346. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • US-UK Discussions at Camp David: South African Problem


  • British Side
    • Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
    • Sir Norman Brooks
    • Ambassador Sir Harold Caccia
    • Mr. C. D. W. O’Neill
    • Mr. Philip F. de Zulueta
  • U.S. Side
    • The President
    • Under Secretary Dillon
    • Assistant Secretary Kohler
    • General Goodpaster

The Prime Minister indicated that because of its urgency he would like first to raise the South African problem. The President agreed and the Prime Minister said that he was very worried about the forthcoming discussions in the UN Security Council meeting, called on the initiative of the Afro-Asian bloc in the UN. He indicated that he understood that the United States as a matter of fixed policy always supported inscription. The Prime Minister’s problem was essentially whether the British should oppose inscription. They had in fact done so in the past. If they do not oppose, they risk losing the Union of South Africa. On the other hand, if they do oppose, they risk losing the emergent African states over which they hope to have a strong influence. It was all well enough to contemplate the satisfaction of the fine statements which would be made and the vote which would be obtained, but this had to be balanced against the British hope for a more liberal evolution inside the Union of South Africa.

The President indicated his sympathy with the Prime Minister’s dilemma, and Mr. Dillon added that our Embassy in Pretoria had reported that there was some question as to whether the Union of South Africa might not in fact leave the UN if the subject were taken up.

The Prime Minister resumed, saying that if the British let the meeting go ahead, then maybe with US help an innocuous resolution could be obtained. Fortunately Ambassador Lodge is in the chair this month. He therefore hoped that it would be possible for the British to propose that they be allowed to protest the procedure orally and then [Page 746] have the chairman’s acquiescence in not pushing this protest to a vote. Then, in the Security Council, we could go ahead to work for a moderate resolution.

The President said that he would agree with such a procedure. He had strong feelings that one could not sit in judgment on a difficult social and political problem six thousand miles away. He had to say that our own problem was in his mind in this connection, and that he had some sympathy even with his friends in Atlanta on some of their difficulties. He suggested that a UN resolution could perhaps just express regret about the disturbances in South Africa and hope that measures would be taken to prevent their recurrence.

Mr. Dillon said that the Department had been trying to work towards such an end with Ambassador Slim of Tunisia. However, it seemed certain that the language which emerged from the Afro-Asian group, even under the relatively moderate influence of Ambassador Slim, would be too tough and would attempt to condemn the South African Government’s policy.

The President repeated that the United States would go as far as possible along the lines indicated consistent with our past record on inscription.

The Prime Minister commented that if the resolution were too violent, perhaps we could muster the necessary 7 votes to beat it, and Mr. Dillon agreed that this would be desirable. The Prime Minister then went on to say that he would send a message saying that this line should be followed, and that the Union of South Africa should be urged to explain its situation and problem, and not just be huffy about it.

Mr. Dillon said there was some indication that the Soviets themselves would favor what we called a “hortatory” resolution. Apparently they did not want the Security Council to be permanently seized with the question, so that it could come up again in the forum of the General Assembly where it could be effectively debated.

[1 paragraph (1½ lines of source text) not declassified]

The Prime Minister indicated agreement with the President. He then referred to the speech that he had made when he was recently in South Africa. He wanted the change to come from inside the country and felt that outside pressure would just get the South Africans’ back up.

The President said that in our own country he had always opposed extreme laws on the colored question. He had felt it best to concentrate on getting the negroes the right to vote and then let matters follow a natural course. He then referred to his discussions [Page 747] with General de Gaulle on the emergent African states.1 He said that de Gaulle had brought the subject up 4 times. He commented on the seriousness of the problem which these new nations presented, saying that except for Liberia, which was an old American problem, he felt that the British and the French should take the lead in these countries.

The Prime Minister then concluded this session of the talks by commenting on the political situation in the Union of South Africa. He said that the Boers and the British were about 50–50 in the country. However, the Boers had gerrymandered the voting districts in order to assure themselves a permanent majority. They were intense Calvinists who felt themselves to be God’s anointed. They actually believed in slavery. There was even a certain nobility in the tenacity and sense of righteousness with which they held to their views.

(Note: Late in the evening the British handed us the attached memorandum on this subject,2 text of which was communicated to the Department early the next morning.)

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Miscellaneous Series. Secret. Drafted by Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Foy D. Kohler. Attached to an April 6 memorandum from Director of the Executive Secretariat John A. Calhoun to Goodpaster, enclosing three memoranda of discussions between the President and Prime Minister Macmillan on March 28.
  2. Reference is to conversations held during the President’s visit to Paris, September 2–4, 1959.
  3. Not printed. The memorandum, headed “South Africa and the Security Council,” dated March 28, stated that the British would not oppose inscription of the item, that their aim would be to ensure that the debate and resulting resolution were as moderate as possible, but that if a resolution which was more than hortatory or was “too condemnatory” was likely to be adopted, they would have to consider voting against it.