File No. 763.72/1592

The British Embassy to the Department of State

The British Embassy has the honour to invite the attention of the United States Department of State to reports published in the press as to the arrival in a United States port of a German ship which had on board upwards of 300 prisoners of different nationalities, of both sexes, some of them citizens of the United States.

The State Department of the United States will doubtless have under their consideration the fact that had a cruiser of the British fleet met this German ship and engaged her, these innocent civilians, men, women, and children, including citizens of the United States, would have been in imminent danger of their lives. While the practice above indicated has no doubt some strategical value, it has not as far as this Embassy is informed, been generally resorted to, at least for some centuries.

The British Embassy is of course aware that the United States Government is not called on to take action on grounds of a general humanitarian character not directly affecting American interests.

As, however, the lives of citizens of the United States were in this particular instance immediately concerned, the British Embassy has the honour to request to be informed (should there be no objection thereto) whether the United States Government has called the attention of the competent authority to the consequences which may naturally be expected to follow from the practice of sinking neutral ships and carrying (in this instance for several weeks) their neutral crews on a ship of war in constant danger of attack.

Cecil Spring Rice