Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

Through Mr. Saugstad, Mr. McCormick-Goodhart had requested an appointment with me for the British Ambassador9 and Sir Ashley Sparks. I understood that they wished to discuss the status of the laid-up ships and their possible sale by the Maritime Commission.

I telephoned Mr. McCormick-Goodhart this morning. I told him that while I was glad to see Lord Lothian and should be glad to see Sir Ashley Sparks, I saw no purpose in their calling on that subject. The American Government could not sell ships to a belligerent government. It could, of course, sell ships in good faith to any private individual who desired to purchase. It could not do so to a person acting nominally in private but actually as an agent for any belligerent government. Accordingly, I could see no purpose in the interview.

Mr. McCormick-Goodhart agreed.

He asked whether our construction of the law prevented a sale in good faith from a private owner of American ships to the British [Page 306] Government. I told him that in our view the law did permit such sale, subject always to the restriction that ships must not be outfitted or furnished for service with the naval forces of a belligerent government.

A. A. Berle, Jr.
  1. Marquess of Lothian.