The Secretary of State to the Secretary of the Chamber of German American Commerce ( Heinrich Charles )

Sir: The Department acknowledges the receipt of your letter of the 3d instant making inquiry in regard to the action of the American Ambassador at Berlin during the Spanish war in addressing the German Government as to an embargo on all arms and munitions intended for Spain.

In reply you are informed that the facts of this matter, as stated in the diplomatic correspondence on file in this Department, appear to be as follows:

It seems that, on May 18, 1898, Ambassador Andrew D. White received a telephone message from the American Consul at Hamburg that the Spanish ship Pinzon would sail within an hour for Cardiff to take on a cargo of coal for a Spanish port that a part of the message was indistinct, and that it could not be clearly understood whether the ship was or was not liable to seizure on other grounds. The Ambassador therefore not desiring to incur delay by asking explanations went immediately to the Foreign Office and asked for the arrest and search of the vessel, and it was promised that everything possible would be done.

On the next morning the Ambassador received a telegram from the American Consul that the Pinzon when passing Cuxhaven the previous night was searched for war contraband by order of the German Chancellor, but that none was found.

Upon receipt of this information on June 6, 1898, the Department instructed the Ambassador that:

In view of the reported action of the Imperial German Government in directing the search of the Pinzon for contraband of war, the Department desires to be informed as to whether there are any laws or regulations in force which forbid the shipment of contraband of war from Hamburg or any other German port. It is assumed that you can obtain such information without applying to the German Government for it. It is important that if any such laws or regulations exist this Government and its agents may be informed of them so as to avoid the embarrassments which might arise, if it should appear to protest on the general principles of international law against neutral governments allowing articles regarded merely as contraband of war to be shipped from their ports.

In reply to this instruction the Ambassador on July 22, 1898, informed the Department without application to the German Government for positive information on the subject that he had been unable to ascertain that there had ever been any legislation upon the subject of contraband in the Empire. The Ambassador added that Germany had never issued a proclamation of neutrality, and that the Reichstag had not discussed the question of contraband since 1894, and that the Embassy had no knowledge of the issuance of any regulations on the subject since the existence of war with Spain.

No further correspondence appears to have taken place on the subject.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Robert Lansing