File No. 195.1/386
The British Ambassador (Spring Rice) to the Secretary of State
[Received March, 23.]
Sir: With reference to the informal exchange of views which has taken place between us on the general question of the transfer of ships from an enemy to a neutral flag subsequently to the out-break of hostilities I am now in a position to indicate the conditions on which His Majesty’s Government would be prepared to recognize as valid the transfer of a ship, the beneficial interests in which were American prior to the outbreak of war.
It has been suggested that the United States authorities might be willing to furnish such vessels with a certificate, to be carried on board, to the effect that the beneficial interests in them were American before hostilities commenced, that the transfer took place in accordance with United States law and I have the honour to invite your attention to this suggestion. I desire to explain that, while the certificate would be accepted by His Majesty’s ships as conclusive proof of the facts stated in it, His Majesty’s Government are not prepared to give any general assurance that they will refrain from submitting the validity of the transfer to the tests prescribed by the Declaration of London in any case where there is ground for suspicion that the vessel transferred is being employed in trading with any of the enemy countries either directly or through neutral ports.
I should add for the information of the United States Government and in order to avoid any misapprehension as to the view of my Government that any enemy nationals serving on such transferred ships would be exposed to the risk of being arrested as reservists.
I have [etc.]