File No. 855.48/168

The Minister in the Netherlands (Van Dyke) to the Secretary of State

No. 195]

Sir: Referring to your cablegram No. 81, of January 21, I have to-day sent you the following reply by cable:

I confirm facts. Report follows.

[Page 1029]

Herewith I have the honor to make the report for which you have asked.

According to my despatch No. 184, of December 29, 1914,1 I sent the letter which was enclosed with that despatch to Captain Lucey, manager of the Rotterdam branch of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, and a copy of the same to the American Ambassador at Berlin, enclosing it in a letter of which I herewith send you a copy.2 On December 31 I received from the Rotterdam branch of the Commission for Relief in Belgium a letter dated December 29, of which you will find a copy enclosed,2 stating that “the matter of duty on imports into the province of Limburg has been taken care of and settled.”

On the same day I replied to this letter as follows:

If effective instructions have been issued to the German civil governor of the province of Limburg in Belgium, that foodstuffs shipped by our commission are to enter free of duty, you may resume shipments from the Netherlands 3 into that province at your convenience. Otherwise not.

And on January 4, by the next American mail, I sent you my despatch No. 187, reporting the facts.2 On January 8 I received a letter from the American Ambassador in Berlin, of which I beg to enclose a copy, together with a copy of my reply,2 made the same day.

I am convinced that the imposition of the import duty on flour by the German civil governor of the Belgium province of Limburg. was due entirely to a mistake on his part. But it was a mistake or such nature that it threatened, if not corrected, to cast doubt upon the absolutely neutral character of our relief work in Belgium, and thus to call forth possible objections from Great Britain and France on the ground that we were contributing to the revenue of a belligerent power.

I have [etc.]

Henry van Dyke
[Enclosure]

The Ambassador in Germany (Gerard) to the Minister in the Netherlands(Van Dyke)

My Dear Colleague: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 26th ultimo regarding the reported action of the German civil commander of the province of Limburg in imposing an import duty on flour shipped into Belgium via Rotterdam by the American Commission for Relief in Belgium. I have at once informed the Imperial German Government of the facts and have requested that this official be directed to desist from imposing this tax and to refund the sums already collected in this manner. In view of the reiterated assurances, both written and oral, which I have received from the German Government of its sympathy with this movement for relief in Belgium, I am persuaded that this action of the civil commander of the province of Limburg results from misapprehension on his part regarding the facts of the case and is not in accord with the sentiments entertained by his Government, and I feel confident orders will promptly be issued to him in the desired sense.

I am [etc.]

James W. Gerard
  1. Ante, p. 1024.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Not printed.