740.00111 A.R.N.C./183

The Under Secretary of State ( Welles ) to the American Member of the Inter-American Neutrality Committee ( Fenwick )

My Dear Professor Fenwick: I thoroughly agree with you that the functions of the Neutrality Committee might be extended in scope, as suggested by you in the memorandum which you left with me on May 9th.

However, it is my view that if the Committee undertakes to deal with the subject of claims growing out of the present war in Europe, it should limit itself to a consideration of the basis of liability, that is to say, whether the government is, in all the circumstances, liable for the acts giving rise to the claim, as distinguished from the basis of the compensation to be paid once liability is determined. Generally [Page 7] speaking, the amount of compensation properly payable for loss of property is the same whether the destruction results from bombardment, for example, or from other cause, if the illegality of the act be established.

For various reasons, I am of the opinion that the suggestion contained in the last paragraph of your memorandum should not be advanced. The general subject of inter-American claims would not seem to fall within the competence of the Neutrality Committee. The subject of pecuniary claims was referred, as you doubtless know, to the Committee of Experts established pursuant to a resolution adopted at Montevideo in 1933.10 That Committee submitted a report to the Lima Conference in 1938, and the Conference referred the report, together with other projects, back to the Committee for further study and report.11

Sincerely yours,

Sumner Welles
  1. Resolution LXX, on methods of codification of international law, adopted by the Seventh International Conference of American States; for text, see Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The International Conferences of American States, First Supplement, 1983–1940 (Washington, 1940), p. 84. For correspondence regarding the Conference, see Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. iv, pp. 1 ff.
  2. See The International Conferences of American States, First Supplement, 1983–1940, p. 249; for correspondence on the Lima Conference, see Foreign Relations, 1938, vol. v, pp. 1 ff.