File No. No. 763.72112/4382

The Minister in China ( Reinsch) to the Secretary of State

No. 1565

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of the Legation’s instruction (No. 2550) of today’s date to the Consulate General at Shanghai. This instruction is in answer to a despatch reporting that the British Consul General had suggested that, pending the adoption of enemy trading regulations by the United States Government, the American Consulate General advise all American shippers in its consular district that the procedure with respect to trading with enemy aliens will be as heretofore; that is to say, they would have to comply with the British enemy trading regulations in shipping cargo on British or Allied ships. As a matter of fact, the Consulate General has not definitely or officially recognized the British enemy trading regulations, and to follow the suggested procedure would seem to do so.

There is also enclosed copy of despatch (No. 1278) of April 25, 1917, from the Consulate General at Shanghai, relating to the same subject.1 It would seem that the individual status of the firms mentioned in this despatch is a matter primarily for decision by the Department of Commerce.

I have the honor to request your instructions with respect to the attitude to be assumed towards British enemy trading restrictions.

I have [etc.]

Paul S. Reinsch
[Page 437]

The Minister in China ( Reinseh) to the Consul General at Shanghai ( Sammons)

C. No. 2550

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch (No. 1376) of the 23d ultimo, and in reply to advise you, that as the American Congress has not yet enacted an enemy trading code no laws exist on this matter which are applicable to American citizens. The Legation and the consulates have no authority to render applicable to our nationals the legislation of any foreign power, no matter how friendly. It will therefore be impossible to comply with the suggestion of the British Consul General.

The following is given you for your personal guidance: As a matter of practice our interests do pretty closely coincide, nowadays, with those which the British have embodied in their laws; and most Americans will, as a matter of personal feeling, conduct their transactions in a way as little repugnant to British laws as though actually subject to those laws—and will not be averse to volunteering, either to their own consular representatives or to those of an Ally, affidavits establishing that there is no enemy taint in their various dealings. We have no authority to tell them that they must do so, or threaten them with the penalties of British law if they don’t; but it seems to me that it would be no very complex matter for our consul to intimate to our nationals, as occasions arose, that as Americans they might without loss of self-respect volunteer to swear that this transaction was not in the interests—direct or indirect—of any national of a country at war with the United States, or with any nation now acting in military cooperation with the United States.

It is desired that you should give the Legation your opinion on the feasibility of this provisional procedure.

I am [etc.]

Paul S. Reinsch
  1. Not printed.
  2. Filed separately under File No. 763.72112/4381.