File No. 351.622a/10

The Secretary of State to the French Ambassador ( Jusserand )

Excellency: Referring to the Department’s informal communications3 to your excellency in regard to the American registered steamship Metapan, Captain Spencer, owned by the Metapan Steamship Company and flying the American flag, which was, according to the report of the American Consul at Barranquilla, Colombia, on the 4th of October last detained on the high seas off the coast of that country by the French cruiser Condé, I have the honor to call this matter formally to your attention. It appears from the Consul’s report that the Metapan was obliged to submit to a rigid examination and search, that her passenger lists were examined for the purpose [Page 745] of ascertaining whether passengers of German nationality were on board, and that, finding three such who had taken passage from Colon to Barranquilla, returning from New York, they were required to sign paroles not to take up arms in the present European war, or until exchanged, under threat of being forcibly taken from the ship as prisoners of war of the French Republic. The names of these persons are reported to be F. W. Scheller, Erwin Bobisch, and Otto Morsblech, and the document which they were obliged to sign was written in the French language, and reads as follows:


Pledge Not To Serve The Enemy

October 4, 1914.

I, the undersigned Johannes Heinsolm, of German nationality, born at Hamburg, July 10, 1894, at present residing at Bogotá, Colombia, passenger on the ship Metapan (United Fruit Company), declare that I formally engage not to serve on a German or Austrian ship during the war. I declare that I formally engage, for the duration of the war, not to take any service connected in any way with the operations of war. I recognize that it is in consideration of the present formal pledge that Captain Grant, commanding the French cruiser Condé, has set me at liberty.

Done in triplicate: Two copies to the Commander of the Condé, who has signed with me, and a third delivered to me.

For the Commanding Officer of the Condé:
Joh Heinsolm

The American Consul further states that these German passengers were in no sense combatants, were not an organized military body, and were not under arms.

I have the honor, in behalf of my Government, to request that these facts be laid before your Government, with the statement that, if they prove to be correct, the Government of the United States will be under the necessity of protesting against this exercise of French jurisdiction over an American vessel flying the American flag on the high seas, to the extent of compelling passengers of whatever nationality to sign paroles not to take part in the European war, under threat of being taken into custody and removed from the vessel.

Your excellency will appreciate that the length of time which has elapsed since this incident occurred without the matter having been formally called to your Government’s attention has been due to the friendly disposition of my Government to allow ample time for the French Government to investigate the case and express its views in respect to an act of their naval authorities which the Government of the United States regards with grave concern.

Accept [etc.]

W. J. Bryan
  1. Not printed.