File No. 763.72111/87

The Secretary of State to the British Chargé d’Affaires (Barclay)

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication No. 259 of the 9th instant,2 made to the Department of State under instructions from Sir Edward Grey, in regard to the question of armed merchantmen, informing this Government that a certain number of the British merchant vessels are armed as a precautionary measure for the purpose of defense, and maintaining that such merchant vessels can not be considered as vessels of war or subjected to the treatment properly accorded to vessels of the latter category in neutral ports.

In the last paragraph of this communication, you call attention to the right claimed by the German Government, in accordance with its rules, to convert its merchant vessels upon the high seas into [Page 604]vessels of war, and the communication states the contention of the British Government that the neutral Government concerned is taxed with responsibility if it does not intern such vessels, in the absence of binding assurances that they will not be converted into men-of-war on the high seas.

The Department of State acknowledges without comment the statement of British policy in such matters and also the British understanding of Germany’s intentions and policy, but as to the responsibility of the United States in the premises, you are referred to Department’s note of the 19th instant replying to your note No. 252 of the 4th instant.

I have [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Robert Lansing

  1. Ante, p. 598