Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Moffat)

The British Ambassador called this morning and left an aide-Mémoire67 stating for the confidential information of the State Department that the British Government had decided to apply the British censorship regulations to the mails which are carried on the Pan-American Clippers to and from Europe via Bermuda. The system will be to allow mail sacks addressed to England or France to continue on the Clipper which leaves New York all the way to their destination, where they will be censored. Mail bags addressed to any other place will be taken off the Clipper at Bermuda, censored, and the mail sacks forwarded by the following Clipper ship.

I said that I was sorry to hear that Great Britain had decided on this step. The Ambassador said that there was no question of the legality of Britain’s decision as the Clipper ships came voluntarily within British jurisdiction. I told him of the protest we had made about the mails in our telegram to London of last Friday, and agreed that we had protested primarily against the British forcing neutral ships by some form of duress into their ports, where the mail was immediately censored.

The Ambassador made the specific request that we do not give this information to any one, including the Pan-American Airlines, before tomorrow, as they did not wish the Germans to be tipped off in advance and remove their mail. The Ambassador again remarked that almost all the parcel post examined which was going from the United States to Germany contained contraband. He said that he had persuaded his Government not to interpose censorship on mail between North America and South America, but that mail between North America and Europe must undergo censorship.

He remarked that the war was tightening up all along the line. He said he believed that Germany was going to make a tremendous attack with all its strength in the spring. He said the prize that would come with victory was so great that he could not imagine the Germans would forego the gamble. If it failed, then Germany might make a sincere offer of peace.

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As he was leaving, the Ambassador inquired when the Neutrality Committee of the Latin American states68 was going to meet to consider the protest about the misuse of the neutral zones. I telephoned the Latin American Division, and repeated to the Ambassador the information given me by Mr. Briggs that the Neutrality Committee would meet in Rio on January 15, but that it was not yet clear whether or not the Committee would consider this particular matter.

  1. Not printed.
  2. For correspondence regarding the establishment of this committee, see vol. v, section entitled “Establishment of the Inter-American Neutrality Committee.”