File No. 763.72112/1190

Circular issued by the Foreign Trade Advisers of the Department of State

The following note has been received from the British Embassy at this Capital relative to the movement of American-owned goods now in Germany to this country:

The British Embassy are authorised to state that in cases where a merchant vessel sails from a port other than a German port carrying goods of enemy origin for which American importers claim to have made payment prior to March 1, 1915, proofs that such goods were paid for before March 1 may be submitted for examination to the Embassy. If such proofs are presented at a sufficiently early stage to enable the report thereon to be communicated in time to the British authorities, the results of the investigation will be taken into account and due weight attached to them in deciding whether the goods concerned should be discharged under the provisions of Article 4 of the order in council of March 11.

On March 30, 1915, the Government of the United States replied to the British orders in council assuming that the British Government will not deny the rule that innocent shipments may be freely transported to and from the United States through neutral countries to belligerent territory without being subject to the penalties of contraband traffic or breach of blockade, much less to detention, requisition or confiscation, and that this would of course include all outward-bound traffic from the neutral country and all inward-bound traffic to the neutral country except contraband in transit to the enemy.

While the Government of the United States can not in any way lend its aid in an official and formal manner to procuring American-owned goods now in Germany for the importers of the United States which would in the slightest degree amount to a recognition of the position of Great Britain in respect to non-contraband goods, especially from neutral ports, the office of the foreign trade advisers of the Department will aid informally American importers who desire to present proof of ownership of American goods in Germany for which American importers claim to have made payment prior to March 1, 1915.

You are therefore advised that if you desire to submit proofs of your ownership of goods, paid for before March 1, for examination by the British Embassy, you may forward such evidence as you have to the foreign trade advisers of the Department of State. In doing so, it is suggested that you incorporate with the evidence of ownership and payment information in the following order:1

A history of the case, showing dates of payment, nature of the goods bought, location of goods at the present, date when they reached their present location, name of steamer on which it is desired to ship such goods, date of sailing of such steamer, and all further information pertaining to origin, payment, and shipment of goods in your possession.
Original bank drafts or evidence of transfer of money from this country to belligerent country, verified by bank officials if possible.
Invoices of goods and such other evidence as will prove the identity of the goods with those actually paid for.
Such other and further information in regard to the shipment of goods and payment therefor as will be pertinent and corroborative.

This evidence will be collated and presented to the British Embassy for communication to the British authorities. In presenting this evidence the foreign trade advisers will act unofficially as your representatives and with the understanding that in so doing the Department does not recognize the position of the British Government under Article 4 of the order in council of March 11, or any other article contained in the orders in council, but the unofficial aid of the foreign trade advisers is given merely to facilitate the shipments of American-owned goods of belligerent origin.

Very truly yours,

Robert F. Rose

William B. Fleming
  1. The following paragraphs are not consecutively numbered in the official text.