832.24/266: Telegram

The Chargé in Brazil (Burdett) to the Secretary of State

611. For the Under Secretary. My 605, November 25, 8 p.m. The following is a translation of the note referred to in the first paragraph of my telegram. Separate translations from Portuguese to English made here and in London will account for possible difference of wording.

  • “1. The Brazilian steamer Siqueira Campos taken to Gibraltar by the British naval authorities was transporting along the usual route to Brazil passengers and commercial cargo the latter having a navicert. This steamer was also transporting in accordance with advice given to the British Government non-commercial material belonging to the Government of Brazil.
  • [2?] This material came originally from Germany and had been [Page 636] after its receipt in Essen by the Brazilian Military Commission transported to Lisbon and there shipped on the steamer Siqueira Campos.
  • 3. This same material detailed lists of which were communicated in advance to the British Government is a small portion of an order placed by the Brazilian Government in accordance with a contract signed on March 25, 1938 after two tenders for bids on which English firms and those of other countries were invited to bid.
  • 4. By virtue of this contract and in accordance with receipts in our possession prior to November 25, 1939 the Brazilian Government had already paid the following installments: On April 13, 1938 installment No. 1, 425,000 pounds; on January 4, 1939 installment No. 2, 212,500 pounds; on April 10, 1939 installment No. 3, 212,500 pounds; on July 4, 1939 installment No. 4, 212,500 pounds; on October 5, 1939 installment No. 5, 212,500 pounds; total 1,275,000 pounds; and subsequent to this date it paid the following installments: on February 7, 1940 installment No. 6, 318,750 pounds; on October 9, 1940 installments numbers 7 and 8, 637,500 pounds; total 956,250 pounds.
  • 5. The material delivered to the Brazilian Military Commission and transported on the steamship Raul Soares, Almirante Alexandrine and now on the Siqueira Campos appears on the detailed lists furnished to the British Foreign Office on the night of the sailings of the three steamers but part of the material mentioned on our lists failed to arrive such as for example four 150 MM batteries and sixteen 88 MM cannon. The total shipped does not exceed the sum of 732,000 pounds (sterling).
  • 6. This is the situation of fact which in no way justifies the violence committed against the Siqueira Campos since its commercial cargo has a “navicert” and no enemies of Britain are travelling thereon, but neutrals and Brazilians who now have their lives exposed to the risks and bombings of the naval base to which they have been taken.
  • 7. The private cargo and the passengers are being carried strictly in accordance with British regulations. The other cargo is not private but official property which cannot be the subject of these regulations because it has to do with the neutrality, the defense and the sovereignty of Brazil.
  • 8. Admitting merely for the sake of elucidation that this cargo was subject to British regulations as is the case with commercial cargo, even in such a case it does not justify the conduct of the British authorities since (a) it was ordered before the declaration of war; (b) it was already paid for as is customary in orders of this kind and payment was made prior to November 25, 1939; (c) it merely complements the material already received by Brazil with the full knowledge of the British Government. Excepting the hypothesis of ill will on the part of the British Government which nothing leads us to believe exists it is not possible to admit that the official cargo of Brazil, of material which is indispensable to the defense of its territory and to the maintenance of its neutrality, should be subject to greater exigencies than those made on commerce in general.
  • 9. This act if upheld would harm Brazil alone since Krupp has received payment for the material already delivered to the Brazilian authorities. It may be alleged that by this act the British Government seeks to avoid new payments being made to Krupp and consequently German exchange availabilities abroad. This argument appears so [Page 637] unreasonable to us that it would be hard to see it officially invoked. The truth however is that it has been referred to in conversations held with the British representatives. In case of war and in the impossibility of transporting the material the contractual obligation of Brazil provides for its storage in Germany. The Government of Brazil was having the material taken to Lisbon and had arranged through notes exchanged with the German Government that present and future installments should be in marks and should remain deposited in the Bank of Brazil and applied only against the purchase of Brazilian merchandise as indicated by Brazil and transported only after the termination of the war. Therefore the situation which the British Government is creating is to oblige us to make payments without any reservation by virtue of the contract; the material remaining in Germany perhaps to be used against Britain and its allies.
  • 10. The British attitude will only harm Brazil and probably Britain and its allies and will only and exclusively favor Germany and its allies who, thanks to this British decision, will keep both the money and the material belonging to Brazil.
  • 11. The blockade policy would not appear to us to be affected by the facilities which the British Government might offer by allowing the free transit of the Siqueira Campos inasmuch as the material being transported is the property of the Brazilian Government and was ordered before the war and paid for before November 25, 1939. It is composed of parts, apparatus and arms complementary to others that were previously shipped with the full knowledge of the British Government. As a matter of fact the Brazilian Government did not and does not propose without prior understanding with Great Britain to transport material beyond that covered by the amounts paid up to November 1939 in this manner giving further proof of its spirit of cooperation in the present situation.
  • 12. These facts and considerations without entering into a juridical and political examination of the question and its precedents would seem to the Brazilian Government of a nature to convince His Majesty’s Government of the reasons which justify Brazil’s attitude in this lamentable incident and which make it hope for the facilities which it has requested for the free transit of the Siqueira Campos.”