File No. 825.731/1.

Ambassador Fletcher to the Secretary of State.

No 574.]

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a copy, with translation, of Decree of the Chilean Government No. 6364, dated December 30, 1914, which orders all telegraphic, radio-telegraphic and telephonic apparatus, destined or not for public service, whose installation has not been duly authorized to be destroyed and forbids all telegraphic, cable, or radio-telegraphic companies, either governmental or private, to transmit communications in code language or cipher, excepting, however, the communications of diplomatic agents and banks providing they deposit their code with the Director General of Telegraph. All communications must be written in clear language in German, Spanish, French, English, Italian or Portuguese, and may not contain news regarding the situation, movements or operations of the ships of belligerent nations.

Some time before the issuance of this decree and during the incumbency of Mr. Salinas, the matter was several times informally discussed between him and myself and Mr. Castro, the Sub-Secretary, and I pointed out the inconvenience and annoyance to neutral commerce which would be caused by a decree applying to belligerents and neutrals alike. I also pointed out the inconvenience which would be caused if consuls were prevented from communicating with their diplomatic representatives and their governments in code. Both the Minister, Mr. Salinas, and Mr. Castro seemed to agree with the reasonableness of my observations.

The decree was signed on the 30th of December. On the 2d of January I again called on the Foreign Office and took up the matter with both the Minister and the Sub-Secretary. They explained that the decree had been prepared and issued in this comprehensive form, without exception of communications to and from neutral countries, in order to secure a more forceable effect and attract more serious attention, but that exceptions could and would be made later.

This decree very seriously interferes with our commercial and business relations with Chile, and I have received strong and energetic protests from practically all the leading American houses doing business in Chile, and I have addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, under date of January 9, last, a note, of which I enclose copy and in which I embodied the complaints of the American business community.

I have followed up this note with a personal interview with the Minister to-day, and urged him as strongly as possible and with all [Page 37] the arguments at my command to relieve our commerce from these restrictions. He agreed with me that Chile’s responsibility in the matter of neutrality did not extend to other neutral countries and that the restrictions which I complained of should be removed, and promised to take up the matter immediately with the Minister of the Interior, with a view to having the decree amended. I have also spoken of the matter of the decree with a number of leading Senators and Deputies, who have promised to urge its amendment.

I am just now in receipt of a circular from the Foreign Office, transmitting printed copy of the decree and stating that the Minister of the Interior is preparing a new decree excepting consular communications from the scope of the decree. This circular, however, was prepared some days ago, and I am hoping to secure the exception of communications to and from neutral countries also.

I shall, at all events, continue my efforts to have these restrictions upon our commerce removed.

I have [etc.]

Henry P. Fletcher.
[Inclosure 1—Translation.]

Decree No. 6364.

Considering that, in accordance with the Radiotelegraph Conference of London, July 5, 1912, wireless-telegraph offices not authorized by the Government can not exist in the territory of a State;

Considering that Chile signed the 5th Convention of The Hague relative to the rights and duties of neutral powers in case of war;

In view of Articles 3 and 9 of the said Convention, which say the following:

Article 3. Belligerents are likewise forbidden to:

Erect on the territory of a neutral power a wireless telegraphy station or other apparatus for the purpose of communicating with the belligerent forces on land or sea.
Use any installation of this kind established by them before the war on the territory of a neutral power for purely military purposes, and which has not been opened for the service of public messages.

Article 9. Every measure of restriction or prohibition taken by a neutral power in regard to the matters referred to in articles 7 and 8 must be impartially applied by it to both belligerents.

A neutral power must see to the same obligation being observed by companies or private individuals owning telegraph or telephone cables or wireless telegraphy apparatus.

It is decreed:

1. The Intendentes and Governors of the Republic will proceed to dismantle the telegraphic, radio-telegraphic or telephonic apparatus destined or not for the public service, whose installation has not been fully authorized.

2. The telegraphic, cablegraphic or radio-telegraphic companies of the Government or private will not in the future accept, until a new order, for transmission communications which are written in code language or cipher.

3. From this rule are excepted the communications sent by diplomatic agents accredited in the Republic and those exchanged by the banks between their offices, providing that they deposit the key in the Directory General of Telegraphs.

Only communications written in clear language in German, Spanish, French, English, Italian and Portuguese, which do not contain notices regarding the situation, movements and operations of the ships of the belligerent nations, will be accepted.

Take note, communicate, publish and insert in the Bulletin of the Laws and Decrees of the Government.

  • Barros Luco.
  • Pedro N. Montenegro.
[Page 38]
[Inclosure 2.]

Ambassador Fletcher to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

No. 20.]

Excellency: Referring to the conversation I had the honor of having with your excellency on the 2nd instant, on the subject of the decree of the Supreme Government No. 6364, dated December 30, 1914, relating to telegraphic messages, etc., in which your excellency promised to study the question and relieve as far as possible innocent neutral commerce from any annoyances or inconveniences which might arise from the application of the new regulations, I have the honor to inform your excellency that I am in receipt of communications from practically all the leading American commercial establishments in Chile, complaining of the serious effect the decree is having upon our trade and asking me to use my good offices with your excellency to secure an amendment of the new regulations.

The inconveniences complained of are principally:

Owing to the inability on the part of steamer agents to advise the movements of steamers by wire, grave inconveniences will be caused to the consignees and shippers of merchandise and the owners of the steamers, as it will be impossible to prepare for the loading or discharge of a steamer before her arrival, which in many cases will result in demurrage and loss of time and money to all parties concerned.
The export of nitrate will be disorganized for, as the nitrate industry is at present conducted, it is necessary to exchange cables continually between the loading ports and Valparaiso as regards quantities shipped, payments of contracts and duties to be paid to the Government. An example of this difficulty is that on completion of a shipment of nitrate in the loading port both buyer and seller advise their representatives in Valparaiso that the shipment is completed. Payment is made in Valparaiso and the payment is then advised to the loading port when bills of lading are delivered. In all these cablegrams it will be necessary to mention the name of the ship, which we understand will cause them to be censored.
It would be impossible to order payments by cable, which is a commercial operation that is daily taking place, for no commercial house will make a cable payment on a plain word cablegram owing to the danger of fraud.
The secrecy necessary between business houses competing with each other as regards prices of merchandise could not be kept.
A considerable additional expense would be imposed on commercial houses through the inability to shorten cablegrams by putting them into code, thus hindering the commerce of the country.

I desire also, with your excellency’s permission, to refer to the fact that the decree as promulgated makes no exception of the official telegraphic communications of Consuls with their respective diplomatic representatives or their Governments, and that such a rule will seriously impede the transaction of the business of my Government.

From conversations I have had with your excellency’s honorable predecessor and the Sub-Secretary, Mr. Castro, I was under the impression that the Consuls of neutral countries at least were not to be affected by the new regulations.

Relying upon that spirit of justice and the intelligent and active interest in all that concerns the trade of our two countries which characterize your excellency, I beg to ask your excellency to be kind enough to re-study and reconsider this decree in the light of its effect on legitimate neutral commerce and the official business of neutral Governments, and I allow myself to hope that your excellency may find means to harmonize Chile’s duties as a neutral with the interests of other neutral nations, as well perhaps as her own, in free and unrestricted legitimate commercial interchange.

Accept [etc.]

Henry P. Fletcher.