File No. 763.72/1616

The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page ) to the Secretary of State


1816. Investigation in as many departments of the Government as possible and many unofficial talks with the best informed men form the basis for the following conclusions:

[Page 147]

The blockade differs from previous blockades and from a blockade as defined in the books only in two particulars: (1) It is made by moving cruisers instead of warships stationed at blockaded ports and (2) it permits and contemplates exemptions of neutral ships and cargoes from confiscation. The submarine has, in spite of the book definition, made the first change inevitable in all future blockades. The second change is made to leave the fullest opportunity to favor neutral trade and especially American trade.

The only practical difference that the blockade will make will be the shutting out of cotton and foodstuffs from Germany. Most foodstuffs had already been shut out and the English will buy the cotton they stop. The American lawyer who has come here representing the Chicago meat packers is making good progress at satisfactory settlement and arrangements.

The American trade with the Allies is, I am told, increasing rapidly and will grow by leaps till the war ends.

I have the promise of the Government of greater promptness in dealing with stopped ships and cargoes.

The Government is publishing as a White Paper all the correspondence about shipping between the American and British Governments since December 28. Unofficial critics praise the courtesy and admit the propriety of our communications, but they regard them as remote and impracticable. They point out that we have not carried our points: namely, that copper should not be contraband, that ships should be searched at sea, that to-order cargoes should be valid, that our export trade had fallen off because of the war. They point out these in good-natured criticism as evidence of the American love, of protest for political effect at home. While the official reception of tour communications is dignified, the unofficial and general attitude to them is a smile at our love of letter writing as at Fourth of July orations. They quietly laugh at our effort to regulate sea warfare under new conditions by what they regard as lawyers’ disquisitions out of textbooks. They [receive] them with courtesy, pay no further attention to them, proceed to settle our shipping disputes with an effort at generosity and quadruple their orders from us of war materials. They care nothing for our definitions or general protests but are willing to do us every practical favor and will under no conditions either take our advice or offend us. They regard our writings as addressed either to complaining shippers or to politicians at home.

For these reasons complaints about concrete cases as they arise are more effective than general communications about rules of sea warfare, which must be revised by the submarine, the aeroplane, the mine and our own precedents.

The German submarine blockade is a practical failure. Its chief effect has been to provoke the English blockade of Germany which is effective.

American Ambassador