File No. 125.0055/3

The Ambassador in Germany ( Gerard ) to the Secretary of State

No. 425]

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 308 of December 4, 1914, I have the honor to transmit to you herewith a copy and translation of a note verbale, received from the Imperial German Foreign Office, dated January 3, 1915, and of a note verbale 1 addressed to the Imperial Foreign Office by the Royal Spanish Embassy at Berlin, relative to the protest of the Belgian Government against the position taken by the German Government, respecting the recognition of consular officers in territory under occupation by the Germany Army.

I have [etc.]

James W. Gerard

The German Foreign Office to the American Embassy


Note Verbale

In supplement to its note verbale of November 30, 1914, No. Ic16180, the Foreign Office has the honor to enclose herewith to the Embassy of the United States of America a copy of a note verbale, received from the Royal Spanish Embassy, which transmitted to the Imperial German Government a protest of the Belgian Government relative to the position of neutral consuls in Belgium:

The Imperial Government is obliged to consider that the protest of the Belgian Government is not well founded.

Article 42 of the fourth Hague convention in particular is not capable of supporting the view of the Belgian Government. This article makes it obligatory on the occupant state only to maintain as far as possible public order in the occupied districts, but not to permit the officials of the enemy state to remain in office. Such officials can not be tolerated, except as far as military considerations admit, and if the officials themselves are ready to comply with the regulations of the occupant state. If these principles are applied by analogy to the consuls of neutral states, it results that they also can not perform their public duties, except by consent of the occupant power and to the extent allowed [Page 919] by it, inasmuch as the exequatur of the enemy is not binding on the occupant power.

The note verbale of the Imperial Foreign Office of November 30, last, does not affect the rights of the Belgian Government in any way, but deals exclusively with the interests of the Imperial Government, which conceives it to be its right and its unalterable duty to regulate for the period of occupation the consular protection in the territory occupied by its Army. Moreover, this re-regulation is primarily necessary in the interests of neutral nationals themselves. More than three hundred consular representatives of the allied and neutral States were hitherto officially recognized in Belgium. By far the majority of them were honorary consuls of Belgian nationality, and of them a large number have left Belgium. It is beyond doubt that the Imperial Government, in the very interest of neutral nationals, can not hesitate to see to it that their consular protection is established securely and effectively, to which end it has, as a first step, requested the allied and neutral Governments, under date of November 30, 1914, to express their wishes.

The Foreign Office begs to request the good offices of the Embassy of the United States of America to the end that the above may be brought to the attention of its Government.

  1. Not printed.