The Ambassador in France ( Bruce ) to the Secretary of State 1

No. 1244

Subject: Visit of the Sultan of Morocco to Paris

The delirious enthusiasm of the Moroccan people for their returning sovereign contrasts sharply with the generally phlegmatic reception accorded him by the Paris populace. To most Parisians, the Sultan of Morocco was an exotic figure in a funny white hooded robe who, in his official wanderings, was largely responsible for traffic snarls in the western part of the city. The daily newspapers gave heavy coverage, both verbal and photographic, to the number of pheasants the Sultan bagged at the presidential shoot at Marly, his interest in the Automobile Show, the regal splendor of receptions and dinners at the Elysée, City Hall and the Quai d’Orsay, and on the second day of his visit indicated, by reference to political conversations between the Sultan and the President of the Republic, that the visit was not [Page 1763] just a giddy round of festivities. Early reports stressed the cordial exchange of views and the Foreign Office itself was impressed by the moderation of the Sultan’s demands for his country.

Such requests as expanded educational facilities for Moroccans, wider participation of Moroccans in the administration of their country, permission for Moroccans to form their own trade unions, lifting of press censorship, and allowing the Sultan to name his Caids and Pashas, appeared to the French as being tangible evidence that the Sultan was being reasonable and not heeding the extremist demand for independence put forth by the Istiqlal party. Reports that the Sultan had referred orally, when presenting his memorial to the President, to a change in treaty relations between France and Morocco, did not receive publicity until later.

When the Sultan left the Elysée Palace, as a state guest of the President, on October 14 to retire to his Bagatelle Residence for the remainder of his stay in France, the Foreign Office, freed from protocolar obligations, set about preparing a reply to the Sultan’s note. It had been hoped that General Juin, temporarily absent on a special mission to Indochina, would be able to give his views before submitting the French rejoinder, but the Foreign Office hinted to us that, due to shortage of time, Cabinet clearance was obtained without benefit of Juin’s comments.

Confident that the concessions which they were willing to make within the framework of the Protectorate Treaty, such as replacing press censorship by legislation on press crimes, reform of the judicial system, settling the problem of trade-unions, and easing the control over naming of Pashas and Caids, would be sufficient to satisfy the Sultan, the French were consternated by the reaction of the Moroccan sovereign to their note. The Foreign Office had previously told us that they were sure the Sultan would be loath to abrogate the Treaty of Fez which guaranteed the throne to him and his heirs, and they were consequently stunned by the unexpected response of the Sultan on November 2, in which he is reported to have pointed out that, while appreciating the new reforms which the French were ready to apply, the fundamental problem to be negotiated was that of the abolition of the Protectorate Treaty of 1912.

The French are still hopeful that the apparent impasse reached in Paris as a result of the Sultan’s bombshell may be solved by the negotiations to be undertaken in Rabat by a Mixed Commission to be composed of Moroccans nominated by the Sultan and French representatives chosen by the Resident General. The Foreign Office, however, has expressed to us their apprehension that the Sultan may take a long time considering this proposition and that unless he is willing to participate, nothing will come of it. Meanwhile the Foreign Office [Page 1764] intimated that the Resident General could go forward with certain of the reforms proposed in the French note of October 31 to the Sultan, and such action might convince the Sultan of France’s good intentions.

In spite of the somewhat strained relations of the last days of his visit to Paris His Majesty Sidi Mohamed made a good impression on French officials, both because of his intelligence and his eminently courteous behavior. The French realize that they are dealing with a “grand seigneur” for whose exalted position in Morocco they consider themselves largely responsible. They are critical, however, of his feudal character, and believe that the development of Morocco along modern democratic lines can only be achieved by French guidance. …

David Bruce
  1. Copies sent to Tangier, Rabat, and Casablanca.