File No. 659.119/234

The Danish Minister ( Brun) to the Secretary of State

J. No. 40.A.XXIX.n

Sir: With regard to the pending negotiations between Denmark and the United States for a general trade and shipping arrangement [Page 1321]I am directed by the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs to state to you as follows:

These negotiations which, as you know, commenced in the early part of the summer of 1917, and which have passed through many and great difficulties, had lately, I am pleased to say, assumed a very promising aspect and an agreement appeared to be in view.

In order to further promote the prospects of an arrangement and also to arrive at a clear definition of the engagements to be undertaken by both sides in the future arrangement, the Danish Government by a note of February 13 to the American Chargé d’Affaires at Copenhagen proposed that the final arrangement should be divided into three parts, to wit:

An agreement with the Merchants Guild of Copenhagen and the Danish Chamber of Manufacturers;
An agreement with the Danish Shipowners’ Association; and
An exchange of notes with me regarding the engagements undertaken by the Danish Government on certain well understood and specified conditions.

This arrangement had been found entirely satisfactory in the relations between Denmark and Great Britain and, from conversations with the delegates of the War Trade Board, I understand that the proposed arrangement is equally acceptable to the Government of the United States.

The Danish Government in the said note of February 13 furthermore made what we consider very considerable concessions with regard to our trade with the Central Powers, in order to meet the American viewpoint, and made certain new proposals with regard to the limitation of this trade, mainly for the purpose of making its control easier and facilitating the carrying out of our eventual obligations.

The Danish Government did, however, at the same time maintain their position with regard to the impossibility of allowing Danish ships chartered to the United States to sail in the danger-zones and with regard to the desirability of closing the charter for only six months to begin with, and they also found themselves bound to insist that our concessions with regard to our trade with the Central Powers can only be granted on the condition that the United States Government should consent to and facilitate the immediate export from Chile to Denmark of the saltpeter, which is indispensable for raising a sufficient crop in Denmark both for the daily bread of our people and for keeping our domestic animals alive.

Thereupon at a meeting asked for by me the delegates of the United States War Trade Board on February 28 informed me, that it would [Page 1322]not be possible for them to enter into discussion of the details of the proposed arrangement, unless Denmark could see its way to permit one-third of the tonnage chartered to the United States to sail in the danger-zone and to extend the time of the charter to last for the time of the war.

Having informed my Government accordingly by cablegram on March the 1st, I am now instructed to say that Denmark much regrets its inability to meet the wishes of the United States War Trade Board with regard to sailing in the danger-zone and must adhere to the position always taken that we can not consent to permit any part of the tonnage, which may be chartered to the United States, to sail in the danger-zone.

The political reasons and considerations of neutrality as well as the economical reasons for which we can not grant such consent, have been often explained and are so apparent that I shall refrain from repeating these arguments here.

I only beg leave to say that these reasons are a consequence of the geographical situation of Denmark, the limited nature of its resources and the necessity of providing for the renewal of the economical life of the nation after this to us disastrous war, and that they are of such strength as to overpower any wish which Denmark may have to comply with the desires of the United States even on this point.

The position which the United States War Trade Board has so far taken on this point, that is, to make it a conditio sine qua non even for the consideration of any other points of the proposed arrangement, could lend itself to the interpretation that the Government of the United States does not wish to continue these negotiations any longer. The Danish Government would extremely regret if this were to be the case, and must decline responsibility for any such situation.

It is and always has been our earnest desire and effort to arrive at an agreement with the United States and we believe that we have given many and repeated proofs of this desire, lastly by our considerable concessions in spite of the constantly increasing demands on the part of the United States with regard to the engagements we were to undertake, and in spite of the fact that the very limited amount of commodities which we were to receive from America did not even include the feedstuffs for our domestic animals the lack of which spells the ruin of our economic life and of the development to which we had reached thanks to the efficient, systematic and untiring labor of our people.

It is our earnest desire to maintain to the greatest extent possible and develop our commercial relations with the United States and its associates in the war, and we shall only reluctantly be compelled [Page 1323]to divert any part of this trade in other directions. But we can not alter the standpoint with regard to the danger-zone which we have taken after the most earnest consideration of our situation and without consulting with any other nation.

With regard to the other point to which the delegates of the United States have attached such great importance, to wit: the extension of the time charter for the duration of the war, the Danish Government is convinced that an agreement could be reached.

In these circumstances I appeal most earnestly to your good offices, Mr. Secretary of State, and on behalf of the Danish Government I have by special instruction the honor to request that you will give due weight to the political situation involved and will be pleased to use your influence to the effect of making an arrangement and the maintenance now and in the future of full trade relations possible between Denmark and the United States.

I also submit to you that it is highly desirable to endeavour now to end the critical condition of economic uncertainty which has reigned in Denmark since the beginning of the American blockade, sapping the vitality and enterprise of our people.

I have [etc.]

C. Brun