Mr. von Holleben to Mr. Day.
In connection with my note of the 20th instant, concerning the entrance and departure of neutral vessels of war at a blockaded port, I have the honor, under the instructions of my Government, to inform your excellency respectfully that it considers the wish of the Government of the United States of America to exercise supervision over the movements of the vessels of war of neutral powers at the ports blockaded by American [naval] forces justified in principle. As regards the manner in which this is to be effected, the Imperial Government suggests that as a requisite to every entrance into a blockaded port on the part of a German war vessel the previous consent of the American Government be obtained through the diplomatic channel, and that the commander of the blockading force be notified thereof. In this way direct discussions between the naval commanders on each side as to entering a blockaded port would be avoided.
The commander of the neutral war vessel would be required, in a given case, to approach the blockaded port in such a manner that the commander of the blockading squadron would recognize with certainty, upon the appearance of the neutral vessel in the blockaded belt, her identity with the war vessel of whose coming he had been notified. This would be accomplished by the use of the international signals.
When, in an exceptional case, a neutral war vessel has to enter a blockaded port without previous diplomatic action, her commander would, at the request of the commander of the blockading force, obtain permission to enter by sending an officer to the blockade commander, and in case of refusal would have to submit.
In the opinion of the Imperial Government, no special formalities would be necessary in the case of the departure from a blockaded port, as in such case the identity of the neutral war vessel would be already [Page 1168]known. Besides, it would in many cases be impossible for the vessel coming out to find the commander of the blockading forces or to procure diplomatic intervention.
The Imperial Government likewise declares its willingness to comply with the particular wishes of the United States Government with regard to entrance into and departure from Habana, and the necessary instructions have been given to the commander of the German war vessel now stationed in West Indian waters.
Although, happily, present circumstances are such that the arrangements in question may appear unnecessary for an indefinite time to come, the Imperial Government would nevertheless be glad to know whether the foregoing views and suggestions are acceptable to the United States Government.
Accept, Mr. Secretary of State, etc.,