740.00111A Combat Areas/162

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

The Canadian Minister called to see me this morning at his request. He said that he had received an urgent instruction from his Government to inform me that the Canadian Cabinet was having a meeting this afternoon at 3:30 p.m., in which would be taken up the request of the British Government that Canada consent to the use of the port of St. John, New Brunswick, as a port for contraband control. The Minister said that the Canadian Government were informed that the British Ambassador had discussed this question with the Department of State, and that they desired the Minister to inform me, first, that the Canadian Government itself had no interest in the matter and was not anxious itself to undertake any form of contraband inspection or control, and, second, that before reaching a decision, they wanted to ascertain what the views of this Government might be.

I told the Minister that I greatly appreciated this friendly and courteous message from the Canadian Government and that the best answer I could make would be to inform him fully of the conversations [Page 15] which had taken place between the British Ambassador and the Department of State, in most of which I had taken part. I said that the possibility of the utilization of a Canadian port for this purpose had been first broached to me by the British Ambassador some three or four weeks ago. Lord Lothian at that time had told me that the British Government were concerned by reason of the protest made by the United States concerning the taking by British warships of American flag ships into the port of Kirkwall for examination inasmuch as that port is within the combat area laid down by the President in accordance with existing neutrality legislation and into which American flag ships were prohibited from entering. The British Ambassador had then said that the British Admiralty were considering requesting the Government of Canada to permit the use of either the ports of Halifax, St. John’s, Newfoundland, or some port in Nova Scotia, the name of which Lord Lothian at that time did not recall. I said that I replied to the Ambassador stating that the use of the port of Halifax would be clearly objectionable to this Government inasmuch as Halifax lay within the restricted area laid down by the Declaration of Panama. With regard to the other two ports, I had said that the utilization of either one or the other of those ports would avoid the objection which this Government had legitimately raised against the utilization of British ports for inspection purposes inasmuch as the two Canadian ports22 referred to were not within the combat area. I had told the Ambassador, however, that if the British Government determined to use one of these Canadian ports for inspection control purposes, I should make it clear that this Government would reserve all rights accruing to it under international law.

I told the Minister that I laid the suggestion subsequently before the President, and that the President had instructed me to inform Lord Lothian that if one of the two Canadian ports mentioned were used as a port of inspection and if American ships were taken there by British naval vessels, this Government would likewise reserve all of its rights to present claims against the British Government in the event that there was any injury caused to the lives or properties of American nationals through weather conditions or because of any other mishap.

I stated to the Minister that St. John, New Brunswick, had never been mentioned to me by Lord Lothian as a port of inspection, and that in my more recent conversations with the British Ambassador he had always referred to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The Minister said that he would transmit this information to his Government.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. St. John’s, Newfoundland, was not at that time part of Canada.