229. Message From Prime Minister Douglas-Home to President Johnson 1

As you know, there has been friction over the past few years between the United States and other principal maritime nations about the regulation of shipping in several of its aspects. This has now reached a point where the application of United States legislation2 by the Federal Maritime Commission would, in our view, invade our jurisdiction and produce a situation which it would be politically impossible for any British Government to accept. Other principal maritime nations are faced with the same difficulties.

I am disturbed about the possible effects of this situation on the general state of the Western Alliance. As things are, we shall be faced with recurrent crises, the first on July 3, the date now set for the conclusion of dual rate contracts. In these circumstances I would ask you [Page 464] to give your most serious consideration to the annexed Memorandum,3 in which I suggest both that an international conference should be held to consider the basic question of jurisdiction in these matters, and also that you should not take action against our shipping while the question of principle is being discussed.

I am sure you will agree that we must find a way out of these difficulties and my suggestions are designed to provide one. I hope you will find them helpful.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. Confidential. The message was transmitted by the British Embassy on June 23.
  2. Reference is to the Bonner Act, amending the Shipping Act of 1916. For text of P.L. 87-346, approved October 3, 1961, see 75 Stat. 762.
  3. Not printed.
  4. In a June 25 memorandum to the President, Francis Bator and McGeorge Bundy advised, “We think the Prime Minister’s message is largely for the record and we do not think his hints of reprisal should be taken at face value,” suggested that the United States extend the period of grace to September 1, offering a meeting on the “narrow question of jurisdiction,” and maintain its position “as we must, under the law.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 5) The President approved this position, which was transmitted to the Prime Minister in a message of June 25. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204)