The French Ambassador (Laboulaye) to the Secretary of State


The Ambassador of France in the United States has the honor to invite the kind attention of His Excellency the Secretary of State to bill No. H. R. 112 which Mr. S. O. Bland, Representative from the State of Virginia, introduced in the House of Representatives on January 3, 1935.

This bill is identical throughout with that which was introduced in Congress on February 4, 1932, under Nos. S. 3502–H. R. 8875 and [Page 609] the purpose of which was to amend the Act of June 19, 1886,3 by introducing into the definition of coastwise navigation the practice of a continuous voyage ending at the point of departure or at any other port of the United States, with or without touching at a foreign port.

The Ambassador of France takes this occasion to remind His Excellency the Secretary of State of the terms of the communication of February 25, 19324 in which his predecessor pointed out that this bill appeared to be in contradiction with the principle of international law according to which foreign vessels have free access to the ports of any other country in order to engage there in commerce on the same footing as national vessels, a principle incorporated in several treaties now in force between the United States and a certain number of foreign countries. Moreover, in asking the prohibition not of the ordinary transportation of passengers from one American port to another, already reserved to American shipping by the old wording of the Act of 1886 regulating coastwise navigation, but of tourist cruises, the Bland bill appears not to take into account the fact that the tourist trade on the high seas with stops at foreign ports is essentially an act of international commerce. Its adoption would not fail to have injurious repercussions in the case of certain navigation companies.

Thus, for example, the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique Française, which has initiated tourist cruises to the Bermudas, to the Bahamas, to the West Indies (Martinique and Guadeloupe), etc., having New York as the point of departure and arrival, would run the risk of finding it impossible to continue this business.

Under date of March 3, 1932, the Honorable Henry L. Stimson, then Secretary of State, in a letter5 addressed to the Honorable Hiram Johnson, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, pointed out the artificial extension which the new bill gave to the definition of coastwise traffic. Moreover, bearing in mind the long period during which such cruises have been carried on and the advantages which American commerce had drawn therefrom in the West Indies, he concluded that the adoption of this bill would be a profound modification of the principle of non-discrimination between flags in international commerce and that such legislative act would run the risk, ipso facto, of provoking measures of reprisal on the part of the countries concerned.

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In recalling these facts to the attention of His Excellency the Secretary of State, the Ambassador of France would be happy if he would be good enough to communicate again his point of view to the proper Committees of the two Houses, which are to examine the new bill introduced by Mr. Bland.

Mr. de Laboulaye is happy to take this occasion [etc., etc.].

  1. 24 Stat. 79.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1932, vol. i, p. 922.
  3. Fighting Ship and Cruising Ship Bills: Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, 72d Cong., 1st sess., on S. 3501 and S. 3502 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1932), p. 95.