File No. 763.72112/771

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

No. 877]

Sir: With reference to the British Government’s reply of the 10th instant to your note of December the 28th last,1 I have the honor to transmit herewith enclosed a copy of a memorandum I have just received from Sir Edward Grey embodying a circular which it is believed has been issued by a firm in New York bearing a German name, suggesting that American exporters write to the Department and to their Representatives and Senators, urging that steps be taken toward relief from restrictions believed to be placed on exports from the United States.

I have [etc.]

Walter Hines Page

The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Grey) to the American Ambassador (Page)


In connexion with the reply which Sir E. Grey is sending to-day to the United States Ambassador’s note of December the 28th, His Majesty’s Government desire to draw the attention of the United States Government to the following circular of which a copy has been sent to Sir E. Grey. The circular shows the sources of the protests made in the United States against the belligerent action which His Majesty’s Government have found it necessary to take, and of the mistaken belief which is prevalent in the United States that the actions of His Majesty’s Government have gravely affected the commerce of the country:

Among the many tremendous handicaps which we encounter in trying to do business with the few neutral countries in Europe which are accessible we have the trouble of shipping our goods, and we think it. Would be quite in order that you address a letter to the State Department in Washington, also to your representative and senator, and apply for relief that should be given to exporters in that direction.

The warfaring nations in Europe are getting from week to week more pretentious in their control of cargoes of neutral vessels, even to such an extent that the steamship managers here are afraid to take almost anything and when they do take any cargo it is only by observing a lot of red tape regulations in compliance with the demand of those countries now at war in Europe.

We have found our State Department so timid and hesitating that we could get no effective help from them. We need not mention that this attitude works harm to you all that are anxious to keep up exports to Europe as much as possible, and the loss of trade which is thereby caused to this country can be counted in millions.

We suggest in your own interests that you write a letter of a tenor similar to the following sketch:

We learn from our export friends in New York that they are meeting with all sorts of impediments in their efforts to ship our line of goods to European neutral countries, and we are told that the restrictions placed upon exports are getting severer from week to week. The steamship lines in New York―caused by the overbearing attitude against neutral ships―have been asking conditions, some of which can really not be complied with, and they are refusing to accept goods for shipment unless we submit to a lot of onerous and [Page 339] annoying restrictions. The list of contraband and “conditional contraband,” especially the latter, is increasing fabulously and we do not believe that our interests are properly cared for by our Government.

We are in need of business to keep our factories running and we look to your Department to take a firm attitude against such nations of Europe that are making it troublesome or impossible to ship our line of goods to neutral European markets as we did before the war. To the best of our knowledge and belief we are making no goods that are straight contraband goods but we believe we are entitled to energetic assistance from your Department that we be undisturbed in our peaceful efforts to supply a foreign market and thus produce work for our factory employees.

You need not write this letter exactly in the same way but we simply indicate by this sketch the lines along which we would ask you to kindly write your lettter.

The circular is dated New York, December 26, 1914, and it need scarcely be added that the firm from which it emanates bears German names.