File No. 768.72111/1183a

The Counselor for the Department of State to James H. Hayden

Dear Mr. Hayden : About two weeks ago you called upon me, as an attorney for manufacturers of Submarines, and asked my views as to whether the sale of submarines to a belligerent government would be in violation of the neutrality of the United States. I told you that, while I had not studied the question, my personal opinion was that the sale of component parts of submarines treated in bulk was not illegal, but I expressly said that I could not speak for the Government in the matter until I had studied the question and consulted the Secretary of State. At a later interview I told you that the President and Secretary of State considered that sales of manufactured parts of submarines would be unneutral, and you agreed, as I understood, to submit the matter in writing before any sales were made.

It has been brought to the attention of the Department that certain American companies are supposed to have entered into contracts with one of the belligerent governments for the manufacture of submarines or of their component parts, and that work thereon has already commenced. In view of your statement that you would submit the matter in writing to the Department before sales were made, I would like to be advised as to whether or not any manufacturer, whom you represented when you interviewed me on the subject, has made or is executing any contract of this kind.

Since you consulted me on the subject I think that I am entitled to know this, because it would be improper for your clients to have acted upon an unofficial opinion of mine in view of the reservation made as to the possible attitude of the Government.

I feel it my duty to inform you, in order that there may be no uncertainty in the matter, that this Government is opposed to the sale of submarines or of their component parts by American manufacturers to belligerents, as being contrary to the strict neutrality which this Government seeks to preserve in the present war, and that it will take all legal means to prevent the exportation of such craft and manufactured parts.

You will oblige me by communicating the views of this Government to the persons or concern whom you may represent.

Very sincerely yours,

Robert Lansing