811.113 Senate Investigation/250

The French Ambassador (Laboulaye) to the Secretary of State

Dear Mr. Secretary: I was informed recently that the Senatorial Committee of Inquiry into the Munitions Industry (Senate Munitions Committee) had requested the Central Hanover Bank & Trust Company of New York (formerly Central Trust Company) to give it communication of records concerning the loan made on the 1st of April, 1917, by the French Government and which are at the present time in the archives of that bank acting as trustee. I then instructed a member of this Embassy to call at the Division of Western Europe of the State Department in order to formulate verbal reservations of principle concerning the communication to a parliamentary committee of documents relative to a financial business transacted in the United States by a foreign Government, documents which are only a deposit in the care of the Central Hanover Bank & Trust Company.

Having apprised my Government of the preceding steps, I have received instructions to the effect of confirming the reservations made, and such is the purpose of this letter.

I also wish to state that I have been advised that the above mentioned Inquiry Committee of the Senate might request the Bank of J. P. Morgan & Company in New York, to give communication of the correspondence that institution had with the French Government concerning loans and transactions that took place during the War.

It is the opinion of my Government that, on the ground of international relations, it would seem undesirable that a Committee of the Senate should investigate transactions which took place long ago and during the War, between a friendly Government and its financial agents in the United States. Even though the business referred to was, at the time, a matter of public knowledge and there was nothing in such transaction that my Government would hide, the latter has instructed me to protest against the proposed investigation. The opinion might be advanced that the books, records and papers deposited with J. P. Morgan & Company are the property of the French Government and as such are entitled to immunity from search and seizure. On the other hand, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs feels that it would be most inopportune, at a time when the international situation is so delicate, to allow public controversies such as might result from the publication of the above mentioned documents.

I hope, therefore, that you will be kind enough to take into consideration my Government’s point of view and that you will be in a position to use your good offices in the best way possible to avoid the proposed inquiry.

With highest regards [etc.]

André de Laboulaye