File No. 656.119/185
The Commercial Adviser of the British Embassy ( Crawford ) to the Counselor for the Department of State ( Polk )
My Dear Mr. Counsellor: I had a conference with Mr. Munson of the War Trade Board in regard to Dutch and Swedish tonnage, [Page 1152] yesterday, and as a result of this conference we have telegraphed to the Foreign Office making the following proposals for a modus vivendi with the Dutch and Swedes in regard to tonnage, pending the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement.
- All Dutch ships now in United States ports to be chartered to the Shipping Board for one round-trip voyage to South America, provided, however, that a proportion of these ships to be agreed on, will proceed to Australia and return with cargo of wheat to a United States Atlantic port.
- AH Swedish ships in United States Pacific ports to go to Australia and return with a cargo of wheat to a United States Atlantic port. All Swedish ships in other United States ports to be chartered to the Shipping Board for one round trip to South America. All Swedish ships in ports in the United Kingdom to be chartered to Furness Withy for one round trip outside the danger zone, such as to the Plate and back with wheat to a United States Atlantic port. In return, Sweden might be allowed to export some coffee and kerosene from the United States in conformity with the recent request made by the Swedish delegates to the War Trade Board.
- If the Dutch and Swedish Governments refuse these reasonable proposals or do not speedily reply to them, it will be advisable that the British Government should requisition Swedish ships now in United Kingdom ports on the understanding that the United States Government will requisition Dutch and, perhaps, also Swedish ships in United States ports.
As I explained to Mr. Munson, we shall probably be unable to requisition Dutch ships in United Kingdom ports because, if we proceed with our provisional agreement with the Netherlands Oversea Trust, as to tonnage for Belgian Relief (a course which I understand the American delegates in London have approved), all Dutch ships in United Kingdom ports will be needed to carry coal to Holland.
The British Government hopes, as has already been intimated in our official note to the Secretary of State on the general tonnage question, that the United States Government will feel itself in a position to requisition Dutch ships in United States ports if the Dutch Government, or the Dutch owners, refuse to employ them in some such manner as the above, which in the present wheat situation may be regarded as essential to the feeding of the European nations, neutral as well as Allied. We understand that the Dutch have already failed to reply to a reasonable proposal on these lines submitted to them by the War Trade Board in respect of the 27 empty Dutch ships now in your ports and we venture to submit for your consideration the question whether this failure does not in itself form a ground for requisitioning these 27 ships even before the above comprehensive modus vivendi has been discussed with the Dutch Government. This applies, especially, to cases where [Page 1153] the Dutch owners are willing to acquiesce in requisitioning measures and the British Government does not anticipate that any bad effects will be produced on pending negotiations by such measures, especially if requisitions take place gradually and quietly.
Yours very truly,