« PreviousContinue »
such negotiations may be undertaken, enabling this Government to extend formal recognition to Syria and the Lebanon.
740.0011 European War 1939/17639
to the Secretary of State
Polish Series No. 75
LONDON, December 2, 1941.
[Received December 18.] Sir: I have the honor to report that under date of December 1, 1941 Monsieur Dejean, Free French National Commissar [Commissioner] for Foreign Affairs, addressed a letter to me 68 enclosing a communication of November 28 , 1941 from General de Gaulle requesting me to notify the United States Government, as a signatory of the Franco-American Convention of April 4, 1924, of measures taken by the Free French affecting Syria and the Lebanon. At the same time, Monsieur Dejean enclosed a copy of a similar notification which General de Gaulle had sent to the Secretary General of the League of Nations.68 Copies of this correspondence are enclosed.
As will be noted, General de Gaulle states, among other things, that as leader of the Free French he has since July 14, 1941 assumed, in the States of the Levant under French Mandate, the powers and responsibilities which France derives from the Mandate Act of July 4, 1922; that he has invested General Catroux, Delegate General and Plenipotentiary in the Levant, with the powers exercised by the French High Commissioner in the States of the Levant; that General Catroux, acting in the name of the leader of the Free French, has, by virtue of and within the framework of the Mandate, proclaimed on September 27, 1941 the independence and sovereignty of the Syrian State; and that on the same basis, and taking account of the special relations between France and the Lebanon, General Catroux, acting in the name of General de Gaulle, leader of the Free French and President of the French National Council formed at London on September 24, 1941 has proclaimed the independence and sovereignty of the Lebanon on November 26, 1941.
Monsieur Dejean called on me this afternoon and I explained to him that while I welcomed any information that he or General de Gaulle might supply to me informally, I felt that in asking me to notify my Government regarding these matters they had adopted a procedure which raised questions touching on relations between the United States Government and the French Government, the legal position of these Governments in regard to the Mandates and the possible relationship of the Free French and the United States Government. In the circumstances, I felt that it would be preferable to make any approach in this matter through their representative in Washington.
68 Not printed.
Monsieur Dejean indicated that he understood the force of these considerations and he accordingly withdrew the above mentioned letters. He added that he would proceed in the manner suggested. Respectfully yours,
A. J. DREXEL BIDDLE, JR.
[Enclosure-Translation] The Leader of the Free French (de Gaulle) to the American Ambas
sador to the Polish Government in Exile (Biddle)
[LONDON,] November 29, 1941. MR. AMBASSADOR:
(1) Since the attempt to transform Syria and Lebanon into a German military base has led the Free French Forces, in cooperation with British troops, to take in hand the defense of these countries, I have the honor to inform you that, in my capacity as Leader of the Free French, on July 14, 1941 I assumed in the Levant States under French mandate the powers and responsibilities which France has under the Mandate Act of July 24, 1922, which entered into force September 29, 1923.
(2) I have vested General Catroux, Delegate General and Plenipotentiary in the Levant, with the powers exercised by the French High Commissioner in the Levant States.
(3) In conformity with the principles laid down by the Mandate Act and with the traditional policy of France, General Catroux, acting on behalf of the Leader of the Free French, on September 27, 1941 proclaimed, by virtue of and within the framework of the Mandate, the independence and sovereignty of the Syrian State, of which Sheik Taj-ed-Din has become the President.
On the same bases, and taking into account the special relations between France and Lebanon, General Catroux, acting on behalf of General de Gaulle, Leader of the Free French and Chairman of the French National Committee formed in London on September 24, 1941, proclaimed, on November 26, the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon, with Mr. Naccache as President.
(4) The independence and sovereignty of Syria and Lebanon will not, in fact, involve limitations other than those resulting from the exigencies of the war.
(5) They do not, however, affect the juridical situation as it results from the Mandate Act. Indeed, this situation could be changed
only with the agreement of the Council of the League of Nations, with the consent of the Government of the United States, a signatory of the Franco-American Convention of April 4, 1924, and only after the conclusion between the French Government and the Syrian and Lebanese Governments of treaties duly ratified in accordance with the laws of the French Republic.
(6) General Catroux will continue, therefore, to exercise on behalf of the French National Committee, with due regard for the new de facto situation, the powers of the High Commissioner of France in Syria.
(7) I should appreciate it very much if you would be good enough to inform the Government of the United States, which, together with the French Government, signed the Franco-American Convention of April 4, 1924.
I have the honor to enclose the text of the proclamations of General Catrous with respect to the independence and sovereignty of Syria and Lebanon.70 Accept [etc.]
C. DE GAULLE
740.0011 European War 1939/18204 The Ambassador to the Polish Government in Exile (Biddle) to the
Secretary of State No. 77
LONDON, December 8, 1941.
[Received January 5, 1942.] SIR: Referring to my despatch Polish Series No. 75, December 2, 1941, I have the honor to report that in today's conversation with M. Maurice Dejean, Free French National Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, he showed me a memorandum he had just written concerning certain points which he felt would be of interest to our Consul General in Beirut, as a result of decrees enacted by General Catroux on August 18th and September 26th respectively, and entailing certain modifications in the judicial system of Syria.
Following our conversation, he handed me the attached memorandum covering his remarks on these various points. Respectfully yours,
A. J. DREXEL BIDDLE, JR.
Memorandum by the Free French National Commissioner for Foreign
1. Further to the decrees enacted on August 18th and September 26th, 1941, by General Catroux entailing certain modifications in the
70 Not printed.
judicial régime of Syria and the Lebanon, the United States ConsulGeneral in Beirut was kind enough, by letter dated November 8th, to draw General Catroux's attention to the rights held by the United States in virtue of the Franco-American Convention of April 4th, 1924.
2. The decrees in question have in fact modified, in favour of the Syrians and Lebanese, the proportion of judges on the Supreme Court and on tribunals dealing with foreign questions. French magistrates will still preside, but will no longer necessarily form a majority. Moreover, Syrian and Lebanese nationals will henceforward be eligible to hold office as examining magistrates.
3. The French National Committee, however, in no way contests the fact that they rank amongst those for which, according to the Franco-American Convention of April 4th, 1924, the previous consent of the United States should be obtained.
It is therefore quite prepared, in accordance with the assurance given by General Catroux to the United States Consul-General in Beirut, to apply as far as possible the previous judicial régime in cases concerning American nationals.
4. The French National Committee is moreover resolved to limit measures of this kind to the strict indispensable minimum.
LONDON, December 5, 1941.
The British Embassy to the Department of State
The following further information has been received about the position in Syria and the Lebanon since the question was last discussed between members of the Near Eastern Division and a representative of His Majesty's Embassy.
General de Gaulle's views regarding the termination of the mandate were given in an official communication from the Free French headquarters dated November 5th in which it was stated that:
“La proclamation de l'indépendance syrienne par le délégué Général et plénipotentiaire laisse subsister le mandat, le Général Catroux exercant, compte tenu de la nouvelle situation de fait, les pouvoirs du haut commissaire de France en Syrie."
The statement went on to say that the changes introduced in Syria did not affect the juridical position, which could only be modified with WD the consent of the League of Nations and of the Government of the United States. Furthermore the Comité National Français only envisaged the termination of the Mandate after the conclusion with the Syrian and Lebanese Governments of treaties duly ratified according to the law of the French Republic.
On November 28th General de Gaulle communicated to the Secretary General of the League of Nations full particulars of the events which have taken place in Syria since last summer. It is understood that a similar communication was sent to Mr. Biddle with the request that he should inform the United States Government as a signatory of the Treaty of April 4th, 1924.
It is not, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, possible to give a categorical answer to the question whether after the mandate is terminated, the treaties based thereon remain valid, since this depends inter alia on the nature of the treaties. It is thought, however, that this question is not really relevant since the case of Syria and Lebanon is analogous to that of Iraq before the termination of the Mandate. In the case of Iraq, His Majesty's Government made it their business to see that the position of the treaties relating to Iraq with the United States and other powers was satisfactorily clarified before their mandatory responsibility terminated, and in particular that the Iraqi Government accepted responsibility for all the treaties with third powers which His Majesty's Government had made in their name. As the United States Government are aware, the Free French are adopting the same course as regards Syria and the Lebanon, and have included in the proclamations of independence a clause stating that in acceding to an independent national life Syria (the Lebanon) succeeds naturally to the rights and obligations hitherto undertaken in her name. General Catroux is understood to have drawn the attention of the United States Consul General at Beirut to this statement and to have assured him that, pending the stabilization of the new régime by a Franco-Syrian treaty, the rights of the United States would be fully safeguarded by this stipulation.
WASHINGTON, December 15, 1941.
890D.01/575 Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division
of Near Eastern Affairs (Alling)
[WASHINGTON,] December 16, 1941. Mr. Barclay handed me the attached aide-mémoire 71 which he said furnished further information concerning the proclamation of Syrian Independence. He added that through some oversight the telegram on which this aide-mémoire was based had only just been received from the Foreign Office, although it had been drafted some two weeks ago. He went on to say that he was instructed to ask whether, in view of