File No. 763.72111Ei9/13
The Department of State to the British Embassy
The Department of State acknowledges the receipt of the British Embassy’s memorandum of the 22d instant relative to the repairs which the Prinz Eitel Friedrich is undergoing at Newport News.
The Department has given due consideration to the principles embodied in Article 17 of Hague Convention No. XIII of 1907, which is referred to by the British Embassy, but which the Department understands has not been ratified by the British Government. In conformity with those principles and the law of nations, the Government has allowed the cruiser to carry out such repairs as, in the Government’s opinion, are proper in the circumstances. For example, the Prinz Eitel Friedrich has been allowed to dock and have her bottom scraped and painted, her tail shaft drawn, and certain repairs made to her boilers and engines. The necessary repairs were determined by a board of naval officers, who made a thorough examination of the ship and prepared a report, which has been used by this Government as a basis for determining the repairs to be made upon the vessel. The Department has not as yet been advised of the exact details of the repairs which are under way on the cruiser, but the general nature of the repairs has been indicated above.
As to the point made by the British Embassy that the cleaning and painting of the bottom of the Prinz Eitel Friedrich and the making of engine-room repairs will materially increase her fighting efficiency, it is only necessary to state that this conclusion may be drawn from any work in the nature of repairs which may be done upon a cruiser while in port, such as repairs to her steam pipes or to any part of the ship whatever. It is presumed the ship would not have come into port except to receive repairs or to obtain supplies, and therefore it is not to be supposed that she would leave the port in the same condition as that in which she arrived, that is, without having her fighting efficiency increased beyond what it was when she entered.
The Government has had in mind the principle laid down by Mr. Clay, Secretary of State, in the case of the privateer Juncal which put in at Baltimore for repairs after an action at sea with a Brazilian cruiser. Mr. Clay stated:
Whilst you will not fail to allow her the usual hospitality, and to procure the necessary refreshments, the President directs that you will be careful in preventing any augmentation of her force and her making any repairs not warranted by law. With respect to the latter article, the reparation of damages [Page 831] which she may have experienced from the sea is allowable, but the reparation of those which may have been inflicted in the action is inadmissible.
In the opinion of the Government, a foul bottom is clearly a damage which the Prinz Eitel Friedrich “experienced from the sea.”
In conclusion the Department would direct attention to the provision in Article 17 referred to above, that “the neutral authorities shall decide what repairs are necessary.” In the exercise of its discretion, the Government has decided that the cleaning, and painting of the bottom of the cruiser, as well as the other repairs now being carried out, fall within the principles laid down by Hague Convention No. XIII and the rules of international law applicable to the case.