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neulations of neutraletrests of the Britishe laws of nat
ful in securing the release by the British Government of the German subjects and German merchandise illegally taken from their vessels. To à certain extent they have even contributed toward the execution of the measures adopted by England in defiance of the principle of freedom of the seas by prohibiting the export and transit of goods destined for peaceable purposes in Germany, thus evidently yielding to pressure by England. The German Government have in vain called the attention of the neutral powers to the fact that Germany must seriously question whether it can any longer adhere to the stipulations of the declaration of London, hitherto strictly observed by it, in case England continues to adhere to its practice and the neutral powers persist in looking with indulgence upon all these violations of neutrality, to the detriment of Germany. Great Britain invokes the vital interests of the British Empire, which are at stake, in justification of its violations of the laws of nations, and the neutral powers appear to be satisfied with theoretical protests, thus actually admitting the vital interests of a belligerent as a sufficient excuse for methods of waging war, of whatever description.
The time has come for Germany also to invoke such vital interests. It therefore finds itself under the necessity, to its regret, of taking military measures against England in retaliation for the practice followed by England. Just as England declared the whole North Sea between Scotland and Norway to be comprised within the seat of war, so does Germany now declare the waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole English Channel, to be comprised within the seat of war and will prevent by all the military means at its disposal all navigation by the enemy in those waters.
To this end it will endeavor to destroy, after February 18 next, any merchant vessels of the enemy which present themselves at the seat of war above indicated, although it may not always be possible to avert the dangers which may menace persons and merchandise. Neutral powers are accordingly forewarned not to continue to intrust their crews, passengers, or merchandise to such vessels. Their attention is furthermore called to the fact that it is of urgency to recommend to their own vessels to steer clear of these waters. It is true that the German Navy has received instructions to abstain from all violence against neutral vessels recognizable as such; but, in view of the hazards of war and of the misuse of the neutral flag ordered by the British Government, it will not always be possible to prevent a neutral vessel from becoming the victim of an attack intended to be directed against a vessel of the enemy. It is expressly declared that navigation in the waters north of the Shetland Islands is outside the danger zone, as well as navigation in the eastern part of the North Sea, and in a zone 30 marine miles wide along the Dutch coast. · The German Government announces this measure at a time permitting enemy and neutral ships to make the necessary arrangements to reach the ports situated at the seat of war. They hope that the neutral powers will accord consideration to the vital interests of Germany equally with those of England, and will on their part assist in keeping their subjects and their goods far from the seat of war; the more so since they likewise have a great interest in seeing the termination at an early day of the war now ravaging.
Six days after the announcement of the war-zone order by Germany the President of the United States sent the famous '“ strict accountability” note, in the following language:
THE SECRETARY OF STATE TO THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR AT BERLIN.
Please address a note immediately to the Imperial German Government to the following effect:
The Government of the United States, having had its attention directed to the proclamation of the German Admiralty issued on the 4th of February, that the waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole of the English Channel, are to be considered as comprised within the seat of war; that all enemy merchant vessels found in those waters after the 18th instant will be destroyed, although it may not always be possible to save crews and passengers; and that neutral vessels expose themselves to danger within this zone of war because, in view of the misuse of neutral flags said to have been ordered by the British Government on the 31st of January and of the contingencies of maritime warfare, it may not be possible always to exempt neutral vessels from attacks intended to strike enemy ships, feels it to be its duty to call the attention of the Imperial German Government with sincere respect and the most friendly sentiments but very candidly and earnestly, to the very serious possibilities of the course of action apparently contemplated under that proclamation.
The Government of the United States views those possibilities with such grave concern that it feels it to be its privilege, and indeed its duty in the circumstances, to request the Imperial German Government to consider before action is taken the critical situation in respect of the relations between this country and Germany which might arise were the German naval forces in carrying out the policy foreshadowed in the Admiralty's proclamation, to destroy any merchant vessel of the United States or cause the death of American citizens.
It is of course not necessary to remind the German Government that the sole right of a belligerent in dealing with neutral vessels on the high seas is limited to visit and search, unless a blockade is produced and effectively maintained which this Government does not understand to be proposed in this case. To declare or exercise a right to attack and destroy any vessel entering a prescribed area of the high seas without first certainly determining its belligerent nationality and the contraband character of its cargo would be an act so unprecedented in naval warfare that this Government is reluctant to believe that the Imperial Government of Germany in this case contemplates it as possible. The suspicion that enemy ships are using neutral flags improperly can create no just presumption that all ships traversing a prescribed area are subject to the same suspicion. It is to determine exactly such questions that this Government understands the right of visit and search to have been recognized.
This Government has carefully noted the explanatory statement issued by the Imperial German Government at the same time with the proclamation of the German Admiralty, and takes this occasion to remind the Imperial German Government very respectfully that
the Government of the United States is open to none of the criticisms for unneutral action to which the German Government believe the governments of certain other neutral nations have laid themselves open; that the Government of the United States has not consented to or acquiesced in any measures which may have been taken by the other belligerent nations in the present war which operate to restrain neutral trade, but has, on the contrary, taken in all such matters a position which warrants it in holding those Governments responsible in the proper way for any untoward effects upon American shipping which the accepted principles of international law do not justify; and that it therefore regards itself as free in the present instance to take with a clear conscience and upon accepted principles the position indicated in this note.
If the commanders of German vessels of war should act upon the presumption that the flag of the United States was not being used in good faith and should destroy on the high seas an American vessel or the lives of American citizens, it would be difficult for the Government of the United States to view the act in any other light than as an indefensible violation of neutral rights which it would be very hard indeed to reconcile with the friendly relations now so happily subsisting between the two Governments.
If such a deplorable situation should arise, the Imperial German Government can readily appreciate that the Government of the United States would be constrained to hold the Imperial German Government to a strict accountability for such acts of their naval authorities and to take any steps it might be necessary to take to sa feguard American lives and property and to secure to American citizens the full enjoyment of their acknowledged rights on the high seas.
The Government of the United States, in view of these considerations, which it urges with the greatest respect and with the sincere purpose of making sure that no misunderstanding may arise and no circumstance occur that might even cloud the intercourse of the two Governments, expresses the confident hope and expectation that the Imperial German Government can and will give assurance that American citizens and their vessels will not be molested by the naval forces of Germany otherwise than by visit and search, though their vessels may be traversing the sea area delimited in the proclamation of the German Admiralty.
It is added for the information of the Imperial Government that representations have been made to His Britannic Majesty's Government in respect to the unwarranted use of the American flag for the protection of British ships.
BRYAN. On the 15th of February, 1915, Germany addressed this country on the question of foodstuffs:
THE GERMAN AMBASSADOR TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE. 1. The federal council's decision concerning the seizure of food products, which England alleges to be the cause of food products shipped to Germany being treated as contraband, is exclusively on of wheat, rye, both unmixed and mixed with other products," and also 66 wheat, rye, oats, and barley flour.”
2. The federal council makes an express exception in section 45 of the order. Section 45 provides as follows: “The stipulations of this regulation do not apply to grain or flour imported from abroad after January 31.".
3. Conjunctively with that saving clause, the federal council's order contains a provision under which imported cereals and flours could be sold exclusively to the municipalities of certain specially designated organizations by the importers. Although that provision had for its object simply to throw imported grain and flour into such channels as supply the private consumption of civilians, and, in consequence of that provision, the intent and purpose of the federal council's order, which was to protect the civilian population from speculators and engrossers, were fully met, it was nevertheless rescinded so as to leave no room for doubt.
4. My Government is amenable to any proposition looking to control by a special American organization under the supervision of the American consular officers, and, if necessary, will itself make a proposition in that direction. '
5. The German Government further calls attention to the fact that municipalities do not form part of or belong to the Government, but are “self-administrative bodies," which are elected by the inhabitants of the commune in accordance with fixed rules, and therefore exclusively represent the private part of the population and act as it directs. Although these principles are generally known and obtain in the United States, as well as in England itself, the German Government desired to point out the fact so as to avoid any further unnecessary delay.
6. Hence it is absolutely assured that imported food products will be consumed by the civilian population in Germany exclusively, and there remains no doubt upon which England can prevent the exportation of food products from America to Germany for the use of civilians. ,
The Imperial Government expresses the firm hope that the American Government will stand on its right in this matter. (The New York Times, Feb. 18, 1915.) On the same day Germany addressed a second note on three items:
PARAPHRASE OF A NOTE FROM THE GERMAN AMBASSADOR TO THE SEC
RETARY OF STATE.
According to absolutely reliable information British merchant ships intend to oppose armed resistance to German men-of-war in the area declared as war zone by the German Admiralty.
Some of these ships were already armed with British naval guns. Now all the others are speedily being equipped in a similar way. Merchant ships have been instructed to sail in groups, and to ram German submarines, while the examination is proceeding, or should the submarines lie alongside, to throw bombs upon them, or else to attempt to overpower the examining party coming on board.
A very high premium has been offered for the destruction of the first German submarine by a British merchant vessel. Therefore British merchant ships can not any more be considered as undefended, so that they may be attacked by German war vessels without warning or search. The British admitted that iristructions had been given to misuse neutral flags. It is almost certain that British merchant vessels will by all means try to conceal their identity. Thereby it also becomes almost impossible to ascertain the identity of neutral ships, unless they sail in daylight under convoy, as all measures suggested by neutrals—for instance, painting of the ships in the national colors—may be promptly imitated by British ships. The attacks to be expected by masked British merchant vessels make a search impossible, as the 'examining party and the submarines themselves would thereby be exposed to destruction.
Under the circumstances the safety of neutral shipping in the war zone around the British Isles is seriously threatened. There is also an increased danger resulting from mines, as these will be laid in the war zone to a great extent. Accordingly neutral ships are urgently warned against entering that area, while the course around Scotland will be safe.
Germany has been compelled to resort to this kind of warfare by the murderous ways of British naval warfare, which aims at the destruction of legitimate neutral trade and at the starvation of the German people. Germany will be obliged to adhere to these announced principles till England submits to the recognized rules of warfare established by the declarations of Paris and London, or till she is compelled to do so by the neutral powers. (The New York times, Feb. 16, 1915.)
Six days after our note and two days before the German order was to take effect the German Government replied to our “ strict accountability” note as follows:
THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS TO THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR.
In reference to the note of the 12th instant, foreign office No. 2260, relative to the German measures respecting the theater of war in the waters surrounding England, the undersigned has the honor to reply to his excellency the ambassador of the United States, James W. Gerard, as follows:
The Imperial German Government have examined the communication of the Government of the United States in the same spirit of good will and friendship which seems to have prompted this communication.
The Imperial German Government are in entire accord with the Government of the United States that it is in the highest degree desirable for all parties to avoid the misunderstanding which might arise from the measures announced by the German Admiralty and to avert the intrusion of events calculated to interrupt the most friendly relations which have so happily existed between the two Governments up to this time.
On this assurance the German Government believe that they may depend on full understanding on the part of the United States, all the more because the action announced by the German Admiralty, as was dwelt upon at length in the note of the 4th instant, is in no wise directed against the legitimate trade and navigation of neutral States, but merely represents an act of self-defense which Germany's vital interests force her to take against England's method of con