772.00/12–750: Telegram

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


3246. Binoche, Director Afrique-Levant section, Foreign Office volunteered following information on decisions resulting from discussions re Tunisian reforms which have taken place between Foreign Office and Resident General Perillier in Paris during past week. Perillier and Secretary General Vimont1 will return to Tunis, accompanied by LaTour duPin, Foreign Office, December 9 and will submit extract reform measures decided by French Government to Bey Prime Minister December 11.

Principal points in program are:

1. Governmental structure: (a) Abolition of Secretary General’s veto power over ministerial decisions. The Resident General will, however, be empowered to approve or disapprove all decisions (Arretes) of a political or judicial nature. Decisions of technical character will require no higher approval than that of Council of Ministers. It is felt that submission of certain category of decisions to highest French authority in Regency, instead to Secretary General as in past is essential in order to assure continued responsibility of French in development of Tunisian Democratic Government. French believe this compromise will go long way toward satisfying Tunisians and assuring them good intentions of France.

(b) Removal of French commanding general of Tunisia from Council of Ministers. Foreign Office considers maintenance of military authority in Council might raise Tunisian suspicions, no matter how unwarranted, of French desire to keep firm army hold on government. Incidentally, while not enforced, state of siege has never been lifted in Tunisia.

(c) Prime Minister will preside over Council of Ministers.

2. Increased participation of Tunisians in administration.

(a) Recruitment of Tunisians for lower grade positions in government will be increased from present 60 percent to 70 percent; middle grades from 40 to 60 percent and higher posts from 25 to 50 percent.

This increase will be operative of course only in so far as qualified candidates present themselves, and any deficiencies will be filled temporarily by French until eligible Tunisians are available.

(b) Premium to be placed on applicants for positions who can pass special exam in Arabic. This should weigh heavily in favor of Tunisians.

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3. Widening democratic structure of municipalities. Proposals to be studied by Franco-Tunisian mixed commission, which according to Binoche is already established with Dr. Materi, Minister of Labor and Cultural Relations representing Bey.

Binoche expressed hope that this concrete evidence of French Government’s desire to promote self-government in Tunisia would find ready response among Tunisians and would give lie to misinterpretations of Perillier’s admittedly maladroit utterances proclaiming “pause” in October. He added that Tunisian leaders, concerned only own authority, show little interest in municipal reforms and would have to be pushed hard by French in this project to develop democratic processes at lowest level.

In concluding conversation Binoche referred to Morocco and remarked on moderate tone of Sultan’s throne speech November 18 and French impression that pressure of Istiqlal for abrogation Treaty of Fez had been handled adroitly by Sultan, who by raising this question with French before leaving Paris, had satisfied Nationalists.2

Foreign Office believes, however, that he has no intention at present of pursuing issue energetically, being satisfied with obtaining certain specific concessions.

We are impressed by initiative of Binoche in taking us into confidence regarding North African matters and informing us in advance of measures French intend taking that area. Our oft-repeated expressions of interest in evolution those countries have apparently taken effect, and Foreign Office is increasingly willing to advise us of developments giving proof of what they consider to be their liberal and benevolent policy.3

Repeated info Tunis 19, Rabat 30.

  1. Jean Vimont, Secretary-General of the Tunisian Government. The Secretary-General was appointed by the Bey at the recommendation of the Resident General.
  2. For documentation on the interest of the United States in the developments in Morocco, see pp. 1737 ff.
  3. Telegram 42, December 13, from Tunis, reported that Resident General Perillier had presented to Prime Minister Chenik on December 11 the reform program outlined in the telegram printed here (772.00/12–1350). Telegram 35, December 14, to Tunis, repeated to Paris, replied as follows:

    “In your discretion you may see appropriate Nationalist contacts and informally express as your personal view that reforms offered by Fr are step in right direction and belief that acceptance of reforms will redound to benefit of Tunisian people. Residency shld be informed of this action if it is taken.” (772.00/12–1350)

    In his telegram 65, December 15, from Tunis, Consul General Jernegan expressed the hope to have the opportunity in the coming few days to express his personal views in appropriate quarters as suggested by the Department. Jernegan reported that the Resident General was most appreciative of the Department’s attitude. Telegram 3515, December 19, from Paris, reported that the Embassy had been informed by the French Foreign Ministry that Bourghiba had called on Secretary-General Parodi on December 13 and reiterated his desire to cooperate with France in developing self-government in Tunisia. Bourghiba noted with appreciation the initial steps taken by the French in Tunisia, but he regretted that the measures were so limited. Parodi reportedly pointed out that the reforms ought not to be effected too hastily, but Bourghiba maintained that only sweeping and dramatic changes could satisfy the nationalists. (772.00/12–1950)