position could be established on either of two grounds: Our position as one of the Allied and associated Powers in World War I, and our Mandates Treaty with the United Kingdom. I went on to say that in my opinion either of these grounds was sufficient to establish our position as a state directly concerned and a combination of the two makes an unassailable position.

I continued, however, that we are now considering the question of states directly concerned from the overall standpoint. In other words, whereas we can certainly claim to be a state directly concerned, we are now considering whether from the standpoint of our overall national interest we wish to assert such a claim. I added that it seemed wise to us to tell the British Government the foregoing for their information and to suggest that no definitive action be taken by the British Government without further consultation with us.

Mr. Middleton expressed his appreciation and said that he would communicate this information to his government. He asked if I cared to hazard a prediction as to what decision we would reach and I replied that I would not. He inquired whether I could tell him what my personal view was and I replied that my personal view was that an ad hoc decision should be reached as regards each mandate, depending on circumstances. I said, however, that there is a sharp division of opinion in the Department on the subject and that many of my colleagues disagree with me.

John Hickerson
  1. The note acknowledged receipt of the British note and the accompanying draft trusteeship agreements for Tanganyika, the Cameroons, and Togoland and stated that “Both the note and the draft agreements are being studied in the Department of State and it is hoped that a reply can be made in the near future.” (862S.01/2–446)