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heavy armaments. In these conditions international law appeared to permit a merchant vessel to carry armament for defensive purposes without lessening its character as a private merchant vessel. This right seems to have been predicated on the superior defensive strength of ships of war, and the limitation of armament to have been dependent on the fact that it could not be used effectively in offensive against enemy naval' vessels, while it could defend the merchantmen against the generally inferior armament of piratical ships and privateers.
The use of the submarine, however, has changed these relations. Comparison of the defensive strength of a cruiser and a submarine shows that the latter, relying for protection on its power to submerge, is almost defenseless in point of construction. Even a merchant ship carrying a small-caliber gun would be able to use it effectively against the submarine.
Moreover, pirates and sea rovers have been swept from the main trade channels of the sea and privateering has been abolished. Consequently the placing of guns on merchantmen at the present date of submarine warfare can be explained only on the ground of a purpose to render merchantmen superior in force to submarines and to prevent warning and visit and search by them. Any armament, therefore, on a merchant vessel would seem to have the character of an offensive armament.
If a submarine is required to stop and search a merchant vessel on the high seas, and in case it is found that she is of an enemy character and that conditions necessitate her destruction and the removal to a place of safety of persons on board, it would not seem just nor reasonable that the submarine should be compelled, while complying with these requirements, to expose itself to almost certain destruction by the guns on board the merchant vessel.
It would therefore appear to be a reasonable and reciprocally just arrangement if it could be agreed by the opposing belligerents that submarines should be caused to adhere strictly to the rules of international law in the matter of stopping and searching merchant vessels, determining their belligerent nationality, and removing the crews and passengers to places of safety before sinking the vessels as prizes of war, and that merchant vessels of belligerent nationality should be prohibited from carrying any armament whatsoever.
In proposing this formula as a basis of conditional declarations by the belligerent Government I do so in the full conviction that each Government will consider primarily the humane purpose of saving the lives of innocent people rather than the insistence upon doubtful legal rights which may be denied on account of new conditions.
I would be pleased to be informed whether your Government would be willing to make such a declaration conditioned upon your enemies making a similar declaration.
I should say that my Government is impressed with the reasonableness of the argument that a merchant vessel carrying an armament of any sort, in view of the character of the submarine warfare and the defensive weakness of undersea craft, should be held to be an auxiliary cruiser and so treated by a neutral as well as by a belligerent Government, and is seriously considering instructing its officials accordingly.
The contents of this note was made public on the 18th of February, 1916. Ten days before this note was made public, and just one year from the day of our “strict accountability” note, Germany announced her intention to attack armed merchantmen without warning:
BERLIN · ATTITUDE TO U-BOAT WAR—TEXT OF GERMAN WARNING TO
NEUTRALS AND EVIDENCE BACKING IT IS GIVEN OUT-ATTACKS ON SUBMARINES–GERMAN DETAILS OF CLASHES WITH ARMED MERCHANT SHIPS OF ALLIES-INSTRUCTIONS THEY FOUND-DOCUMENTS TAKEN FROM THE ADMIRALTY TRANSPORT “ WOODFIELD" MADE PUBLIC IN WASHINGTON.
WASHINGTON, March 17. Frank L. Polk, Acting Secretary of State, to-day made public the official text of the memorandum issued by the German Government on February 10, which announced to the neutral powers the purpose of Germany to treat all armed enemy merchantmen as belligerents liable to attack without warning after February 29.
At the same time the State Department made public for the first time the official copies of all the so-called “appendices” to the memorandum in the form of a dozen exhibits, embracing what are declared by the German Government to be secret instructions issued by the British Admiralty to British merchant ships armed for defense, advising them to use their guns against enemy submarines pursuing or approaching them. One appendix is a recital of instances in which merchant ships are alleged to have fired on German and Austrian submarines.
The alleged secret instructions covered by these exhibits are declared to have been found on the British steamer Woodfield, which was sunk by a submarine in the western Mediterranean on November 3 last and on the British steamer Linkmoor. These instructions differ materially from the British version of the Admiralty orders to armed merchantmen, the full text of which was made public by the British Admiralty.
At the outbreak of the war the German Government, acting upon the suggestion of the United States, immediately expressed its readiness to ratify the declaration of London. At that time a German prize code had already been issued, which was entirely—and without modification-based upon rules of the declaration of London. Germany thereby proved her willingness to recognize full and existing rules of international law, which insure the freedom of the sea ior the legitimate trade of neutral nations not only among themselves but also with belligerent countries..
GERMANY UTILIZES NEW WEAPON.
Great Britain, on the other hand, declined to ratify the declaration of London, and after the outbreak of the war began to restrict the legitimate trade of the neutrals in order to hit Germany. The contraband provisions were systematically extended on August 5 and 20, September 21, and October 29, 1914.' On November 3, 1914, the order of the British Admiralty followed, declaring the whole North
Sea a war zone, in which commercial shipping would be exposed to most serious danger from mines and men-of-war. Protests from neutrals were of no avail, and from that time on the freedom of neutral commerce with Germany was practically destroyed.
Under these circumstances Germany was compelled to resort, in February, 1915, to reprisals in order to fight her opponent's measures, which were absolutely contrary to international law. She chose for this purpose a new weapon, the use of which had not yet been regulated by international law, and in doing so could and did not violate any existing rules, but only took into account the peculiarity of this new weapon—the submarine boat.
NEW DANGER TO NEUTRALS.
The use of the submarine naturally necessitated a restriction of the free movement of neutrals and constituted a danger for them which Germany intended to ward off by a special warning analogous to the warning England had given regarding the North Sea.
As both belligerents—Germany in her note of February 17 and Great Britain in those of February 18 and 20, 1915—claimed that their proceeding was only enacted in retaliation for the violation of international law by their opponents, the American Government approached both parties for the purpose of trying to reestablish international law as it had been in force before the war. Germany was asked to adapt the use of her new wcapon to the rules which had been existing for the former naval weapons, and England not to interfere with the food supplies intended for the noncombatant German population and to admit their distribution under American supervision.
GERMANY OFFERS TO COMPLY.
Germany, on March 1, 1915, declared her willingness to comply with the proposal of the American Government, while England, on the other hand, declined to do so. By the order in council of March 11, 1915, Great Britain abolished even what had remained of the freedom of neutral trade with Germany and her neutral neighbors. England's object was to starve Germany into submission by these illegal means.
Germany, after neutral citizens had lost their lives against the wish and intention, nevertheless, in the further course of the war, complied with the wishes of the American Government regarding the use of her submarines. The rights of neutrals regarding legal trading were, in fact, nowhere limited by Germany.
Then England made it impossible for submarines to conform with the old rules of international law by arming nearly all merchantmen and by ordering the use of guns on merchant vessels for attack. Photographic reproductions of those instructions have been transmitted to neutral Governments with the memorandum of the German Government of February 8, 1916. These orders are obviously in contradiction with the note delivered by the British ambassador in Washington to the American Government on August 25, 1914.
On account of the proposals made by the United States on January 23 (18), 1916, regarding disarmament, the Imperial Government hoped that these facts would enable the neutral Governments to obtain the disarmament of the merchant ships of her opponents. The latter, however, continued with great energy to arm their merchantmen with guns.
SHIELDED BY AMERICANS.
The principle of the United States Government not to keep their citizens off belligerent merchant ships has been used by Great Britain and her allies to arm merchant ships for offensive purposes. Under these circumstances merchantmen can easily destroy submarines, and if their attack fails still consider themselves in safety by the presence of American citizens aboard.
The order to use arms on British merchantmen was supplemented by instructions to the masters of such ships to hoist false flags and to ram U boats. Reports on payments of premiums and bestowals of decorations to successful masters of merchantmen show the effects of these orders. England's allies have adopted this position.
SITUATION CONFRONTING GERMANY.
Now Germany is facing the following facts:
(a) A blockade contrary to international law (compare American note to England of Nov. 5, 1915) has for one year been keeping neutral trade from German ports and is making German exports impossible.
(b) For 18 months, through the extending of contraband provisions in violation of international law (compare American note to England of Nov. 5, 1915) the over-seas trade of neighboring neutral countries, so far as Germany is concerned, has been hampered.
(c) The interception of mails in violation of international law (compare American memorandum to England of Jan. 10, 1916) is meant to stop any intercourse of Germany with foreign countries.
ATTEMPT, TO STARVE NATION. (d) England, by systematically and increasingly oppressing neutral countries, following the principle of “might before right,” has prevented neutral trade on land with Germany so as to complete the blockade of the central powers, intended to starve their civil population.
(e) Germans met by our enemies on the high seas are deprived of their liberty, no matter whether they are combatants or noncombatants.
(f) Our enemies have armed their merchant vessels for offensive purposes, theoretically making it impossible to use our U-boats àccording to the principles set forth in the London declaration (compare American memorandum of Feb. 8, 1916).
TRADE CUT OFF BY BRITAIN. The English White Book of January 5, 1916, on the restriction of German trade, boasts that by British measures Germany's export trade has been stopped almost entirely, whilst her imports are subject to England's will.
84610—H. Doc. 2111, 64-2, pt. 1- 7
The Imperial Government feels confident that the people of the United States, remembering the friendly realtions that for the last hundred years have existed between the two nations, will, in spite of the difficulties put into the way. by our enemies, appreciate the German viewpoint as laid down above.
The German text of instructions to her submarine captains, issued February 10, was as follows:
FOREIGN OFFICE, Berlin, February 10, 1916.
The foreign office has the honor to transmit herewith to the embassy of the United States of America three copies of a memorandum of the Imperial German Government on the treatment of armed merchantmen, with inclosures, and to request that the embassy be good enough to bring the essential contents of the memorandum to the members of its Government by telegraph, stating at the time that the order to the German naval forces mentioned in Section IV, No. 1, of the memorandum will not be carried into effect until the 29th instant, in the interest of neutrals already on board armed merchant vessels.
Memorandum of the Imperial German Government upon the treatment of armed merchantmen:
I. Even before the outbreak of the present war the British Government had given English shipping companies the opportunity to arm their merchant vessels with guns. On March 26, 1913, Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, made the declaration in the British Parliament (Exhibit 1) that the Admiralty had called upon the shipowners to arm a number of first-class liners for protection against danger menaced in certain cases by fast auxiliary cruisers of others powers; the liners were not, however, to assume the character of auxiliary cruisers themselves. The Government desired to place at the disposal of the shipowners the necessary guns, sufficient ammunition, and suitable personnel for the training of the gun crews.
II. The English shipowners have readily responded to the call of the Admiralty. Thus Sir Owen Phillipps, president of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co., was able to inform the stockholders of his company in May, 1913, that the larger steamers of the company were equipped with guns; furthermore, the British Admiralty published in January, 1914, a list, according to which 29 steamers of various English lines carried guns aft. For example, the crew are not to wear uniforms in neutral ports and thus plainly belong to the British Navy. Above all, it is shown by the instructions that these armed vessels are not to await any action of maritime war on the part of the German submarines, but are to attack them forthwith. In this respect the following regulations are particularly instructive:
(a) The instructions for guidance in the use, care, and maintenance of armament in defensively armed merchant ships, Exhibits 5 and 6, provide in the section headed "Action,” in paragraph 4:“ It is not advisable to open fire at a range greater than 800 yards unless the enemy has already opened fire. From this it is the duty of the