File No. 841.857/73

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

No. 924]

Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of August 3,1 in further relation to the subject of your notes of June 5 and July 51 and your Embassy’s memorandum of June 23,1 namely, the placing of explosives on board British vessels clearing from the port of New York.

In reply I have the honor to inform you that copies of your note have been sent to the appropriate departments of the Government and to the Governor of New York for such action as is deemed appropriate to prevent the placing of explosives on board British or other vessels.

Referring to your Embassy’s previous memoranda regarding the placing of bombs on the steamships Lord Erne and Bankdale, I have the honor to say that the Department is now in receipt of a letter from the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, transmitting a report on the subject from the collector of customs at New York. The collector of customs states that the agents of the Federal Government are cooperating with the police commissioner in New York City and are doing everything in their power to prevent a recurrence of such offenses.

It appears that the harbor police are on the lookout; that plain clothes men have been placed on the piers; that the detective bureau has been conducting an investigation to ascertain the source of the bombs and explosives that have been placed on ships; that customs officers performing supervisory duties are stationed night and day on every pier in New York where a ship is loading for a foreign port, and that they are doing all they can to aid the steamship companies in seeing that nothing but what is properly manifested and described is placed aboard the vessels.

The collector of customs added that the police commissioner of New York understood that his excellency the British Ambassador [Page 893] was concerned with regard to his own personal safety when in New York, and that the police commissioner had given assurances that he would see that the Ambassador was afforded special police protection whenever he went to New York, if the police commissioner was notified of his movements.

It is stated in the Embassy’s memorandum dated June 23, 1915:

British ships loading for the Allied Governments have been placed in close proximity to interned German steamers whose crews have not hidden their enmity.

German tugs frequently watch the loading of British ships in the port of New York.

Masters have been told by unknown foreigners on the wharves of New York that they will never reach home but will be burned out before they get across.

The cargoes destined for ships plying for Allied Governments have been known frequently to be left alone alongside the interned German ships in the port of New York. The interned German ships have their crews and officers aboard.

Germans, having given a false declaration as to their nationality, are also believed to have been employed as watchmen on British ships.

It would seem that these are matters which it is not within the province of the Government agencies to prevent and which it is believed the steamship companies could control, in part at least, by their own actions.

I have the honor [etc.]

Robert Lansing
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