Foreign Relations of the United States for the year 1914 contained the following editorial note:
Diplomatic correspondence concerning the World War will be printed in separate volumes of “Foreign Relations of the United States: The History of the World War, as shown by the records of the Department of State.”
The present volume is the first of these supplemental volumes, which are being published for the years 1914 to 1919, inclusive. It is hoped that the other volumes, upon several of which work is well advanced, will follow shortly.
In order that there may be a complete understanding of the method of procedure in the selection of the documents for Foreign Relations, the statement of the principles to guide in the editing thereof, which was ordered and approved by Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg on March 26, 1925, is here given in full:
The publication of diplomatic correspondence relating to matters which are still current often presents an insuperable obstacle to effective negotiation, but it is obvious that after the completion of the business in hand, as much of the correspondence as is practicable ought to be made public. This object is attained by the publication of Foreign Relations which presents, in a form economical, compact and easily accessible, the documentary history of the foreign relations of the United States. The editing of Foreign Relations must, therefore, be recognized as an important part of the duties of the Department of State.
The Chief of the Division of Publications is charged with the preparation for this purpose, as soon as practicable after the close of each year, of the correspondence relating to all major policies and decisions of the Department in the matter of foreign relations, together with the events which contributed to the formulation of each decision or policy, and the facts incident to the application of it. It is expected that the material thus assembled, aside from the omission of trivial and inconsequential details, will be substantially complete as regards the files of the Department.
The development of the science of international law has become a matter of such weight and general concern that it is recommended that the Chief of the Division of Publications, with the help and counsel of the Solicitor, should give special attention to the publication of all important decisions made by the Department relating to international law, with a view to making available for general study and use the annual contributions of the Department to this important branch of jurisprudence. It is likewise believed that the Department may profitably inaugurate the practice of printing a record of treaty negotiations, and it is, therefore, suggested that such material be added, beginning with Foreign Relations 1918, which is now in the process of editing.
When the documents on a given subject have been assembled in the Division of Publications, they should be submitted to the Solicitor or to the Chief of the appropriate division which has had immediate supervision of the topic. The Solicitor, or the heads of these divisions, respectively, are charged with the duty of reviewing the material thus assembled and indicating any omissions which appear to be required. Omissions of the following kind are recognized as legitimate and necessary:
- Matters which if published at the time would tend to embarrass negotiations or other business;
- To condense the record and avoid needless details;
- To preserve the confidence reposed in the Department by other governments and by individuals;
- To avoid needless offense to other nationalities or individuals by excising invidious comments not relevant or essential to the subject; and,
- To suppress personal opinions presented in despatches and not adopted by the Department. To this there is one qualification, namely, that in major decisions it is desirable, where possible, to show the choices presented to the Department when the decision was made.
On the other hand, there must be no alteration of the text, no deletions without indicating the place in the text where the deletion is made, and no omission of facts which were of major importance in reaching a decision. Nothing should be omitted with a view to concealing or glossing over what might be regarded by some as a defect of a policy.
Where a document refers to two or more subjects, provided there are no other objections, it should be printed in its entirety, and not divided for purposes of more exact classification in editing. Great care must be taken to avoid the mutilation of documents. On the other hand, when a foreign government, in giving permission to use a communication, requests the deletion of any part of it, it is usually preferable to publish the document in part rather than to omit it entirely. A similar principle may be applied with reference to documents originating with the American Government.
The Chief of the Division of Publications is expected to initiate, through the appropriate channels, the correspondence necessary to secure from a foreign government permission to publish any document received from it and which it is desired to publish as a part of the diplomatic correspondence of the United States. Without such permission, the document in question must not be used. The offices and divisions concerned in this process of editing may be expected to cooperate heartily with a view to the preparation of an adequate and honest record.
While conforming to the general scheme of publication of Foreign Relations year by year, other features in the selection and arrangement of papers for these supplemental volumes appear to present sufficient peculiarities to call for special mention.
For obvious reasons, arising out of the general character of the events and questions dealt with in these documents, their classification within the volumes departs from the system ordinarily followed in Foreign Relations of grouping papers by the countries with which the correspondence took place. With a view to bringing out as fully as possible the significance of the documents selected for publication, other arrangements have been adopted for placing them in their proper context and perspective.
The papers of a general political character relating to the outbreak and spread of the war (omitting those dealing merely with military developments) are arranged in a single chronological sequence, including those connected with projects of American mediation. Those dealing with the Far East are grouped in a separate section, omitted after 1914, because the developments are covered in the regular volumes of Foreign Relations. The other papers are arranged topically under three main divisions, of which the two most important deal respectively with the rights and the duties pertaining to the position of neutrality occupied by the United States.
In regard to the chronological order, as followed in all sections, it should be further noted that, contrary to recent custom, incoming documents are placed, as accurately as possible, according to their date of receipt rather than that of dispatch, except for occasional slight transpositions for the purpose of keeping related documents together. This practice is followed in order to maintain the context between decisions or actions taken and the information available at the time. The users of the documents are thus placed, to some extent, in the position of the Secretary of State through whose hands the correspondence passed. In the case of telegrams, the time of receipt is that noted by the telegraph operator. In the case of other documents, it is generally determined by the earliest date noted or stamped on the original paper.
The principles of selection and exclusion of material laid down in the directions approved by the Secretary of State have been followed [Page V] in assembling these papers. In cases in which material omitted because of undue length has been published officially elsewhere, reference is ordinarily made to the publications containing it. Instances of this sort which occur in the Supplement for 1915 concern Consular Trade Reports, published currently by the Department of Commerce, and collections of affidavits, etc., relating to submarine sinkings, which were included in the war-time publications of the Department of State under the title “Diplomatic correspondence with belligerent governments relating to neutral rights and duties” (European War, Nos. 1–4; reprinted as special supplements to Volumes 9, 10, and 11 of the American Journal of International Law).
Practically all the papers printed in the departmental publications referred to above are reincorporated into this Supplement; but, besides the inclusion of numerous papers not previously published, the rearrangements, changes, substitutions, and omissions are so extensive that no close correspondence will be found with the older series. Furthermore, documents formerly printed in paraphrase are now given in their actual text.
In addition to the general principles of the editing of Foreign Relations observed in compiling these papers, mention is required, in connection with the Supplement, of certain special lines of exclusion which operate in some cases against practically entire files of correspondence arising out of the World War. Some of these are omitted on the ground that they involve no important questions of policy or international law. Thus, no effort is made to cover the general subject of the repatriation of American citizens stranded in Europe by the breakdown of financial and transportation systems, although during the early weeks of the struggle the efforts of the Government to relieve their situation constituted one of the heaviest drains on the time and energies of the Department of State and the embassies, legations, and consulates abroad. From the considerable file of correspondence entailed, the only papers printed are those bearing on the project of transferring German and Austrian ships to the American flag for the purpose of facilitating this work. For the above-mentioned reasons, also, the correspondence relating to the placing of military observers with belligerent forces is omitted.
Other files are excluded as dealing with no issues in which the policies of the American Government or the interests of American citizens were directly involved. In this category falls practically all correspondence arising out of the fact that the United States was acting as representative of a belligerent government in countries with which that government was at war. The general instructions to diplomatic and consular officers charged with such representation are printed, together with correspondence on certain specific instances in which the limits of their authority to act for the foreign governments came into question; but communications between foreign governments and announcements as to their treatment of the subjects of other governments and their property, which reached the Department’s files only through its service as a medium of transmission without comment, do not appear. The principal files excluded under this canon are those on the treatment by belligerent governments of enemy property and enemy persons—both prisoners of war and civilians. Others affected are those on the representation [Page VI] and protection of interests of particular governments in particular countries. On the same principle is excluded the general file on the designation and rights of hospital ships attached to belligerent forces. A limited selection of documents from the file dealing with allegations as to the use of illegal and inhumane methods of warfare is printed, in order to bring out the attitude taken toward them by the American Government, to which they were so largely addressed.
With particular reference to the sections dealing with problems of international law, the general rule has been to exclude correspondence on particular cases which raise no new issues, but which are settled in a more or less routine manner according to principles determined in other cases for which papers are printed, or which are dropped because the facts are found not to be as first represented.
There is given below an exchange of letters between the Secretary of State and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, under date of January 8 and 20, 1915, since this correspondence constitutes in some degree a review of the conduct of the Department of State in maintaining American neutrality during the year 1914, and therefore forms a logical introduction to the papers relating to that period of the World War. Papers bearing on all specific cases and statements of fact included in the Secretary’s reply to Senator Stone are printed in this volume, with the exception of those under the heading “Searching of American vessels for German and Austrian subjects on the high seas and in territorial waters of a belligerent,” which are included in the Supplement for 1915.
It may be added that the chief responsibility for the selection and arrangement of these papers was assigned to Dr. Joseph V. Fuller.
Chief, Division of Publications