Memorandum by the Third Assistant Secretary of State (Bliss)

The Norwegian Minister called this morning in further reference to the matter which he had submitted in his letter to me of February 10th,4 requesting to be informed of the meaning of the phrase “extending their political and economic interests,” used in the declaration signed by the Secretary of State on August 4, 1916, relative to the extension of Danish authority in Greenland.

I told the Minister that I had not answered the letter in writing which he had kindly addressed to me, as I had already explained a short time before to the Counselor of the Legation, Mr. Steen, as I did not wish to seem disobliging in not furnishing the information he desired; that it did not seem possible to interpret to him the meaning of the phrase in question as it was unusual for a Government to explain to another government the phraseology of a treaty entered [Page 4] into with a third government. I therefore said to the Minister that I hoped he would appreciate the difficulty which his request presented. I explained fully that to interpret to him on his demand the meaning which the Government of the United States attributed to the terms of a treaty and a declaration made between it and the Danish Government would be inconsistent not only with custom but with the natural considerations of diplomatic usage. I pointed out that if a request came from the Danish Government for the interpretation of the phraseology of this treaty, the Department would then consider the answer to be made to that Government, but it could not do so to a third Government which was not a party to the arrangement.

In regard to the other request of the Minister, as to whether the phrase above quoted occurs in any other treaties of a like nature to which the United States is a signatory, I told him that so far as I had been able to ascertain this particular phrase had not been employed.

The Minister said that he quite understood the position which I took and that he appreciated the reasons why I had not been able to answer his question regarding the interpretation placed upon the phrase used in the communication of Mr. Lansing of August 4, 1916, above referred to. He further expressed his thanks for the trouble I had taken in the matter and for the information relative to the previous use of the same phrase in treaty relations of the United States.

R[obert] W[oods] B[liss]
  1. Not printed.