772.11/8–350: Telegram

The Consul General at Tunis ( Jernegan ) to the Secretary of State


16. Following are main points made by Resident General Perillier during my call on him this morning:

He is still optimistic re possibility putting into effect reform program despite expressed opposition French inhabitants Tunisia on one hand and Nationalist group on other. Believes moderate “third force” can be developed which will accept gradual evolution projected by French Government.
However, much negotiating will be required, especially since he considers it essential reforms take place in atmosphere of calm.
All important personalities must be consulted and persuaded these. Bey unenthusiastic about any reform program because years end result may be elimination of monarchy and is also unenthusiastic re current proposals because he fears acceptance would damage his popularity with Tunisian nationals.
First step Perillier intends attempt is introduce new set of Cabinet Ministers. May even include some representatives of Destour. Perillier believes personalities in government likely to be even more important in bringing about reforms that [than?] legal changes, also hopes right type of Cabinet would play important role in bringing about acceptance of proposed changes.1
Re character of reforms themselves, he reiterates previous statements that they would consist of (a) increase in number Tunisian Ministers, (b) gradual increase in number Tunisian Government employees and reduction French employees, and (c) gradual development representative local government outside city of Tunis. Only new element brought out was strong indication that he was prepared discontinue [Page 1782] veto power hitherto exercised by French Secretary General over all acts of Tunisian Government.2 (This last point has been subject much discussion and its concession might well have strong influence in bringing about acceptance of program at least by moderate Nationalists.)

I told Resident General Washington was following his efforts with interest and sympathy and wished him success in his task.

Repeated info Paris 14.

  1. A new Tunisian Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Mohamed Chenik and including Néo-Destour leader Salah Ben Youssef as Minister of Justice was invested on August 17, 1950. The investiture and its meaning was reported upon in some detail in despatch 57, August 19, from Tunis. (772.13/8–1950)
  2. In his telegram 31, September 7, from Tunis, Jernegan reported having been informed by Resident General Perillier of the decree of that day abolishing the position of French Counselor to Tunisian Cabinet Ministers. Perillier regarded the reform as the second major step in his reform program. Jernegan pointed out that the French Secretary-General of the Tunisian Council of Ministers retained overall veto power. (772.00/9–750)