Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chargé in Spain (Bonsal)1

This conversation took place at my home on the evening of February 1. General Beigbeder was accompanied by Señor Tomás Peyre who represents moderate Republican sentiment and is reported to be close to the Socialists. Mr. Maffitt of the Embassy was also present, and this account reflects our joint recollection of what took place.

After the customary amenities, General Beigbeder said that as we were all aware he had replaced General Aranda in negotiating on behalf of the Monarchist parties with the Republican groups for the setting up of a provisional government which would be broadly representative of the opposition to General Franco within Spain. The plan is to form a cabinet consisting of seven Monarchists, seven Republicans and either three or four military men. General Beigbeder’s responsibility is apparently confined to discussions with Republican elements of the A.N.F.D.

General Beigbeder said that he did not know when or if these negotiations might be successful. He said that there was at least a chance that agreement might be reached within the next few days. He said that he wished to inform me about this so that the Government of the United States could be thinking over the matter and deciding what its attitude would be. He said that he felt that the prospective government came within the objectives set forth in the tripartite statement of March, 19462 of the British, French and American Governments.

At first General Beigbeder implied at least the hope that the formation of this new provisional government would be followed by a rupture of relations on the part of the British and ourselves with the Franco regime. However he did not insist on this point. He did say that the success of the new organization would depend in large part [Page 1057] upon the “calor” or warmth with which it was received in Washington and London. He made it clear that in the absence of such warmth it would soon fall apart and “Franco might last for thirty years”. He also said that he hoped that as soon as the new government was set up, it would be possible for “agentes oficiosos” or semi-official representatives to be received in Washington and London.

In reply to all this I stated that while our attitude toward the Franco regime was well known, it was difficult for us to define beforehand the action we would take in any particular set of circumstances. I set forth some of the considerations involved in the recognition of a new government, taking as a minimum basis the requisites of the so-called Estrada doctrine.3 I said that while there had been cases in which our Government had continued to recognize governments after they had been driven into exile by foreign invaders, I did not know of any cases where we had recognized organizations which had never held executive power.

Although General Beigbeder concentrated entirely on his own negotiations with the Republicans within Spain, I gathered that those Republicans are in pretty close touch with various groups outside of Spain and even with Martinez Barrio, the so-called President of the Spanish Republic.

It is General Beigbeder’s thought that as soon as the new provisional government is formed about half of its members will be arrested here and the other half will be able to reach Tangier where they can set up operations. A period of conspiracy and underground activity will ensue, the success of which will be greatly dependent upon the support which the new organization is able to obtain from abroad.

The purpose of the interim government, once it has secured the elimination of General Franco, will be merely to hold elections on the fundamental question of whether Spain is to be a Republic or a Monarchy. It is General Beigbeder’s idea that these elections will be held shortly after the assumption of power and that conditions prevailing in the interim and on that occasion will include strict censorship, a continued state of war, the suspension of the right to strike and very limited scope for political propaganda. In fact, General Beigbeder envisages statements on the matter at issue only by members of the new Ministry, i.e., the seven Monarchists, seven Republicans, and three or four generals. Once the country has decided on [Page 1058] either a Monarchy or a Republic, all parties will be pledged to accept this decision and to work loyally under whatever system is achieved.

  1. Transmitted to Department as enclosure 1 to despatch 3500, February 6, from Madrid, not printed; received February 19, 1947.
  2. Joint statement by the United States, United Kingdom, and France on their relations with the Franco Government, released to the press on March 4, 1946. For text, see Department of State Bulletin March 17, 1946, p. 412.
  3. In 1930 Genaro Estrada, the Secretary of Foreign Relations in the Mexican Government, announced that when a new government was established in another country by means of a coup d’état, Mexico would continue its diplomatic relations with that country without regard to the legitimacy of the new government. For discussion of the doctrine, see Instituto Americano de Derecho y Legislación Comparada, La Doctrina Estrada (Mexico City, 1930).