The Secretary of State to President Hoover

The President: This Government has received from the Secretary General of the League of Nations an invitation dated October 15, 1929, to attend an International Conference to be held at The Hague beginning March 13, 1930, for the purpose of considering the Codification of International Law. The subjects to be taken up at this [Page 207] Conference are (1) Nationality, (2) Territorial Waters, and (3) Responsibility of States for damage caused in their territory to the person or property of foreigners.

Each of these subjects is of great importance in the conduct of the foreign relations of this Government. Troublesome questions of dual nationality are constantly arising in connection with our efforts to protect American citizens abroad. It is frequently found that the persons whom we endeavor to protect or assist, although American citizens under our law by birth, are also regarded as citizens or subjects of the foreign States concerned under their laws. Like difficulties are frequently encountered in the case of naturalized citizens. Several countries do not recognize the expatriation of their nationals by naturalization in foreign countries. The result is that naturalized American citizens, formerly nationals of those countries, on returning to their native lands are still regarded as nationals and frequently find themselves in difficulties under the laws pertaining to military service, taxation, etc. It is, therefore, very desirable that these conflicts between the national laws of the various countries should, in so far as is possible, be reconciled.

The question of Territorial Waters is likewise important. The Conference will consider, among other things, the breadth of the territorial waters under the sovereignty of the coastal State; the distance to which the coastal State may exercise authority on the high seas to prevent the infringement within its territory or territorial waters of its customs or sanitary regulations, or interference with its security; the points from which the belt of territorial waters is to be measured; methods by which territorial waters of islands and groups of islands are to be determined; questions pertaining to the right of innocent passage of foreign merchant vessels and of foreign war ships through the territorial waters of a State; the right of local authorities to make arrests on board foreign merchant vessels within or passing through such territorial waters; and the continuation on the high seas of pursuit begun within territorial waters.

It will readily be appreciated that, in view of the extent of the coast line of the United States and the magnitude and importance of American shipping, these questions are of vital interest to this Government.

The third question, namely, that of Responsibility of States for damage caused in their territory to the person or property of foreigners, is of tremendous importance to this Government. The Conference will consider, among other subjects involving questions of State, responsibility, the repudiation by legislative or executive acts of debts of the State, and failure to comply with obligations resulting from debts; refusal to allow foreigners access to judicial tribunals; [Page 208] delays on the part of such tribunals, ill-will manifested toward foreigners, and procedure resulting in a miscarriage of justice; acts and omissions of officials, including those of diplomatic and consular officers, and political subdivisions of a State, such as communes, provinces, etc.; acts of armed forces, such as the requisitioning, occupation, and damage to or destruction of property; insurrection, riot, mob violence, and other disturbances; and responsibility of a State entrusted with the conduct of the foreign relations of another State or political unit for damages suffered by foreigners in the territory of the latter State or political unit.

In view of the effect upon the conduct of our foreign relations, particularly the protection of American life and property in foreign countries, of conclusions which may be reached at this Conference on the various subjects to be considered, I think it most important that this Government should be represented at the Conference by delegates, technical advisers, and other necessary personnel.

I therefore, submit the enclosed draft of a Joint Resolution for which I recommend that the favorable consideration of the Congress be requested.95

Respectfully submitted,

Henry L. Stimson
  1. Not printed; for text of the resolution as approved, see 46 Stat. 85.