File No. 763.72111/1869

The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Spring Rice)

Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s note of the 9th instant calling attention to information which has reached you that German steamships at present in United States ports are, owing to the equipment installed and the preparations which have been made, prepared to leave at any moment, on a signal to be sent from Berlin, for the purpose of preying on commerce and otherwise aiding in belligerent operations. You add that it is also stated that the examinations of these vessels, conducted on several occasions by United States officers, have not extended to all their parts, and that German officers have denied the right of this Government to conduct thorough searches of the vessels.

I have had a copy of your note delivered to the Department of the Treasury for its information, with a request that these vessels be thoroughly reexamined in order that the correctness of the reports which you have received may be determined. Upon the receipt of the report of this investigation, I shall be glad to communicate with you further upon this subject.

You mention also that subsequent to the declaration of war by Germany on France, the Kronprinz Wilhelm left the port of New York without passengers, but with a supply of coal, and, according to the general belief, as you state, with armament on board; and that this vessel is still engaged in preying on commerce. You enclose a copy of the note which your Embassy addressed to the Department on this subject on August 4 last. In reply I need only to refer to the Department’s answer to this note dated August 20 last.1

The Department takes note of your statement that you are not in a position to make an official or formal request that any definite step or any particular measure of precaution should be taken in the matter ofthese German ships. In relation to your remark, however, that it is your duty to “renew the warning already given” relative to the responsibility of the United States should these vessels escape by its permission or the absence of precautions on its part, I have the honor to refer you to my note of August 19 last, in which this Government sets forth its views as to its rights and duties as a neutral in relation to vessels of belligerent nationality in its ports.2

I have [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Robert Lansing