Memorandum by the Director of the Office of African Affairs ( Bourgerie ) to the Executive Director of the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( Jago )1


Subject: Proposal to raise the status of the Consulate at Accra, Gold Coast, to that of Consulate General.

Referring to NEA’s memorandum of November 29, 1950,2 on the above subject, it is strongly urged that reconsideration be given the matter in the light of the information contained in despatch No. 130 of November 16 from Lagos3 and despatch No. 142 of November 25 from Accra.3 There is additional evidence which supports a reconsideration of AF’s proposal, and this will be made available upon request. It will be noted that these despatches, which were received in the Department subsequent to the date of your memorandum, present several reasons in support of AF’s proposal to raise the status of the Consulate at Accra to that of a Consulate General. Among the reasons given are enhancement of the prestige of the United States, strengthened relations with Gold Coast officials, and strategic importance of the territory to the United States. It will be noted also that France considers the territory of sufficient importance to maintain a Consulate General at Accra.

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In reconsideration of the proposal to raise the rank of our Office at Accra, we should like to make the following comments on the enclosure to NEA’s memorandum:

The conclusion reached that the present is not a propitious time for raising the status of the Consulate is apparently based on the premise that the Gold Coast is less advanced economically and politically than Nigeria. This, of course, is not the case.

It is difficult to make a comparison of the natural wealth or the potentialities of the two territories. No complete survey of the resources of either area has ever been made, and development schemes which are underway will quite likely change the entire economy of the two territories in the course of the next few years. We do know, however, that the Gold Coast presently enjoys a per capita income far in excess of that of Nigeria, despite its smaller area and population.

Strategically, the Gold Coast is very important to the United States, both as a potential military base and as a source of supply for strategic materials. During the last war, the United States Army Forces maintained a base in the Gold Coast which served as a key link in the only air-route connecting the West with the Middle East. Headquarters were also maintained at Accra by The Central West African Office of the Foreign Economic Administration and the West African Office of Strategic Services. The Gold Coast may play an equally, if not more important, part, should there be another outbreak of war in Europe.

We should like to emphasize again that since the last war, Accra has come to be regarded by the British as the administrative center of the four British West African colonies. It now serves as the headquarters of the British Commander-in-Chief (with rank of Major General) of West Africa, the Chief Secretary of the British West African Council, the British West African Court of Appeals, British Intelligence, and the British West African Currency Board. The Gold Coast is also becoming more and more important as the meeting place for various national and international bodies. In recent months, for example, Accra has witnessed a Conference of Directors of Medical Services and an International Conference on West African Education (the latter attended by delegates from British and French territories and from Liberia). Next month, the Eucharistic Congress, at which it is estimated 30,000 Catholics from all parts of the world will attend, will meet at Kumasi.

The most important single reason why we should alter the rank of our representative at Accra is political. The Gold Coast is, and always has been, more advanced constitutionally than Nigeria. Its present constitutional status in British Africa, is, in fact, second only to that of Southern Rhodesia, a territory which enjoys a political status midway between a self-governing colony and a dominion. The new Gold [Page 1268] Coast constitution of January 1, 1951, advances the territory to the last rung of the ladder of self-government by establishing a ministerial system in which all but three of eleven ministers comprising the Executive Council will be Africans. The constitutional progress made in the Gold Coast in the recent years has been phenomenal, and is, in fact, a cause of envy and dissatisfaction among many of the leading Nationalists of Nigeria. It is incorrect to say that Nigeria enjoys by tradition and precedence a preferred position for eventual self-government. No one can predict, of course, when full self-government will materialize in either the Gold Coast or Nigeria. There seems little reason to doubt, however, that the Gold Coast will achieve self-government before Nigeria, and that it will be in the not-too-distant future.

The increasing awareness by the Gold Coast peoples of the difference between their social, economic and political status as compared with that of the rest of the world is one of our major problems and one which challenges our very best talent, provided we intend to keep these peoples on our side. Today, the free nations are working to imbue the world with democratic ideals, and so long as the United States supports this policy we cannot help but encourage the desire of peoples under political domination or control to fashion their own destiny. Because the United States, as a member of the modern democratic world, does welcome stable independent governments for all peoples, it is committed to help in reducing the political dependence of other peoples and raising their social and economic standards to a level commensurate with their own efforts and resources. This calls for a great effort in assisting, in any way we can, the people of the Gold Coast along the road to solid social and economic development in order that we can be assured that they will be aligned with the Western world. To do this, abundant understanding and sympathy on the part of our official representative abroad are required. AF does not believe that United States objectives as aforementioned can be accomplished in the Gold Coast by inadequate representation. At this juncture in the development of the Gold Coast, we should maintain, as a minimum, a Consul General of proven ability to carry out the important task of building United States confidence with the new political leaders who are emerging daily in this territory. Also, our representative must win the respect of the local British leaders, and induce them to discuss problems of mutual interest and make available to our government political and economic information on this important region.

Until we elevate our Office in Accra to the rank commensurate with the political advancement being made in that territory and compatible with the level of high caliber British officialdom now administering [Page 1269] the territory, the Department will not obtain the cooperation necessary to build and secure the economic and political position it needs in this important area of the world.4

  1. Drafted by Sims and Durnan (NEA/AF).
  2. In despatch 128, August 30, 1950, from Lagos, Nigeria, Consul General Willard Quincy Stanton suggested that the Department of State consider the advisability of elevating the status of the office at Accra, Gold Coast, to that of Consulate General. (125.115H/8–3050) In response to a request from the Department for comments on the proposal, the Embassy in London indicated general support for the measure (despatch 2191, November 8, 1950, from London: 125.115H/11–850), Consul General Stanton reaffirmed his views on the need for a consulate general at Accra (despatch 130, November 16, 1950, from Lagos: 125.115H/11–1650), and Consul Hyman Bloom in Accra confirmed the need and advantages of elevating the Consulate (despatch 142, November 25, 1950, from Accra: 125.115H/11–2550). The memorandum of November 29, 1950, under reference here has not been found. It apparently contained a rejection of a proposal for the elevation of the Consulate at Accra made in a memorandum of October 10, 1950, from Cyr (AF) to Jago (NEA). (125.115H/10–1050)
  3. Not printed, but see footnote 2, above.
  4. Not printed, but see footnote 2, above.
  5. The proposal set forth in this memorandum was apparently not accepted by the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs, and the Consulate in Accra was not elevated during 1951.