File No. 763.72112/704

The Secretary of State to the French Ambassador (Jusserand)

No. 1462]

Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of February 6, 1915, stating that your Government informs you that the German Federal Council by order dated January 25 decreed the seizure by the German authorities of all the flour and cereals then in the Empire or which might reach it on and after the first of February.

The Department notes your excellency’s statement that “one of the effects necessarily produced by that decree is to make that class of merchandise, listed as conditional contraband, liable to capture whoever may be the consignee named in the bill of lading, for their mere arrival in Germany places them by virtue of the aforesaid decree at the disposal of the enemy.”

In this relation I have the honor to call your attention to a formal communication which the German Government has addressed to the Government of the United States in relation to the effect of the order issued by the German Federal Council. This communication reads as follows:

(1) The Federal Council’s decision concerning the seizure of food products, which England alleges to be the cause of food products shipped to Germany being treated as contraband, bears exclusively on “wheat, rye, both unmixed and mixed with other products,” and also “wheat, rye, oats, and barley flour.”

(2) The Federal Council makes an express exception in Section 45 of the order. Section 45 provides as follows:

The stipulations of this regulation do not apply to grain or flour imported from abroad after January 31.

(3) Conjunctively with that saving clause the Federal Council’s order contains a provision under which imported cereals and flours could be sold exclusively to the municipalities or certain specially designated organizations by the importers. Although that provision had for its object simply to throw imported grain and flours into such channels as supply the private consumption of civilians and, in consequence of that provision, the intent and purpose of the Federal Council’s order which was to protect the civilian population from speculators and engrossers were fully met, it was nevertheless rescinded sc as to leave no room for doubt.

(4) My Government is amenable to any proposition looking to control by a special American organization under the supervision of the American consular officers and, if necessary, will itself make a proposition in that direction.

(5) The German Government further calls attention to the fact that municipalities do not form part of or belong to the Government but are “self-administrative bodies,” which are elected by the inhabitants of the commune in accordance with fixed rules and therefore exclusively represent the private part of the population and act as it directs. Although those principles are generally known and obtain in the United States as well as in England itself, the German Government desired to point out the fact so as to avoid any further unnecessary delay.

(6) Hence it is absolutely assured that imported food products will be consumed by the civilian population in Germany exclusively and there remains no ground upon which England can prevent the exportation of food products from America to Germany for the use of civilians.

The Imperial Government expresses the firm hope that the American Government will stand on its right in the matter.

This Government has received another communication from the German Government giving formal assurance to the Government of the United States that all goods imported into Germany from the [Page 324] United States directly or indirectly which belong to the class of relative contraband, such as foodstuffs, will not be used by the German Army or Navy or by the Government authorities but will be left to the free consumption of the German civilian population, excluding all Government purveyors.

Accept [etc.]

W. J. Bryan