The Secretary of State to Ambassador Reid. 1

No. 1409.]

Sir: You have been officially informed that an agreement of the original proposers of the international prize court was reached at Paris in March of the current year to modify the provisions of the original convention for the prize court in such a way as to render the cooperation of the United States possible, and that the agreement of the four powers has since been transmitted in the form of an additional protocol by the Dutch Government to the various signatories of the prize court convention. On September 19, 1910, the additional protocol was signed by representatives of the four proposers of the original convention (the United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany), and in addition to these by representatives of the Argentine Republic, Austria-Hungary, Denmark, Spain, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Furthermore, at the time of the signing of the protocol the Dutch minister for foreign affairs stated that Bulgaria, Ecuador, and San Salvador had expressed their intention to adhere thereto.

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As the original convention for the establishment of an international prize court was adopted by thirty-four countries represented at the Second Hague Conference and is therefore a joint agreement of those thirty-four countries, it is necessary that the instrument modifying it be ratified by each of the signatories in order that it may bind each signatory to the original convention and modify the original document in the manner desired by the United States.

This Government is very desirous to cooperate in the establishment of the prize court and to participate in its operation, but in order to meet constitutional objections the original convention should be modified as proposed by the additional protocol. As this Government is not in a position to accept the prize court in its original form, and as the ratification of the additional protocol without its acceptance by the other powers to the original convention would be useless, the department does not feel that it can request the Senate to approve the original convention, submit the protocol to the Senate, or take any official steps in the matter until it is assured that the additional protocol modifying the original convention has been accepted by the signatories of the prize court, or that the acceptance of the additional protocol is so reasonably certain as to preclude any doubt as to its approval by all the parties to the original convention.

I desire to submit the original convention, the declaration of London supplementing it, and the additional protocol modifying it to the Senate at its approaching session, in order that the three instruments may be ratified at the earliest possible moment, but I am unwilling to take any action in the premises until assured of the acceptance of the protocol upon which the fate of the instruments depends as far as the United States is concerned.

A circular instruction,1 a copy of which is inclosed for your information, has been sent to American diplomatic officers accredited to the various States which signed the original convention of October 18, 1907, and which have not signed the additional protocol, directing them to request that early and favorable consideration be given to the protocol by those Governments which had not as yet ratified it or expressed an intention to ratify in the immediate future. It is highly desirable that the proposers of the original convention should act in harmony and that they should use their influence concurrently, if not jointly, with the various Governments which have not heretofore signed the additional protocol. It is obvious that a request for its early acceptance made by each of the original proposers would facilitate matters and that the manifestation of a common interest in the prize court and a desire to see it established at the earliest moment through the acceptance of the additional protocol would count for much. In the informal negotiation of the protocol the representatives of the proposers suggested concurrent or joint action in order to secure its prompt acceptance. The department, therefore, feels that the time has come to lay the matter before the Government to which you are accredited and to request its assistance in the matter of the protocol.

In discussing the subject with the secreatry of state for foreign affairs you should state that the department has already instructed [Page 637] its diplomatic officers to request an early and favorable consideration of the protocol, that this Government would much appreciate the cooperation of each of the original proposers, and therefore asks that appropriate instructions be given by the Governments of Germany, France, and Great Britain to its diplomatic officers in support of the initiative already taken by the United States. In your interview with the secretary of state for foreign affairs you will assure him of the deep interest that the United States takes in the prompt establishment of the prize court, and that this proposed action is based upon the belief that the cooperation of the original proposers will be able to secure the establishment of this much-needed and long-delayed international institution. You may lay stress upon the fact that the department considers the acceptance of the declaration of London as well as the additional protocol as essential to the establishment and the successful working of the tribunal. You will also call attention to the fact, as a means to secure prompt and hearty cooperation, that the proposers of the original convention can not well expect the nations to accept the convention and put it into effect if the sponsors do not agree upon the form which it should take.

I am, etc.,

P. C. Knox.
  1. Same, mutatis mutandis, to the American embassies at Paris and Berlin.
  2. Supra.