The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador ( Spring Rice )
My Dear Mr. Ambassador: I have received your note of September 10, in regard to the British steamship Waimana, now at the port of Norfolk. In reply tomy note of August 25, expressing the hope that in the critical circumstances of the present day it may be found possible to instruct the captain of the Waimana to remove the 4.7-inch gun which she carries mounted on deck, you state that it is believed that the armament of the Waimana complies with the regulations issued by this Department on September 19 relative to the status of armed merchant vessels, but that if this is not so the captain of the vessel will be instructed to take such measures as may be required to insure compliance with those regulations, and, if necessary, to land the gun and ammunition for that purpose.
It has come to the knowledge of the Department that British merchant vessels which carry arms have used them for offensive purposes in attacks upon submarines. In this relation it will be recalled that the Waimana, on her outward voyage, carried no guns, but that she obtained a gun in England before her return voyage. In these circumstances it seems clear that British merchantmen have [Page 850] not always used their armament for defensive purposes only, and that they may, upon occasion, use any guns which they have mounted in unprovoked attack. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Department to ascertain the purposes for which a gun has been mounted on the steamship Waimana and should it appear that her armament is likely to be used for offensive purposes, the Government, in strict conformity with the regulations of September 19, will be under the necessity of requiring the removal of the gun from the Waimana or the internment of the vessel as a ship of war.
I regret to add, consequently, that the Government can not clear the Waimana until your Government has given formal assurance that her armament will be used only for defensive purposes, or unless the armament is landed.
I am [etc.]