850.33/6–550: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State


3124. 1. There are, it seems to me, three segments of the Schuman–Monnet proposal. The first is related to the way in which negotiations among the countries concerned are commenced, the terms of reference of the negotiators, and assurance that negotiations, once started, proceed in an orderly way. Speed is important for with the passage of time and for a variety of different reasons, the initial welcome and enthusiasm which the proposal evoked will, I fear, gradually evaporate. The second segment has to do with developments during the negotiations, the merits and demerits of the various elements of the proposal and also suggestions put forward by participating negotiators [Page 718] and of their practicability. The third segment of the proposal has to do with the evolution of the plan after negotiations have been completed, a treaty ratified and an authority established.

2. This telegram is addressed solely to the first segment of the problem. My immediate following cable will deal with the second segment.

3. You are fully informed of the progress or lack of progress made by the French and British in their negotiations covering the communiqué which had been agreed to by French and five other countries including Germany, of the British disapproval of the communiqué and the procedure which it defined. You have been informed of the note communicated by the British to the French late Friday evening June 2 which reiterated the British reasons for disapproval of the communiqué to which the other powers had agreed and added as a “constructive” suggestion the proposal that the Schuman project be considered at a meeting of ministers of the countries concerned. You have been informed that the French upon receipt of this communication from the British notified the British Ambassador in Paris at 10 o’clock Saturday morning, who forthwith transmitted the information to the Foreign Office in London, that the British proposal for a ministerial meeting was unacceptable and that French would proceed to issue the communiqué to which the other continental powers had subscribed at 12 noon on Saturday. Thus the British were thoroughly aware of the French position in regard to their proposal for a ministerial meeting before the British released their own communiqué. This—the British communiqué—contained an invitation to the French to review their approach to the problem and to agree to a ministerial meeting to consider, if not other things, at least procedural matters connected with the Schuman project. The above is an accurate outline of the developments of negotiations between the French and British which came to a climax in the issuance of the respective communiqués Saturday noon June 3.

4. Why did the British, after having been informed officially and through secret diplomatic channels that the French could not accept the British proposal for a ministerial meeting, nevertheless, and in the face of known French opposition, propose in their public communiqué a ministerial meeting without at least giving the French Government some knowledge in advance that they proposed to do so? I believe that HMG behaved as they behaved, not to present their proposal once more to the French Government, for it had already been rejected, but to the other participating Continental powers in the hope that, on the one hand they would be able to wean the other Continental powers away from the French proposal, and on the other, induce [Page 719] them to become associated with their own method of dealing with the matter. Stated somewhat differently, the British included in their public communiqué the proposal for a ministerial meeting as a challenge to the renaissance of French leadership on the Continent.

5. Why did the British undertake to challenge French leadership? On the one hand they were not prepared to join in the Schuman proposal, and on the other, they were not prepared to pay the consequences for not joining. The only way in which they could escape from either horn of this dilemma was to frustrate the whole project or to recast it according to their own liking. They believe, and in this belief I concur completely, that a ministerial meeting to discuss either procedure or substance would probably produce precisely this effect.

6. The Schuman proposal is the first evidence of French confidence and of French leadership in the affairs of the Continent of Europe. It has great merits and at the same time holds out the possibility of great abuses. My immediately following telegram will deal with the merits and possible abuses under the plan. Briefly, the merits if adequate safeguards are taken against possible abuses, stamp this proposal as one of the forward-looking projects so far made. The two features which appear to me are first, that France took the leadership, and secondly that France took the leadership in something which can be extraordinarily good. I believe that our missions in Europe should be authorized, if this is necessary, discreetly and wisely to support French leadership in this matter. (Therefore, suggest that in this respect, exception to be made to circular telegram of June 2.1)

7. Although I knew in a general way of the substance of cirtel of June 2, on Saturday morning when I heard of the British contemplated communiqué proposing a ministerial meeting, I sent an oral message on a purely personal basis to the Foreign Office to the effect that in my opinion it was ill-advised, that it might seriously damage the whole Schuman proposal and that as a friend I could say that it would not be well received in the US.

8. The British may have some good reasons for not participating in the negotiations. Some of the reasons they have advanced are, however, I think no more than excuses. One of the basic causes which lies behind the publicly expressed reasons for HMG’s reluctance is their [Page 720] fundamental fear that by joining the Schuman Plan, they expose their internal position to external forces which might impair their ability to plan and which might possibly interfere with their program for internal full employment. I am not now dealing in this cable with the reasons which influence the British to decline the invitation to participate in negotiations. I am merely dealing with the publication of their suggestion previously rejected by the French for a ministerial meeting to consider the matter and of the motives which lie behind them.

Sent Department 3124, repeated information Paris 973, Frankfort 278, The Hague 124, Brussels 136, Rome 265.

  1. June 2, 8 a. m., p. 714. In the margin of the source text, alongside this paragraph, is written the following comment: “Adequately covered by cir. tel. June 5, 6 a. m.” The June 5 telegram, not printed, sent to Frankfort, The Hague, Rome, Paris, Brussels, and Luxembourg, and repeated to London for information, reads as follows: “In event govt to which you accredited shld inquire re US reaction recent developments Schuman plan, you authorized say informally and confidentially US Govt highly pleased continental countries able agree on far-reaching principles orig Schuman proposal as basis negots. Any public comment shld be within framework Depcirtel [7 ?] p. m. June 5 [infra].” (850.33/6–550)