File No. 600.119/284

The French Ambassador ( Jusserand ) to the Secretary of State


Mr. Secretary of State: I have had repeatedly occasion to draw by word of mouth or in writing the attention of the Department of State to the expediency of measures to be taken with a view to preventing neutrals profiting by shipments from abroad and being able to help our common enemy with supplies.

By order of my Government I venture to draw Your Excellency’s especial notice to the great importance and urgency of measures of this character at this time. This is the time of the year when awaiting the new crop they ought to be most effective. The Germans, of course, are straining every effort to obtain at this critical time large shipments from the neighboring countries; that of 200,000 head of cattle contemplated by Holland, which is known to Your Excellency, is a striking example. It is now that we should be proportionately vigilant to meet those efforts and make as effective as possible this means which we have of expediting in the interest of our fellow countrymen and of the whole world the return of peace. That those shipments have been heretofore extremely important is not open to [Page 889] doubt. Statistics made with the greatest care show that in 1916 the quantities of foodstuffs imported into Germany from the northern countries alone have almost equalled what is necessary for the whole German Army. They aggregated about 2,300,000 tons; let us say 1,250,000 from Holland; 560,000 from Denmark; and 500,000 from Norway. Now, put the daily ration at one kilo per capita, which is surely higher than the normal, these imports were enough to feed during five weeks the whole German population, or if the Army alone is taken into consideration, nearly the whole of it for twelve months. The imports of meat alone from the same countries reached last year, as will be seen from a document which I will forward to Your Excellency,1 440,000 tons. The German soldier’s ration being 200 grammes a day, those shipments sufficed to feed eight million men; that is to say, all the Austro-German Army during 275 days. Imports into Holland of grain, corn, fertilizers, fodder, etc., from America enabled the Dutch to carry on intensive breeding to produce much more than they can consume; to export potatoes which, except for the arrivals of American wheat, they would have been compelled to reserve for their own use instead of turning them over to the Germans for food. To the great advantage of the Germans, the fisheries were particularly successful this year. In one day (May 11, last), there was put on shore at Skagen, Denmark, 500,000 pounds of fish, notwithstanding which, so large is the exportation, fish is sometimes wanting in Copenhagen.

In the countries that are growing rich in this way, there are issued, to be sure, statistics showing that on the contrary, their exports are much reduced. Thus, those relative to the Danish herd which are reproduced in the issue of May 26 last of the Commerce Reports show that instead of a decrease, the number of head of cattle in the country had rather increased. Now, we know from indisputable consular testimony that the sale of cattle to Germany reached figures which excluded such results. A report from one of our consuls on what he had found during the week ending April 14 shows that in that short period of time at Esbjerg, for instance, out of a total of 1,250 animals on the market, German purchasers bought 1,146; at Holstebro, out of 1,250 head they bought 1,084. For the whole of Jutland, the export to Germany exceeded during that week, 5,000 head. These figures, furthermore, are not exceptional, and are sometimes exceeded. They reached 5,500 in the first week of May.

As for horses, of which an average of 1,500 a month is shipped, a Danish-German arrangement has just authorized the export of 10,000 horses in return for which the Germans would refrain from attacking Danish vessels sailing outside of the danger zone. It could hardly be believed that in order to be admitted to safe navigation [Page 890] in a safety zone, marked out by the Germans themselves, they should in addition be indemnified in this way. This blackmail applied to neutrals shows once more how our enemies understand the application of the laws of war.

As for ourselves and the means of pressure to be brought to bear on those same neutrals to prevent them from destroying the effect of one of our principal efforts, the situation is quite different. These neutrals apply to several of the countries comprising the group to which we belong, and ask for assistance by which they profit to help our adversaries. We can not be expected to agree to that. It is indeed a generally accepted rule of international law that a belligerent may and must see to it that the products of its soil or industry may not either directly or through go-betweens be used by its enemies. This principle has besides been recognized by the neutrals themselves, and against us. In this way, Switzerland admitted that coal supplied to its manufacturers by Germany could not be used in manufacturing articles intended for the Allies even if the other elements in the manufacture were neutral or Allied. The German Government could not, in any event, even in the worst of tempers, find fault with its neighbors on the ground that they refused to make shipments which they could no longer make if arrivals of provisions coming to them from abroad stopped.

The United States appears to be on account of its immense resources the country from which those neighboring Germany have been endeavoring to draw the largest share of supplies. Now there is no reason, humane or other, for their continuing to obtain them. Your Excellency will no doubt think that under these conditions a positive refusal from the United States, at war with Germany, would be at the present time, as effective as it is warranted. The countries concerned, as a matter of fact, have no actual need of food assistance for themselves, and they are in any event quite sufficiently provided for to await a complete settlement of the question, which is going to be taken up without delay by experts to be designated by the Allied Governments, and notably by the United States. These experts will have to examine what quota may be warranted and under what guarantees according to cases and countries. In the meanwhile, in the large quantities of cattle, pork, cheese, fish, etc., which are still going from Scandinavia or Holland to Germany is a safe guarantee that their people are in no wise threatened with starvation, and that nothing could be more opportune than to compel them to live on their own resources by depriving them of outside help. The same thing applies to the feeding of their cattle. Without mentioning Holland, where the question does not even arise, positive information shows that the Danish cattle can find nearly all their food in Denmark, but that the inhabitants earnestly wish to receive oil cakes and other [Page 891] fodder from the United States in order to be able to sell their fattened animals to the Germans with a better profit. They have no right to expect us to help them in this.

With all the better reason is it important to deprive those countries of material used in manufactures exported to Germany and directly useful in the prosecution of the war, as, for instance, sulphur which Sweden draws from the United States and which is used in the manufacture of paper pulp. Large quantities of that product are exported to Germany where it is used in making bags, for trenches and also to take the place of cotton for certain explosives. Likewise as regards iron from Sweden, pyrites and molybdenum from Norway, etc.

With respect to the situation of the several countries concerned, to which in some regard Spain may be properly added, to the nature of the products which they draw from the United States (grain, oils, fats, fodder, fertilizer, sulphur, coal, etc.), to the regular restrictions it would be advantageous to place on their traffic and particularly so during the present period of the war, to the undertakings which from the standpoint of their exports or the use of their shipping we should be interested in obtaining from them in return for certain facilities they might possibly be granted, the British Government delivered to Your Excellency on the 14th and 27th of June, memoranda in which these several questions are discussed.1

I am instructed to inform Your Excellency that my Government has had knowledge of those documents, and that it joins as a whole the suggestions therein contained, and that it hopes that the Government of the United States will see fit for the good of the common cause to take into consideration the suggestions therein submitted to its examination.

Be pleased to accept [etc.]

  1. Not printed.
  2. Ante, pp. 879 and 886, respectively.