File No. 300.115/2601

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

No. 939]

Sir: Referring to the telegrams from the Department Nos. 780, 799 [797], and 821 of December 18, 21 and 23 respectively, and telegrams from this Embassy to the Department of December 23, 10 p. m., Nos. 1414 of January 5 and 1450 of January 11,2 concerning the sale of copper in neutral countries, and the investigation of alleged transactions by British concerns for the sale of copper detained or seized by the British Government, I have the honor to advise the Department that, at the time this investigation was commenced, it seemed to me to be advisable to bring to the notice of Sir Edward Grey in conversation that certain persons in the United States had expressed a suspicion that the British Government had permitted the sale of copper to neutral countries at a higher price than the Government had paid for the same copper which was purchased after the detention and seizure of American cargoes.

Sir Edward Grey has replied to my verbal inquiries in the premises in a note under date of February 18, a copy of which is enclosed herewith, in which it is stated that there is no foundation for this suspicion on the part of American citizens.

The last two paragraphs of this note have reference to the cargoes of copper which were detained and discharged at Gibraltar and are [Page 343] now in the hands of the British Government, regarding which I had the honor to advise the Department by cable on the 19th instant.1

I have [etc.]

Walter Hines Page

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

No. 17884/15]

Your Excellency: I have the honour to inform your excellency that careful enquiries have been made into the report which you brought to my notice in conversation on December 23 last that copper detained or seized by His Majesty’s Government has been bought by them at prices current in this country and that some, at any rate, of the copper has then been sold at higher prices to neutral countries and exported from Great Britain under licence.

The result of these enquiries has been to show that these allegations are entirely devoid of foundation.

The only copper of which the purchase has so far been completed was the cargo of the vessels Rotterdam, Potsdam, Westerdyke, and Slotterdyke all bound for Holland. The copper taken from these vessels was bought by His Majesty’s Government at a higher price than the market price of the day and great expense was incurred by them in the unloading of the vessels and the conveyance of the cargoes from Rotterdam.

Part of this copper the departments concerned did not require and His Majesty’s Government were left with it on their hands. In the meantime a considerable rise in prices took place. The balance which His Majesty’s Government could not use was sold in the open market by a London broker in the usual way, with the strictest instructions that he was not to sell it for export.

There was a small quantity which was not included in this arrangement. His Majesty’s Government were unable to induce the consignees to sell, and this portion was either left in Holland or returned there. No copper has in fact been sold abroad by His Majesty’s Government at all.

Your excellency will agree that this entirely disposes of the grave general allegation to which you gave expression.

In regard to copper discharged at Gibraltar, none of this has been bought or sold and if any copper is purchased at Gibraltar there is not at present any intention to export it from this country.

Most of the copper was consigned to suspected consignees and some was without any doubt whatever destined for Germany and was, before shipment, actually paid for by German merchants, so that in these cases if His Majesty’s Government purchase they are simply reimbursing the German merchant.

I have [etc.]

[File copy not signed]
  1. Ante, pp. 295, 298, and 304; telegrams of December 23 not printed.
  2. Not printed.