File No. 300.115/4554
The British Ambassador ( Spring Rice ) to the Department of State
Comments have reached His Majesty’s Government from various quarters that a misapprehension seems to have arisen with regard to the British note of July 311 concerning the steamer Neches, which it was asserted had been interpreted as stating that the cargo of the vessel had been seized as a reprisal measure against Germany’s submarine policy.
Sir Edward Grey has requested me to explain that the misunderstanding arises no doubt from the brevity of the note. The note admits no illegality of procedure. The seizure was not meant in the nature of a reprisal, but was based solely on the British contention of the absolute legality of the orders in council as explained in the note of July 23,2 to which the Neches note refers.
It is also explained that in stating that the British Government does not yet know what steps neutrals have taken against German submarine policy, no reference was intended to the action of the United States Government, but to other neutrals, who have lost more ships than the United States but of whose action nothing is known by the British Government.
It should be further explained that in making reference to the German submarine policy the British Government only desired to point out that from its standpoint it was hardly just or reasonable that it should be asked by neutrals to abandon any of its legal rights while Germany commits illegalities both on Great Britain and on neutrals, though it is admitted and regretted that interference with German trade, however legal, may be inconvenient to neutrals.