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I presume arrangements will be made to take up this problem at some later date.
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State
[WASHINGTON,] December 29, 1941. The British Ambassador called at his request. I inquired of him as to whether the Prime Minister is considering any action in the way of signing the Lease-Lend agreement. The Ambassador repeated about what our recent cables from London indicate. He added that he had spoken to the Prime Minister and that the Prime Minister replied that he was too preoccupied to take the matter up here and that he would be obliged to wait until his return to London. I then said to the Ambassador that it was very important from our standpoint that some action be taken without much delay for the reason that another Lease-Lend appropriation bill will be up in Congress in January and that this Government will be called upon to explain the cause of the entire delay and non-action on the part of the British Government with respect to signing the proposed Lease-Lend agreement. I brought this up in variations during our conversation. He seemed to be impressed with this and it was understood that I would speak to the President before Churchill returns to Washington from Ottawa and the Ambassador on his part would speak to the Prime Minister.
AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTING THE DECLARATION OF SEPTEMBER 2,
1940, FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT BY THE UNITED STATES OF NAVAL AND AIR BASES IN AREAS LEASED FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM, SIGNED MARCH 27, 1941 58 811.34544/4231 The British Embassy to the Department of State
In his letter of December 13th 69 regarding the United States bases in Newfoundland, Bermuda and certain other British possessions, the Secretary of State pointed out that the President was keenly desirous that all of the negotiations in respect of the sites and leases for these bases should be carried to a successful conclusion as soon as possible, and explained that with that in view an informal committee composed of representatives from the interested American Departments had been appointed to handle these negotiations in Washington. It was suggested that it would facilitate the conduct of the negotiations if some members of His Majesty's Embassy were to confer with this Committee. In a subsequent conversation between His Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires 60 and Mr. Dunn of the State Department, the latter explained that the United States Government were of the opinion that the negotiations in connection with the settlement of the terms of the final leases covering the bases should be held in Washington. Mr. Dunn made it clear that the Administration felt that in present circumstances it would not be practicable for American officials with the necessary qualifications to be sent to London to conduct negotiations there.
58 For correspondence regarding the negotiations for the transfer of American destroyers to the British Navy and for the establishment of American naval and air bases in British possessions in the Western Hemisphere, see Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. III, pp. 49 ff. The correspondence on the negotiations for the agreement regarding leased naval and air bases was so voluminous that it was deemed necessary to omit much of the detail from Foreign Relations. The papers here printed were selected to show the main problems involved and the position taken by the United States with respect to them.
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The substance of the Secretary of State's letter and of Mr. Dunn's statement was at once communicated to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.61 The latter has now replied, emphasising that His Majesty's Government for their part are equally anxious that final agreement in regard to all matters connected with the bases should be reached as soon as possible and that discussions in regard to the terms of the final leases should be begun with the minimum delay. They are, however, most anxious that these negotiations should be conducted in London. As Lord Lothian 62 explained on several occasions during the discussions leading up to the conclusion of the agreement of September 2nd,63 and as he stated in his letter of October 14th to the Secretary of the Navy,64 His Majesty's Government have consistently held the view that for practical reasons these negotiations should be held in London rather than in Washington. They are fully alive to the difficulties to which Mr. Dunn referred in his conversation with Mr. Butler and in the light of these remarks and of the expressed wish of the United States Government that the discussions should take place in this country they have given further careful consideration to the matter. They have, however, reluctantly come to the conclusion that to hold the negotiations in Washington would present the most formidable difficulties from the point of view of the British authorities.
In view of the complexity of the issues involved and of the number of separate administrations concerned, it will be necessary for the
60 Nevile M. Butler. 61 Anthony Eden.
62 Former British Ambassador to the United States; he died in Washington, December 12, 1940.
6 For exchange of notes between the British Ambassador and the Secretary of State on September 2, 1940, see Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. III, pp. 73 and 74.
64 Frank Knox.
British authorities during the discussions to have the advice of representatives from a number of different departments, both civil and military, of legal advisers, and of Colonial experts. A large interdepartmental committee has in fact been sitting in London for some months past to consider the administrative and other questions involved in the leases, and all the necessary personnel is available there. It is, however, feared that it would be quite impracticable for these persons to be spared to visit Washington in present circumstances when so many demands are being made upon their time in connection with the day-to-day conduct of the war.
Furthermore, even if it were possible to send a delegation to Washington, experience has already shown that the number of British Government Departments concerned is so great that it would be inevitable that many of the points which arose during the negotiations would have to be referred to London for further consideration. As it will fall upon His Majesty's Government to make the detailed local arrangements so far as the Colonies are concerned, it seems only appropriate that the discussions should take place in London where experts with knowledge of the various territories are readily available.
Furthermore, it is particularly desirable that Newfoundland and Bermuda and the other colonies should be directly represented during the negotiations leading up to the conclusion of the final leases. Appropriate arrangements to this effect can be made without great difficulty if the negotiations are held in London, but considerable complications would be caused if the discussions were to take place in Washington.
For the foregoing reasons, His Majesty's Government feel convinced that an early settlement of all matters connected with the bases would be greatly facilitated if the necessary discussions were to be held in London. His Majesty's Government are ready to begin such discussions forth with, and since they are no less anxious than the United States Government that final agreement should be reached with the minimum delay they trust that the United States Government will feel able to arrange for the despatch of appropriate representatives to London in the near future.
WASHINGTON, 3 January, 1941.
811.34544/535 Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State
(WASHINGTON,] January 4, 1941. The British Chargé d'Affaires called to see me this morning. Mr. Butler handed me first a letter dated January 465 which he had
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addressed to the Secretary of State by instruction of his Government advising the Government of the United States that the British Government agreed to the lease of the various sites desired by the United States in the seven locations covered by the agreement of September 2 last, and advancing certain considerations with regard thereto.
In regard to the first paragraph of this letter, Mr. Butler stated that in Mr. Hull's letter to him of December 27 66 certain details were mentioned which were not covered by his present letter, and added that this was due to the fact that the telegram he had sent to his Government covering Mr. Hull's letter of December 27 had not been received by his Government at the time the instruction covered by Mr. Butler's present letter of January 4 had been dispatched from London.
Mr. Butler likewise gave me an aide-mémoire 67 reiterating the desire of the British Government that the final technical conversations covering the drawing up of the final leases for all of the bases involved in the transaction be held in London rather than in Washington.
I told Mr. Butler that further consideration would be given to this question and he would be promptly advised of our decision in the matter.
Mr. Butler then referred to the letter he had received from the Secretary of State 68 indicating the unwillingness of the United States to offer British naval and military forces free and unhampered use of the bases to be built by the United States in the British islands and colonies covered by the transaction of September 2 last. Mr. Butler stated that this decision placed the British Government in a position of inferiority to all of the Latin American countries, since the other countries had been granted free use of these bases by the United States and that this would be greatly resented by British public opinion and particularly by public opinion in the islands where the bases were to be located. Mr. Butler referred particularly to one of the recent addresses of Prime Minister Churchill in which he had emphasized the drawing more closely together of the British Empire and the United States, and of the original statement made by Mr. Churchill with regard to the destroyer-bases deal in which Mr. Churchill had emphasized the desire of the British Government to do all it could to strengthen the ability of the United States to assure its own security and that of the Western Hemisphere. Mr. Butler stated that the communication sent to him by Secretary Hull would be regarded as in the nature of a dash of cold water.
I said to Mr. Butler that I felt quite sure he would realize that no such implication could justly be drawn from the letter to which he referred. I said that the whole policy of the Government of the
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United States was concentrated upon our desire to assist Great Britain in every possible way short of war and thereby to insure British victory. I was positive that he would recognize that the sentiments expressed by Mr. Churchill were warmly reciprocated by the President and by every other member of the Administration. I added, however, that as he knew, this country had made every effort to line up all of the American Republics in the essential task of assuring the integrity of the Western Hemisphere and of insuring its defense, and that for that reason conversations had taken place with a view towards reciprocal use by the United States and the other American Republics of the naval and air bases throughout the New World. I said it would be manifestly impossible for the United States to insist that this country have the right to use bases within the territories of the other American Republics and not grant them the reciprocal use of bases built and utilized by the United States within the Western Hemisphere. Furthermore, I said, we all of us trusted that this war would not last forever and that some day a sound peace might be found after what I trusted would be a British victory. When the world should come back to normal, it would be very difficult for the United States to justify to the other non-American governments the granting of preferential use by Great Britain of the bases leased and operated by the United States. I said that I wondered whether it would not be possible, since Canada was a power in the New World and would obviously eventually be entitled to make use of the bases to which all of the other American powers had the right, for the British Government to be satisfied with the granting to the Dominion of Canada of the rights accorded to the American Republics. I said, however, that further consideration, of course, would be given the whole problem.
811.34544/419 : Telegram The Secretary of State to the Chargé in the United Kingdom
WASHINGTON, January 11, 1941–1 p. m. 102. Your 60, January 7, 10 p. m.69 Please inform the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that his views on the necessity from the British standpoint of having in London the negotiations in connection with the leases for the United States military bases were conveyed to the President. In view of the considerations advanced by Mr. Eden, the President on reconsideration has agreed that these negotiations
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