740.00111A Combat Areas/212

Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Dunn) to the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

Mr. Welles: During the conversations we have been having with Professor Rist and Mr. Ashton-Gwatkin, the question of the establishment of a contraband control base on this side of the Atlantic has come up. We have made it clear to the representatives of the French and British Governments that this is a matter upon which we maintain all our reservations as to our neutral rights. In order to avoid taking American ships into Kirkwall, the British and French insist that it will be necessary to establish a contraband control base in Western Atlantic waters, and they have mentioned several ports at which such a base could be established, including the following ports, starting from the most northerly: St. John’s, Newfoundland; Sydney, Nova Scotia; Louisburg, Nova Scotia; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Shelbourne, Nova Scotia; and St. John, New Brunswick. In order to be frank with the British and French representatives, we have informally and entirely unofficially pointed out to them certain objections to all of these ports. These objections, as you will recall, range from dangers to navigation by reason of ice and fog in the case of the first three ports, and in the case of Halifax and Shelbourne to the fact that they are within the zone laid down under the Declaration of Panama; finally, in the case of St. John, New Brunswick, to the fact that it is so close to the American border and is almost within the confines of the Bay of Fundy that any belligerent activities so close to our own coast would be decidedly objectionable. I might add that St. John, New Brunswick, has apparently been dropped from consideration by the British and Canadian authorities.

[Page 47]

Messrs. Rist and Ashton-Gwatkin requested us to indicate to them which of these ports, taking everything into account, was the least objectionable from the American point of view. After careful consideration, we informed them that St. John’s, Newfoundland, was the least objectionable, but we were careful not only to reserve all of our rights, but to lay special emphasis upon the President’s statement about our holding the British responsible for any damage to American ships caused by ice or fog conditions at that port. A little later, we were informed by Mr. Ashton-Gwatkin that facilities at St. John’s, Newfoundland, were inadequate and that active consideration was being given to Sydney and Louisburg, Nova Scotia. These ports are both well north of the neutrality belt and we informed him that, subject to these same general reservations which we had made in respect to St. John’s, Newfoundland, we had no special objection to either Sydney or Louisburg.

Throughout all of our discussions it has been apparent that the British really desired to have their contraband control station either at Halifax or Shelbourne, Nova Scotia. As regard these ports, we have simply taken the position that in view of your statements some time ago to Lord Lothian, it would be necessary for the Ambassador to take up with you anything they had in mind along these lines.

Mr. Ashton-Gwatkin has made two trips to Ottawa to confer with the Canadian authorities in regard to the choice of a port. He returned to Washington today, and we have just concluded a meeting with him. He informed us that after careful consideration the Canadians feel that of all the ports which have been discussed, Shelbourne, Nova Scotia, is the only one to which they can agree. He read from a confidential memorandum prepared by Canadian Naval officers discussing each of these ports and stating the reasons why it was necessary to eliminate every one other than Shelbourne. We informed him that in that case it would be well for the Ambassador to take up the question with you. At all stages of our conversations with the British, French, and Canadians, we have worked under the direction of Mr. Berle. Before reaching a final decision on the matter, you may wish to discuss with him, and perhaps with us, the further phases of this problem as they have developed during our conversations.

James Clement Dunn