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the honor to address His Excellency in regard to the competence of Swiss consuls, acting in the interests of absent German heirs, to receive personal property in the settlement of inheritances.
Since the severance of diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany, the Swiss consulates have been acting in the place of the German consulates for absent German heirs, in all cases where the latter were not duly represented. Furthermore, the Swiss consuls in pursuance of these functions have received personal property belonging to such heirs and have remitted the same to be placed on account of this Legation.
In some States, question appears to have arisen in regard to the right of the Swiss consuls to collect such property belonging to absent German heirs and legatees, and the erroneous impression seems to prevail that property so received is to be transmitted to Germany. In view of these circumstances, therefore, and desirous of facilitating the proceedings in inheritance matters, the Swiss Minister has the honor to request that His Excellency kindly advise him whether the Department of State is inclined to support the views of this Legation that the Swiss consuls in pursuance of the functions with which they have been charged, may properly collect and receive personal property belonging to absent German heirs, with the understanding that all such property is to be deposited on account of the Swiss Legation at Washington. WASHINGTON, April 26, 1917.
[Received April 27.]
File No. 711.6221/165
The Secretary of State to the Swiss Minister (Ritter)
The Secretary of State presents his compliments to the Minister of Switzerland, in charge of German interests in the United States, and has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Minister's memorandum of April 26, 1917, in regard to the competence of Swiss consuls, acting in the interests of absent German heirs, to receive personal property in settlement of inheritances.
In reply the Minister of Switzerland is informed that inasmuch as it is possible that the general subject of his inquiry may be taken up in war legislation before the present Congress, the Secretary of State is not at present in position to give a definite expression of opinion.
WASHINGTON, June 1, 1917.
File No. 705.6358,2
The Secretary of State to the Swedish Minister (Ekengren) No. 225
WASHINGTON, June 1, 1917. Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note No. 128, of May 12, 1917, enclosing a memorandum, indicating the Swedish consulates in the United States which have been instructed to act in Austro-Hungarian matters."
In reply I have the honor to suggest that Swedish consuls in the United States be instructed to defer accepting money for Austrian and Hungarian subjects in inheritance cases, etc., inasmuch as it is possible that the general subject may be taken up in war legislation before the present Congress. Pending the result of such legislation, I would prefer, at this time, not to give a definite expression of opinion regarding the matter. Accept [etc.]
File No. 763.72113/379
[Translation] No. 1295
WASHINGTON, June 20, 1917.
[Received June 22.] MR. SECRETARY OF STATE: I have the honor to communicate herein below to Your Excellency the text of a despatch which I have just received from the King's Government.
In the presence of the systematic plundering of French territory evacuated by the German troops and in the fear that other misdeeds of the same kind might be committed in our banking establishments, the Council of Ministers has approved a draft of law-decree which is now submitted to the King's sanction.
It declares null and void every conveyance, every disposal of property, real or personal, public or private, that has been made by the enemy the object of confiscation, seizure or any other measures affecting Government property (whenever such measures do not come under a normal administration of the Government's interests), the property of private persons, communes, provinces, and public institutions. Are so null and void not only the conveyances effected by the enemy or on the enemy's order, but also all subsequent conveyances, the whole transference of the property being vitiated by the irregular character of the decision from which it sprang: That property may be claimed back, no matter in whose hands it is found, and those who knowingly are instrumental in carrying out the irregular measures taken by the enemy, who sell, purchase, give away or accept as collateral any property subjected to such measures will be liable to special punishment.
The King's Government is curious to know in this connection whether the Allied Governments would not agree to notify the German Government that, if it should carry out its plan to open, in banks in occupied territory, the safes or deposits under seal belonging to private persons for the purpose of attaching, confiscating, or removing the contents, the Allied Governments would take the same measures concerning the deposits made in banks in their respective territories by persons subject to the jurisdiction of the German Empire and its allies.
The question, then, is one of reprisals to be applied to German, Austro-Hungarian, Turkish, and Bulgarian depositors. The fear of exposing its nationals thereto might perhaps deter the German Government if it should contemplate further spoliations.
The King's Government would attach the greatest value to knowing the views of the American Government on this point and I should be thankful to Your Excellency if you would be so very obliging as to acquaint me with the views entertained on the subject by the authorities concerned. I take [etc.]
E. DE CARTIER
File No. 763.72113/379
WASHINGTON, July 13, 1917. Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note No. 1295 of June 20, 1917, with reference to the systematic plundering carried on by German troops in Belgian and French territory, and in which you state that you have been instructed by the King's Government to request the Government of the United States to take certain retaliatory and confiscatory measures in connection with German property in this country.
In reply I have the honor to inform you that although the Government of the United States deeply sympathizes with the injuries which have been suffered by Belgium at the hands of Germany, it is felt that this Government, in view of the declaration of the Administration that private enemy property would not be confiscated, can not accede to the request of the King's Government. Accept [etc.]
FRANK L. POLK
Proclamation No. 1386, July 13, 1917, Prohibiting Transaction in
the United States of the Business of Marine and War Risk Insurance by German Companies
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WHEREAS, certain insurance companies, incorporated under the laws of the German Empire, have been admitted to transact the business of marine and war risk insurance in various States of the United States, by means of separate United States Branches established pursuant to the laws of such States, and are now engaged in such business under the supervision of the Insurance Departments thereof, with assets in the United States deposited with Insurance Departments or in the hands of resident trustees, citizens of the United States, for the protection of all policy-holders in the United States;
AND WHEREAS, the nature of marine and war risk insurance is such that those conducting it must of necessity be in touch with the movements of ships and cargoes, and it has been considered by the Government of great importance that this information should not be obtained by alien enemies;
Now, THEREFORE, I, WOODROW WILSON, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the powers vested in me as such, hereby declare and proclaim that such branch establishments of German Insurance Companies now engaged in the transaction of business in the United States pursuant to the laws of the several States are hereby prohibited from continuing the transaction of the business of marine and war risk insurance either as direct insurers or re-insurers; and all individuals, firms, and insurance companies incorporated under the laws of any of the States or Territories of the United States, or of any foreign country, and established pursuant to the laws of such States and now engaged in the United States in the business of marine and war risk insurance either as direct insurers or re-insurers are hereby prohibited from re-insuring with companies incorporated under the laws of the German Empire, no matter where located; and all persons in the United States are prohibited from insuring against marine or war risks with insurance companies incorporated under the laws of the German Empire or with individuals, firms, and insurance companies incorporated under the laws of any of the States or Territories of the United States or of any foreign country and now engaged in the business of marine or war risk insurance in the United States, which re-insure business originating in the United States with companies incorporated under the laws of the German Empire, no matter where located.
The foregoing prohibitions shall extend and operate as to all existing contracts for insurance and re-insurance which are hereby suspended for the period of the war, except that they shall not operate to vitiate or prevent the insurance or re-insurance of, and the payment or receipt of, premiums on insurance or re-insurance under existing contracts on vessels or interest at risk on the date of this proclamation, and such insurance or re-insurance, if for a voyage, shall continue in force until arrival at destination, and if for time, until thirty days from the date of this proclamation, but if on a voyage at that time, until the arrival at destination.
Nothing herein shall be construed to operate to prevent the payment or receipt of any premium, return premium, or claim now due or which may become due on or in respect to insurances or reinsurances not prohibited by this proclamation.
That all funds of such German companies now in the possession of their managers or agents, or which shall hereafter come into their possession, shall be subject to such rules and regulations concerning the payment and disposition thereof as shall be prescribed by the insurance supervising officials of the State in which the principal office of such establishment in the United States is located, but in no event shall any funds belonging to or held for the benefit of such companies be transmitted outside of the United States, nor be used as the basis for the establishment, directly or indirectly, of any credit within or outside of the United States to or for the benefit or use of the enemy or any of his allies without the permission of this Government.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. DONE at the District of Columbia this thirteenth day of July in
the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and [SEAL] seventeen and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and forty-second.
WOODROW WILSON By the President: FRANK L. POLK
Acting Secretary of State.
File No. 711.6221/165
The Secretary of State to the Swiss Chargé (II übscher)
WASHINGTON, August 13, 1917. Sir: Referring to my memorandum of June 1, 1917, relative to the competence of Swiss consuls, acting in the interests of absent German heirs, to receive personal property in settlement of inheritances, I have the honor now to ask if you will kindly instruct Swiss consular officers in the United States to defer, for the time being, the acceptance of money due German subjects from estates in this country, inasmuch as it is possible that the general subject may be taken up in war legislation before the present Congress. Accept [etc.]