File No. 600.119/2918
The British Ambassador ( Spring Rice ) to the Counselor for the Department of State ( Polk )
[Received August 13.]
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.