The Counselor for the Department of State (Lansing) to the Secretary of State 6

Dear Mr. Secretary: I submit herewith for your consideration a series of propositions which, it seems to me, it would be advisable to adopt as a declaration of policy, which will be followed by this Government in dealing with cases of merchant vessels in American ports, which are suspected of furnishing supplies to belligerent warships.7

While each case brought to the attention of the Government will require independent consideration, a series of propositions, such as those suggested, will furnish general rules for the guidance of those who have to pass upon these questions and also of the officials who are charged with the immediate duty of detaining merchant vessels suspected of unneutral conduct and of investigating the charges made against them.

As cases of this sort are already numerous, it is, in my opinion, advisable that a clearly defined declaration of our policy in dealing with such cases should be made to avoid inconsistent action by American officials and charges of partiality being made by belligerent governments.

In case the enclosed declaration meets with your approval I would suggest that it be furnished to the Treasury Department as a basis for instructions to its officials stationed at our seaports and that the diplomatic representatives of the belligerent powers be advised that this Government will follow the policy thus announced in dealing with merchant vessels suspected of unneutral conduct in supplying belligerent warships operating on the high seas adjacent to the coasts of the United States.

In view of the many reports, reaching this Department from various sources, of cases of this sort which require immediate decision [Page 159] the issuance of a declaration of policy seems necessary and urgent.

Very sincerely yours,

Robert Lansing
  1. This paper bears the notation: “Okeh W. W.”
  2. Memorandum of Sept. 19, 1914, issued by the Secretary of State, Foreign Relations, 1914, Supp., p. 618.