File No. 763.72111/2122
The Secretary of State to the German Ambassador ( Bernstorff )
Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s note of the 3d instant, in which you call to my attention a report in the press that English officers are supervising the manufacture of arms and ammunition ordered in this country by the Government of Great Britain.
Your excellency’s note has been given careful consideration and in reply I have the honor to state that, as under the established rules of international law belligerent governments may come to a neutral country to purchase arms and ammunition and other supplies of war material, the supervision by belligerent agents of the fulfilment of a contract for such supplies is but an incident to the transaction and is, in the opinion of this Government, to be regarded as proper and commensurate with the maintenance of neutrality. Whether the supervising agents are officers, contractors, or other employees of the belligerent government appears to be immaterial to the solution of the question involved. It is understood, of course, that the transactions mentioned by your excellency do not go to the point of fitting out or arming vessels within American jurisdiction for the purpose of engaging in hostilities, nor of using American ports as bases of naval operations.