File No. 199.1/134

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

No. 836]

Sir: With reference to your telegram No. 1061 of the 2d instant1 and to previous correspondence on the subject of the British telegraphic censorship, I have the honor to transmit herewith for your information the enclosed copy of a confidential memorandum defining the rights which the British Government possess under treaty over all telegrams dispatched by cables which they control. I received this memorandum informally from Sir Edward Grey yesterday.

I have [etc.]

Walter Hines Page


1. Neutral governments were reminded in a circular at the beginning of the war of the right which His Majesty’s Government possess, under treaty, to stop all telegrams over cables which they control; and that it is only as an act of goodwill that their transmission is permitted.

2. Notice was given through the International Bureau at Berne, in the form prescribed, as follows:

His Britannic Majesty’s Government find themselves under the necessity of availing themselves of the power reserved under Article 8 of the international telegraph convention and Article 17 of the international radiotelegraph convention to suspend the transmission of telegrams and radiotelegrams to and from, or in transit through the United Kingdom, and to and from, or in transit through all British possessions and all British protectorates whatsoever, save and except such telegrams and radiotelegrams as are on the service of His Majesty’s Government or of the government of any British possession or protectorate.

With a view, however, to minimize inconvenience to the public, His Britannic Majesty’s Government will, until further notice, and as an act of grace, permit the transmission of such telegrams and radiotelegrams in plain language as foreign governments or the public choose to send, provided that such telegrams and radiotelegrams are written in English or French, and on the understanding that they are accepted at the sender’s risk and subject to censorship by the British authorities; that is, that they may be stopped, delayed or otherwise dealt with in all respects at the discretion of those authorities and without notice to the senders; and that no claims in respect of them, whether for the reimbursement of the sums paid for transmission or otherwise, will be considered by His Majesty’s Government in any circumstances whatever...

Article 8 of the international telegraphic convention (of 1875) is as follows:

Each Government also reserves to itself the power to interrupt the system of the international telegraphs for an indefinite period, if it judges [Page 708] it necessary, either generally, or only upon certain lines and for certain kinds of messages, upon condition that it immediately advises each of the other contracting governments.

Articles 17 of the International radiotelegraphic convention makes the above article applicable to radiotelegraphy....

  1. Not printed.