File No. 195.1/310

The British Ambassador ( Spring Rice ) to the Secretary of State

Dear Mr. Secretary: In order to guard against any possible misapprehension I think it as well to state that my unofficial letters to you of January 12 last1 on the question of the transfer of flag after declaration of war were written, as I pointed out, with reference to the general question of the operation from a commercial point of view but left untouched the further and separate question of the liberation of interned ships during the course of hostilities, and the [Page 684] ensuing evasion of the consequences to which an enemy ship as such is exposed.

As I pointed out in my letter of the 15th instant by the instructions of Sir Edward Grey this latter question is a grave one and is occupying the attention of His Majesty’s Government. It is a question which is in intimate relation with the question of neutrality for it is evident that if a neutral power intervenes in the course of the war with the result of relieving one of the belligerents from the consequences of the military action of the other, such intervention, at any rate in effect, is not of a neutral character.

I am [etc.]

Cecil Spring Rice
  1. Ante, pp. 67678.