File No. 600.119/2918

The British Ambassador ( Spring Rice) to the Counselor for the Department of State ( Polk)

My Dear Polk: You spoke to me this morning about the telegram which Crawford showed you yesterday on the subject of the restriction of neutral exports to Germany. I understood from Crawford that doubts were raised as to certain points in this telegram, and I am trying to clear these points up with the Foreign Office by cable. It may perhaps be best, in these circumstances, to postpone putting this telegram on record until these points are cleared up.

I am, however, now in a position at least to put clearly the point of principle regarding our willingness to go as far as you in the directions we have suggested and to revise our existing agreements with neutrals where such revision is necessary. In order to have this definitely on record, I have written the enclosed official note which embodies the most important part of the telegram.

The points remaining to be cleared up are ones of procedure and I have indicated them at the end of the penultimate paragraph of [Page 921] the enclosed note. The main point raised by the telegram is that Denmark and Holland sent us 40,000,000 sterling worth of food last year, that we are willing to forego all this food except the Dutch margarine which we now get in return for Dutch imports of various oils and fats, but that if it is cut off from us before Denmark and Holland give way to our proposed demands, it will probably be diverted to Germany, and we therefore doubt whether it is wise, not from the point of view of maintaining our own food supplies but from the point of view of restricting those of the enemy, for us to invite such retaliatory action by appearing too prominently in the initial step of presenting the proposed demands to these neutrals, however strongly and completely we are prepared to support you in those demands. I hope it may be possible to give this point the most careful consideration, and, if you think there is something in it, you will perhaps be able to suggest some method by which we can identify ourselves with your policy without weakening the first step you take.

Yours sincerely,

Cecil Spring Rice

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

Sir: In the memorandum presented to the Department of State under date of June 14,2 I had the honour to make, under instructions from my Government and at the invitation of the United States Government, various suggestions as to the trade policy to be pursued towards neutral countries contiguous to Germany. A question having been recently raised as to the extent to which His Majesty’s Government would be in a position to identify themselves with such a policy in view of their past negotiations and agreements with the Governments and nationals of these neutral countries, I have been instructed to make the following statement to the Government of the United States:

In order to secure the objects set forth in the memorandum of June 14, His Majesty’s Government are prepared to act concurrently with the United States in stopping the export from their territory to Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Holland of all the more important commodities such as foodstuffs, fodder, metals, oils, lubricants and fertilizers and in enforcing by these means the demands to be made upon the neutral Governments concerned. They are prepared to modify or terminate any existing agreement which, in [Page 922] the view of the United States Government after conference with His Majesty’s Government, is calculated to hinder the adoption of this policy, without securing special counterbalancing advantages to those associated in the war against Germany. It is on the basis of full identity of policy and responsibility with the Government of the United States in dealing with this particular problem that they desire to urge the importance of early action on the lines already discussed and my Government would be glad to arrange with yours how the diplomatic action of the two Governments may best be made to correspond with this identity of policy and responsibility, which appears to be called for by the circumstances of the case.

My Government inform me that further and complete instructions are now on the way to me explaining fully the military, naval and political considerations on which they have based their conclusions, as well as the precise extent of the embargo which they are in a position to impose so soon as an understanding has been reached with the Government of the United States.

I have [etc.]

Cecil Spring Rice
  1. Filed separately under File No. 600.119/2919.
  2. Ante, p. 879.