File No. 351.622a/50a

The Secretary of State to the French Ambassador ( Jusserand )

My Dear Mr. Ambassador: On December 13 I cabled the American Ambassador at Paris to take up with your Government the question of the seizure of certain Germans and Austrians from the American steamers Coamo, Carolina, and San Juan by the French steamer Descartes on the high seas. I am now advised that the same cruiser has likewise removed on the high seas from the American steamer Borinquen the purser who has charge of preparing the manifests and other papers for presentation at the port of destination.

The American owners of these vessels represent that their pursers have been employed for a number of years, are especially trained in their work, and cannot be replaced on short notice, and that the repeated removal of valued employees works a great hardship and loss in their business. This incident has to-day been telegraphed to the American Ambassador at Paris for presentation to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in connection with the earlier cases.

As you will recall this Government’s attitude in the Piepenbrink case, it is unnecessary for me to review the arguments presented to obtain his release. I may point out, however, that as it is understood [Page 754] that none of the men taken from the vessels mentioned were incorporated in the armed forces of the enemies of France, the action of the Descartes must be regarded by my Government not only as an unwarranted invasion of the sovereignty of American vessels on the high seas, but an act of no military value to the Entente powers, and that therefore this practice is not justified from any point of view and is an inexcusable exercise of belligerent power on the high seas far removed from the zone of hostile operations. As may be expected, therefore, the action of the Descartes has created a very bad impression in this country which only the prompt release of the detained men will counteract.

I am laying this matter before you in order to enlist your assistance in hastening action by your Government in these cases and in removing a source of friction which is sure to increase if the Descartes is allowed to persist in what the American people regard as indefensible interference with American merchant vessels plying between American ports.

I am [etc.]

Robert Lansing