740.00111A–Combat Areas/124

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The British Ambassador called to see me today at his request. The Ambassador reminded me that in our last conversation he had informed me that the British Admiralty was considering taking American vessels which had not received navicerts17 to certain ports in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland for inspection of their cargoes in order to avoid taking American ships for inspection into ports within the combat area. The Ambassador said that on consideration the British Admiralty felt that the port of St. Johns in Newfoundland was an inconvenient place for such inspection and desired to have the inspections take place in Halifax. The Ambassador said that Halifax was within the neutrality zone laid down in the Declaration of Panama and asked whether this Government would object if Halifax were selected.

I replied that the Declaration of Panama implied abstention on the part of the belligerents from all belligerent activities within that zone and that obviously the diverting of the passages of American vessels within that zone was clearly a belligerent activity. I said that I would have the matter given consideration in the Department and communicate the views of this Government in the matter to the Ambassador in the near future.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. See section entitled “Establishment of Control Measures by the Belligerents Interfering With Neutral Commerce; Reservations by the United States of American Rights,” Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. i, pp. 717 ff.