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discuss that course. Your Excellency's long experience in international affairs will have suggested to you that the relations of the two Governments with one another can not wisely be made a subject of discussion with a third Government, which can not be fully informed as to the facts and which can not be fully cognizant of the reasons for the course pursued. I believe, however, that I am justified in assuming that what you desire to call forth is a frank statement of the position of this Government in regard to its obligations as a neutral power. The general attitude and course of policy of this Government in the maintenance of its neutrality I am particularly anxious that Your Excellency should see in their true light. I had hoped that this Government's position in these respects had been made abundantly clear, but I am of course perfectly willing to state it again. This seems to me the more necessary and desirable because, I regret to say, the language which Your Excellency employs in your memorandum is susceptible of being construed as impugning the good faith of the United States in the performance of its duties as a neutral. I take it for granted that no such implication was intended, but it is so evident that Your Excellency is laboring under certain false impressions that I can not be too explicit in setting forth the facts as they are, when fully reviewed and comprehended.
In the first place, this Government has at no time and in no manner yielded any one of its rights as a neutral to any of the present belligerents. It has acknowledged, as a matter of course, the right of visit and search and the right to apply the rules of contraband of war to articles of commerce. It has, indeed, insisted upon the use of visit and search as an absolutely necessary safeguard against mistaking neutral vessels for vessels owned by an enemy and against mistaking legal cargoes for illegal. It has admitted also the right of blockade if actually exercised and effectively maintained. These are merely the well-known limitations which war places upon neutral commerce on the high seas. But nothing beyond these has it conceded. I call Your Excellency's attention to this, notwithstanding it is already known to all the world as a consequence of the publication of our correspondence in regard to these matters with several of the belligerent nations, because I can not assume that you have official cognizance of it.
In the second place, this Government attempted to secure from the German and British Governments mutual concessions with regard to the measures those Governments respectively adopted for the interruption of trade on the high seas. This it did, not of right, but merely as exercising the privileges of a sincere friend of both parties and as indicating its impartial good will. The attempt was unsuccessful; but I regret that Your Excellency did not deem it worthy of mention in modification of the impressions you expressed. We had hoped that this act on our part had shown our spirit in these times of distressing war as our diplomatic correspondence had shown our steadfast refusal to acknowledge the right of any belligerent to alter the accepted rules of war at sea in so far as they affect the rights and interests of neutrals.
In the third place, I note with sincere regret that, in discussing the sale and exportation of arms by citizens of the United States to the enemies of Germany, Your Excellency seems to be under the impression that it was within the choice of the Government of the United States, notwithstanding its professed neutrality and its diligent efforts to maintain it in other particulars, to inhibit this trade, and that its failure to do so manifested an unfair attitude toward Germany. This Government holds, as I believe Your Excellency is aware, and as it is constrained to hold in view of the present indisputable doctrines of accepted international law, that any change in its own laws of neutrality during the progress of a war which would affect unequally the relations of the United States with the nations at war would be an unjustifiable departure from the principles of strict neutrality by which it has consistently sought to direct its actions, and I respectfully submit that none of the circumstances urged in Your Excellency's memorandum alters the principle involved. The placing of an embargo on the trade in arms at the present time would constitute such a change and be a direct violation of the neutrality of the United States. It will, I feel assured, be clear to Your Excellency that, holding this view and considering itself in honor bound by it, it is out of the question for this Government to consider such a course.
I hope that Your Excellency will realize the spirit in which I am drafting this reply. The friendship between the people of the United States and the people of Germany is so warm and of such long standing, the ties which bind them to one another in amity are so many and so strong, that this Government feels under a special compulsion to speak with perfect frankness when any occasion arises which seems likely to create any misunderstanding, however slight or temporary, between those who represent the Governments of the two countries. It will be a matter of gratification to me if I have removed from Your Excellency's mind any misapprehension you may have been under regarding either the policy or the spirit and purposes of the Government of the United States. Its neutrality is founded upon the firm basis of conscience and good will.
W. J. BRYAN.
WHEN THE LUSITANIA WAS SUNK
Secretary of State Bryan to Ambassador Gerard
Department of State,
Washington, May 13, 1915. Please call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs and after reading to him this communication leave with him a copy.
In view of recent acts of the German authorities in violation of American rights on the high seas which culminated in the torpedoing and sinking of the British steamship Lusitania on May 7, 1915, by which over 100 American citizens lost their lives, it is clearly wise and desirable that the Government of the United States and the Imperial German Government should come to a clear and full understanding as to the grave situation which has resulted.
The sinking of the British passenger steamer Falaba by a German submarine on March 28, through which Leon C. Thrasher, an American citizen, was drowned; the attack on April 28 on the American vessel Cushing by a German aeroplane; the torpedoing on May 1 of the American vessel Gulflight by a German submarine, as a result of which two or more American citizens met their death; and, finally, the torpedoing and sinking of the steamship Lusitania, constitute a series of events which the Government of the United States has observed with growing concern, distress, and amazement.
Recalling the humane and enlightened attitude hitherto assumed by the Imperial German Government in matters of international right, and particularly with regard to the freedom of the seas; having learned to recognize the German views and the German influence in the field of international obligation as always engaged upon the side of justice and humanity; and having understood the instructions of the Imperial German Government to its naval commanders to be upon the same plane of humane action prescribed by the naval codes of other nations, the Government of the United States was loath to believem it can not now bring itself to believe—that these acts, so absolutely contrary to the rules, the practices, and the spirit of modern warfare, could have the countenance or sanction of that great Government. It feels it to be its duty, therefore, to address the Imperial German Government concerning them with the utmost frankness and in the earnest hope that it is not mistaken in expecting action on the part of the Imperial German Government which will correct the unfortunate impressions which have been created and vindicate once more the position of that Government with regard to the sacred freedom of the seas.
The Government of the United States has been apprised that the Imperial German Government considered themselves to be obliged by the extraordinary circumstances of the present war and the measures adopted by their adversaries in seeking to cut Germany off from all commerce, to adopt methods of retaliation which go much beyond the ordinary methods of warfare at sea, in the proclamation of a war zone from which they have warned neutral ships to keep away. This Government has already taken occasion to inform the Imperial German Government that it can not admit the adoption of such measures or such a warning of danger to operate as in any degree an abbreviation of the rights of American shipmasters or of American citizens bound on lawful errands as passengers on merchant ships of belligerent nationality; and that it must hold the Imperial German Gov