The Secretary of State to the Italian Ambassador (Colonna)
The Secretary of State presents his compliments to His Excellency the Royal Italian Ambassador and has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of his communication of May 10, 1941 protesting against the legislation which is now pending in Congress designed to authorize the President to purchase, charter, or requisition such foreign merchant vessels, or the use thereof, lying idle in waters within the jurisdiction of the United States which he may deem necessary to the national defense. It is stated that the Royal Italian Government regards such proposed action as a violation of international law and makes reservation as to the rights of the Italian owners of the vessels.
The Ambassador does not state why his Government considers that such action would constitute a violation of international law and the Secretary of State knows of no reason why it should be so regarded. The right of a Government to requisition for public use private property within its jurisdiction, whether owned by nationals or by aliens, subject to the payment of just compensation, is well settled. That idle ships within the jurisdiction of the state exercising the right do not constitute an exception to this general rule is well established by abundant precedents. The rule with respect to compensation in these cases is safeguarded not only by the Constitution of the United States but by the proposed legislation against which the Italian Government has seen fit to protest. In these circumstances, the Secretary of State must reject the protest as being devoid of justification.