411.60 d Finnish Vessels/103

The Secretary of State to the Finnish Minister (Åström)

Sir: The Department has the honor to refer to the note of November 3, 1931, which you left with it on that date, together with “Supplemental Memorandum of Law in Support of Claims Presented on Behalf of the Owners of Finnish Sailing Vessels Detained by the Government of the United States in 1918”.2

As you have been informed on other occasions, the Department has given very careful consideration to the matter of these claims and its conclusion has been, consistently, that the cases present no violation of either municipal law of the United States or of the accepted principles of international law. Therefore, there is no financial responsibility on the United States for damages said to have been sustained by the owners of the vessels.

The authorities of the United States declined to grant licenses for the removal from the United States by the Finnish vessels which are the subject of this correspondence of the produce of this country. The War Trade Board was clothed with authority under the established law of the United States to grant or refuse to grant licenses for the taking out of the United States of goods and commodities specified in the several proclamations of the President. This law, the proclamations, [Page 188] and the regulations issued pursuant thereto were in force at the time these vessels entered American ports. They came to such ports, therefore, with knowledge that they might not be permitted to carry from American shores such American products. The Department knows of no principle of international law which required this Government to supply foreign ships with cargoes or ships’ stores, or to allow such ships to remove from the United States products of this country. The right to control the resources of the country is but an incident of sovereignty, the non-recognition of which in international practice might conceivably, in a given case, deprive the country of its only means of self-preservation. There is no indication that these ships or any of them ever applied for permission to leave port without American products. Their whole purpose was to take out of the country goods the exportation of which it was the purpose of the government to control. It is not, therefore, perceived upon what theory or principle of international law it can be contended that these vessels were deprived of any right under the established practice of nations and, after having again carefully examined the whole matter in the light of the available information and the memorandum transmitted with your note of November 3, 1931, including the arguments advanced in support of your contention that the motive of the American authorities was the control of the vessels, the Department is confirmed in its view that the position of the American authorities in regard to the issuance of bunker licenses in these cases is not subject to question under international law and practice.

Accept [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
W. R. Castle, Jr.
  1. Neither printed.