241. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • His Excellency Sir Ralph Grey, K.C.M.G., Governor of British Guiana
  • Mr. Rockwood H. Foster, West Indies Desk Officer, Department of State
  • Mr. Everett K. Melby
  • Mr. Foster called on the Governor of British Guiana on Thursday, February 16, and was later entertained at lunch by him.

In a brief discussion of the political situation in British Guiana before lunch, the Governor asked whether Mr. Foster had had an opportunity to talk with Dr. Jagan and then proceeded to give some of his own views on him and other B.G. political leaders.

The Governor throughout tended to minimize, if not discount, the view that Jagan was a communist. [1 line of source text not declassified] and his greatest weakness was his lack of appreciation of the responsibility of public office and his capacity to administer effectively [4-1/2 lines of source text not declassified].

Whatever the reasons for it, Sir Ralph said that in British Guiana politicians are forever looking for excuses why they cannot do something; it is the only country he knew in which a plausible excuse for inaction was an acceptable substitute for action.

As far as his Government was concerned, its primary objective was to leave the country as capable as possible to run its own affairs when it becomes independent. The U.K. has fully accepted the fact that the days when it can run British Guiana are over and it would like to get out of the business of running the country as gracefully and honorably as possible. He spoke of this as an obligation which was being discharged with no particular pleasure, implying that the U.K. had never had much out of the colony (though certain interests, of course, had made handsome economic profits), and that he did not feel it had the natural potential to compete successfully as an independent country with other former colonial areas of the U.K. Sir Ralph stated later in the meeting that B.G. in its present condition was hardly a good showpiece for what the old imperialism” either had accomplished or was capable of accomplishing.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., British Guiana—Jagan. Confidential. No drafting information appears on the source text. Transmitted to the Department of State as enclosure 5 to despatch 96.