The German Chargé ( Thomsen ) to the Secretary of State

II T. E. 717

Mr. Secretary of State: By direction of my Government, I have the honor to inform Your Excellency of the following:

On April 10, 1941 the President sent to the Congress of the United States a message21 in which he referred to the legal authorization, based on Section 902 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936,22 for the purchase and requisitioning of ships belonging to American citizens, and, citing it and the alleged shortage of tonnage for American national needs, declared necessary a similar legal authorization also with respect to the foreign merchant vessels laid up in American ports. In execution of this message of the President, bills have been introduced in both Houses of Congress by which the President is to be empowered to purchase the foreign merchant ships laid up in American territorial waters, to requisition them or otherwise take them over, at his discretion, and in addition to dispose of them in any manner that he deems proper, that is, both for the benefit of the United States and also of third countries. The bill introduced into the House of Representatives is already before it for discussion and voting in plenary session.

In my notes of March 31st, April 1st, 4th, and 9th, I have already submitted a most emphatic protest, in the name and by direction of the German Government, against the illegal taking possession, in violation of the provisions of the German-American Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Consular Rights, of the two German merchant vessels lying in American ports, the tanker Pauline Friedrich at the port of Boston and the motor ship Arauca at Port Everglades. By action against the foreign merchant ships laid up in American waters, in accordance with the proposed joint resolution of both Houses of Congress, the American Government would override this official protest. My Government has therefore instructed me to point out to the United States Government again, referring to my earlier démarches, that such action, aside from the flagrant breach of neutrality involved therein, would represent seizure of foreign private property, contrary to law. The reason given that the requisitioning of the foreign merchant ships laid up here is necessary for purposes of national defense, cannot be recognized under any circumstances, as considerations of national defense have not prevented the Government of the United States of America from turning over to third states a very considerable number of American merchant ships.

Accept [etc.]

  1. Senate Document No. 42, 77th Cong., 1st sess.
  2. 49 Stat. 1985, 2015.