741.91/7: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain ( Davis )

6049. Your 303915 and 3098.16

It is noted that Lord Curzon in view of his conversation with Colonel House states that he was under the impression that the Government of the United States was aware of the character of the negotiations which he was conducting with the Persian Government and that he believed that the United States would give the agreement cordial approval. Colonel House recalls indeed a casual conversation with Lord Curzon regarding Persian affairs but it did not occur to him that he was being formally approached as the official channel of communication with the United States Government in this instance.

Lord Curzon’s letter takes exception to a communiqué issued by the American Minister in Teheran on September 7 which was published in the local press of Teheran and which his Lordship states was of a nature to be regarded as a challenge to the Anglo–Persian agreement of an unfriendly and almost hostile character. He points out what he conceives to be a striking resemblance between the British Agreement with Persia and that which the American Government has under consideration with the Liberian Government. In conclusion his Lordship requests this Government, without delay, to inform the Persian Government and the Persian press that the commimiqué above referred to was not intended to cast any aspersions on the Anglo-Persian agreement but only to refute any misapprehensions caused by an article in the Persian Raad.

You may advise Lord Curzon that the Government of the United States was not aware until formal announcement that an agreement was being negotiated by the British and Persian Governments; that the Communiqué above referred to sets forth the facts of the situation as viewed by this Government, and which it does not seem necessary to repeat herein.

On August 23 this Government was advised of the following article appearing in the Raad, the official cabinet organ in Teheran: “America, the only government able to assist Persia, abandoned her; [Page 715] the four great powers at Paris decided that Persia should be under protection and that it is a part of Great Britain’s portion. Persia has been deceived by President Wilson’s good workers [fine words?] and Persia is in the same position as Egypt.” This was followed by other telegrams from the American Legation in Teheran indicating that the highest Persian officials openly stated that America had refused to aid Persia. In this connection you may remind his Lordship that the people of the United States have always been deeply interested in the welfare of Persia and during the recent terrible famine American philanthropy on a generous scale, came to the relief of suffering Persians and did what it could to mitigate the unhappy conditions then existing.

It was deemed essential therefore, by this Government in view of the statements of the Persian officials and press to authorize the American Minister at Teheran to deny that the United States had refused to aid Persia and it is not surprising that the Minister’s denial soon became publicly known in Teheran. This Government may be pardoned in pointing out that the source of such action arose solely from the act of His Majesty’s Government in concluding, without the preliminary knowledge and acquiescence of this Government, an agreement with the Government of the Shah which promises so materially to affect the relations of the United States with Persia.

Lord Curzon takes occasion to dwell upon the alleged similarity of the Liberian and Persian problems and of the relationships of the United States and Great Britain to those respective countries under the prospective agreements. It may not be amiss, therefore, to point out once more the underlying circumstances concerning the relations of the United States and Liberia.

The Republic of Liberia was founded one hundred years ago through agencies of the United States Government in conjunction with the American Colonization Society, a private enterprise.

Ever since its foundation, this Government has taken a deep interest in the welfare of Liberia and has repeatedly aided her in boundary troubles arising from the extensive encroachments of foreign powers. Latterly the assistance of this Government, as a completely disinterested friend of the Republic, has been especially necessary in view of the threatened attempt of foreign nations, to infringe the sovereignty of Liberia, for their own ends, either through direct means, such as the control of Liberian frontier forces, or indirectly, through the acquisition, by their nationals, of concessions granting extensive control over the industrial, commercial, and financial life of Liberia. The traditional attitude of historical responsibility toward Liberia which the United States has always held, was stated by Secretary of State Bayard in 1886 to France: [Page 716] “We exercise no protectorate over Liberia but the circumstances that the Republic of Liberia originated through the colonization of American citizens and was established under the fostering sanction of this Government, gives us the right as the next friend of Liberia to aid her in preventing any encroachment of foreign powers.” This statement has been ever since the keynote of the American policy in Liberia.

It should be especially noted that the Government of the United States, whenever it has interested itself in Liberian affairs has done so at the express request of the Government of the Republic and with the fullest approval of the Liberian people. In fact, Liberia throughout her history has evinced the fullest confidence in the disinterested attitude of this country and has repeatedly expressed the desire that the United States interest itself most closely in Liberian affairs. Indeed an arrangement similar to that now contemplated was formally and spontaneously suggested by the Liberian Government as long ago as 1908 and the plan of reorganization now proposed has received the widest approbation of the Liberian Government and people.

Whatever may be the apparent similarity of the contemplated agreement between the United States and Liberia to that consummated between Great Britain and Persia, you should point out with all earnestness that, in addition to the underlying dissimilarity of the two problems, as indicated above, the character of the negotiations leading up to the agreements were of an entirely different nature. On the one hand, in the case of Persia an agreement was entered into by His Majesty’s Government with the Shah which affected the relations of Persia to the United States without obtaining the views of the Government of the United States; on the other hand, in the case of Liberia the American Government has been scrupulously careful not to enter upon direct negotiations with Liberia upon a matter which even touched upon the relations of Liberia with Great Britain until a preliminary understanding with His Majesty’s Government had been reached. To this end, by a memorandum to the British Embassy in Washington of November, 1918,17 the British Government was made aware of the vital needs of Liberia and of the desire of the United States Government to come to its assistance. It was not, however, until September, 1919, and after protracted negotiations that the approval of His Majesty’s Government to the contemplated arrangement with Liberia has been obtained—thus causing a delay of ten months in extending the contemplated assistance to Liberia.18

[Page 717]

In conclusion you may point out that this Government is glad of the opportunity afforded by Lord Curzon frankly to express its views in this matter and to say that it is not in a position at the present time to give approval to the Anglo–Persian agreement until and unless it is clear that the Government and people of Persia are united in their approval and support of this undertaking.

The passage regarding Colonel House should be shown to him before communication to Foreign Office.

Last paragraph your 309819 American Minister Teheran has received no further instruction since authorization to issue public statement which he did approximately in the form quoted by Lord Curzon.

  1. Ante, p. 708.
  2. Supra.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1918, p. 545.
  4. For these negotiations, see pp. 464 ff.
  5. Ante, p. 713.