The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Page)
Sir: The Department encloses herewith copies of telegrams dated October 11 and November 22, 1917, received from the Consul General11 with reference to a proposed arrangement with the British Government for the release of American owned goods which were seized by British authorities prior to the entrance of the Government of the United States into the war, and also a copy of his telegram of November 1, 1917, giving a list of such goods.12
Questions in relation to the seizures of such goods have been and are now the source of considerable annoyance to this Government and doubtless also to the British Government. In many instances the amounts involved are so small that they do not justify any considerable expense on the part of the owners to obtain the release of the goods, while in other instances the goods seized are of such value that their continued detention is of serious consequence to American citizens and American industries. Moreover it seems possible that a material portion of the goods which are now detained by the British authorities might, if released, be utilized to advantage in furtherance of the common cause in which the two Governments are united. Among such articles might be mentioned particularly leather and hides, oils, cotton goods, dental and surgical instruments, soap and cleansing materials, machine and auto parts, tools and hardware, rosin, babbitt and other metals, seeds, chemicals, buttons, hair and fibre. Many articles of this sort are now in great demand in the United States where they are used in connection with the manufacture or preparation of supplies for the Allied Armies in the field. In these circumstances the continued retention of these articles in Great Britain by the British Government is at cross purposes with the general aims of both Governments, and consequently and naturally creates here among the trades concerned an impression of reluctant co-operation on the part of Great Britain which is not understood and is difficult to explain. The Department, therefore, considers that it would be very desirable if some arrangement could be reached for an expeditious and equitable settlement of all pending [Page 612]cases of seized goods, including cases in which goods have already been released on deposit of their value with the prize court.
You are instructed, therefore, to take this matter up with the Foreign Office at an early opportunity and endeavor to ascertain whether the British Government would be willing to enter into an arrangement of this character and, if so, whether they would be prepared to indicate a method of procedure that might be adopted.
I am [etc.]