81. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the President and the Secretary of State, White House, Washington, August 14, 1956, 10:30 a.m.1

[Here follow items 1 and 2 concerning unrelated subjects.]

3. I showed the President the letter reporting on the status of Congressional representation at the London Conference.2 He read the letter and said he thought that it adequately and satisfactorily reflected the situation. I said that, as mentioned in the letter, Senator George would be closely watching the situation and seeing the normal cables and perhaps, if the President and Mr. Hoover felt it appropriate, my personal message to the President.

[Here follow items 4 and 5 concerning unrelated subjects.]

6. We then went on to discuss in detail the forthcoming Suez Conference. I said that I felt that the decisive issue would be whether or not Egypt alone should have the right to hire and fire in terms of Canal employees and also would have alone the right to fix [Page 199] the Canal tolls. I indicated that I felt it essential that there be an international voice in these matters and that they should not be wholly under Egypt’s political control. The President said he was disposed to agree, but asked how we would meet the situation that might arise if we were asked to accept the same control with reference to the Panama Canal. He said that he recognized that it was a treaty basis far different but that the broad equities might be the same. I said that in the first place there was not nearly the same degree of dependence on the Panama Canal as there was upon the Suez Canal which decisively affected the very livelihood of almost a score of nations. Also that the United States was not professing to use the Canal to further some grandiose plan of aggrandizement. If there was a comparable dependence and comparable political use of the Panama Canal, then indeed other nations might in equity claim some voice even though there was no treaty basis for it as was the case in the Suez Canal.

The President suggested there should be some kind of a supervisory board of say five persons designated by such countries as Egypt, Britain, France, India and Sweden, who would have a voice in the selection of a general manager who would be in charge of Canal operations. Also that there should be some right of arbitration on the question of tolls. I said this was in line with my thinking and that it might even be necessary to minimize the role of Britain and France, assuming dependable alternatives could be found. I said that one of our problems was that the Asian countries were not in the main dependable since their policies were apt to be swayed by political slogans such as “colonialism”, “imperialism”, “Asia for the Asians”, etc.

I hoped that we could get the problem onto a practical basis such as the basis on which the President and I were discussing the matter. Then if that could be brought about there was a good chance of an acceptable solution.

The President said he recognized how difficult the task was, but that he had confidence and wished me well.3

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Meetings with the President. Secret; Personal and Private. Drafted by Dulles. The time of the meeting is from the record of the President’s Daily Appointments. (Ibid.)
  2. Attached to the source text, but not printed. The letter from Dulles to Eisenhower, August 12, summarized the unsuccessful efforts on the part of Dulles to obtain Democratic senatorial representation at the Suez Conference. It also noted that as no Democratic senator could attend, Republican Senator Alex Smith, who had held himself in readiness, would also not attend.
  3. By 2:20 that afternoon, Dulles and his party were airborne. Accompanying the Secretary on the plane were Mrs. Dulles, Gray, Phleger, Bowie, McCardle, Rountree, Macomber, and three others. (Dulles’ Appointment Book, August 14; Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers)