File No. 659.119/152

The Chargé in Denmark ( Grant-Smith ) to the Secretary of State


1743. Your telegram 5926, November 28, 9 p.m.2 The following reply has been received from the Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs:3

Copenhagen, December 24, 1917.

Monsieur le Chargé d’Affaires: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the note which the Vice President of the American War Trade Board was good enough to hand to the King’s Minister at Washington, D. C. on the 28th ultimo, copy of which you kindly handed to me a few days after.

The Danish Government also regret that the negotiations which have lately been conducted in Washington, D. C, have not reached a conclusion but note with satisfaction that your Government are animated with the desire of pushing forward the negotiations in every way possible and that the proposal which you have put forward as a basis of the negotiations is open to modifications.

[Page 1103]

In conformity herewith I have the honor to set forth below a counter-proposal on the part of the Danish Government asking you to be good enough to bring the contents of this note to the knowledge of your Goverment and to request them to hand a copy of the same to M. Brun.

It seems to me that the proposal of the United States Government can suitably be divided into three principal groups:

The offer of goods from America and the conditions connected with their use;
The restrictions demanded by America in Danish agricultural exports;
Delivery of Danish tonnage to the American Shipping Board.

I would beg to suggest that these three groups and the subdivisions of same as indicated here be maintained in further correspondence for convenience in telegraphing.

Group 1, subdivision 1. The list of goods for which license will be granted should be brought back to quantities and species originally settled between the commercial department of the Danish Legation at Washington, D. C., and the American negotiators toward the end of October last, as per enclosed copy1 with the exception of “casings” and “hair,” especially “bristles” which has again been refused by the War Trade Board.

The following alterations in the list are, however, desired: copper raised to 2,500 tons; coffee raised to 16,000 tons; cocoanuts raised to 100 tons; tea raised to 600 tons; spices raised to 500 tons; pepper raised to 168 tons; rubber goods, rubber shoes and rubber tires, 700 tons. It is desired that the ration for wood, 300 tons, should be abolished and the materials given us in accordance with our needs.

The Danish associations do not wish to protract the negotiations by further demands for goods but would stipulate that negotiations respecting such goods as well as respecting the rations fixed may always be possible. The associations also desire that the goods already bought be liberated even if they in all surpass the rations fixed and even if not on list. It is desired that the rations be equally divided over the year and that it is assured that season articles arrive on time.

Subdivision 2. The Danish Government further think that the arrangement should only comprise goods originating in America, but from the fact that the American Government have entered on this list goods which do not originate in America, the Danish Government draw with pleasure the conclusion that imports to Denmark which come under the control of the naval forces of the United States or loaded on ships supplied with American coals or oil deposited abroad will not be interfered with. As regards particularly Chile saltpetre on the adequate and timely arrival of which raw material the whole supply of Denmark with cereals for next winter depends, the idea that any stoppage could be thought of in connection with this import can only cause the greatest anxiety to the Danish Government.

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Subdivision 3. As regards the stipulations and conditions for the employ of the goods received from America the Danish Government suggest that the guarantee system established by the “Grosserer-Societet” and the “Industriraad” be accepted as satisfactory. In this connection I hereby state that the Danish Government are convinced that these two institutions to the best of their efforts will fulfil the obligations upon which they enter as has been clearly manifested by the work of the associations during the last two years. For this reason the stipulation that the exports of manufactured articles from Denmark must not exceed $2,000 becomes superfluous. The Danish Government have, however, no objections to accept the special conditions respecting the use of lubricants, kerosene, and gasoline.

[Beginning of section 2.]

Group 2, subdivision 1. The Danish Government exceedingly regret the position which the American Government have taken respecting the export of Danish agricultural produce and which, according to the reports received from our Legation in Washington, does not coincide with the position previously taken by the American representatives during the negotiations. As I have repeatedly had the honor to state to your Government, through the American Minister here and through the King’s Minister at Washington, the large export of butter, bacon, and eggs to England during the war could only be maintained as long as the import of fodder-stuff to Denmark was free. A change in the existing distribution is therefore only possible should the policy of the United States and Great Britain and her allies be altered so as to allow the free import of fodder-stuffs, but in any case it would not be possible to revert to the pre-war percentages, but only to 38 per cent for butter and about 18 per cent for bacon to Germany, the distribution existing until the stoppage of the fodder-stuff imports occurred.

I beg also to state that though the Danish Government had declared to the British Government that the consequence of the stoppage of the fodder-stuff import would be that largely increased exports would go to Germany, the Danish Government have succeeded in carrying through that only about 50 per cent of the total exports of butter, bacon and eggs actually go to Germany after the home market together with Scandinavian markets have been supplied. This solution of the situation has been accepted by the British Government. Sweden and Norway receive now about 30 per cent of the exportable surplus and Germany actually gets only 35 per cent of bacon and butter, thus for the last-mentioned article somewhat less than before the stoppage of the fodder-stuff import. In order, however, not to leave any attempt untried to reach an agreement, the Danish Government are willing for a period of six months to guarantee that the export of bacon and butter to Germany will not go beyond 800 tons a week. This can only be considered an average amount, a certain option being reserved for a period of at least two months’ duration.

Subdivision 2. The existing fish arrangement will be upheld, so that a total of about 25,000 tons will be exported to Germany or a monthly average of about 2,100 tons, any previous deficit being made [Page 1105] good in the following months. The Danish Government take it for granted that petroleum imported from America in conformity with the basis of the fish arrangement can be used for the fishery.

Subdivision 3. Denmark is willing to limit the export of cattle to Germany to an average of 8,000 per week. A right of being four weeks ahead in the export must be reserved.

Subdivision 4. Horses: Denmark will limit the export of horses to Germany to an average of 3,000 per month with the reservation that during the two months January and February an extra quantity of 15,000 may be exported.

Subdivision 5. Hides: Denmark is willing to divide the exportable surplus of hides between the Allies, Sweden and Germany, as has previously been done.

Group 3, subdivision 1. The demand of the American Government for the cession of tonnage in return for licenses for export, especially for an amount of tonnage of such dimensions, involves difficulties of a political nature, both external and internal, as well as of an economic nature.

At this period of the war when from German side every effort is made to destroy as much tonnage as possible, in order to prevent the supplies reaching its opponents, a further cession of tonnage practically comprising the remaining surplus of the Danish Fleet will be viewed with the greatest dissatisfaction and suspicion. The Danish Government therefore feel compelled to object to sanctioning the cession of such tonnage as such action on their part may entail grave political consequences for Denmark in her relations with her southerly neighbor. Should it nevertheless be necessary to cede tonnage, the Danish Government must likewise even more strenuously object to the employ of such tonnage, wholly or partly, in the danger zone.

But also for internal political reasons the question is most difficult to solve. When Danish shipping ceded 200,000 tons to England in June, 1917, it was done on the understanding that no further demands for duty voyage or other tonnage would be put forward so that the remainder of Danish shipping could be employed without danger in bringing the supplies of which the country was in need. As the question now stands, it amounts to a demand on the shipping community of Denmark to give up the entire control of their Fleet to be used at the will of another country. In the United States, where commercial, industrial, and shipping communities have the fullest freedom to arrange their affairs, as they think it best, I believe it will be easily understood with what feelings the demand of the American Government has been received by the entire Danish shipping world. A cession of this kind would necessarily have to be voluntary, for it stands to reason that it is difficult, not to say impossible, to pass laws whereby Danish citizens would be compelled to cede the use of their property to a belligerent country.

Apart from the political considerations, it will be understood that every shipowner strenuously objects to allowing his ships to sail in the danger zone. A Danish company can reasonably be expected to expose the lives of the crew intrusted to his care and his ships in order to bring supplies through the danger zone to Denmark, but not from one belligerent country to another. The anxieties and [Page 1106] unwillingness of Danish shipowners to enter upon an arrangement is further increased by the fact that lately the British Government have put forward a claim to have the 200,000 tons ceded to them in June, 1917, maintained to the full amount, so that Danish shipping shall not only bear the losses suffered in Allied trade, but even expose more ships to the same danger. They naturally think there is a limit to the demand which can be made on them, however much, they wish to ease the political situation of their native country. The amount of tonnage claimed by the British Government is 35,000 tons which will materially alter the basis on which the American calculations are made.

The difficulties of economic nature are manifold, but it will only be necessary to point out that not only does the tonnage lost constitute a great danger for the economic development of the companies themselves, it being impossible within reasonable time to replace the ships, but the loss of tonnage is a danger to Denmark’s whole economic life, as after the war this country risks to stand denuded of ships wherewith to bring home the necessary raw materials for the rebuilding of her agriculture which is now and perhaps for many years to come, crippled.

The Danish Government wishing to come to an agreement with the United States, are still negotiating with the shipping companies. This is the reason why this answer has been delayed and why the following counter-proposals can only be termed the tentative position of Danish shipping to the general question of the cession of tonnage.

[Subdivision 2.] In order to bring to Denmark coals from England and oversea supplies 450,000 tons of tonnage will be necessary. As regards the employ of the tonnage left for Denmark, no conditions as to its use can be accepted. The Danish Government must in principle insist that whatever tonnage is ceded, the supply of tonnage at Denmark’s disposal ought always be kept up to the quantity necessary for Denmark’s supplies.

Subdivision 3. Whatever tonnage Denmark may cede must definitely settle the question of cession of tonnage, no further claims can therefore be put forward either by the United States Government or by their co-belligerents.

Subdivision 4. Danish shipping insist on the Baltime form for charters.

Subdivision 5. Time-charter freights for Belgian Relief should be equal to the freight offered for possible traffic in the danger zone. The indemnity for losses should be raised to £40 per ton dead weight and Danish shipping desire that freights as well as indemnities for losses be fixed in American dollars and not in sterling.

Subdivision 6. For all ships employed in Danish trade or in trade recognized by the United States Shipping Board or the Inter-Allied Shipping Committee, full bunkers must be guaranteed both for voyage out and back and likewise ship stores and provision should be delivered in conformity with the wishes of the owners.

Subdivision 7. The tonnage which is already, or will be, employed in traffic between the United States and the Allies should be calculated in the tonnage to be placed at the disposal of the United States.

Subdivision 8. In order that the full value of the tonnage left at the disposal of Denmark be as effective as possible, all inspection [Page 1107] harbors must be avoided. The ships shall be entitled to sail directly from loading port to Denmark.

Subdivision 9. Danish shipping further urge that no ships placed at the disposal of the United States be used for “ore trade,” Danish ships being entirely unsuitable for such traffic.

For political reasons the Danish Government finally think it right that this agreement, as prior agreements respecting Denmark’s imports and cession of tonnage, in form be concluded between the commercial, industrial and shipping associations and the American Government, but the King’s Minister at Washington has been fully authorized to negotiate with the American Government respecting the conclusion of the arrangement on behalf of the said associations. Finally, I beg to suggest that an agreement in conformity with other similar agreements be terminable on giving reasonable notice, say a fortnight.

I sincerely hope that by this counter-proposal I have made it possible to arrive at an agreement with the United States Government and avail myself of this opportunity to express to you. Monsieur le Chargé d’Affaires, the assurance of my most distinguished consideration. Signed, Erik Scavenius.

  1. Transmitted by the Ambassador in Great Britain, Dec. 26 and 27.
  2. Ante, p. 1074.
  3. Minor corrections have been made in the text, based on the copy later received from the Chargé. (File No. 659.119/191.)
  4. Not printed.