FROM RAMSAY MACDONALD TO
SIR AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
While Mussoliniwas endeavouring to seize Corfu, another question came up: that of Tangier.
The city of Tangier and its environs were administered by an international commission consisting of English, French, and Spaniards. The Italian Government had no share in it, owing to the fact that in 1900 France had disinterested herself in Libya, while Italy had left a free hand to France in Morocco. A Franco-Spanish- British Conference assembled in September 1923.
Mussolini protested that Italy should be represented at the conference, because, not withstanding the 1900 protocol, she had taken part in the Algeciras conference of 1906, which had dealt with the Morocco question; as a consequence, even after 1900, the question of Morocco and Tangier had remained an international one. Moreover, 600 Italians were living in the city of Tangier. Thus the Italian Government was entitled to take part in the new transactions.
Had he not opposed Mussolini's demand, Poincaré would have shown more sense. The matter had no importance. But, with his pedantic legal mind, he stuck like a limpet to the document of 1900: the problem of the Italians in Tangier could be settled by a subsequent Franco-Italian joint agreement.
An Italian diplomat who believed Italy's greatness was proportionate to the noise Mussolini was making, wrote on this subject:
"The question of Tangier is the question of access to the Mediterranean. If this access is of such moment to England because of her communications with India, and if it is now becoming important even to the United States, how much more important is it to us, who receive through the Straits of Gibraltar, vital supplies that are indispensable to our national existence."1
The truth was that "access" to the Mediterranean did not depend on the city of Tangier. The key that could open or dose that "access" was at Gibraltar, in the form of the British Fleet. Had any other fleet been able to destroy the British Fleet, it would likewise have been able to open or close that "access". But meaningless words have a particular fascination in poetry, in philosophy, and in international relations.
Mussolini probably hoped to obtain the support of the Spanish____________________