The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Great Britain (Laughlin)
180. Your 10360, May 31, 1 p.m. Mr. Nielsen, an assistant solicitor of the Department, is on his way abroad, and is under instructions to take up this matter with you upon his arrival. I would be pleased if there could be placed at his disposal all the information which the Embassy and Consulate-General may have on the subject and advise with him in respect to carrying out the following instructions:
The Department has given careful consideration to the point raised by the British Government that they feel they could not release American goods seized under the British Order in Council of March 11, 1915, and abandon the opportunity to justify seizures before the Prize Court, if the possibility remains that the Foreign Office would at some future time be faced with claims based on the invalidity of the order.
The Department is not clear whether it is the desire of the British Government that they should receive assurances that if the particular goods in question should be released no question would subsequently be raised in any case between the two Governments as to the validity of the Order, or merely that they should be assured that no diplomatic claims would be presented in the particular cases in which goods might be released in accordance with the contemplated arrangement.
The Department would be willing to reach an understanding with the British Government to the effect that, in cases in which owners of goods seized would be willing to receive them under certain conditions including an understanding that no claims resulting from their seizure would subsequently be made on the British Government, the Government of the United States would regard such cases as finally adjusted so far as concerns pecuniary reclamation against the British Government therefor, reserving, however, for future discussion the general question of the propriety and the validity of the Order in Council of March 11, 1915, on principle or in particular cases not settled under this proposed arrangement.
The Government of the United States could not enter into any arrangement for the release of goods which would contemplate any undertaking on its part to withdraw from its attitude previously expressed with regard to the order of March 11, 1915, or not to raise any question in the future as to the validity of the Order in Council, or to withhold protection of rights of American citizens which may appear to have been infringed by the Order in Council [Page 617]and therefore to warrant espousal by the Government of the United States.
While it may be the British Government at this time desire only to obtain assurances with regard to claims that might be based on the particular cases to which they refer, the Department deems it desirable with a view to avoid any future misunderstanding that the position of the Government in this matter should be made entirely clear.
Please show a copy of this to the Consul-General.