File No. 800.88/208

The Ambassador in France ( Sharp) to the Secretary of State


5639. For Hoover [from Cotton]:

No. 35. The French and British representatives will present tomorrow to the War Council, which is considering terms of armistice, the following recommendation:

It is therefore recommended that the merchant marine of the Central Powers should be placed under the direction of the Allied Maritime Transport Council and that such supplies of food or other commodities as may be allowed to the Central Powers shall be obtained through the institutions of the existing Allied organizations, and under such terms and conditions as those organizations may be required to impose.

This recommendation was formally adopted by the permanent representatives of Allied Maritime Transport Council and Food Council with whom Summers [and] Sheldon sat, as well as the British and French Foreign Offices and made the following statement as a preamble to it:

The permanent representatives of the Allied Maritime Transport Council and the Food Council have had under consideration possible effect on the year’s supply arrangements of the Allies of the conclusion of an armistice pending the conclusion of peace. In this connection they had before them the prospect that additional supplies will in any event be required for neutral countries and for the liberated populations [and] the possibility that those in charge of the armistice and peace negotiations will contemplate also that certain supplies hitherto excluded from Germany through the blockade will during the period now in question be permitted to go through the blockade as one of the conditions or results of the armistice. The representatives in question unanimously agree that, even if only the first class of supplies, that is, those to neutral countries and the liberated populations, are under consideration, it is essential that any supplies so arranged should be made through the existing Allied organization of the Food Council and programme committees, etc., who would within the limits of the authority allowed them determine [needs?], guaranties, sources, terms, and conditions under which the supplies would be furnished and imported, and to make this control effective they consider it essential that all German and Austrian merchant vessels should be placed under the direction of the Allied Maritime Transport Council. It would in their view be disastrous if either neutral or enemy countries were able to go into the markets and purchase supplies required for the vital needs of the Allies in competition, but without co-operation with the Allies, the result of such action being necessarily the entire dislocation of the general economic position now prevailing with disastrous results [Page 616] to the civilian population of both Allied and neutral countries. To avoid this result it appears essential, first, that the large block of enemy tonnage now idle in enemy or neutral ports should be brought into use; and secondly, that it should be used under Allied direction and in accordance with a general Allied plan. The ultimate disposition of the enemy merchant marine so placed under the direction of the Allied Maritime Transport Council could then await the final peace conference.

These recommendations have been unanimously [adopted] by the permanent representatives of the Food and Transport Councils. The same considerations would appear to apply to raw materials and other commodities generally, and so far as we have been able to consult those representing these commodities, they are in full accord with the above recommendations.

This morning Colonel House stated he has no instructions on this point and would like the view of the Washington Government in regard to it. Similar information goes forward to McCormick and Hurley, and Summers will cable Baruch. Tendency here at this time to consider only purely military terms of armistice, but we all hesitate to contemplate the effecting of an armistice which either leaves enemy powers free to trade or prevents them from trading. It is possible to obtain the results outlined in the recommendation by continuation of blockade but it seems that it is certainly a wiser part to have the principles stated in armistice terms, and it seems certain that better cooperation could be obtained from representatives of existing Allied organizations than by attempting to create new machinery in which the Allies might have weaker and certainly would have no better representatives. We cannot over-emphasize the need for prompt action. Kellogg joins in the recommendation. Cotton.