Memorandum by the Deputy Directory, Office of Western European Affairs (Williamson) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Bonbright)


Subject: Situation in Tunisia

For some time now we have been hopeful that the reforms in Tunisia, consisting principally of enlarging the Nationalist participation in the government and the abolition of the French-appointed Secretaries General under each Minister, were the forerunners of a truly liberal reform policy in that area.

This liberal program was devised under the regime of Resident General Mons, a capable and vigorous man who was replaced earlier this year by a former Prefect from Algiers named Perillier. It fell to the lot of the latter to officially announce the reforms and assure their constructive execution. At first all seemed well. On October 7th, however, Perillier announced a “pause” in the reform program and since then matters have gone from bad to worse. The attached two despatches1 from Mr. Jernegan indicate that the reform program is now at a standstill and even one might say in retrogression. Mr. Jernegan has discussed this situation with Mr. Perillier, who appears to show no desire to move forward and who rather indicates that he will follow a get-tough policy with the Nationalists. Mr. Perillier also appears to be blind to the danger of the Arab League intervening in the UN in support of the Nationalists and has dismissed the possibility that the Nationalists might carry their complaints to Paris.

For the time being I do not believe that we should take direct action in Paris with the French in an effort to inject new life into the reform program. I believe, however, that groundwork for such possible action in the future might be laid by showing these two reports, unofficially and informally, to Mr. Daridan.2 In so doing we might point out that Mr. Jernegan is no dreamy-eyed, anti-colonial, pro-Nationalist idealist. He is, on the other hand, a capable matured observer in whom EUR has great confidence. Mr. Daridan might also be informed that we had hoped that the Tunisian reform program would be carried on and that we are seriously concerned over the turn that events have taken in Tunis. At the same time Mr. Daridan might be advised that if the Arab League were to intervene on behalf of the Nationalists in [Page 1802] the UN the United States Government would be placed in an extremely difficult position and could at best only abstain in any such discussions.3

  1. There is no indication in the source text which despatches were attached to this memorandum. One of the despatches probably was despatch 131, October 23, from Tunis, supra. Perhaps the other despatch was No. 144, November 1, from Tunis, entitled “Growing Resistance by Tunisians to Resident General’s Inactivity Regarding Reforms”. (772.00/11–150)
  2. Jean Daridan, First Counselor of the French Embassy in the United States.
  3. The source text bears Bonbright’s handwritten notation in the bottom margin: “OK and tell Paris and Tunis what you have done. JCHB”. The files of the Department of State do not confirm that the recommended course of action was actually carried out.