865.85/578: Telegram

The Chargé in Italy (Wadsworth) to the Secretary of State

1143. When complying with a request by the Acting Chief of the Foreign Office section handling American affairs that I call on him this morning the following communication for transmission to the Department was made orally to me substantially in the following terms.

“We have received a very brief telegram from our Ambassador at Washington in the matter of the 47 Italian vessels held by your Government. He reports that their status which to date has been one equivalent to sequestration threatens to become one tantamount to outright confiscation.

If this be true and if the vessels are actually confiscated by or in favor of your Government you will realize that we should at once be pressed strongly by their Italian owners to make good their loss by confiscating in our turn and in their favor American property in Italy to an equivalent value; and to this pressure it seems reasonable to suppose we should feel ourselves obligated to accede.”

To my comment that while the Embassy was uninformed as to recent developments in the matter I could not imagine any such action being taken except by due process of law the reply was to the effect (1) that the Italian Government could not recognize the propriety of [Page 483]such confiscation under any American domestic law for its view was that clearly no basis therefor existed in international law; and (2) that if grounds in Italian domestic law should be needed for retaliatory confiscation they could readily be found.

Our conversation then turned to the background of the matter and gathered that the Acting Chief was not familiar with either its present legal status the procedure thus far followed or the legal considerations involved.