Foreign Office, S.W.1.
15th December, 1930
Dear Whiskard, (G.G. Whiskard, Esq, C.B.)
We have been carefully considering your letter of November 28th which enclosed the record of a conversation which you had with Sir Richard Squires, prior to his departure for Newfoundland, on the question of St. Pierre and Miquelon.
There seems to be no doubt that just possibly these islands may lead to a very unpleasant inter-Dominion squabble, and that the situation wants careful consideration. We accordingly had the treaty position examined, and I enclose herein a memorandum on the subject.
You will see from this that the treaty position is by no means clear. The French consider themselves completely at liberty to deal with the islands as they please, while we, basing ourselves on a Law Officers’ opinion, hold that the French Government have no right under the Treaty of Versailles of 1783 to dispose of the islands to a third power if we object to it. You will further see that this view was communicated to the French Ambassador before the War, but we have no knowledge whether Monsieur Cambon ever reported the matter to his government, although I should think that he probably did.
As far as our information goes, the French Government have no intention whatever of parting with the islands to the United States, or to anybody else. At the same time it is no doubt perfectly true, as Squires said to you, that the French Government might be sorely tempted, if the United States made them a very valuable pecuniary offer for the islands. It is for consideration, therefore, whether we should once more put on record out interpretation of the Treaty of Versailles of 1783, because if we waited until the American offer for the islands was made to the French, and then claimed our contested treaty right, we should have a double row, both with the French and the United States, which would be far more serious. On the other hand it is rather awkward to bring up this question of treaty interpretation out of the blue, and we should have to consider carefully before doing so what the effect would be upon the French Government.
There would, however, I think, be no objection to instruction Lord Tyrrell to ascertain, in the manner he thinks best, whether there is in fact any chage in French policy with regard to the islands. Up to date, as I said before, our information is that the French have no intention of parting with any of their colonial possessions, and I think it likely that this would be the reply which Lord Tyrrell would get, and this should I think satisfy Squires.
Will you think this over and let us know whether the Dominions Office think it worth while going on with, and let me know in due course.
C. Howard Smith ( ?)
Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon: treaty rights respecting cession.
By article 6 of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon were ceded to France, subject to certain conditions ; but by article 4 of the Treaty of Versailles of September 3rd, 1783, they were ceded « in full right », no conditions being mentioned.
2. Article 4 of the Treaty of Versailles runs: – « His Majesty the King of Great Britain is maintained in his right to the Island of Newfoundland, and to the adjacent islands, as the whole were assured to him by the thirtheenth article of the Treaty of Utrecht