File No. 862.85/100a
The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Chile ( Shea)
Two unarmed sailing vessels, the Arnoldus Vinnen, which has been renamed Gamecock, and the Kurt, now renamed Dreadnought, are in Pacific coast ports of the United States about ready to sail for Chilean ports with merchant cargoes for delivery there, and to return with cargoes obtained there. The United States Government has no interest in the cargoes. These vessels were German merchant ships lying in the territorial waters of the United States at the outbreak of the war, and have been seized under the authority of the Joint Resolution of Congress of May 12, 1917, authorizing the President to take possession and title of such ships—the question of compensation to be determined later by Congress. These ships are under time-charter for this voyage, but the title to the vessels is in the United States, and they are under the control of and are being operated by the United States Shipping Board. The masters and crews are appointed by the Shipping Board and are therefore in the employ of the United States. It is feared that these vessels might be libeled or otherwise drawn into litigation upon arrival in Chile by Germans or other persons claiming title or interest in them, with resulting delay and loss of the use of the ships. What, in your opinion, is the chance of these vessels discharging and loading in Chilean ports without litigation being instituted? Is it advisable to obtain from the Chilean Government an assurance that if litigation is instituted, the vessels will not be delayed or held on that account, but will be released without bail? If such an assurance be obtained, is there likelihood that it would be violated, or if the courts did take jurisdiction, would the Government force the release of the vessels in accordance with the assurance?[Page 1260]
Please telegraph promptly your views at the earliest moment without presenting the matter formally to any Government officials. In formulating your views, there is no objection to your sounding out orally persons connected with the Government or others in whom you have confidence and Avho may be trusted in this matter.