The First Secretary of Embassy in France (Barnes) to the Secretary of State

No. 7075

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith the text of a law, and a translation thereof, dated September 17, 1940,27 and published in the Journal Officiel of September 19, but received only recently in Paris, empowering the French Government to take special action with regard to taking over or liquidating cargoes or lots of merchandise destined for France but not disembarked in France and which merchandise is located within the French colonies or in a foreign country.

The application of this law may have far reaching effects upon merchandise owned by Americans, shipped to France but disrouted to the French colonies or to other foreign countries in so far as the State, by this law, assumes the right either to take over or to liquidate the merchandise in question in the locality where found or, if subsequently brought to France, to place the merchandise at the disposal of the original consignees upon payment by the latter of expenses involved in storage and transportation.

The State may assume automatically the authority to act as the representative of the owners or the consignees at their expense and, despite any intervention or opposition on their part, it may decide to utilize or liquidate the merchandise in question. In the case of such action upon the part of the State, it must give notice of its intention to the holders of the bills of lading and can require them to turn over the pertinent documents in their possession.

The Embassy has already received several oral representations from American and French consignees of American goods to the effect that their merchandise may be affected by the application of this law. Upon receipt of any specific claims with regard to such merchandise, the Department will be informed promptly of the cases in question and, as a matter of record, the Missions in other countries or the Consulates in the colonies concerned will be advised of any such claims which may be presented to the Embassy at Paris.

The Embassy would appreciate receiving any comments or instructions from the Department with regard to its interpretation of a possible conflict of this measure with existing international law with regard to the property rights of American owners, either company or private.

Respectfully yours,

Maynard B. Barnes
  1. For French text, see Journal Officiel, September 19, 1940; translation not printed.