611.42321 SL/11–352

No. 952
Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by the Personal Secretary to the Secretary of State (Evans)



  • Ambassador Woodward
  • Mr. Acheson

The Secretary returned a telephone call which Ambassador Woodward had made to the Secretary yesterday but which had not gone through to the Secretary who was out at the farm. Ambassador Woodward said he wanted to discuss with Mr. Acheson the letter which the Prime Minister had sent to the President on Saturday1 [Page 2044] and the note which the Canadians proposed to present on November 4 to this Government in regard to canceling the 1941 agreement on the St. Lawrence. Ambassador Woodward said that the Prime Minister had explained that Canada proposed to take this action in view of the International Joint Commission’s recent action. He had said that it would be very embarrassing for the Canadian Government to go back before Parliament on the basis of the 1941 agreement in view of the Joint Commission’s action and that the Canadian Government was very anxious to state its position at this time.

Ambassador Woodward had said to the Prime Minister that he would get this information to the President and subsequently telephoned Mr. Murphy and gave him the substance of the Prime Minister’s letter. Mr. Murphy thought that this action on the part of the Canadian Government was precipitant in that it was being delivered on election day. Mr. Woodward had explained the Canadian reasons for wanting to deliver it on election day, i.e., by delivering it on election day they could not be accused of influencing the American election one way or the other, nor could there be ascribed to the Canadian Government any reaction on its part to whichever candidate won. Mr. Murphy said he could see no urgency from our point of view for having the Canadian Government take such immediate action.

Ambassador Woodward said that he reported to the Secretary of the Privy Council the fact that he had talked with one of the President’s assistants and had passed on the substance of the Prime Minister’s letter; that he did not feel that he could get in touch with the President personally because of the pressure of his trip. The Secretary of the Privy Council had reaffirmed that the farthest thought from Canadians minds was to embarrass the President. It had been exactly the opposite and that was why they had picked November 4 as the best day to deliver the note.

Ambassador Woodward pointed out to the Secretary that his opinion was that the Canadians should be deferred from delivering the note tomorrow, which would freeze their position. He thought the President had gone very far in supporting the Canadian position and he felt that this new proposed action would be difficult for the President.

The Secretary said that he had had some talk with Mr. Pearson about the St. Lawrence project but that he had not been told about the proposed letter to the President and the note. He had not talked the matter over with Mr. Wrong, when he saw him on Saturday night, because he did not know what the President’s position [Page 2045] would be. Ambassador Woodward said that it had been his understanding from the Prime Minister that the latter was going to ask Mr. Pearson to tell the Secretary about the note. The Secretary said that all Mr. Pearson had spoken to him about was what had been reported in the memorandum of conversation2 which he had dictated in New York.

Ambassador Woodward said the more he thought about it, the more important it seemed to him that the Canadians should not take this position without further consultation with us and possibly some talk with the President. The Secretary said he was inclined to agree and that, if there should be any communication at this time, it would probably be better not to have a written one. He said he would consult further in the Department and would get in touch with the President.

After talking with the President, which conversation is reported in a separate memorandum,3 the Secretary telephoned Ambassador Woodward again and reported the President’s views as set forth in the memorandum of conversation. The Secretary said that he had told the President that he had a recommendation from Mr. Woodward and from Mr. Murphy that an effort should be made to get the Canadians to defer the delivery of the note. The President had been firm in his decision to let the note be delivered.

Ambassador Woodward said that he would call the Secretary of the Privy Council and tell him that there was no objection to delivering the note.4

  1. supra .
  2. No record of this meeting between the Ambassador and the Prime Minister, presumably held in late October, has been found in Department of State files.
  3. Infra .
  4. The note was released to the press in Washington and Ottawa after delivery to Acheson by Wrong on the afternoon of Nov. 4.