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of caring for the officers and men of the German merchant vessels lying in ports of continental United States, Porto Rico and Hawaii.
Notice that the resolution declaring that a state of war exists had passed the House of Representatives reached the Department at 3.14 o'clock this morning. A telegram containing, in accordance with a prearranged plan, the words“ proceed instantly ” was placed upon the wires and started to the immigration officer in charge at every port where vessels are lying at 3.15 a. m. At 3.22 a. m. reports that the messages had been received commenced to arrive, and by 9.30 a. m. assurances of the receipt and delivery at every place upon the continent, Porto Rico and Hawaii were in hand.
At this writing reports by telegraph or telephone have been received from the officers in charge at the following places, showing that the instructions were promptly carried out, the officers and crewmen taken into custody without any trouble of any kind and conveyed to immigration stations or other places of safety: Boston, New London, New York, Baltimore, Newport News, Wilmington, N. C., Savannah, and New Orleans. The places still to be heard from are Jacksonville, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Honolulu, and San Juan.
Several questions have arisen which are of interest to one or more Departments other than the Department of Labor, and these will be raised in Cabinet meeting or discussed with the particular Cabinet officer concerned. Faithfully yours,
W. B. WILSON
File No. 763.72111/5140
The Swiss Minister (Ritter) to the Secretary of State
Department of German
WASHINGTON, June 14, 1917. Sm: In pursuance of instructions from the Swiss Foreign Office I have the honor to present for Your Excellency's consideration the following questions concerning which the Imperial German Government desires to be informed.
1. What treatment has been and is being accorded the crews of the German merchant vessels in ports of the United States, and what are the intentions of the Government of the United States in regard to the future status and treatment of these men?
* The plan was embodied in the following telegram sent by the Department of Labor to the immigration officers on Apr. 4, 1917 :
"Lay all plans, but take no actual step until receipt of cablegram reading . proceed,' to take charge of and detain in immigration station every officer and crewman of German merchant vessels only. Customs officers will take charge of vessels and later turn over personal effects of officers and men. Military or naval officers will furnish soldiers or marines needed to aid in safely and surely conveying men to station. Immigration officers may carry arms if in your judgment necessary.” (File No. 763.72115/3860.)
2. Is the Government of the United States prepared to apply to the crews of German merchant vessels the provisos of articles 6 and 7 of the eleventh Hague convention of October 18, 1907?
File No. 763.72111/5214
The Secretary of Labor (Wilson) to the Secretary of State
WASHINGTON, June 26, 1917.
[Received June 28.] Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 15th instant, inclosing copy of a note received from the Swiss Minister at this Capital, representing German interests in the United States, in which he requests certain information regarding the crews of the German merchant vessels in the ports of the United States. You request to be furnished with an early reply to the questions asked by the Swiss Minister.3
1. From the outset the officers and crewmen of the German merchant vessels that had come into ports of the United States and remained there while this country was a neutral in the conflict between the Central and the Allied Powers have not been regarded as prisoners of war, and they are not now being so regarded or treated. They were and are considered, rather, as aliens who, while physically within the jurisdiction of this country, were constructively outside and in the same situation as any other alien arriving in a United States port and applying for admission but not yet formally admitted. When the Congress of the United States declared a state of war to exist between this country and Germany, the President issued a proclamation defining “ alien enemies.” The issuance of this proclamation made it necessary to regard the German officers and crewmen as alien-enemy applicants for admission in addition to their general status of aliens at the portals but not yet within the United States, under the meaning of the immigration law. Proceeding upon this theory, the officers and crewmen have been excluded and, their deportation not being practicable, have been detained. Throughout the procedure incident to so regarding them and disposing of their cases, it has been the practice to accord to the officers, to the fullest extent practicable, the same kind of treatment, as to quartering, feeding, etc., as would be given to first-class passengers arriving at ports of the United States and taken to immigration stations thereof; and the crewmen have been accorded, as nearly as possible, the same kind of treatment as would be given steerage or third-class passengers arriving at ports of the United States and taken to immigration stations thereof. Because the immigration stations, while adapted to the accomplishment of the purposes in view for limited periods of time, were not altogether suitable for detaining the officers and crewmen, respectively, for long periods and at the same time observing the requirements with regard to their treatment which the Department from the outset imposed upon itself, arrangements are now being perfected for the further detention of the officers and crewmen in internment camps where they can be given opportunities for healthful employment or recreation and where all inconveniences resulting from the restricted areas and somewhat confined limitations of immigration stations would be overcome. In pursuance of this policy the officers and crewmen who were for a very brief period detained in the immigration station at Boston have been removed to Gallup Island, Boston Harbor; a number of the officers who have been detained at the immigration station at New York (Ellis Island) have already been removed to Hot Springs, N. C., where a large, commodious, well-appointed building, to which extensive grounds are attached, has been rented; and arrangements are now being made to convey the crewmen at Ellis Island to another near-by point in North Carolina. The same is true with regard to the officers and crewmen, respectively, who have been detained at the immigration station at New Orleans; and as rapidly as possible similar accommodations will be afforded for those now detained at San Francisco, Calif., and Gloucester City, N. J., respectively.
* Not printed.
Supra. 3 The following reply was not forwarded to the Swiss Minister.
2. It would seem more appropriate for the Department of State to answer the Swiss Minister's second question than for this Department to do so. It will be seen, however, from the above answer to the Minister's first question, that this Department has not applied to the cases the provisions of articles 6 and 7 of the 11th Hague convention of October 18, 1907, which articles read as follows:
ARTICLE 6. The captain, officers, and members of the crew, when nationals of the enemy State, are not made prisoners of war, on condition that they make a formal promise in writing, not to undertake, while hostilities last, any service connected with the operations of the war.
ARTICLE 7. The names of the persons retaining their liberty under the conditions laid down in Article 5, paragraph 2, and in Article 6, are notified by the belligerent captor to the other belligerent. The latter is forbidden knowingly to employ the said persons. This Department has not understood that the Government considered that these articles applied to the officers and crewmen who were
within our harbors under the conditions above alluded to when a state of war with Germany was declared to exist. Presumably, the theory upon which this holding rests is that chapter 3 of the 11th Hague convention of 1907 relates to "crews of enemy merchant ships captured by a belligerent," and that the vessels, the officers and crewmen of which are under discussion, were not “captured” within the meaning of said chapter. Cordially yours,
W. B. WILSON
File No. 763.72115/3184
The Assistant Secretary of Labor (Post) to the Secretary of State
WASHINGTON, September 6, 1917. SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated August 14, No. 763.72115/3174, quoting a despatch received from the American Consul at Auckland, requesting, for the information of the New Zealand Government, to be advised whether German crews remain aboard interned vessels at Honolulu, and whether Germans there are permitted to communicate with the outer world.
In reply I beg to state that alien enemies aboard German steamers at the port of Honolulu were removed from their vessels and interned, the same as at ports in continental United States. The aliens are permitted to communicate with the outside world, but all incoming and outgoing mail is censored. In connection with the above it may be stated that a majority of the aliens interned at Honolulu have been transferred to San Francisco for detention. Respectfully,
Louis F. Post
File No. 763.72115/3227
The Secretary of State to the Swiss Minister (Sulzer)
WASHINGTON, December 6, 1917. Sir: I have the honor to inform you that between the 15th and 22d of December, 1917, there will arrive in San Francisco, Calif., 423 male German aliens, 18 German women and 13 German children who were removed from the German merchant vessels in the harbors of the Philippine Islands. The Government of the United States has considered it advisable to intern these male alien enemies for the duration of the war but is unwilling at present to intern the women and children, provided they are found to be admissible under the immigration law.
* Not printed.
Inasmuch as these women and children are presumably without means of support, I desire to bring the matter to your attention, as in charge of German interests in the United States, for such steps as you may be able to take towards affording them relief, in order that they may not be left in a destitute condition in San Francisco, Calif. Accept [etc.]
File No. 763.72114/3607a
WASHINGTON, April 25, 1918. Sir. In dealing with the various questions which have arisen from the internment of certain categories of enemy aliens in this country, I have found that difficulties have arisen from the fact that jurisdiction over these enemy aliens is divided between the Departments of War, Justice and Labor. I have, therefore, come to the conclusion that in order to coordinate the treatment of the various classes of interned enemy aliens and to present a unified front to our enemies in this connection, it might be advisable to transfer the former crews of enemy merchant ships who are now in your custody to the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. The Attorney General could then, in his discretion, transfer those seamen whom he considered it undesirable to release on parole to the custody of the War Department for permanent detention during the period of the war.
•I understand that this question was discussed at an informal conference held at the Department on April 22, at which the representatives of the various Departments interested were in agreement as to the advisability of this proposed transfer and I shall therefore be glad to learn whether the suggestion meets with your approval, and whether steps may not now be taken to carry it into effect. I have [etc.]
File No. 763.72114/3608
The Acting Secretary of Labor (Abercrombie) to the Secretary of
WASHINGTON, May 11, 1918.
[Received May 14.] Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 25th ultimo, in which you express the view that in order to coordinate the treatment of the various classes of interned enemy