The French Ambassador (Henry-Haye) to the Secretary of State


Referring to the note86 which he is addressing on this date to His Excellency the Secretary of State, the Ambassador of France has the honor to call the Secretary’s attention to the not very friendly character of the unilateral decision made without advance notice by the United States Government, which led, on May 15th last, to the taking over by the Coast Guard of the French merchant ships lying in American ports.

Although this measure has been presented as a mere extension of the surveillance exercised over the ships from the piers, the French Government nevertheless considers that it is contrary to the arrangements contemplated in the exchange of notes with the Ambassador of the United States that took place on April 3rd last at Vichy.87 Under the terms of those notes, the Federal Government agreed to grant to the French vessels in its ports “a special position not permitting either guards on board or even, closer surveillance, if the French Government would give the assurance that explicit instructions have been or will be given, strictly prohibiting any act of sabotage or destruction with respect to those ships”.*

As the Federal Government knows, such instructions have been laid down, strictly observed by the crews, and have not been revoked since then. Under these conditions, the French Government must protest against the measure taken unilaterally on May 15th by the United States Government, in virtue of which the French merchant vessels in American ports are still occupied by the Coast Guard.

Having fulfilled completely the engagements undertaken by it in its note of April 3, 1941, it has the honor to ask the United States [Page 532] Government to be good enough to insure, on its part, the strict application thereof and to withdraw the armed guards who have been placed on board the French merchant ships.

Moreover, the French Government has learned with surprise of the stopping and seizure by a British cruiser of the tanker Schéhérazade, which had left Baytown (Texas) on May 12th for Casablanca. This seizure was made although the British Government had granted one navicert for the ship and another one fully covering the cargo, and although free passage to Morocco had been guaranteed by the United States Government.

Mr. Henry-Haye would be grateful to His Excellency the Honorable Cordell Hull if he would be good enough to intervene urgently with the British authorities with a view to having the French tanker released and allowing the latter to continue its voyage toward Morocco, in accordance with the agreement entered into on May 9th,88 which is confirmed by the personal note addressed to His Excellency the Secretary of State on the same day.

Mr. Henry-Haye is happy [etc.]

  1. Dated May 27, p. 181.
  2. See telegrams No. 383, April 3, noon, and No. 394, April 4, 9 p.m., from the Ambassador in France, p. 527.
  3. Unfortunately the English original was not available to the translator.—Tr’s note. [Footnote in the file translation.]
  4. No record of agreement found in Department files.