File No. 195.2/327
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Page)
Sir: The Department has received your No. 1302 of April 29, 1915, enclosing for the consideration of the Department a copy of a letter to you from Mr. William C. Kaelin representing himself to be representing the Port Blakely Mill Company of Port Blakely, Washington, and requesting that you approach the British Government with a view to ascertaining its attitude with regard to the purchase by American citizens of one or more German vessels now lying idle in American ports.
It is the view of this Government that citizens of a neutral power have the right to purchase merchant vessels of a belligerent in time of war, and that a German merchant vessel purchased by an American citizen or corporation and duly admitted to American registry, would be entitled to the privileges and immunities of an American, [Page 693] vessel, provided of course that the transfer was not made under such circumstances as to raise a question regarding the bona fides of the transaction.
The Department deems it inadvisable for you to comply with the request contained in Mr. Kaelin’s letter or to take any other action which might be construed as an acknowledgment of the right of the British Government to determine the status of such vessels.
It should be stated in this relation, however, that the Department can give no assurance as to the treatment which the governments that are at war with Germany would accord to a vessel transferred from German to American ownership during the continuance of hostilities.
I am [etc.]