Memorandum to Dr. Conant
September 23, 1944
MEMORANDUM TO DR. CONANT:
There are some points on which I should post you further, concerning the subject of my memorandum yesterday, for of course you may be brought into the present discussions and I would like to keep you fully posted.
This morning I visited General Groves I acquainted him with the part of the conversation which occurred yesterday, and which is recited in yesterday's memorandum, concerning the contacts of Dr. Bohr and of Justice Frankfurter. The General had no further information to give me concerning the way in which Bohr had gotten in contact with Frankfurter and similar matters. We discussed security somewhat at length. We both felt that there was little danger that Bohr would be indiscreet in regard to the more secret parts of the project, and felt that he had probably based his discussions with Frankfurter only on the physics, which is well known. General Groves also told me about another leak which has occurred, but this he will probably advise you of separately.
I then visited Mr. Bundy. I told him of the general nature and scope of the conference, but we had a brief talk and I did not go into many of the points that are in the memorandum of yesterday. I aid tell him that I had told the President that you and I had recently given a memorandum to the Secretary on the subject of post-war control', and that the President had indicated that he would like to discuss this with us. I understand that he meant that he would like to talk it with the Secretary and that he assumed you or I would also be present, although he was not explicit. I told Mr. Bundy that the President talked international matters concerning the relations of Britain and the United States on this subject in the post-war period, and that he did so in the presence of Lord Cherwell without giving me any prior information that this was to occur and that he told of some of his conversations with Mr. Churchill at Quebec, and that Lord Cherwell had made remarks which showed that he had been present at at least some of these conversations. I told Mr. Bundy that I felt this was a highly dangerous situation and that the Secretary should be apprised at once, and Mr. Bundy stated that he would get me in touch with the Secretary, probably on Monday. Mr. Bundy agreed with me that it was an extraordinary thing to discuss these British relations without having previously sought the careful advice of those closely associated with the project who have given it close thought and those who are his normal advisers on such matters, and that it was particularly extraordinary to open this subject and make broad statements to me in the presence of Lord Cherwell, when I was in no position to make statements on points on which I might be in disagreement as to the appropriate American point of view. We referred back to the previous instance at the time when the previous Quebec conference was held at which time the President did an almost parallel thing. You will remember that I worked with Six John Anderson on a war-time agreement for interchange, and that we did so on the basis of a memorandum prepared by the Prime Minister in which he included also some points having political aspects and points having post-war aspects, and that in my letter in which I placed this matter before the President I recommended that we make the arrangements as indicated for war-time interchange, but expressly stated that I was not advising in regard to the points in the Prime Minister's memorandum which went beyond this aspect, and in fact stated, I believe, that I assumed that the President would call for such advice on these aspects as might be desired. It is my memory that the Secretary saw the President before the Quebec conference and advised rather strongly on certain aspects of this matter, and agreed that he Mr. Bundy this morning agreed that such a conference did occur, and would look up to see whether the Secretary had an appropriate memorandum of that conversation. The result was, as we know, the so-called Quebec agreement. Beyond this information that I here recite I have no knowledge as to what advice the President secured before entering into that agreement. I have the feeling, however, that he did so, having been advised quite completely in regard to the war-time aspects of it, but without full advice in regard to some of the political clauses or post-war clauses. This, taken together with the incident of yesterday, renders me very much disturbed. The working out of post-war relationships on this matter in order to secure as far as possible good international understanding and to provide for the peace of the world with this element present warrants the attention of some of the best possible minds that the President can bring to bear upon it, and I greatly fear that he is proceeding without such advice. I hence intend to tell the Secretary that that is my feeling when I see him on Monday. As I analyze this matter, you and I are called upon to advise in regard to the technical aspects and in regard to various phases of the war-time handling of this subject, but we are not the normal advisers of the President in regard to international relations on the subject generally or on post-war matters, and he has not indicated that we have any duty thus to advise. Nevertheless, I think, if you agree with me, that the time has come when we should say quite definitely to those who are his normal advisers on such matters that we feel that they should insist upon giving their advice even if it is not called for.
There was one other matter which came up in the conversation yesterday which I neglected to put in the memorandum. The conference lasted for about an hour and a half and it was of course difficult to record it in full, although I believe I recorded the essential points accurately. At one time in the conversation the President raised the question of whether this means should actually be used against the Japanese or whether it should be used only as a threat with full-scale experimentation in this country. He did so, I believe, in connection with Bohr's apparent urging that a threat be employed against Germany, which would of course, I think, be futile. I stated that there were many sides to this question, that fortunately we did not need to approach it for some time, for certainly it would be a to make a threat unless we were distinctly in a position to follow it up if necessary, since a threat which had no effect and was not followed up would have the contrary effect to that intended, and that it seemed to me that the matter warranted very careful discussion, but this could be postponed for quite a time, and the President agreed that the matter did not now need to be discussed.