A new arrangement of the papers relating to the World War becomes necessary with the transition of the United States, on April 6, 1917, from a status of neutrality to one of belligerency. The principal distinctive features of this arrangement, the respects in which it differs from that of preceding Supplements, and the main points of relationship to those Supplements and other volumes of Foreign Relations of the United States are as follows.

Part I deals with the political, military, and naval conduct of the war and with the possibilities and terms of settlement, and includes papers bearing on relations with the Central powers. It includes also correspondence with Russia regarding peace, for the context of which in Russian domestic affairs reference must be made to the three volumes of Foreign Relations, 1918, Russia. Several sections on special topics have been added to the main sequence of papers; the most considerable of these relate to cooperation, in other than political, military, and naval fields of action, with the Governments associated in the war against Germany. The documents included in such sections have been selected with a view to showing the development of principles and agencies of cooperation rather than details of the tasks and accomplishments. The section dealing with the Far East is continued from that in Part II of Supplement 1 for 1917, which covers the period ending with China’s entrance into the war on August 14, 1917. Attention is called to the fact that other sections of Supplement 1 also contain papers of later date than April 6. The one dealing with Latin America extends throughout the year; consequently no such section appears in Supplement 2.

Part II, which in previous Supplements has been devoted to the assertion of neutral rights by the United States, is transformed into a selection of papers bearing on the principles and practices developed by the United States as a belligerent in relation to the commerce and economic interests of neutral countries. Correspondence with the Allied Governments on the subject of the treatment of neutral commerce and cooperation in the control of trade falls in this part.

Part III contains papers relating to certain problems of neutral duties in which the United States became interested as a belligerent. Most of these, naturally, concern the conduct of states which had not entered the war, but one section relates to the status of the Panama Canal.

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The fourth part, comprising subjects of miscellaneous character arising out of the war, which is carried in preceding Supplements, is omitted from this one. Papers relating to the treatment of enemy persons and property and to certain other subjects best considered in their unified development over the entire period of belligerency will be included in Supplement 2 for 1918.

In the present Supplement, the general rule has been followed of compiling Foreign Relations from the files of the Department of State. In the case of certain subjects, however, other files have been drawn upon, particularly those of the War Trade Board, now in the custody of this Department, and those of the Food Administrator. The development of all subjects involving other executive agencies than the Department of State has been confined to the main lines of international relations; documents which may be found only in the files of the Department have, where necessary, been supplemented by certain closely related papers from other sources. No attempt has been made to present a comprehensive account of military and naval operations, loans and other financial transactions, and procurement and employment of supplies and shipping, which is possible only in publications based primarily on the files of the Departments or agencies directly concerned.

In certain instances the scantiness of the material here presented appears, upon extensive search and consultation with participants in the activities under consideration, to be due to the actual lack of systematic records. Such is the case with respect to the early development of American policy regarding neutral trade, and also with respect to the discussions held with the British and French special missions in April–May, 1917. All the significant documents in these connections which have been found are printed.

For the general principles followed in the compilation of the present volumes, reference is made to the preface to Foreign Relations, 1914, Supplement, pp. iiiiv.

The requirement stated in the principles referred to above, that the consent of foreign governments to the publication of documents received from them should be obtained, obviously covers the agreed minutes or memoranda of conferences with the representatives of other governments, in which their views are authoritatively set forth. The application of this principle has resulted in the omission from Part I of this Supplement of the minutes of the Inter-Allied Conference of November 29–December 3, and of the session of the Supreme War Council on December 1, consent to the publication of which was withheld by other governments represented in these meetings. The general report of the American mission, however, is printed in full.

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Brackets, [], occurring in the text enclose editorial insertions. These are of two main types: (1) words or phrases, in ordinary type, supplied to fill in omissions or replace obviously garbled passages in telegrams; and (2) suggested corrections, in italics, following words or phrases which appear to be incorrect. When there is not sufficient evidence to indicate what has been omitted or garbled, or when the words which might be suggested would so seriously affect the sense of the document that supplying them would involve more than an editorial responsibility, notice is taken of defects in the text by the insertion, within brackets, of “omission,” “garbled groups,” or “sic.” Insignificant words are corrected or inserted without distinguishing marks.

Parentheses, (), occurring in the text are in the documents themselves. Besides their ordinary use for punctuation, these marks were also employed, in the deciphering and decoding of telegrams, to enclose words or phrases suggested by the decoders as possibly the intended readings of garbled groups which yielded unintelligible or no results. When so employed they have been allowed to stand, unless comparison with other documents showed the suggested reading to have been obviously either correct or incorrect. In the latter case the text within parentheses has sometimes been replaced by an editorial insertion within brackets.

Translations as found in the files have been revised and corrected if found faulty by comparison with texts in the original language or other available versions, but care has been taken to avoid altering in any significant respect important texts that were acted upon or used as sources of information in their existing form.