File No. 763.72111/2065
The German Embassy to the Department of State
[Received March 27.]
The German Embassy presents its compliments to the United. States Department of State and has the honor to inform the Department of State that the steamer Pisa, of the Hamburg-American Line, lying in New York Harbor since the outbreak of the present war, intends to apply for clearance papers. The Pisa is bound for Hamburg with a cargo of coal and provisions; if possible, the ship shall on that voyage try to communicate with a German cruiser in the Atlantic; afterwards ship to continue her journey to Hamburg. No supplies having been taken to any German man-of-war in that region within the last three months, the Embassy is entitled to assume that no legitimate objections are to be expected to that purpose. To make clear some points already discussed verbally, the Embassy begs to point out:
- The clearance of a ship carrying coal to Hamburg can not in any way be considered as illegal, there being no law or regulation, as far as the Embassy knows, to prevent shipment of coal from the United States to Hamburg. Whether such a procedure is “usual” or not is immaterial, as long as no legal prohibition is transgressed, everybody being entitled to do what is not formally forbidden by law or regulation.
- The basis for the question whether the supply carried to a man-of-war is allowed by the neutrality laws of the United States or not, is the Department’s note to this Embassy, dated December 24, 1914,2 which apparently is based upon Article 20, Agreement
[Convention] XIII, of the Second Hague Convention [Conference], October 18, 1907.
In this note, referring to the convention just mentioned, it is said:
Article 5, of the same convention, forbids belligerents to use neutral ports and waters as a base of naval operations against their adversaries. As stated in the Department’s statement on “merchant vessels suspected of carrying supplies to belligerent vessels” dated September 19 last (a copy of which is enclosed), the essential idea of neutral territorry becoming the base for naval operations by a belligerent is in the opinion of this Government repeated departure from such territory of merchant vessels laden with fuel or other supplies for belligerent warships at sea.
From the reference to Agreement [Convention] XIII of the Convention [Conference] it is to be deduced that the word “repeated” means “more than once in three months.” As already mentioned, no supplies for the German men-of-war involved here left the United States of America within the last three months. The words “for belligerent warships at sea” make it clear, that it is immaterial whether the warship to be supplied is in port, off a port, or on the high sea. As a matter of fact in all three cases the only difference would be in the distance covered by the supply-carrying conveyance. Therefore no international law or agreement establishes such a difference. Nor is there any distinction made between furnishing supplies for a home journey or any other purpose. In fact, according to international law, there seems to be only one restriction put to supplying belligerent warships: that one ship can not be supplied from the same neutral port more than once within three months.
It is obvious that it is for the party making the charge that such supplies have been furnished more than once within three months, to prove the charge by substantiated evidence.
The Embassy must assume that the rules laid down in Mr. Bryan’s note of December 24, 1914 are still in force. The resolution passed by Congress and promulgated on March 4, does not seem to alter any existing laws, but appears to empower the Executive to enforce laws already in existence.1