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

top secret
No. 9658

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my Top Secret telegram No. 4118 of September 23, 1947, informing the Department that following my talks with the French concerning North Africa, Ambassador Jean Chauvel, Secretary General of the French Foreign Office, had now turned over to me a policy memorandum and twenty-five detailed appendices concerning Morocco and Tunisia. While these papers will be fully reported as soon as possible,1 it is felt that the Department would wish to be informed of their contents without delay.

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Summary and Analysis

The French Government admits that prior to 1940 it was derelict in leading Morocco and Tunisia toward self-government, that direct administration was exercised in fact if not in theory, and that for a variety of reasons France’s efforts were mainly directed towards the modern equipment and development of these countries and towards physical well-being of its inhabitants. The above is no longer sufficient and the French Government is now resolved to discharge this further responsibility of a protecting power and lead both countries towards self-government. The essentials of French policy in North Africa at the present time can be briefly summarized: a resolution to force a way out of the present dilemma which has been imposed by Nationalist leaders for some time: immediate and unconditional independence, on the one hand, or blocking reforms and enforcing a stalemate, on the other (i.e., the policy of “all or nothing”).

The French Government has now decided to break its way out of this impasse by imposing, if necessary, democratic reforms on the Sultan of Morocco; and by refusing to recall Moncef Bey in Tunisia (identified locally with Destourian extremists) where France counts on the cooperation of Lamine Bey and of Prime Minister Kaak who will receive the credit for the new reforms. The memorandum also points out that the advanced Moslem elements professing an intransigent nationalism are fundamentally opposed to democratic measures. They fear these would endanger the prerogatives which they would seek to strengthen in the case of premature independence and which “they naively think they could perpetuate.”

The French Government does not delude itself as to the severity of the opposition which will have to be overcome in Nationalist circles because of their “all or nothing” policy resulting from their realization that real democratic reforms might well cut the ground out from under their feet. Because these leaders need foreign support, particularly American and British, to achieve their ends, the French Government is specially grateful to the Washington and London Governments for the assurances which they have recently given.

Notwithstanding these major internal difficulties, France is confident that she will be able to succeed and win over the overwhelming majority of the people in all social categories if given time to implement her policies of gradually developing native administrative talent and of progressively turning the administrations of both countries over to native officials as these are trained. Consequently the French Government places special importance on the two-fold educational task which must be accomplished: general modern instruction to break the “Moslem mold” and thus lay the foundations for a truly modern and [Page 712] democratic state, and specialized instruction to prepare Moslem administrators. Administrative schools are now being established in Tunis and Rabat. Furthermore, Moroccans and Tunisians will be admitted to the National School of Administration in Paris on two different bases; they will either comply with the same entrance qualifications as French candidates and will have the same job opportunities upon graduation; or else they will be admitted on a special and more lenient Moroccan or Tunisian basis, in which case they will be solely destined to the Moroccan or Tunisian administrations. The latter provision seems to rebut the Nationalist accusation leveled against the French, that Tunisians and Moroccans, being intellectually handicapped in competing with Frenchmen, would not be able in fact to have access to higher administrative posts.

The French reform program is presented as an operation to be accomplished in two broad stages:

Immediate progressive program of evolution within the framework of the Protectorate Treaties, to prepare the two countries for self-government.
Negotiation of new Treaties granting full self-government “within the French community.” The only ties with France would be those dictated by “mutual security and the cohabitation of French and Moslem populations on the same territory.” In this field the goal is stated as being “something akin to the relations between the French and English elements of Canada.”

The immediate reform program can be presented and summarized as follows:


(A) 1945

First modern Ministry is entrusted to a Tunisian (Social Welfare).

Grand Council was reorganized democratically (election of Tunisians: one-half of membership).

Powers of Council were increased:

Council of Ministers started to participate in the preparation of future reforms.

The City of Tunis endowed with an elected municipal government.

(B) 1947

Considerably greater powers granted to the Tunisian Prime Minister. Furthermore, as President of the Privy Council, he is now vital working cog in the Government. He has been given real responsibility and latitude in the selection of his Ministers.

Parity has been established between number of Tunisian and French Cabinet Ministers.

The Tunisians have obtained four modern Ministries with real powers (Commerce and Crafts, Public Health, Labor and Social Welfare, Agriculture).

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New Ministers are not ex-public servants (i.e., French stooges), as heretofore.

(C) Further immediate reforms.

Over-all municipal reform—46 Tunisian cities and towns will be administered by elected bodies.

Reorganization of justice; separation of the executive from the judicial branches; protection of native Tunisians against arbitrary Tunisian justice.

Administrative reform: streamlining of administration which at the same time “will open its doors wide to the Tunisian élites”. This will result in heavy dismissals of French officials.


(A) 1947

Reorganization of the Makhzen.

Creation of the Council of Vizirs and Directors—appointment of a Moslem delegate of the Grand Vizir to work directly with each French Director.

Relaxation of press censorship.

Right granted to Moroccans to join trade unions.

(B) In immediate future.

Judicial reform; separation of the executive from the judicial branches.

Municipal reforms; towns and cities will be administered by elected municipal authorities to initiate Moroccans to democratic processes.

Moroccan representatives on the Government Council will be elected instead of designated “by the central authorities as heretofore.”

The French program for improving native agricultural methods, resettlement of fellahs on the land, model native and cooperative farms, public hygiene, housing, craft schools, etc., is purposefully omitted from this summary despatch.

. . . .2

While political education and training of administrative cadres may appear to be only basic educational aspects adequately covered by the French policy memorandum and the general public instruction angle appears to be neglected, the special appendix dealing with public education in Morocco sheds interesting light on the Nationalist charge that the French are purposefully seeking to maintain illiteracy of the Moroccan masses.

According to figures submitted, native Moslem school attendance has increased from 3,623 in 1920 to 84,064 in 1946. In addition, there were 22,600 native Jews in school (making a grand total of 106,664 [Page 714] native children in school). During the same year, French school attendance was 49,086.

The school program elaborated by Resident General Puaux now in full effect, provides for a ten-year plan calling for 10,000 additional Moslem pupils yearly, involving the creation of 200 new classes a year and the recruitment of 300 new teachers a year. It is stated that this plan has been followed and continues to be implemented according to schedule.

Meanwhile, the all-important French Baccalaureate examination, a “must” for all French Government schools, has been revised to permit substitution of Arabic for Latin in the curriculum.

The appropriations for scholarships for native Moroccans have been increased from 68,000 francs in 1920 to 20,000,000 in 1946 and 29,675,000 in 1947.

The appropriations for free lunch canteens have been increased from 3,000,000 francs a year in 1944 to over 36,000,000 in 1947 for native Moslem students. This sum does not include 5,102,000 francs for Jewish students.

Over-all appropriations for public instruction in the Moroccan budget have increased from 12,362,000 francs in 1920 to 1,529,280,000 in 1947. This represents an increase from 6.82% of the Moroccan budget to 14.27%.

Thus, while no new program over and above the one initiated by Resident General Puaux has been announced, the work accomplished in this field would appear to add solidity to the conviction, frequently expressed in the policy folder, that further development of public instruction is the essential basis of any future Moroccan democracy.

While the same details are not furnished in connection with Tunisia, the same policy objective is expressed. Furthermore, the more advanced state of general education in that Protectorate may explain this comparative lack of emphasis.


The essential weakness of the French program is of course the lack of “time tables.” There is little doubt that such schedules specifically detailing reform measures to be adopted by given dates, are essential to rally not only the inchoate Moslem masses but the considerably more important upper classes in these still essentially feudal countries (particularly Morocco).

The papers carefully avoid the use of the words “French Union.” Of course the limitations to full sovereignty in the second and final phase of evolution when the present Treaties are to be rewritten (conditions of “security and cohabitation”), mean, in fact, participation in the French Union in the “Associated States” category. However, it would [Page 715] seem that the ultimate objective of France’s new policy as now expressed is entirely compatible with the recommendation made by the North African meeting in Paris, that France lead these countries to “something approaching dominion status.”

While Algeria is occasionally mentioned in the statistics nowhere does its name appear in the policy papers. Doubtless this is due to the fact that Algeria is dependent on the Ministry of the Interior and that the French Government considers Algeria as a separate and distinct situation. Doubtless, also, the French Government would refuse, for a number of reasons, to consider at this time a program leading towards virtual independence of this region, not only administratively a part of France but furthermore inhabited by well over a million Frenchmen.

It is believed possible to leave the Algerian problem aside at the present time. Less capable economically and socially to exist as a separate native unit, Algeria finds itself now far ahead of both Protectorates in the field of democratic evolution. As a matter of fact, it is felt that democratic and civic rights granted to the Moslems of Algeria have temporarily outstripped their educational qualifications to exercise them.

While even elected municipal government is still in its infancy in Tunisia and yet to be born in Morocco, Algerian Moslems have the following political rights: (a) they elect fifteen Deputies to the French National Assembly and eight Councillors of the Republic, in their second college; (b) furthermore, about 100,000 Moslems participate in first college elections, thus granting the Moslems majority participation in all Algerian elections; (c) all elected bodies in Algeria now include 50% of Moslems.

However, it might be useful to stress the importance of implementing the native Algerians’ political rights by integrating more and more Moslems in local administrations, thereby giving them practical experience in governmental work and responsibilities. It might also be advisable to stress the importance of developing public instruction and increasing social welfare (in this field a number of measures have either just been adopted or are being planned). Finally, for the reasons explained at length in preceding despatches, the particularly sharp demographic pressure in Algeria, in addition to the importance of the French elements, make this area a particularly delicate one to make definite plans for under current conditions.

In view of the above, it is felt that current French policy is well in line with the recommendations of the North African meeting in Paris of June 16–19, 1947, and it is recommended that we limit ourselves to urging at the present time: [Page 716]

The establishment and announcement of time tables, in the case of Morocco and Tunisia.
Continue stressing the importance of obtaining the full cooperation of French minor officials in the Protectorates so that policies adopted by Paris and earnestly supported by Residents General Juin and Mons be actually translated into facts at the working level.
That in the case of Algeria, a special effort be made for the economic and social rehabilitation of the Moslem masses, the political problem to be reserved for a later date.

Respectfully yours,

Jefferson Caffery
  1. See despatch 9644, September 19, received October 11, p. 709.
  2. Omission indicated in original.