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United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States diplomatic papers, 1937. The British Commonwealth, Europe, Near East and Africa

United Kingdom ,   pp. 1-135 PDF (51.1 MB)

Page 132

811.0141 Phoenix Group/231
Memorandum by the Coumnelor of the Department of State (Moore)
                                  [WASHINGTON,] October 22, 1937.
  Last summer I was directed by the President to approach the British
with a view to discussing the ownership of islands in the Pacific, and I
handed Sir Ronald Lindsay a note containing a proposal looking in
that direction. As no reply was received, the matter was brought to
the attention of the British Charge, who wrote me that he was awaiting
instructions from his government, but on October 20th he came in and
handed me a reply containing a refusal to discuss the ownership of the
islands of the Phoenix group, which include Canton and Hull, the
former of which is important. The Charge said that his government
is not disputing our ownership of Howland, Jarvis and Baker,33 but is
declining to admit that there is any doubt about British ownership of
Canton and Hull. He indicated that the British are willing to talk
about all of the islands except the two last mentioned, Canton being
the one we now mainly have in mind. I at once informed the Presi-
dent of all of this, leaving it to him to determine whether he will dis-
cuss the matter with Admiral Leahy and me before he goes to Hyde
Park tomorrow evening. It may be that he will think it desirable for
our government to do what the British government is said to have re-
cently done, namely, build a small house on Canton Island and put a
couple of men in charge. While our investigation of the ownership of
Canton has not been completed, I am satisfied, as I told the British
Charge that if there were a judicial proceeding involving the British
claim, his government would be unable to prove ownership, and that
if it can be assumed that neither government can show a perfectly good
title, it would seem very desirable to canvass the situation, with the
result, perhaps, of agreeing that the island shall be used for aviation
purposes under some sort of joint control by both British and
                                            R. W[ALToN] M[oolu]
  P. S. After the foregoing was dictated, Admiral Leahy and I were
called to the White House and discussed the matter in question and
finally it was determined on my suggestion that no immediate reply
should be made to the British note, but further conversation be had
with the British Ambassador on his return here around November 1st,
it being just possible that he may bring about some reconsideration of
the view expressed in the Charge's note. From what the President
  3 On May 13, 1936, President Roosevelt had issued an Executive Order placing
Howland, Jarvis, and Baker Islands under the control and jurisdiction of
Interior Department; Federal Register, May 15, 1936, p. 405.

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