Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State 1


At the request of M. Bidault the French Ambassador called on me this afternoon to explain the former’s concern over the recent events involving the Frankfurt decisions and over the publicity which had been given to them in the American press. The press reports which had implied that a new era for Germany would be the result of these decisions, had given the French Government very real concern in the light of the London talks where they had understood not only that France would be consulted with regard to the future of Germany but that it would be allowed to comment upon the bizonal organization. M. Bidault also felt that there might be less desire on the part of the Anglo-American officials in Germany to work with the French than had been evidenced in the London talks.

M. Bonnet said the recent exchange of notes2 had to some extent reassured his Government in the foregoing respect but that it still felt there would be constant misunderstanding and ground for these same difficulties until agreement could be reached upon the wider aspects of German policy which they hoped could be achieved during the forthcoming London talks. The Ambassador then inquired whether there had been any developments in this respect and whether these talks would take place as envisaged in London and in the French note of December 22.3

I explained that the British Government only two days ago had suggested to me that these talks might be scheduled for February 2 in London.4 I said I was equally anxious that they should be held but thought they might have to be somewhat delayed because Mr. Douglas, who was to return to London for them, was at present very much occupied, as M. Bonnet was aware, with matters before Congress. I also said that General Clay was coming home to assist in the reparations problem before Congress. Whereas, I did not preclude the possibility that the talks might begin February 2, I thought they might have to be postponed somewhat longer until—say about February 10. It all [Page 38] depended upon the progress of the recovery program in the Congressional Committees. For these reasons I had not yet replied to the British request to set the date.

M. Bonnet then showed some concern lest the British and American Governments might reach decisions prior to this meeting which could then be presented to the French as a fait accompli. I told him we had had no preliminary discussions with the British in regard to the agenda, in fact, none had been set for the meeting.

I then told the Ambassador that I appreciated that press reports created difficulties for M. Bidault but that if I were affected by every press report it would be impossible for me to fight the very real battle which I was putting up. M. Bidault must realize the importance of this battle not only to France but to all of us. I must expect that he will help me.

In so far as keeping the French informed of developments in Germany was concerned, I said the Ambassador would realize that once the French zone was joined with ours they would participate fully in all discussions but pending that time they must appreciate that as soon as discussions about forthcoming developments are concluded the press gets an idea of them. This usually occurs as questions are asked immediately after the meetings, before it is possible to inform the French representatives. If at the end of meetings our representatives waited to inform the press until they had told the French, an impossible situation would be created and the press would clamor that they were being left out. In other words, it was impossible for us always to withhold information until France had had a chance to comment. M. Bonnet said he appreciated this difficulty but expressed the hope that in so far as possible the French be informed of pending decisions before they are finally concluded and announced.

With respect to the substance of the Frankfurt discussions the French Government, according to M. Bonnet, was concerned that they went too far in the direction of centralization. They would for example prefer that the veto power of the Upper House be strengthened, that the appointment of the Council be made by the Upper House and confirmed by the Lower and that the budget be based upon appropriate allocations from the different Laender rather than upon general taxes.

The Ambassador then said he had one other matter to raise with me and referred to the importance which his Government attached to its proposals for the devaluation of the franc.5 In view of the political significance of this matter, M. Bidault had asked him to tell me how vital it was for the future of the French Government that its proposals be at least supported by the United States before the Monetary Fund. [Page 39] He said he had explained the views of his government to Mr. Thorp but that he wished to bring their political importance to my attention. I replied that I would have to be guided by the decision of the National Advisory Council in this matter but that I was sure it was being given most careful consideration. I could not comment further at this time.

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  1. This memorandum was drafted by Samuel Reber, Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs.
  2. See the Secretary of State’s note of January 17 to Ambassador Bonnet, p. 34, and footnote 2 thereto.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. ii, p. 829.
  4. See Ambassador Inverchapel’s communication of January 17, supra.
  5. Additional documentation regarding the concern of the United States over the devaluation of the French franc is printed in volume iii .