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

Dear Mr. Secretary: The President’s comment I feel is justified from the standpoint of policy and I had the moral question in mind when preparing the statement.

The difficulty of considering the moral ground of a protest lies in the fact that, if it can be held that this Government is morally bound to protest against the violation of Belgian neutrality, it has been delinquent in not having done so long ago, since over five months have passed since the act occurred.

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Furthermore, if a moral obligation exists in this case, is not the obligation equally strong as to the dropping of bombs on Antwerp and Paris, and possibly as to burning of Louvain and the bombardment of the cathedral at Rheims? If there is no conflict of evidence as to the facts, moral obligation may be appealed to in these cases.

Would we not admit that there is possibly a moral obligation by discussing it?

Our defense that we have no legal right, much less a legal duty, is one which explains our long silence.

If we discuss the moral obligations of this Government as to Germany’s treatment of Belgium will it do more than invite controversy and criticism as to the extent of such obligations?

In view of the flood of letters, which the Department has received on this subject, it seemed as if a statement of some sort should be made.

While the argument of legal right is perhaps narrow, can we safely go further?

Very sincerely yours,

Robert Lansing