881.00/5–1747: Telegram

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


1985. A friendly Foreign Office official discussed with us in confidence the background of Labonne’s replacement as Resident General of Morocco by Juin.1 He said that Labonne was sent to Morocco in 1945 to replace Puaux2 because latter was on worst possible terms with practically all Moroccans, including the Sultan.3 Labonne’s mission was to conciliate the Sultan and improve atmosphere thus making possible real French-Moroccan cooperation. In his effort to improve atmosphere, during the first six months of his incumbency Labonne did everything he could to placate the Sultan and let him have largely his own way on most matters. After some months the French proposed certain reforms (including a revision of Moroccan penal code which is unjust and almost feudal in aspect, provisions for municipal elections based on a restricted electorate, elections for membership on Moroccan Grand Council rather than appointment, educational reforms, etc.). The Sultan, however, at first refused to approve these reforms and using a variety of pretexts for months kept putting Labonne off and finally took the position that the reforms were not far reaching enough. My source said that what he demanded were in fact reforms which would make Morocco to all intents and purposes independent. Labonne was relieved of his post largely because he could not persuade the Sultan to approve any of the reforms and in fact became progressively less able to do anything with him.

The French feel strongly that not only are the Moroccans not yet prepared for independence (which French have no intention of granting) but that in view of the obsolete views of the Sultan on absolute rule by “divine right” an independent Morocco under him would be so backward that an eventual explosion would occur which would be encouraged and capitalized on by Communists. On the other hand the French readily admit the Moroccan people have the right to an increasing voice in their own destiny. They believe this can be achieved by educating the native population towards progressive self-government. (Dept’s 1559, April 29.4)

Juin, my informant said, is being sent to Morocco to tell the Sultan that the French realize that the old concept of colonial empire is no longer valid; that the Moroccans must have a progressively greater voice in their own destiny; that the reforms proposed by the French [Page 685] are designed to begin this process of education and that further reforms granting greater responsibility will be accorded as the process of evolution occurs and that with this in mind the Sultan is expected to approve the proposed reforms at once so the educational process can begin. Juin plans to leave Paris about May 24 and will approach the Sultan in the foregoing sense immediately after his arrival there.

There is no doubt that the French intend to be firm with the Sultan and will insist on putting these reforms into execution. While they realize that the reforms which they are proposing are but the beginning, enlightened French officials sincerely believe that since the great mass of the Moroccan population is utterly incapable—through ignorance and lack of experience—in making advanced democratic institutions work, the educational process will take some time with “little steps for little feet”. They also believe that while the Sultan objects to many of the reforms of [on] the grounds they do not go far enough, in reality he opposes them because they would destroy his arguments with Moroccans to effect that it is hopeless to expect any real reforms from French and therefore immediate independence is only practical solution.5

  1. Gen. Alphonse Pierre Juin, former Chief of the French General Staff, arrived in Morocco on May 27, succeeding Eirik Labonne who resigned on May 14.
  2. Gabriel Puaux.
  3. Sidi Mohammed Ben Youssev.
  4. See footnote 2, p. 680.
  5. In telegrams 2055, May 23, 1 p. m., and 2080, May 24, 3 p. m., from Paris, Ambassador Caffery reported conversations with General Juin and French Foreign Minister Georges Bidault who agreed that democratic reforms would be pressed in Morocco. (881.00/5–2347, 5–2447)