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In reply to the note from which the above declaration is quoted Your Excellency's Government stated in a note dated May 4, 1916–

"The German Government, guided by this idea, notifies the Government of the United States that the German naval forces have received the following orders: In accordance with the general principles of visit and search and destruction of merchant vessels recognized by international law, such vessels, both within and without the area declared as naval war zone, shall not be sunk without warning and without saving human lives, unless these ships attempt to escape or offer resistance.

“But neutrals can not expect that Germany, forced to fight for her existence, shall, for the sake of neutral interests, restrict the use of an effective weapon if her enemy is permitted to continue to apply at will methods of warfare violating the rules of international law. Such a demand would be incompatible with the character of neutrality, and the German Government is convinced that the Government of the United States does not think of making such a demand, knowing that the Government of the United States has repeatedly declared that it is determined to restore the principle of the freedom of the seas, from whatever quarter it has been violated."

To this reply this Government made answer on May 8, 1916, in the following language:

"The Government of the United States feels it necessary to state that it takes it for granted that the Imperial German Government does not intend to imply that the maintenance of its newly announced policy is in any way contingent upon the course or result of diplomatic negotiations between the Government of the United States and any other belligerent Government, notwithstanding the fact that certain passages in the Imperial Government's note of the 4th instant might appear to be susceptible of that construction. In order, however, to avoid any possible misunderstanding, the Government of the United States notifies the Imperial Government that it can not for a moment entertain, much less discuss, a suggestion that respect by German naval authorities for the rights of citizens of the United States upon the high seas should in any way or in the slightest degree be made contingent upon the conduct of any other Government affecting the rights of neutrals and noncombatants. Responsibility in such matters is single, not joint; absolute, not relative."

To this Government's note of May 8th no reply was made by the Imperial Government.

In one of the memoranda accompanying the note under acknowledgment, after reciting certain alleged illegal measures adopted by Germany's enemies, this statement appears :

“The Imperial Government, therefore, does not doubt that the Government of the United States will understand the situation thus forced upon Germany by the Entente-Allies' brutal methods of war and by their determination to destroy the Central Powers, and that the Government of the United States will further realize that the now openly disclosed intentions of the EntenteAllies give back to Germany the freedom of action which she reserved in her note addressed to the Government of the United States on May 4, 1916.

“Under these circumstances Germany will meet the illegal measures of her enemies by forcibly preventing, after February 1, 1917, in a zone around Great Britain, France, Italy, and in the eastern Mediterranean all navigation, that of neutrals included, from and to England and from and to France, etc., etc. All ships met within the zone will be sunk.”

In view of this declaration, which withdraws suddenly and without prior intimation the solemn assurance given in the Imperial Government's note of May 4, 1916, this Government has no alternative consistent with the dignity and honor of the United States but to take the course which it explicitly announced in its note of April 18, 1916, it would take in the event that the Imperial Government did not declare and effect an abandonment of the methods of submarine warfare then employed and to which the Imperial Government now purpose again to resort.

The President has, therefore, directed me to announce to Your Excellency that all diplomatic relations between the United States and the German Empire are severed, and that the American Ambassador at Berlin will be immediately withdrawn, and in accordance with such announcement to deliver to Your Excellency your passports. I have, etc.

ROBERT LANSING.

AMERICAN MINISTER WITHDRAWN

FROM BELGIUM

Department of State,

Washington, March 24, 1917. By direction of the President, the Minister at Brussels has been instructed to withdraw from Belgium, with all diplomatic and consular officers, and take up his official residence at Havre.

After consultation with the Commission for Relief in Belgium, Mr. Whitlock has also been instructed to arrange for the departure of the American members of the Commission.

This step, the seriousness of which is fully appreciated by the Government, was taken only after careful consideration and full consultation with all the interests involved.

When diplomatic relations with Germany were broken off the normal procedure would have been to withdraw the Minister at Brussels and the American members of the Relief Commission. Both this Government and the Commission, however, felt a heavy moral responsibility for the millions of innocent civilians behind the German lines, and it was decided that the work of the Commission must be kept going despite all difficulties until continued American participation became impossible. For over two years it has been the single-minded purpose of this Government and the Commission to see that these ten millions of civilians were fed, and, with this end in view, the Americans concerned have submitted to restrictions imposed on them by the German authorities which, under ordinary conditions, would never have been tolerated.

Immediately after tue break in relations the German authorities in Brussels withdrew from Mr. Whitlock the diplomatic privileges and immunities which he had until that time enjoyed. His courier service to The Hague was stopped; he was denied the privilege of communicating with the Department of State in cipher, and later even in plain language. The members of the Relief Commission were placed under great restrictions of movement and communication which hampered the efficient performance of their task. In spite of all these difficulties the Government and Commission were determined to keep the work going till the last possible moment.

Now, however, a more serious difficulty has arisen. In the course of the past 10 days several of the Commission's ships have been attacked without warning by German submarines in flagrant violation of the solemn engagements of the German Government. Protests addressed by this Government to Berlin through the intermediary of the Spanish Government have not been answered. The German Government's disregard of its written undertakings causes grave concern as to the future of the relief work. In any event it is felt that the American staff of the Commission can no longer serve with advantage in Belgium. Although a verbal promise has been made that the members of the Commission would be permitted to leave if they so desire, the German Government's observance of its other undertakings has not been such that the department wou'd feel warranted in accepting responsibility for leaving these American citizens in German-occupied territory.

This Government has approved the proposal of the Netherlands Government to send into Belgium a certain number of Netherlands subjects to carry on the work thus far performed by the Amexican staff.

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