Raymond B. Stevens, Vice-Chairman, Shipping Board, and Representative, Allied Maritime Transport Council, to Edward N. Hurley, Chairman, Shipping Board
Chronological Copy. File No. <42-2-4>
Cablegram Sent May 4, 1918. SFM
To Opnav, Washington. Serial No. S.M. 147
Prep. by C-S SX GREENE
SHIPMISSION NO. 147. For Hurley-
Referring to state 19.1 Great Britain France and Italy have <made> an agreement that all neutral tonnage secured by them shall be equally divided. One-third of the ships are chartered directly to each government or to companies named by each government. These charters are then assigned to the Allied Chartering Committee and employment of the ships during the war is directed by the Allied Maritime Transport Council. The agreement to enter into such arrangements was made before I arrived in Europe and has never been referred to me for the assent of the United States. I do not see why the assent of the United States is necessary. The agreement affects only the disposition of Great Britain’s share of the neutral tonnage and does not in any wa<y> interfere with the control by the United States over its own share of such tonnage.
The agreement of Great Britain with France and Italy for the division of Great Britain’s share of neutral tonnage obtained under the fifty-fifty arrangement has not come before the Allied Maritime Transport Council. It is a matter which concerns those three countries alone and is not within the jurisdiction of the Council. The Council is concerned sole<ly> with the most efficient use of tonnage for war purposes. It does not attempt to pass upon questions relating to how ships shall be chartered.
The French reasons as I understand them for desiring such an agreement were as follows.
During the early part of the war the French chartered many neutral ships in the open market. Competition among the Allies for neutral ships greatly increased the rates; consequently England France and Italy entered into an agreement that the chartering of neutrals should be done only through a joint committee known as the Allied Chartering Committee. All proposed charters had to receive the approval of this Committee. Under this <agreement> the French secured the direct charters of many neutral b<o>ats. After the agreement between the United States and Great Britain for the division of neutral tonnage the French objected to Great Britain taking charters of all boats coming to Great Britain under this agreement. France had surrendered her right to charter in the open market, and in return expected her share of charters. Even if the boats were at her disposal during the war she still desired to have the charters in her own name for her use after the war. France has built no ships since the war started. She has lost much tonnage. If charters of all neutral ships were in the control of Great Britain and the United States at the end of the war France would be in a serious condition.
The French Minister of Commerce2 has expressed to me his desire to have the United States join this agreement and pool all additional neutral tonnage secured under the fifty-fifty agreement with England. I notified him that I had no authority to act in the matter and that his proposal would have to be acted upon by the United States Government. I expressed to him a doubt as to <whether> United States would enter into such an agreement as her position was very different from that of England.
If you would consider such a proposal let me know and I will cable you more fully the details of this <arrangement> and the position of the French.
I do not quite know how to answer the last two paragraphs of your cablegram. I assume that you know that the President3 appointed me as the delegate of the United State to the Council. As such delegate I have attended both meetings of the Council and from time to time have cabled you in regard to the work of the Council. All the delegates representing the four associated governments understand that the Council has no executive power and that its function is to gather facts concerning war needs and the use of tonnage and to recommend such action as it deems necessary to the several governments. I brought with me from Washington full reports of the proceedings of the Inter-Allied Conference held in Paris in December and have given them most careful consideration.4 All the activities of the Council are based upon the resolutions passed by the Paris Conference. A great deal of material relating to the organization and work of the Council has been sent to the Shipping Board and is accessible to you. I shall be glad to send you any further information which you may desire.<07004.> STEVENS. S.M. 147.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: This document has not been located.
Footnote 2: Étienne Clémentel.
Footnote 3: Woodrow Wilson.
Footnote 4: See: William S. Benson to Josephus Daniels, 1 December 1917.