File No. 763.72/3359a
The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador ( Spring Rice )
Excellency: From time to time during the present war, as your excellency is aware, the Government of His Britannic Majesty have given notice of certain delimited areas of the high seas, designated as “military areas” or “danger areas,” within which merchant shipping of all kinds, fishing craft, and all other vessels, were warned that they would be subject to the gravest dangers from mines laid by His Majesty’s Government, and from hostile operations, and that they would enter such waters at their peril. This matter was referred to in the Department’s memorandum of August 13, 1914,1 and has been the subject of subsequent correspondence between the American Ambassador at London and the British Foreign Office.
As the question of appropriating certain portions of the high seas for military operations, to the exclusion of the use of the hostile area as a common highway of commerce, has not become a settled principle of international law assented to by the family of nations, it will [Page 520] be recognized that the Government of the United States must, and hereby does, for the protection of American interests, reserve generally all of its rights in the premises, including the right not only to question the validity of these measures, but to present demands and claims in relation to any American interests which may be unlawfully affected, directly or indirectly, by virtue of the enforcement of these measures.