File No. 763.72/1784
The Ambassador in Germany ( Gerard ) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 20, 5.30 p. m.]
2254. Cologne Gazette writes that American note will get the answer it deserves. It is merely a continuation of the unneutral attitude assumed in an increasing degree by the American Government toward Germany. The note is therefore assured of the approval of the Allies but that will be its sole success. We take it that the German military establishment will not permit it to cause a swerving of one inch from the course recognized as necessary by the German [Page 403] Government after mature deliberation. The note pretends to plead the sacred freedom of the seas. But does not America know that England was the first to repudiate this principle by tearing up the Declaration of London, an instrument that the civilized nations had drawn up to safeguard this very freedom of the seas? Has America forgotten how England trampled upon this principle by closing the North Sea to neutral trade or the many infringements of the principle recited in the long note to England last December to which no satisfaction was given? Was it not England’s infamous starvation warfare which even America’s power did not suffice to check, as the case of the Wilhelmina showed, that drove Germany to take up submarine warfare in retaliation? Germany offered to hold back if America could enforce the freedom of the seas, but in vain; the cargo of the Wilhelmina was seized and the United States resigned themselves to the fact. By their acquiescence in all these violations of the freedom of the seas, which it would even seem that America has deliberately omitted to mention, she has for us forfeited all right to plead for the freedom of the seas. We shall enforce this principle with our own swords; if our blows strike neutrals who will not keep out of the way then they have only themselves to blame.
Let us take for a moment the position of the American Government: England prevents food from entering Germany and Germany foregoes the use of her submarines; England carries on its ships not only food, but all kinds of munitions of war, destined to kill and destroy thousands of German soldiers; and Germany sheathes the only weapon which it has to intercept these supplies. Could a more unreasonable demand be made? Certainly not if one stands on the ground of neutrality, justice, and equity, but only when one has made the cause of our enemies one’s own cause. For this reason the American note will fail of all effect on the German people. Its threats do not frighten us, for, as an English paper writes, America cannot be of more assistance to the Allies than she is now. The complaints and moral phraseology of the note do not move us, for we know the feeling which is behind them. We shall put the note with the rest of them and go steadily on our way.