The Secretary of State to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: By the treaty of cession of August 4, 191612 we are bound to pay over to Denmark the twenty-five million dollars and take possession of the Danish West Indies before April 17th. That leaves us less than a month to make the arrangements for the formal delivery of the islands and payment of the money, which in view of the necessary communications with Copenhagen is a very short time. We ought to start without delay.

You have not indicated to me whether you have decided to have the War or Navy Department take control of the provisional government. That is of course the first question to be determined, because we must consult with the officials of the Department selected as to the formalities and the officers to administer the affairs of the islands. After this is decided I will name an official of the State Department to consult with an official of the other Department and also with the Danish Minister as to the procedure to be followed.

On account of the naval importance of the new acquisition as well as the marked efficiency shown by the naval officers in the conduct of affairs in Haiti and the Dominican Republic I personally favor the assignment of the duty of Government for the present to the Navy Department, although I realize that the War Department is especially equipped for administration of insular possessions. In voicing this opinion I do not intend to criticize in any way the War [Page 511] Department, which would undoubtedly do well in the administration of the civil government of the islands. My opinion is based on the fact that from the viewpoint of national defense the problems are essentially naval and that the administration of affairs and control of the public properties and improvements should be subordinated to the plans and purposes of the General Board of the Navy. I fear that with the War Department in control there might be failure to carry out these plans and purposes properly and there is always the possibility of friction as to the policies to be adopted.

I hope that you will be able to give me very promptly a decision in this matter as I feel that there is no time to lose in arranging for the formal delivery of the islands.

Faithfully yours,

Robert Lansing