411.60d Finnish Vessels/175

The Secretary of State to President Roosevelt

The President: In the first six months of the calendar year 1918, that is, from January to June, 1918, thirteen Finnish sailing vessels entered ports of the United States. Nine of these vessels entered the port of New York and four of them entered the port of Boston. Eleven of the vessels had been chartered for outgoing cargoes before they arrived in the United States. Charters for two of the vessels were arranged after they arrived in the United States.

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At the time the vessels entered our ports there were in operation certain war time regulations governing the exportation of commodities from the United States. After the vessels arrived approval of the charter-parties and licenses for the exportation of cargoes and ships’ stores were sought by the agents of the vessels from the authorities of the United States. Approval of the charter-parties and licenses for cargoes and ships’ stores were for a time withheld in some instances.

On July 7, 1922, the Legation of Finland in Washington presented to the Department of State a claim growing out of the alleged detention of one of the vessels.20 On January 27, 1928, the Legation of Finland in Washington presented to the Department of State claims growing out of the alleged detention of twelve other vessels.21 One of the vessels is said to have been detained 70 days, one 81 days, one 97 days, two 115 days each, one 117 days, one 118 days, one 127 days, one 130 days, one 140 days, one 143 days, one 144 days, and one 172 days.

Meanwhile, on June 20, 1923, J. F. Whitney and Company, Agents for the vessels, had presented to the United States Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation a claim20 in the principal amount of $800,000 in which it was alleged that the Shipping Board had entered into an agreement about May 1, 1918, to charter twelve of the vessels. After due notice to all parties concerned a hearing was held by the Shipping Board and the claim was rejected on April 22, 1924.

The claims presented to the Department of State by the Legation of Finland in behalf of the owners of the thirteen vessels totaled $765,754.56 without interest. However, interest on the amount of damages alleged with respect to each vessel at the rate of six percent per annum was claimed.

The Department of State has consistently disclaimed liability and rejected the claims presented by the Legation of Finland on behalf of the owners. The Minister of Finland has on a number of occasions requested that the claimants be permitted to sue in the Court of Claims. In order that the issues might be clearly defined and the evidence and argument set forth on both sides, an arrangement was made between the Department and the Legation whereby the attorneys for the Finnish claimants prepared a comprehensive statement of the claims which, together with the documentary evidence and written argument relied upon, was submitted to the Department by the Legation.22 The Department, pursuant to the arrangement, prepared and delivered to the Legation an answer to the statement evidence and argument in which were set forth the views of the Department as to why it did not [Page 84]consider that the Government of the United States was liable?23 The arrangement between the Department and the Legation pursuant to which the exchange of documents was effected contemplated that if, after the case in behalf of the Finnish owners had been presented a-new and had been answered by the Department, the Finnish Government still felt that the owners of the vessels should be permitted to sue in the Court of Claims the matter would be given further consideration.24

The Minister has recently renewed the request25 that claimants be permitted to sue in the Court of Claims. In deference to the wishes of the Finnish Government the Department recently undertook to recommend that legislation be sought authorizing the owners of the vessels to present their claims to the Court of Claims and conferring upon the Court jurisdiction to decide specific questions raised by the claims on a basis of documents heretofore exchanged between the Department of State and the Legation of Finland. There is enclosed herewith draft of a bill26 which if enacted into law would enable the Finnish owners to present their claims to the Court of Claims with the right of either side to appeal to the Supreme Court.

I recommend that, if you approve of the proposal that the Finnish owners be permitted to file their claims in the Court of Claims, you submit the matter to the Congress with a request that the necessary legislation in the form of the enclosed draft be enacted.

Respectfully submitted,

Cordell Hull

[Direct communication between the Department of State and the Finnish Legation on this subject hereafter ceased. On June 2, 1941, the Court of Claims gave an opinion against the Finnish owners of the Albyn, stating that “the plaintiff is not entitled to recover and the petition is dismissed.” The plaintiff’s motion for a new trial was overruled October 6, 1941 (94 Court of Claims 315). The plaintiff’s petition for a writ of certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court March 9, 1942 (95 Court of Claims 775). Upon the authority of this case, the Court of Claims found on April 6, 1942, that the remaining Finnish vessels were not unlawfully detained and decided that the plaintiffs were not entitled to recover. Judgment was rendered against them for the cost of printing the records (96 Court of Claims 127).]

  1. Not printed.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1932, vol. ii, p. 186.
  3. Not printed.
  4. See note of February 1, 1935, from the Finnish Minister, ibid., 1935, vol. ii, p. 206.
  5. See note of April 12, 1935, to the Finnish Minister, Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. ii, p. 207.
  6. See note of July 6, 1935, to the Finnish Legation, ibid., p. 208.
  7. See note of March 26 from the Finnish Minister, p. 81.
  8. Not printed. “An Act to confer jurisdiction on the Court of Claims to hear and determine certain claims against the United States on the part of owners of certain vessels” was approved on June 29, 1936; 49 Stat. 2368.