441.11 W 892/33
Memorandum by the Secretary of State
The British Ambassador called to discuss with me the general question of claims. I informed the Ambassador that I had talked with Senator Borah and told him that in 1921 a similar resolution was passed by the Senate and in response thereto the Secretary of State had made an elaborate report to the Senate upon the American claims.12 I did not think the report had ever been made public; it certainly had never been printed. We then engaged in a very general discussion of the claims and I told the Ambassador in a general way that some of the American claims did not pertain to the blockade. I specially explained the claim of the Standard Oil Company for destruction of wells in Rumania and the claim of the St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company for destruction of cargo, the cargo not being contraband, and that the British Government had acknowledged its liability and paid certain of the consignors but not all of them; that some of the other claims were for cargos seized and sold by the British Government, there could be no question about the liability of the British Government, at least for the value of the cargo. The Ambassador said that this, of course, was true and that the British Government did not deny liability for the cargo actually taken. I said that other claims pertain to contracts between the British Government and British manufacturers and American manufacturers which had been suspended by order of the British Government. Mr. Phenix joined in the conversation and explained in a general way various of the claims.
I suggested to the Ambassador that he or one of his secretaries should make a preliminary survey of these claims on both sides and he is accordingly going to ask instructions from his Government. I also suggested to him that the best way to proceed was to appoint a commissioner or commissioners on each side to consider all the claims by the British Government against the United States Government, [Page 222] the United States Government against the British Government and the citizens of each country against the other and to settle such claims as they could agree on; those that could not be settled to be sent to arbitration. He suggested that he thought it would be preferable to first take up the claims between the two governments, that is, not the claims of private citizens. I told him that it seemed to me the best way would be to settle the whole matter by going into all the claims, and, if possible, arbitrate those claims which could not be agreed on. I told him there were a good many claims by British citizens against the United States where the amount had not been stated and in the same way by the citizens of the United States against Great Britain.
I told him that I would reply to his note of February fourth in relation to the adjustment of the claims as soon as possible; and, in the meantime the Ambassador is going to ask instructions from his Government.