File No. 711.6321/89
The Secretary of State to Ambassador Penfield
Washington, February 5, 1917, 6 p.m.
1528 Your telegram 16682 and Despatch 1781. Department is not clear respecting either precise objections of Government of Austria-Hungary to the so-called Seamen’s Act of March 4, 1915, or respecting character of assurances which they desire, since Foreign Office merely observes in general terms in the note addressed to you under date of July 13, last, that since act
encroaches upon Austrian and Hungarian legislation, with simultaneous disregard of the axioms of international law, the Imperial and Royal Government must express the certain expectation that the Government of the United States give the Imperial and Royal Government satisfactory assurances in this regard.
It is unfortunate that the municipal laws of the two countries conflict, as would appear from the Austro-Hungarian Government’s note just mentioned to be the case. However, the Department inclined believe this fact will not result in any serious inconvenience to the vessels of each country. Since act took effect, representations have not been made to Department respecting any such inconvenience on part of ships of other maritime nations with which agreements have been made respecting the abrogation of treaty stipulations in conflict with act, nor nave complaints been made to Department that any action taken by authorities of this Government in connection with the administration of act has been at variance with established rules international law. Department of opinion Government of Austria-Hungary will find no cause for such complaint in behalf their vessels, However, in case a satisfactory understanding cannot be arrived at for the abrogation of treaty stipulations between this Government [Page 12]and Austria-Hungary affected by the act, other provisions of the treaties in question remaining in effect, it would appear that a solution of this matter can only be found in the denunciation of these treaties in their entirety. Department of opinion Government of Austria-Hungary will not consider such course necessary. The Department has been under impression that Government of Austria-Hungary gave its consent to such an understanding in note addressed to you under date July 13, last.
Communicate at once with Foreign Office in sense of foregoing, with reference to its note referred to in your telegram under acknowledgment.
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