Ambassador Bacon to the Secretary of State.

No. 47.]

Sir: I have the honor to send herewith a copy of the note1 dated November 23, which Mr. Bailly-Blanchard addressed to the minister of foreign affairs in compliance with your instructions of November 3 last, in transmitting the identic circular note with reference to the international prize court and its investment with the functions of a [Page 612] court of arbitral justice. I also inclose the copy and translation of the communication received from Mr. Pichon, in reply, under date of February 15.

I have, etc.,

Robert Bacon.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs to Ambassador Bacon.

Mr. Ambassador: By a letter dated November 23, 1909, Mr. Bailly-Blanchard, chargé d’affaires of the United States at Paris, transmitted to me in behalf of Mr. P. C. Knox, Secretary of State, the identic circular note No. 15, dated October 18, 1909.

I have examined with particular attention the contents of this document, which has for object the proposal of means for bringing definitely into force two institutions created by the second peace conference—i. e., the prize court and the court of arbitral justice.

I am happy to inform your excellency that the Government of the Republic is entirely in favor of the initiative taken by the American Government to bring into the domain of practice the two jurisdictions instituted in 1907 at The Hague.

As regards the two particular points of the American proposition, the following are the reflections which their statement has suggested to me:

1. International prize court.—It is of capital interest that this international court, generally regarded as one of the most important results of the conference of 1907, should act. This is of consequence especially to the United States and France, who, with Germany and Great Britain, have taken the initiative of the project of the prize court. The present proposition of the United States is a sequel of the vœu adopted by the naval conference of London on the report of the French delegate. I can not, therefore, be otherwise than favorable to the American suggestion, and I have no objection to the basis.

As regards the definitive form to give to the reserves which appear to be imposed upon certain States by their constitutions, it would seem to me opportune to draw up on this subject a “complementary convention” of the 1907 convention on the prize court, “complementary convention” to which each power would be at liberty to refer in ratifying and which would reproduce the substance itself of the American proposition.

If the Government of the United States were favorable to this method, which would do justice to its observations with more clearness than a simple reserve and would realize the vote of the conference of London, the terms of the “complementary convention” could be elaborated by a technical committee composed of the representatives of the four powers which have taken the initiative of the prize court. This text once drawn up, the four powers could unite their efforts to have it accepted by the other signatory powers of the convention on the prize court.

In case this view should meet, in principle, with the approbation of the United States Government, it is urgent that this committee be assembled, because the delay accorded for the ratification of the convention on the prize court expires June 30, 1910. Hence it would be opportune to fix before Easter the terms of the “complementary convention.”

2. Court of arbitral justice.—On this question, as on the preceding one, the efforts of the French Government have been joined to those of the United States Government at the time of the second Hague conference, to bring to a conclusion the project for the permanent court of justice. I can only therefore be favorable in principle to the initiative taken by Mr. Knox, who was the first to raise the question of the realization of the vote of the second peace conference relative to the court of arbital justice.

As to the definitive solution to be given, there is reason to inquire whether a distinct connection was not rather indicated than a simple reserve inserted in an act of ratification, to give to the court of arbital justice the means it still lacks.

Another reason militates in this direction. It does not seem, in fact, possible to limit oneself to saying that the international prize court will act as a court of arbital justice; for all the powers which will accept the first may not accept the second, and the prize court could not be adapted to an object other than its own without the unanimous consent of the powers which have established, on the one hand, the prize court; on the other, the court of justice.

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But there is here above all a question of form to examine, and none could be more competent in this respect than the technical committee to which I have alluded. It could make an exchange of views as to the best solution to offer in order to come to an understanding, first, between the four powers represented and afterwards between all the signatory powers.

When your excellency shall have been informed of the dispositions of the Government at Washington in these matters, I shall be extremely obliged if you will be so good as to let me know at once, so that all measures may be taken not to allow the period of delay for ratification to expire before a solution has been arrived at.

Accept, etc.,

S. Pichon.
  1. Not printed.