United Kingdom Record of a Conversation Between President Truman and The Lord President of the Council (Morrison)8


The Lord President of the Council saw the President again9 on May 17th.

Mr. Morrison began by telling the President how pleased he had been by the frank and friendly manner in which the negotiations had been conducted by Mr. Clayton and Mr. Clinton Anderson. He said that it was proposed to issue a communiqué recording the agreement reached. The President replied that he had been informed by Mr. Anderson of the results achieved, with which he was satisfied. Mr. Morrison hoped that the wording of the communiqué would help to correct some of the criticism of U.S. action or inaction, to which the President had referred at their first conversation.
Mr. Morrison then stated his understanding that the agreement reached would be the basis of the work of the officials of both Governments and of the Combined Food Board. On this he added that it was important that the machinery for the allocation and programming of foodstuffs should be as efficient as possible and that he was glad that possible improvements in the present machinery of the Combined Food Board were to be examined at the meeting on urgent food problems next week, called by the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The President assented.10
On the U.K. position, Mr. Morrison said that the cut in the U.K. requirements of 200,000 tons had been accepted by the U.S. representatives as the end of the argument about the size of the U.K. stocks and pipeline. Of this he was very glad. The cut would lead to great difficulties for the U.K. and might necessitate further restrictions on U.K. consumption. The President said that he did not want this to happen.11
Mr. Morrison then pointed out that the agreement reached still left a deficit of 700,000 tons. The officials on both sides would be instructed to do their best to close the gap and to examine further sources of supply. The President said that he had sent a message to Stalin and had had a reply to the effect that Soviet Russia could do no more as their available supplies had already been allocated. The President said he had not accepted this as a final reply and had sent a further message to Stalin.12 He was despatching a party to Manchuria where food might be produced. He was sending Mr. Hoover down to South America.13
Mr. Morrison said that insofar as it proved impossible to close the gap altogether he hoped it was understood that the burden of carrying the deficit would not be thrown, as it had tended to be thrown in the past, on areas for which the U.K. had a primary responsibility. The President agreed that this was reasonable and fair.
Mr. Morrison then said he had seen the Agent General for India and told him what had been settled. Sir Girja Bajpai had been disappointed, but had taken the decision fairly well. Mr. Morrison again emphasised the serious situation in which India found herself. The President said that he recognised the Indian need and he would try to do something more for them. He thought he could.
Finally, Mr. Morrison stressed the major importance which he attached not only to the maintenance of the current requirements of the British zone of Germany, but also to that part of the agreement relating to the attainment of common standards and levels of consumption in the three western zones of Germany.
At the conclusion of the interview the President thanked Mr. Morrison for his visit and asked him to give you his greetings.14
  1. Apparently a message from the British Ambassador (Halifax) to the British Prime Minister (Attlee); information copy transmitted to the Acting Secretary of State by Mr. Makins.
  2. There is no record available of an earlier conversation.
  3. As a result of action initiated in the meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization the Combined Food Board membership consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada was dissolved in mid-June and replaced by an International Emergency Food Council consisting of the major food exporting and importing nations of the world. (Twenty-one nations were invited to join, but the Soviet Union declined to send a representative and Argentina was at first represented by an observer.) See Department of State Bulletin, June 23, 1946, p. 1075.
  4. The bases of agreement reached in the Washington talks are described on the United States side in a statement released to the press on May 17, entitled “U.K.–U.S. Guiding Principles for Solving World Food Problems”, Department of State Bulletin, May 26, 1946, pp. 896–897. The official British statement was made by Mr. Morrison in the House of Commons on May 23; see Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 5th Series, vol. 423, cols. 542–543.
  5. The President’s first message was sent on May 16 (telegram 913, to Moscow, 840.48/5–1646).
  6. The former president earlier had undertaken a world-wide tour and survey of the major food deficit areas.
  7. For a general running account of all aspects of United States involvement in the world food crisis, both on the domestic front and in the international sphere, reference may be made to the Department of State’s Classified Weekly Bulletin, Current Economic Developments, 1946. Relevant files in the Department’s central indexed files, though not devoted exclusively to this matter, are File Nos. 800.48, 800.48 Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid, 800.5018, 811.5018, 840.48, and 840.5018.