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tional conferences by four of the maritime countries now at war and that two of the maritime nations now at war opposed this contention. It is further seen that the maritime nations at war with Germany and Austria-Hungary are evenly divided on this question.
At the second Hague conference the British delegation, opposing conversion on the high seas, stated that there was no rule of international law on the question; that in its carefully prepared memorandum presented to the powers invited to the London naval con ference the British Government held that “no general practice of nations has prevailed in the past on this point from which any principles can be deduced and formulated as the established rules of international law. So far as can be ascertained, there are no precedents on the subject.” .
In the official report of the conference drafted by Mr. Renault it is stated that agreement on conversion upon the high seas was impossible, and in the report of the British delegates to their Government it is said:
“We were met with a refusal to make any concessions or to abate one jot from the claim to the absolutely unfettered exercise of the right, which its advocates vindicate as a rule forming part of the existing law of nations. In these circumstances we felt that we had no option but to decline to admit the right, and the result is that the question remains an open one.”
It is obvious that the subject of conversion must be carefully examined and considered, and in view of these circumstances it is deemed by the Department of State inexpedient to declare a policy as to what measures it will take in a contingency which has not yet arisen, and that it may well content itself, in so far as this matter is concerned, with an acknowledgement of your note.
In the course of your communication it is stated as recognized “that a neutral Government is found to use due diligence to prohibit its subjects or citizens from the building or fitting out to the order of belligerents vessels intended for warlike purposes, and also to prevent the departure of such vessels from its jurisdiction.” It is asserted in this connection that “the starting point for the universal recognition of this principle was the three rules formulated in Article VI of the treaty between Great Britain and the United States of America for the amicable settlement of all causes of difference between the two countries, signed at Washington on May 8, 1871." After quoting the Three Rules of Washington, the note thus continues:
“The above rules may be said to have acquired the force of generally recognized rules of international law, and the first of them is reproduced almost textually in Article VIII of The Hague Convention No. 13 of 1907 concerning the rights and duties of neutral powers in case of maritime warfare, the principles of which have been agreed to by practically every maritime State.”
As the communication apparently lays great stress on the expression “due diligence," contained in the Treaty of Washington, it is believed material to the present occasion to quote the following definition of it contained in the Geneva award of 1872:
“The 'due diligence' referred to in the first and third of the said rules ought to be exercised by neutral Governments in exact proportion to the risks to which either of the belligerents may be exposed from a failure to fulfill the obligations of neutrality on their part.”
The expression “due diligence” was contained in the draft submitted by the British delegation to The Second Hague Conference, upon which Article VIII was based. Article VIII as finally adopted is as follows:
66 ARTICLE VIII.
“A neutral Government is bound to employ the means at its disposal to prevent the fitting out or arming of any vessel within its jurisdiction which it has reason to believe is intended to cruise, or engage in hostile operations against a power with which that Government is at peace. It is also bound to display the same vigilance to prevent the departure from its jurisdiction of any vessel intended to cruise or engage in hostile operations, which had been adapted entirely or partly within the said jurisdiction for use in war.”
As the expression “due diligence” was considered obscure, it was rejected, as the learned reporter of the convention, Mr. Louis Renault, says in the elaborate report which accompanies the convention, and which is, in accordance with the practice of international conferences, to be considered as the official and authoritative interpretation of the convention which it explains, justifies, and interprets. “The expression of due diligence,” he says, “which has become celebrated by its obscurity since its solemn interpretation, was rejected. The convention merely requires in the first instance (On se contente de dire d'abord) that the neutral is bound to employ the means at its disposal * * * then, to display the same vigilance.”
It is to be presumed that Article VIII which “reproduced almost textually " the first rule of the Treaty of Washington, is to be interpreted in the sense in which Mr. Renault's report shows it to have been adopted, especially as Great Britain and the United States have ratified the convention without any objection or reservation as to Article VIII thereof.
It seems obvious therefore that by neither the terms nor the interpretation of the provisions of the treaties on this point is the United States bound to assume the attitude of an insurer. Consequently the United States disclaims as a correct statement of its responsibility the assertion in your note that “His Majesty's Government will accordingly hold the United States Government responsible for any damages to British trade or shipping, or injury to British interests generally, which may be caused by such vessels having been equipped at, or departing from, United States ports.”
The United States has always looked upon the Three Rules of Washington as declaratory of international law, and as the necessary and natural consequences of the doctrine of neutrality, proclaimed and enforced by the United States since the wars of the French Revolution, to which Great Britain was a party. The Three Rules can, in the opinion of this Government, only be considered as the starting point of the doctrine of that degree of diligence which a neutral should observe in the sense that its recognition by Great Britain in an important international controversy called marked attention to an existing doctrine, and furnished an incentive to its incorporation and definition in The Hague Convention concerning the rights and duties of neutral powers in case of maritime warfare. The United States, since the earliest days of its existence, has been as solicitous of its neutral duties as of its neutral rights, and without further consideration of your communication at this time I request you to state to your Government that there is no reason to anticipate that the United States will be less mindful of its duties or of its rights as a neutral in the present case than it has been in the past. I have, etc.,
W. J. BRYAN.
File No. 763.72111/87.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE TO THE BRITISH CHARGÉ.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, August 20, 1914. SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication No. 259 of the 9th instant, made to the Department of State under instructions from Sir Edward Grey, in regard to the question of armed merchantmen, informing this Government that a certain number of the British merchant vessels are armed as a precautionary measure for the purpose of defense, and maintaining that such merchant vessels can not be considered as vessels of war or subjected to the treatment properly accorded to vessels of the latter category in neutral ports.
In the last paragraph of this communication you call attention to the right claimed by the German Government, in accordance with its rules, to convert its merchant vessels upon the high seas into vessels of war, and the communication states the contention of the British Government that the neutral Government concerned is taxed with responsibility if it does not intern such vessels, in the absence of binding assurances that they will not be converted into men-ofwar on the high seas.
The Department of State acknowledges without comment the statement of British policy in such matters and also the British understanding of Germany's intentions and policy, but as to the responsibility of the United States in the premises, you are referred to department's note of the 19th instant replying to your note No. 252 of the 4th instant.
I have, etc.,
File No. 763.72111/88.
THE BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE.
Washington, August 25, 1914. Sir: With reference to Mr. Barclay's notes Nos. 252 and 259 of the 4th and 9th of August, respectively, fully explaining the posi
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tion taken up by His Majesty's Government in regard to the question of armed merchantmen, I have the honor, in view of the fact that a number of British armed merchantmen will now be visiting United States ports, to reiterate that the arming of British merchantmen is solely à precautionary measure adopted for the purpose of defense against attack from hostile craft.
I have at the same time been instructed by His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to give the United States Government the fullest assurances that British merchant vessels will never be used for purposes of attack; that they are merely peaceful traders armed only for defense; that they will never fire unless first fired upon; and that they will never under any circumstances attack any vessel. I have, etc.
File No. 763.72111/88.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE TO THE BRITISH AMBASSADOR.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
· Washington, August 29, 1914. EXCELLENCY: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your wote of the 25th instant, in which, referring to previous corresponder ce, you state that, in view of the fact that a number of British armed merchantmen will now be visiting United States ports, you desire to reiterate that the arming of British merchantmen is solely a precautionary measure adopted for the purpose of defense against attack from hostile craft. You add that you have been instructed by His Majesty's principal secretary of state for foreign affairs to give the Government of the United States the fullest assurances that British merchant vessels will never be used for purposes of attack, that they are merely peaceful traders armed only for defense, that they will never fire unless first fired upon, and that they will never under any circumstances attack any vessel. I have, etc.,
W. J. BRYAN.
File No. 763.72111/144.
THE BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE.
Washington, September 4, 1914. · Sir: I have the honor to inform you that, at the request of your department, I drew the attention of my Government to the fact that two British merchant vessels—the Adriatic and the Merrion—were at present in United States ports, and that they were carrying gunsthe former four and the latter six. I added that the fact of these vessels carrying guns was likely to lead to the raising of difficult questions as to the enforcement by the United States Government of the neutrality of American ports, although an assurance had been given that these guns would only be used for defensive purposes and in case the merchant vessels in question were attacked by an enemy ship when on a commercial voyage.
I have now received a reply from Sir Edward Grey in which he informs me that His Majesty's Government hold the view that it is not in accordance with neutrality and international law to detain in neutral ports merchant vessels armed with purely defensive armaments. But, in view of the fact that the United States Government is detaining armed merchant vessels prepared for offensive warfare, and in order to avoid the difficult questions of the character and degree of armament which would justify detention, His Majesty's Government have made arrangements for landing the guns of the Merrion, the Adriatic having already sailed before the orders reached her. In the case of the latter ship the passenger list and cargo had proved that she was proceeding to sea on ordinary.commercial business. These and other papers relative to the case will be duly communicated to your department.
This action has been taken without prejudice to the general principle which His Majesty's Government has enunciated and to which they adhere.
It is presumed that no objection will be raised by your Government to the guns being shipped subsequently to England as cargo in some vessel without mountings or ammunition. I have, etc.,
CECIL. SPRING-RICE. File No. 763.72111/156.
MEMORANDUM FROM THE BRITISH EMBASSY.
Washington, September 19, 1914. The British Ambassador presents his compliments to the Secretary of State of the United States and, with reference to his note No. 302 of September 4, has the honor to state that he is informed by the British Consul General that the steamship Adriatic, which sailed from New York on September 3 with four guns mounted and 200 rounds of ammunition, took 28 first-class passengers, 43 second, and 89 third. She also took 637 bags of mail and a general cargo of provisions and manufactured goods. She had no war material on board and no army reservists.
These data bear out the assurances that the Adriatic is bound on a peaceful commercial voyage and that her armament is destined solely for defensive purposes.
File No. 763.72111/410.
MEMORANDUM FROM THE BRITISH EMBASSY.
Washington, September 9, 1914. The German Government have openly entered upon the policy of arming merchant ships as commerce destroyers and even claim the right to carry out the process of arming and equipping such merchant ships in neutral harbors or on the high seas. It is in consequence of this that the British Admiralty have been compelled, in accordance