The Secretary of State to the Secretary of the Treasury (McAdoo)

Sir: In reply to your letter of June 21 inquiring whether collectors’ reports on armed vessels of belligerent nationality which repeatedly visit United States ports might be dispensed with in certain cases, I have the honor to enclose a copy of a note from the Ambassador of the French Republic at this Capital, dated the 19th instant,1 in which he suggests that, the French Embassy having, with the permission of the French Government, given once for all the assurance that the armament of merchant vessels of French nationality calling at American ports will be used for defense only, the French consul of the district in which a French vessel enters might furnish the requisite assurance to the collector of customs, instead of having it furnished by the Ambassador through this Department.

I am inclined to favor both of these suggestions, and I have therefore to recommend that collectors be instructed to dispense with reports on armed merchantmen of belligerent nationality, if after investigation the collector would not materially vary his prior report on the same vessel when it last visited his port, and that collectors be also instructed to clear French vessels (after approval of his report to Washington, if any report is made), upon the production of the formal assurance in writing of a French consul that the armament will be used only for defensive purposes. This assurance should be in writing for each vessel, and in a form similar to the assurances which the French Ambassador has heretofore given. In cases of vessels of nationality other than French, and in cases of French vessels leaving American ports where there are no French consular officers, the assurances will be obtained by this Department from the [Page 756] appropriate diplomatic representative here in the usual manner upon notice from your Department of the arrival of the vessel in an American port.

If you perceive no objection to the foregoing recommendations and if you will notify me when the corresponding instructions have been issued to the collectors, I will inform the French Ambassador that his suggestion regarding consular assurances has been adopted.

I am [etc.]

Robert Lansing
  1. See on opposite page.