349. Memorandum of a Conversation, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, March 27, 19561


  • President Eisenhower
  • Prime Minister St. Laurent of Canada
  • Mr. Pearson, Secretary of State for External Affairs
  • Secretary Dulles

The meeting was at first one between the President and Mr. St. Laurent alone and Mr. Pearson and myself alone. At the latter meeting we touched on the British situation in the Near East. I said I felt some concern because of the rather jittery attitude evidenced by the British by the fact that they were doing a number of things rather hurriedly and without any prior consultation with us—such as the seizure of Buraimi, the effort to put Jordan into the Baghdad Pact and the exiling of Makarios. Mr. Pearson said that he was very much concerned and particularly worried about Sir Anthony Eden. He said he had great admiration for Eden. On the other hand, he felt that he was not reacting very well to the strains and pressures of the present situation. He referred to the fact that his father had been quite eccentric. He said that up to the present time, Eden had not had to bear the brunt of political attack and major responsibility as this had been carried principally by Churchill and that he (Mr. Pearson) had very real concern about the present situation.

Following this talk, we joined the President and Mr. St. Laurent. At this juncture, Mr. St. Laurent was explaining to the President some of their difficulties, particularly having in mind the forthcoming election.2 He said that a nationalistic type of attack would be made by the opposition and many relatively minor points of criticism involving the United States would be exaggerated. It would also be alleged that they had become subservient to the United States in ways which they did not accept vis-à-vis the United Kingdom.

[Page 864]

At this point, I suggested the President might repeat to Mr. St. Laurent and Mr. Pearson what he had said to Sir Anthony Eden and Selwyn Lloyd with reference to Communist China. The President then explained the very deep-seated feeling of the American people against the Chinese Communists because of their conduct in Korea, in Indochina and their threats in Formosa, their mistreatment of American prisoners of war and civilians, etc. He said that this was not anything superficial or reflective merely of extremist views, such as those of Senator Knowland, but that it was very general throughout the country. A successful effort to bring the Chinese Communists into the United Nations would, the President said, lead to very strong reaction—certainly a resolution in both Houses to withdraw the United States from the United Nations, or at least to exclude the United Nations from the United States. The President did not suggest that this would always be the case. He did not use the word “never” in these matters, recalling our change of attitude toward Germany and Japan, but said that the Chinese Communists would, through their own conduct, have to supply a reason for a change of United States attitude.

I added a few words as to the basic policy of the United States to maintain friendly governments in control of both of the far shores of the Atlantic and Pacific.

Mr. St. Laurent made no observations. Mr. Pearson said that the point of view that the President had described was not the point of view held in Canada. He recalled that he (Mr. Pearson) had made a public statement to the effect that they would not attempt to change the situation this year, and that that had attracted more adverse criticism than favorable criticism from the Canadian press and public. He said that the feeling in Canada was that it would be better to have contact with the Chinese Communists and find out what they were like and why they acted as they did rather than to keep them at a distance. He also said that as far as the United Nations was concerned, the situation was [made] more difficult by the recognition of the Chiang Kai-shek Government as the government of all of China. He had no objection to recognizing it as the Government of Formosa and did not want to see Formosa in hostile hands. But it was hard for them to continue the fiction that he represented all of China.

We then discussed the status of the offshore islands. I said that I did not feel that we were in a very strong position to press Chiang for his abandonment of these islands. They reflected, even though in a minor way, a division of China between a Communist and non-Communist regime and nowhere else, as in Korea, Germany or Vietnam, were we pressing the non-Communist regime to make territorial concessions to the Communist regime. The President then referred to the fact that it was vital to hold Taiwan and that that was largely a question of morale and that the morale would be gravely affected if [Page 865] Matsu and Quemoy were lost. He said it would perhaps be better if these islands were non-existent. But since they did exist and were at least deemed by the Chinese Nationalists as vital to the defense of Taiwan itself, we could not be arbitrary about the matter. I referred to the fact that the islands had assumed a certain symbolic importance, that even the Governor General of Cyprus3 had urged that they be held and that in this respect they were somewhat comparable to Berlin, which, as a matter of geography and logic, should be treated as part of the surrounding Soviet Zone, but which in fact the free world was prepared to defend. Neither Mr. St. Laurent nor Mr. Pearson made any comment on these observations of the President and myself.

I then raised the question of the advertising tax.4 The President said that he had mentioned this to Mr. St. Laurent before Mr. Pearson and I joined them. The President could see that there were two sides to the case, and that the situation was one which tended to drive Canadian publications out of business. Mr. Pearson said it was a “dumping” situation, against which they needed to protect themselves. He argued that they could, in fact, pay the 20% tax if they would raise the advertising rates. He said their rates were 40% below those of Canadian publications which constituted unfair competition. I said that I deplored seeing this Canadian formula adopted because it would give ideas to other nations which, in the interests of nationalism, would use this as a precedent to exclude the foreign editions of Reader’s Digest, etc., which constituted a tremendous influence for good in these foreign countries. The discussion ended on an inconclusive note, with some slight indication that the Canadians might review the situation, at least in search of another formula. Pearson said they had suspended the application of the tax until January 1957.

There was some discussion of the Columbia Basin situation,6 and the President indicated his agreement that there should be a joint study of this matter. The view was expressed by the President and concurred in by Pearson, that undoubtedly the personalities of General McNaughton and Governor Jordan were somewhat difficult and [Page 866] that neither was qualified to be very conciliatory. Mr. St. Laurent spoke of the possibility of shifting the upper waters of the Columbia into the Fraser River and said that they were restrained primarily by the feeling that the Columbia water might smell differently from the Fraser water and that this might have a deleterious effect on the spawning of the salmon. The President said, and Mr. Pearson agreed, that an operation which, in effect, shifted the watershed would have very serious implications.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DullesHerter Series. Secret; Personal and Private. Drafted by Dulles. This was one of the conversations that took place during the meeting of the heads of government of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The idea of having such a meeting at a head-of-government level appeared to have originated with Henry F. Holland, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. Ambassador Stuart in Canada and Ambassador White in Mexico were opposed to the proposal, but a meeting was held at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, March 26–28. (Letter from Stuart to Merchant, August 26, 1955; Department of State, Central Files, 611.42/8–2655; memorandum from Holland and Merchant to Dulles, September 23, 1955; ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199)
  2. There would be a general election in Canada in June 1957.
  3. Field Marshal Sir John Harding .
  4. The Canadian Government had planned to propose to Parliament a tax of 20 percent of the advertising revenue on Canadian editions of foreign magazines. Because Reader’s Digest and Time would be affected, the U.S. Government attempted to persuade the Canadian Government to modify its policy. (Memorandum prepared by the Canadian Desk, June 7; Department of State, Central Files, 442.004/6–756) The tax bill was adopted by the Canadian Parliament on August 7.
  5. U.S.-Canadian negotiations on the Columbia River Basin had a long history. The two governments first requested the IJC to study the development of the water resources of the river in 1944. Negotiations went on intermittently, but were hindered by conflicts between the Provincial and Federal Governments in Canada, and by disputes such as the one over downstream benefits between the United States and Canada. No agreement was signed until 1961. Documentation concerning the Columbia River Basin is in Department of State, Central File 611.42321–CO.