File No. 195.1/354
The French Ambassador ( Jusserand ) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 18.]
Mr. Secretary of State: Referring to the communications which I have previously had occasion to make to your excellency on the subject of vessels sailing under a foreign flag but owned by Americans, which may be transferred to the American flag by virtue of the act of August 18 last, I have the honor to inform you that my Government wishes to make it clear that our recognition of such a transfer is to be understood in the sense hereinbelow stated, which, as your excellency will acknowledge, is in conformity with logic and practiced rules:
- The recognition of a transfer effected under the above-stated conditions presupposes, of course, that the transaction is bona fide and that the vessel is not to be under the direction or in the service of enemy interests either before or after the transfer.
- Reliable reports which have reached the Government of the Republic show that the German Government has refused to recognize such transfers except when the vessels concerned were to serve German interests. The principle of equality which governs the relations between neutrals and belligerents prevents the Allied Governments from respecting, in such case, any trade that might be carried on with Germany under [Page 691] the American flag as long as that power does not, for its part, respect trade carried on with the Allied countries under absolutely similar conditions.
- Recognition of the transfer to the American flag of an enemy vessel under the special circumstances accepted by the Allied Governments may not and must not, by reason of the foregoing, be taken for granted and effective except when the vessel availing itself of it does not actually serve enemy interests by sailing or trading for the account of an enemy country.
- It is important to note that subjects of an enemy country who may be kept in the crew of the vessels transferred to the American flag would be liable to arrest as being subject to military service, in accordance with the decision jointly reached by the French and English Governments which was made public through insertion in the Journal officiel de la République française of the 3d of November last.
Be pleased [etc.]