Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub

THE ATTITUDE OF FRANCE

Ambassador Sharp to the Secretary of State

American Embassy,

Paris, March 14, 1915. French Government replies as follows:

“In a letter dated March 7 Your Excellency was good enough to draw my attention to the views of the Government of the United States regarding the recent communications from the French and British Governments concerning a restriction to be laid upon commerce with Germany. According to Your Excellency's letter, the declaration made by the Allied Governments presents some uncertainty as regards its application, concerning which the Government of the United States desires to be enlightened in order to determine what attitude it should take.

At the same time Your Excellency notified me that while granting the possibility of using new methods of retaliation against the new use to which submarines have been put, the Government of the United States was somewhat apprehensive that the allied belligerents might (if their action is to be construed as constituting a blockade) capture in waters near America any ships which might have escaped the cruisers patrolling European waters. In acknowledging receipt of Your Excellency's communication I have the honor to inform you that the Government of the Republic has not failed to consider this point as presented by the Government of the United States, and I beg to specify clearly the conditions of application, as far as my Government is concerned, of the declaration of the Allied Governments. As well set forth by the Federal Government the old methods of blockade can not be entirely adhered to in view of the use Germany has made of her submarines, and also by reason of the geographical situation of that country. In answer to the challenge to the neutral as well as to its own adversaries, contained in the declaration by which the German Imperial Government stated that it considered the seas surrounding Great Britain and the French coast on the Channel as a military zone, and warned neutral vessels not to enter the same on account of the danger they would run, the Allied Governments have been obliged to examine what measures they could adopt to interrupt all maritime communication with the German Empire and thus keep it blockaded by the naval power of the two allies, at the same time, however, safeguarding as much as possible the legitimate interests of neutral powers, and respecting the laws of humanity, which no crime of their enemy will induce them to violate.

“The Government of the Republic, therefore, reserves to itself the right of bringing into a French or allied port any ship carrying a cargo presumed to be of German origin, destination, or ownership, but it will not go to the length of seizing any neutral ship except in case of contraband. The discharged cargo shall not be confiscated. In the event of a neutral proving his lawful ownership of merchandise destined to Germany, he shall be entirely free to dispose of same, subject to certain conditions. In case the owner of the goods is a German they shall simply be sequestrated during the war.

“Merchandise of enemy origin shall only be sequestrated when it is at the same time the property of an enemy; merchandise belonging to neutrals shall be held at the disposal of its owner to be returned to the port of departure.

As Your Excellency will observe, these measures, while depriving the enemy of important resources, respect the rights of neutrals and will not in any way jeopardize private property, as even the enemy owner will only suffer from the suspension of the enjoyment of his rights during the term of hostilities.

“The Government of the Republic, being desirous of allowing neutrals every facility to enforce their claims, has decided to give the prize court (an independent tribunal) cognizance of these questions, and in order to give the neutrals as little trouble as possible it has specified that the prize court shall give sentence within eight days, counting from the date on which the case shall have been brought before it.

"I do not doubt, Mr. Ambassador, that the Federal Government, comparing on the one hand the unspeakable violence with which the German military government threatens neutrals, the criminal actions unknown in mari. time annals already perpetrated against neutral property and ships and even against the lives of neutral subjects or citizens, and on the other hand the measures adopted by the Allied Governments of France and Great Britain respecting the laws of humanity and the rights of individuals, will readily perceive that the latter have not overstepped their strict rights as belligerents.

“Finally, I am anxious to assure you that it is not and it has never been the intention of the Government of the Republic to extend the action of its cruisers against enemy merchandise beyond European seas, the Mediterranean included.

SHARP.

CHARGES AGAINST GERMANY

Ambassador W. H. Page to the Secretary of State

American Embassy,

London, March 15, 1915. Following is the full text of a memorandum dated March 13, which Grey handed me today:

On the 22d of February last I received a communication from Your Excellency of the identic note addressed to His Majesty's Government and to Germany, respecting an agreement on certain points as to the conduct of the war at sea. The reply of the German Government to this note has been published and it is not understood from the reply that the German Government are prepared to abandon the practice of sinking British merchant vessels by submarines, and it is evident from their reply that they will not abandon the use of mines for offensive purposes on the high seas as contrasted with the use of mines for defensive purposes only within cannon range of their own harbors, as suggested by the Government of the United States. This being so, it might appear unnecessary for the British Government to make any further reply than to take note of the German answer. We desire, however, to take the opportunity of making a fuller statement of the whole position and of our feeling with regard to it. We recognize with sympathy the desire of the Government of the United States to see the European war conducted in accordance with the previously recognized rules of international law and the dictates of humanity. It is thus that the British forces have conducted the war, and we are not aware that these forces, either naval or military, can have laid to their charge any improper proceedings, either in the conduct of hos

[ocr errors]

tilities or in the treatment of prisoners or wounded. On the German side it has been very different.

1. The treatment of civilian inhabitants in Belgium and the north of France has been made public by the Belgian and French Governments and by those who have had experience of it at first hand. Modern history affords no precedent for the sufferings that have been inflicted on the defenseless and noncombatant population in the territory that has been in German military occupation. Even the food of the population was confiscated until in Belgium an International Commission, largely influenced by American generosity and conducted under American auspices, came to the relief of the population and secured from the German Government a promise to spare what food was still left in the country though the Germans still continue to make levies in money upon the defenseless population for the support of the German Army.

"2. We have from time to time received most terrible accounts of the barbarous treatment to which British officers and soldiers have been exposed after they have been taken prisoner, while being conveyed to German prison camps; one or two instances have already been given to the United States Government, founded upon authentic and first-hand evidence which is beyond doubt. Some evidence has been received of the hardships to which British prisoners of war are subjected in the prison camps, contrasting, we believe, most unfavorably with the treatment of German prisoners in this country. We have proposed, with the consent of the United States Government, that a commission of United States officers should be permitted in each country to inspect the treatment of prisoners of war. The United States Government have been unable to obtain any reply from the

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »