399. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Scope of Talks


  • U.S.
    • The President
    • Secretary Rusk
    • Secretary McNamara
    • Ambassador David Bruce
    • Mr. George Ball
    • Mr. McGeorge Bundy
    • Mr. William R. Tyler
  • UK
    • Prime Minister Wilson
    • Patrick Gordon Walker, Foreign Secretary
    • Denis Healey, Secretary of State for Defense
    • Lord Harlech, British Ambassador
    • Sir Harold Caccia, Permanent Under Secretary of State
    • Sir Burke Trend, Secretary to the Cabinet
    • Mr. D. J. Mitchell, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister

The President and Prime Minister Wilson joined the group at about 1:10 p.m. The President said that he had had a very enjoyable meeting with the Prime Minister, that both of them had discussed how to get reelected. Mr. Wilson said that he had very much enjoyed their talk which had related to principles, objectives and political background. They had not tried to get into any arguments for or against any particular solutions. The President said that he and the Prime Minister had whole-heartedly agreed that our objectives and hopes stand upon having a proper understanding of each other. It was better to talk across the table than in the columns of newspapers. He had told Wilson that “a burned child dreads fire,” and that he didnʼt intend to pressure Mr. Wilson, and he felt sure that Mr. Wilson did not intend to pressure him. The President went on to say that he thought it would be useful for our two governments to continue to “reason together,” as recommended in Isaiah. He felt that this meeting was a continuance of previous meetings which would permit both sides to explore their common problems and discuss them. Nothing would emerge from this meeting that was black on white or of a nature to make other countries feel that a blueprint of action had been developed by our two governments. We were not undertaking to provide answers to our problems at this meeting. The President said that he had to be very careful because of what the press tended to write.

[Page 892]

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam and defense matters not related to British Guiana.]

The Secretary reported to the President very briefly on the discussions at Ministerial level which had been held while the two principals were talking alone that morning.2 It had been decided that we would discuss defense questions this afternoon, also Southeast Asia, Southwest Africa, and other matters. Mr. Wilson said that he wanted to talk to the President about British Guiana. He had told Jagan that whoever wins in BG, the UK would not grant BG independence as there would be a blood bath if it did so.3 He thought that if both Burnham and Jagan (the latter of whom he described as a naive Trotskyite) were out of BG it would be so much the better. He didnʼt think a government could be entrusted to either of them and the UK rather felt that the U.S. placed excessive trust in Burnham who was just as bad in his own way as Jagan was in his. In fact, interjected Gordon Walker, “they are both horrors.” Mr. Wilson said that it would be necessary to arrange for a Canadian or an Australian distinguished judicial figure to go down to British Guiana in order to lay the groundwork for the organization of the judiciary, eventually.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL UK–US. Secret. Drafted by Tyler and approved in the White House on December 16. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
  2. A December 7 memorandum of conversation reported Ruskʼs discussion with Foreign Secretary Walker that morning concerning British Guiana. Walker said that HMG would not “go toward independence in the foreseeable future. Perhaps some steps toward increasing self-government could be devised.” The Foreign Minister added that he thought that the U.S. Government “had an excessively favorable estimate of Burnham.” (Ibid., POL 16 BR GU)
  3. In a December 6 memorandum to the President, Ball urged Johnson “to demonstrate your personal interest” in British Guiana to Wilson by emphasizing that the United States attached great importance to a satisfactory outcome, that independence should not be granted prematurely, that the United States could not provide assistance to any government which included Jagan, and that it was hoped that close cooperation and aid would contribute to a racially peaceful, democratic, and non-Communist British Guiana. (Ibid., POL BR GU)