The Counselor for the Department of State (Lansing) to the Secretary of State 4

Dear Mr. Secretary: I submit for your consideration a memorandum as to the character of armed merchant vessels and their treatment in neutral ports,5 which I would suggest be adopted as a basis of instructions to port officers of the United States and be followed by the Department in passing upon cases brought to its attention.

The subject with which this memorandum deals is one of the most vexatious which now confronts us, and one, as to which there is the greatest danger of erroneous and conflicting decisions. It seemed to me, therefore, necessary that the attitude of this Government should be clearly and concisely stated in order that our own officials might have definite rules to guide them in dealing with cases of this nature.

I consider also that, in case the memorandum receives your approval, it would avoid misunderstanding and possible irritation if [Page 158] the diplomatic representatives of belligerent powers were furnished with the substance of the memorandum as a declaration of the attitude of this Government in the matter of armed merchant vessels in its ports and of its neutral duties in relation to them.

Very sincerely yours,

Robert Lansing
  1. This paper bears the notation: “Okeh W.W.”
  2. Foreign Relations, 1914, supp., p. 611.