The Secretary of State to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: Mr. Lansing and I have decided to submit to you the enclosed telegram which we think ought to be sent to Great Britain.

[Page 272]

You will notice it asks for information which seems necessary to enable us to understand the purport of the declaration which you have under consideration. If you agree with us that a telegram ought to be sent will you please make such corrections as you think best in this and send it over to the State Department Telegraph Office to be sent out tonight.

With assurances [etc.]

W. J. Bryan

Draft Telegram From the Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Page)

British-French declaration regarding commerce to and from Germany delivered by British and French Ambassadors on March first46 appears to contemplate a blockade of German coasts but fails to announce establishment of such blockade or to use the word in declaration.

You will please inquire at once of British Government whether they consider a state of blockade exists.

If they reply in the affirmative, you will ask by what means they intend to make it effective, and what will be the radius of activity of the blockading squadron, and what particular ports or coastal area they intend to blockade.

You will further ask, in case of a reply in the affirmative, what is meant by the sentence: “It is not intended to confiscate such vessels or cargoes unless they would otherwise be liable to condemnation.”

If they reply in the negative, you will ask under what principle of international law or practice the proposed total interruption of commerce will be enforced and to what extent it is proposed to apply the rules of contraband in dealing with vessels and cargoes detained, which are going to or coming from Germany. You will further ask, in case the reply is in the negative, how the right of immunity from seizure of neutral-owned cargoes is affected by its origin and what rule of international law prevents free passage of a cargo of German origin in a neutral vessel bound to a neutral port.

It is necessary for a proper consideration of the British-French declaration that the foregoing questions be answered categorically and clearly in order that this Government may determine to what extent its rights as a neutral are affected by the declaration. Report as promptly as possible.