851.00/1–2146: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Caffery ) to the Secretary of State

us urgent

316. My 289, Jan 28[18]. When Palewski told me last Thursday evening what De Gaulle had in mind it was not then De Gaulle’s intention to give up his office within the next few days. He felt that it would be a mistake for him to remain in office until the Assembly had finished its work on the constitution, because the extreme left has been successful in committee meetings in having provisions inserted in the draft upon which they are working making the Office of the President of the Republic a protocol office and practically nothing else. De Gaulle interpreted this to mean that they were endeavoring to eliminate him in due course as they are aware that he would not accept the Presidency under those conditions. Furthermore, as the new constitution is shaping up in committee, the Office of President of the Council of Ministers is devoid of strong executive powers which remain vested in a unicameral Assembly to which the President of the Council of Ministers is responsible. De Gaulle would not, of course, accept this post either. The Communists did not desire De Gaulle to leave office at this time in view of the unsatisfactory economic conditions now prevailing and likely to prevail for some time; rapidly rising prices, reduced bread rations, no meat on the Paris market, very little coal for industry and practically none at all for domestic heating, etc. In other words: De Gaulle saw himself being maneuvered into a position where he would be blamed for the economic troubles of the next few months on the one hand with consequent loss of prestige; and on the other hand, he would eventually be eliminated; and he decided to act in order to extricate himself from that position.

On Saturday, he decided to act at once; several minor moves of the extreme left on Friday and Saturday caused him to decide that it was better not to wait any longer but to leave his office without further delay; he apprehended that more moves of the same kind were impending, and he is especially sensitive in regard to what he interprets as attacks on the army.

[Page 403]

He changed his mind also as to tactics; instead of taking the fight to the country, as Palewski said, he decided to write a conciliatory letter (my 315, Jan 219) which is calculated to make it difficult for the new govt, if economic conditions grow worse rather than better during the next few months. In other words: the French public might eventually conclude that if De Gaulle had remained in office things would have been much better.

Although De Gaulle does not think things through very far, he probably has in the back of his head that at some future date he might be recalled to office by popular acclaim.

Sent Dept 316, repeated London for the Secretary 49.

  1. Not printed (851.001/1–2146); it gave a translation of General de Gaulle’s letter to M. Gouin, another translation of which is printed in De Gaulle’s War Memoirs: Salvation, 1944–1946, Documents, translated by Joyce Murchie and Hamish Erskine (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1960), p. 382.