File No. 763.72111/3288

The Secretary of State to the French Ambassador ( Jusserand )

My Dear Mr. Ambassador: I have just received a report from the Navy Department stating that the United States Naval Radio Station at San Juan was requested on December 7 by the French consular officer at that port to transmit a message to the French cruiser Descartes patrolling outside the port of San Juan. Upon the transmittal of the message being properly refused, the tug Berwin left the port and steamed out to the cruiser, near which she remained until after dark. The officer surmises that the French consul took this means of communicating his message to the French cruiser.

I am calling this matter to your attention informally in order to avoid, if possible, the necessity of bringing the matter to the attention of your Government in a formal manner for, as it is generally known, the Government has during the present war taken the attitude that belligerent cruisers may not use American coasts as sources of information to guide them in their belligerent operations. Such a practice would obviously transform American shores into bases of naval operations. If the facts turn out to be as I have described them I would appreciate it if you could find it possible to have instructions issued to the commanders of French cruisers to desist from this method of obtaining information.

In this relation I desire to call your attention to a report which has been received from American authorities at San Juan that the same French cruiser has, since it arrived off the Porto Rican coasts, been very active in stopping all vessels leaving and approaching San Juan within the sight of the port, and on several occasions approaching well within the three-mile limit, presumably for the purpose of observation. This practice, which has received the appellation of [Page 882] “hovering,” has, as you may recall, been always regarded by this Government as inconsistent with the treatment to be expected from the naval vessels of a friendly power in time of war and as a vexatious menace to the freedom of American commerce. On account of the cordial relations existing between our Governments, I am sure that as a result of calling this matter to your attention instructions will be issued to the French ships to desist from a practice which is creating such a bad impression in Porto Rico and New York.

I am [etc.]

Robert Lansing