File No. 763.72111/281

The Acting Secretary of Commerce (Sweet) to the Secretary of State

Sir: The following telegram was sent on the 5th instant to all of the principal collectors of customs:

In pursuance my telegram of this day you are hereby instructed as follows: You will permit foreign vessels to clear only after they have filed with you their full manifests and you will at the same time notify master of each vessel that all outgoing foreign vessels will be subject to inspection of their papers and cargo by United States authorities within the territorial waters of the United States.

The following telegrams were sent to the Collector of Customs at New York:

Have representative of each foreign vessel in your port certify to this Department whether she is a merchant vessel intended solely for the carriage of passengers and freight, excluding munitions of war, or whether she is a part of the armed force of her nation. This information is for purpose of maintaining the neutrality of the United States under recent proclamation President. Clearance will be refused in absence of this certificate.

Wire Department before issuing clearance papers to foreign vessels unless you are satisfied after careful inspection that ship has not made any preparations while in port tending in any way to her conversion into a vessel of war. Taking on abnormal amount of coal, except in case of colliers, would indicate such conversion. Unpacking of guns already on board would be conclusive. Painting of vessel a war color would indicate conversion. It must be clear that she is not to be used for transportation recruits or reserves for a foreign army or navy. This does not prevent transportation of passengers in usual sense, as where there are women and children and men of different nationalities even though among them there were a few reserves without your knowledge. If her passengers are nearly all men and practically all of same nationality, clearance cannot be granted. It must be unquestionable that she has no arms or munitions of war aboard.


E. F. Sweet

Acting Secretary