« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
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 proclaimed 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 safeguard 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 Gov. ernment 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.
Ambassador W. H. Page to the Secretary of State
London, February 19, 1915. Sir Edward Grey has just handed me the following memorandum since your telegram to him was given to the press in Washington:
“The memorandum communicated on the 11th February calls attention in courteous and friendly terms to the action of the captain of the British S. S. Lusitania in raising the flag of the United States of America when approaching British waters and says that the Government of the United States feel a certain anxiety in considering the possibility of any general use of the flag of the United States by British vessels traversing those waters since the effect of such a policy might be to bring about a menace to the lives and vessels of United States citizens.
“It was understood that the German Government had announced their intention of sinking British merchant vessels at sight by torpedoes without giving any opportunity of making any provision for saving the lives of noncombatant crews and passengers. It was in consequence of this threat that the Lusitania raised the United States flag on her inward voyage and on her subsequent outward voyage. A request was made by the United States passengers who were embarking on board her that the United States flag should be hoisted presumably to insure their safety. Meanwhile the memorandum from Your Excellency had been received. His Majesty's Government did not give any advice to the company as to how to meet this request and it is understood that the Lusitania left Liverpool under the British flag.
“It seems unnecessary to say more as regards the Lusitania in particular regard to the use of foreign flags by merchant vessels. The British merchant shipping act makes it clear that the use of the British flag by foreign merchant vessels is permitted in time of war for the purpose of escaping capture. It is believed that in the case of some other nations there is a similar recognition of the same practice with regard to their flags and that none have forbidden it. It would therefore be unreasonable to expect His Majesty's Government to pass legislation forbidding the use of foreign flags by British mer. chant vessels to avoid capture by the enemy. Now that the German Government have announced their intention to sink merchant vessels at sight with their noncombatant crews, cargoes, and papers, a proceeding hitherto regarded by the opinion of the world not as war, but as piracy, it is felt that the United States Government could not fairly ask the British Government to order British merchant vessels to forego the means
always hitherto permitted-of escaping not only capture but the much worse fate of sinking and destruction. Great Britain has always when neutral accorded to the vessels of other States at war liberty to use the British flag as a means of protection against capture, and instances are on record when United States vessels availed themselves of this facility during the American Civil War. It would be contrary to fair expectation if now, when the conditions are reversed, the United States and neutral nations were to grudge to British ships liberty to take similar action. The British Government have no intention of advising their merchant shipping to use foreign flags as general practice or to resort to them otherwise than for escaping capture or destruction.
"The obligation upon a belligerent warship to ascertain definitely for itself the nationality and character of a merchant vessel before capturing it and “a fortiori” before sinking and destroying it has been universally recognized. If that obligation is fulfilled, hoisting a neutral flag on board a British vessel can not possibly endanger neutral shipping and the British Government hold that if loss to neutrals is caused by disregard of this obligation it is upon the enemy vessel disregarding it and upon the Government giving orders that it should be disregarded that the sole responsibility for injury to neutrals ought to rest."
Secretary of State Bryan to Ambassador W. H. Pago
Department of State,
Washington, February 20, 1915. You will please deliver to Sir Edward Grey the following identic note which we are sending England and Germany :
In view of the correspondence which has passed between this Government and Great Britain and Germany