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Part I   (cont'd.)

Chapter 8: The Reception of the German Declaration and the Preparation of the Reprisals Order

How European neutrals received the German declaration and the British announcement that neutral flags would be used as a ruse de guerre. – The American government's preoccupations when submarine war was declared. – Our ambassador's appreciations of the American government's temper. – America and the allied munition supplies. – The British and French government's deliberations upon the reprisals to be undertaken against Germany. – Sir Edward Grey was prepared to consider a compromise. – The reprisals order in council. – American precedents considered. – The American proposals for a compromise, and the German government's deliberations upon them, and the British reply. – What reception was given to the reprisals order by neutral governments. – The economic theatre when the reprisals order was issued. – The enemy's metal supplies, and the state of their trade with border neutrals.

It must be explained, at the outset of this chapter, that the origins of the order in council that was issued on 11th March, 1915, cannot be examined with the same particularity as the origins of the German declaration of submarine war. There is a difference in the documentary records of Germany and Great Britain, which is due to a difference in the national customs. The German records show exactly what motives inspired the first declaration, what doubts the chancellor entertained, how and why those doubts were overcome. The British order in council was prepared in the cabinet, and there is no documentary record of the discussions that it provoked. The circumstances to which the cabinet attached importance, can certainly be reviewed in detail; but no scrutiny of documents, however careful, will supply materials for a historic account of the doubts and hesitations of the cabinet as a corporate body, or of the doubts and hesitations of its members. The most that can be done is to examine the facts to which the cabinet's attention was drawn, during the month of February, when the reprisal order was considered.

i) How European neutrals received the German declaration and the British announcement that neutral flags would be used as a ruse de guerre

In February, 1915, no person in authority imagined that the German announcement was the beginning of a campaign, which, eventually, became the most dangerous that the British navy has ever combated.1 The naval authorities were satisfied that the German submarines could do but little damage, and British diplomats could not believe that the German government had sufficient appetite for reckless adventure to make such innovations in the practice of sea warfare, without adequate excuse or diplomatic preparation. The official review of the first announcement was, therefore, that the Germans were threatening more than they would dare to execute:

      The warning to neutrals had made a considerable stir among them, wrote Sir Walter Langley.2 It is improbable that Germany will act up to the letter of her notification, and this is largely bluff. Destruction of neutral ships without examination, on the plea that our use of neutral flags makes mistakes inevitable, would bring down on her all the neutral nations.

Sir Walter Langley overestimated the spirit of European neutrals; for, within a few days, it was apparent that the announcement would not rouse neutrals against Germany, and that they were determined to act cautiously. Much to our surprise, [222] every neutral government introduced what was then known as the flag issue into the controversy; and we were astounded to find, that what we considered to be an innocent stratagem, well established by custom, was by neutral governments regarded as a serious invasion of their rights. It will be worth while to explain why neutrals treated the matter so seriously.

The German submarine commanders had opened their attack against British shipping some days before the official announcement was issued. On 30th January the Ikaria and the Oriole were sunk in the Channel, and the Graphic chased off Liverpool bar; on 1st February, Captain Hennig attacked the hospital ship Asturias off Le Havre. Hennig genuinely mistook the Asturias for an ordinary merchantman; but the news of an attack that seemed so ferocious warned the naval high command that something serious was impending. On 2nd February, therefore, the Admiralty issued a special instruction to merchant captains on the Dutch route, through the consul-general at Rotterdam. Merchant skippers were advised to hoist neutral colours, when submarines were known to be about, and were further advised to steam at full speed, if a submarine were sighted, and to keep her dead astern.

This order about the use of neutral flags was no innovation; for hoisting a foreign flag has, for centuries, been considered an ordinary stratagem of sea warfare. It so happens, however, that the artifice has been more used by combatant vessels than by merchantmen, in consequence of which the rule governing it is more a rule of military honour than of international law: the captain of a warship may endeavour to deceive an enemy by flying a foreign flag, but he may only fight under his own colours. This ancient regulation is to be found in countless books on sea warfare, from the Ordonnance de la Marine, compiled in the seventeenth century, to the German Prisenordnung, compiled in the twentieth. The practice has been to keep the foreign flag flying for as long as the disguise is likely to be of any use, and to hoist the national flag just before the first shot is fired. Captain von Müller, for instance, approached Penang with the British flag flying from his cruiser, the Emden, and broke the German ensign when he had passed the harbour mouth, and was ready to attack the Zhemchug.

It is, obviously, quite legitimate for a merchantman to try to escape capture and destruction, by employing an artifice that is universally regarded as a legitimate preliminary to an act of war; indeed, the British Merchant Shipping Act expressly recognises a foreign seaman's right to use the British flag, if he is in danger of being captured. Notwithstanding this, it was natural that neutrals should have been apprehensive of the Admiralty's instructions to British merchantmen, and it is curious that the seamen, who prepared the instructions, should not have foreseen the anger that it would excite among seamen. Like many other practices of maritime warfare, this practice of hoisting a neutral flag was most common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when commercial traffic moved in blocks or fleets, at known seasons of the year. The months in which the Baltic, the Levant, and the West Indies fleets started on their voyage, and their points of assembly, were settled by consultation between the city merchants and Whitehall; after which naval escort was collected, and the necessary instructions given. Even when escort was not provided - and the French sometimes found it hard to provide - the colonial traffic assembled and sailed in groups, which, it is true, got very dispersed at the end of the voyage.3 Serious attacks upon trade were, therefore, made by vessels or squadrons, which assembled on the route that a trading fleet was known to follow, at a time when the fleet was expected. Stratagems used for deceiving the defending [223] or the attacking party were, in consequence, stratagems that only influenced the fortunes of a particular operation, or of a particular group of ships. An example will not, perhaps, be superfluous.

In the year 1744, Commodore Barnet, the British naval commander in the East Indies, determined to intercept the French China fleet, which was due to pass the straits of Banka during January of the following year. He reached his intercepting position in good time, and disguised the ships of his squadron as Dutch vessels; the disguise was so good that the French escort were within a musket shot, when the commodore hauled down the Dutch colours and opened fire. The episode is a very good illustration of how trade was then intercepted, and it does not matter that the neutral flag was used by the attacking party; for whoever employed the stratagem, its success or failure only concerned commodore Barnet and his enemy. No other vessel on the high seas was affected.

But commercial traffic moves, nowadays, in a continuous, unbroken stream, and not in blocks; so that the captain of a raider takes his ship to a point where the traffic is dense, and steams to and fro across the trade lane, attacking and sinking merchantmen, until he is disturbed by hostile vessels.4 The German plan for submarine war was an example of the new method: the German announcement declared only, that shipping round the British isles would be indiscriminately attacked; but every seaman in Europe must have foreseen, that the German submarines would station themselves on the traffic lanes that converge on Liverpool, London, and the Bristol channel. In these circumstances, the use of neutral flags was an artifice that concerned every vessel on or near the great traffic lanes; for it was obvious that the submarine attack would be more ruthlessly pressed, if the submarine commanders even suspected, that the stratagem was being successfully employed: its long recognition during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did not reconcile neutral statesmen, or neutral seamen, to its use in the twentieth.

The German declaration, coinciding as it did with the British order about using neutral flags, did not, therefore, excite the indignation that our authorities anticipated. From Christiania, Mr. Findlay reported that the Norwegian press was very guarded, and that the public seemed, on the whole, to be just as inflamed against Great Britain as against Germany. From Stockholm, Mr. Howard reported an interview with M. Wallenberg, who said that the British order had made an exceedingly bad impression. Certain organs of the Swedish press elaborated this with the telling criticism, that if the British government resorted to such stratagems, it was a proof that their navy could no longer defend the sea highways. Sir Henry Crofton Lowther reported precisely the same from Copenhagen, where a great shipowner told him, bluntly, that legal justification of the stratagem did not alter the plain fact that it endangered Danish seamen. The Dutch were equally firm: M. van Aalst spoke strongly about the British orders to Sir Alan Johnstone, and the consul-general at Rotterdam reported that the seafaring population were exceedingly reserved. The American government's conduct was adjusted to many complicated influences, and will be examined later.

The immediate outcome was, therefore, that the Scandinavian powers sent simultaneous notes to Germany and Great Britain. In the notes presented at Whitehall, the northern governments did not argue the legal issue, but stated that an old usage could not equitably be defended, if it endangered neutral lives and property: La tolérance qui, dans les temps passés, a pu être prouvée vis-à-vis d'incidents isolés, n'est plus possible dans les circonstances actuelles de la guerre, et lorsqu'il s'agirait d'un abus systématique et premedité. The Netherlands government protested independently, and in even stronger language; for they claimed that no foreign [224] government could decide how, or when, the Netherlands flag was to be used. As for the argument that ships not on the British register were allowed, by British law, to fly the British flag in special circumstances, the Netherlands government replied that this was not their concern. It seems, indeed, that the Netherland ministers were very determined; for they issued a decree, ordering their port authorities to arrest and detain any foreign vessel that was known to have flown the Netherlands flag without permission.

The stratagem had no influence upon the fortunes of the submarine campaign, for neutral shipowners took measures that made the ensign a secondary identification mark. The national colours were painted along the upper bulwarks of every ship; the national flag and the ship's name were painted amidships; and after dark, a light was focused upon these notifications of identity. In a few weeks the controversy was virtually forgotten, and it has only been thought necessary to record it, because it is a reminder of the circumstances in which our measures of retaliation were prepared and acted upon. The British government had no assurance of neutral sympathy or toleration, when they determined to devise special measures of retaliation against the submarine campaign. Quite the contrary: the reports from all our ministers abroad proved, that we had not communicated our indignation to the neutral populations of northern Europe, or to their governments, who were inclined to regard the war at sea as a sort of competition in belligerent excesses, for which each side was equally responsible.

But although everything indicated that the northern neutrals would be careful of exasperating the German government, there were also indications that they had no intention of provoking the allies; for an incident, which seemed trivial at the time, showed that the Scandinavians were apprehensive of doing anything that would provoke us to greater rigours at sea, even though what they contemplated was perfectly justifiable. The incident had a significance that can only be explained by making a brief preliminary digression.

In April, 1917, when every measure of defence against the German submarines had failed, when they were sinking thousands of tons of British shipping a week, when, in fact, we were threatened with a disaster unprecedented in European history, it was decided to run the Scandinavian trade in convoy; and this experiment, to which nobody attached any particular importance at the time, was a sort of turning point in the campaign. The losses on the Scandinavian route at once fell sharply, and the Admiralty were so impressed by this unexpected success, that they decided to make the system more embracing, and to place the ocean trades in convoy. This proved the decisive manoeuvre in the war at sea.

A peculiar interest, therefore, attaches to a project that the Scandinavian ministers examined, when submarine war against commerce was first declared. At a special conference, which the northern governments convened to concert measures for protecting their commerce, they discussed a proposal for placing the Scandinavian trade with Great Britain under convoy. This project is the more interesting in that the German authorities themselves suggested it.

If anybody had foreseen the future of the campaign, these Scandinavian proposals would have been given a cordial reception, and a negotiation started to ensure that Scandinavian vessels on the American route should only receive escort, after they had been examined and passed by our patrols.5 But as the future was hidden to all, [225] and as the naval authorities were convinced that the submarine campaign against commerce would not be formidable, the British government considered this proposal for a Scandinavian convoy to be dangerous. By the declaration of London neutral vessels under national convoy were exempt from search. Seeing that the Germans had urged the project upon the Scandinavians, it seemed, therefore, as though it were part of a plan for thwarting the system of detaining vessels in port, until all our information about the cargo and its consignees had been examined. After consulting the Admiralty, the Foreign Office thus felt obliged to raise strong objections to the Scandinavian proposals, and although it was quite competent to the Norwegian and Swedish governments to make the experiment notwithstanding that we objected, they abandoned the project, when they learned our dislike of it; for the Norwegians and Danes insisted that it would be folly to irritate the British government at such a moment. The inference to be drawn from all this was, therefore, that European neutrals would protest against every intensification of the war at sea, but would actively obstruct nothing. American intentions were not so easily penetrated.

ii) The American government's preoccupations when submarine war was declared

Whatever doubts may have been entertained about the sentiments of the American government, of congress, and of the American public, it must have been evident to every trained diplomat, that American policy would be focused upon two negotiations, that the American government had recently undertaken with the belligerent powers. First and most important, Colonel House landed in England, a day after the Germans made their first announcement. He was instructed to discover the intentions of the governments at war, and by intimate and secret conversations with British and German statesmen, to prepare them for American mediation. For so long as the president's envoy was engaged on this delicate business, the American government were bound, in common prudence, to make no official statement about the submarine campaign, which could expose them to a charge of partiality for either side. One hasty or ill-considered sentence in an official document might have wrecked the incipient negotiation that the president was so anxious to foster.

Secondly, the German government had so manipulated the controversy about the Wilhelmina's cargo of foodstuffs, that the American government had been obliged to receive and consider a proposal for securing the free entry of American foodstuffs into Germany, and to open a negotiation upon it. On 7th February, the German authorities sent an official assurance to America that all foodstuffs imported into Germany from the United States would be consumed by the civil population. This was supplemented by a proposal, that the American government should establish an organisation for distributing food supplies, and place it under the control of American consuls. Mr. Gerard reported, that if the British government would agree to this, he was convinced the German declaration would be withdrawn. It now seems certain that the president never intended to press the proposals; for Count Bernstorff suggests, without saying so explicitly, that the president and the secretary of state were very tepid about them. This, however, was hidden from us at the beginning of February, when it was known only, that the American government had consented to entertain the German proposals, and to present them to us. It was therefore a matter of high importance to discover whether the American government would urge these proposals. Such indications of American policy as were communicated by the president's envoy, and by our ambassador from Washington, may now be examined in order.

Colonel House had his first interview with Sir Edward Grey on 7th February, and discussed American mediation with him, at short intervals, during the rest of the month. Colonel House avoided the Foreign Office, and only conversed with Sir [226] Edward at Eccleston square or in other private houses. In consequence of this, the Foreign Office have no documentary records of these conversations; for Sir Edward Grey never drafted an official summary of them. We have, thus, no means of judging what importance Sir Edward Grey attached to Colonel House's proposals, or whether he thought that they were relevant to the matters which then occupied the government's attention: the reprisals meditated, and their probable reception in America and Europe.

Ostensibly, however, Colonel House cared for none of these things. He was instructed to discover, whether the governments at war would be inclined to negotiate a settlement, if the president brought them together, and to be most reticent on all matters relating to the war, and to the policies of the allies. The president's aim, as Colonel House explained it, was to convene a general congress of neutrals, which should draft new laws of war and new rules of comity, and present them to the belligerents, when they had adjusted their differences. Colonel House's proposals about the freedom of the seas were equally detached from the issues of the moment. According to him - and he was a man of the greatest integrity who would never make a false record - he discussed the immunities of neutral commerce with Sir Edward Grey on 10th February, at the American embassy, and suggested that the general congress should:

      Forbid the killing of non-combatants by aircraft, the violation of neutral territory, and should: Set forth certain lanes of safety at sea in order that shipping of all countries, both belligerent and neutral should not be subject to attack when they were in those lanes.

Sir Edward Grey thought it would be better if all private property were made immune from capture.

Colonel House thus gave Sir Edward little or no guidance about the president's immediate intentions. He had left the United States before the submarine declaration had been issued, and he received no additional instructions during February, the critical month. Nevertheless, there are a few, very vague indications that Colonel House did discuss the submarine campaign, and that his counsel made a considerable impression. This will be examined later, when our measures of retaliation are described.

iii) Our ambassador's appreciations of the American government's temper

It might possibly have been inferred, from the friendliness of Mr. Wilson's special envoy, that the president would not countenance any active obstruction of the allied practices at sea. This, however, was uncertain; for while Colonel House was engaged in these peaceful conversations, the American government were manifesting a different temper. Their first official communication did not differ, materially, from those of the Scandinavian governments. When Mr. Lansing, the counsellor to the state department first discussed the German declaration with Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, he told him, that protests would be lodged simultaneously in London about the use of the flag, and in Berlin about the declaration. This communication was followed by another, which was more provocative: on 24th February, the secretary of state informed our ambassador, that his government were inclined to treat the exportation of arms, the British restraints upon German food supplies, and the German submarine campaign against commerce, as a single matter:

      The secretary of state called upon me...... wrote Sir Cecil, and told me he wished to give me a friendly warning on the subject of the British attitude towards the importation of foodstuffs for the civil population of Germany. He said that an unpleasant impression would be created here if the British government, while importing from this country for its own use large quantities of munitions of war, were to prevent the civil population of an enemy country from obtaining food supplies. The American people might raise objections to a system under which they were called upon to assist in supplying one belligerent with the means of destroying life, and were debarred from supplying the other with the means of sustaining it. [227] Owing, he proceeded, to the threat we held over Germany as to starving her into submission, Germany had resorted to a new method of warfare, which was most dangerous to neutrals and which had already resulted in grave loss to American lives and property. The German government had made certain proposals which he had caused to be unofficially conveyed and he wished me clearly to understand the point of view of the American government. This was, that while maintaining the traditional right of a neutral to supply both belligerents with munitions of war the United States government were bound to insist that the belligerents should not depart from the recognised principles of international law...... Great Britain had always maintained that food for the civil population of an enemy could not be declared contraband, and she was bound to observe this principle with regard to other nations.

If this warning had been really descriptive of the American government's policy, it would have been an intimation that the American president had, as Sir Cecil put it, adopted the point of view of the German government; and it would have been unwise in the last degree to have pressed on with our measures of retaliation, which were then virtually agreed upon; or to have rejected the American proposals for a compromise, which were then lodged at Whitehall. Sir Cecil Spring-Rice had, however, been at great pains to discover whether the American president and the secretary of state did genuinely regard the British restraints upon commerce, and the German submarine campaign as two equally grave excesses; and such evidence as he had collected sufficed to show, that the official communications of the United States government by no means represented their final judgment.

In the first place, Sir Cecil was satisfied, that the feeling prevalent in the country and in the administration was alarm lest the country should be involved, against its will, in the ferocious struggle upon which the navies of Germany and Great Britain had engaged; dread that the diplomatic crisis would arise suddenly and without warning, as it had arisen in Europe; and terror that this rapid transition from peace to war, far from uniting the nation, would excite partisan furies that would overpower the forces of public order. These were the apprehensions of Senator Root; and Sir Cecil's longest appreciation of the government's attitude was only made after long consultation with him, with Mr. Roosevelt, and with Senator Lodge. It was written a few days after the German declaration was received, when the sentiments of the American nation were most spontaneous and easily observed:

      Most people, he wrote, who come here are impressed by the atmosphere of fear which pervades congress and the departments. The president once spoke to me about the danger of civil commotion and the spread to America of the national antipathies of Europe. There is also an atmosphere of hatred...... Thus the struggle which is going on in Europe has its counterpart here, and it is felt sometimes distinctly, sometimes dimly, that the defeat of the allies would mean the triumph of the German idea in America as well as in Europe. The result is that the conflict in Europe is regarded by many people here with a dreadful sort of personal interest, and by many with an intense desire to avoid being involved in it. For what would happen, should a conflict take place affecting America, is unpleasant to contemplate. There is a strong probability that if this country went to war against Germany there would be something like civil war here...... You will see how much the government must fear anything approaching to a collision with Germany.

This report, which Sir Cecil elaborated by others during the month, was a valuable explanation of the official demeanour of the American government: it is, perhaps, even more significant that Sir Cecil satisfied himself that the president's personal sympathies, which were expressed so unequivocally when war began, had not been alienated; for he reported, later on, that a prominent democratic senator, with a strong inclination for Germany, had told a personal friend: The president is, at heart, as pro-English as you. Sir Cecil attached great importance to this, for he repeated it in a private and secret telegram to Sir Edward Grey; which is proof that he thought it no mere gossip, but an indication of what the president's policy was likely to be.

The British government had, therefore, good reasons for believing that the president's rather irritating communications disguised his sympathies; and to the trained diplomats of the Foreign Office it was apparent, that the communications [228] received by us and by the German authorities were not equal and opposite protests, inspired by an equal indignation against both sides. In the first interview between Mr. Lansing and Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, Mr. Lansing cautioned our ambassador - in rather reticent and ambiguous language it is true - against concluding, hastily, that the United States government regarded British and German practices at sea as equally objectionable. In addition, the first American note to Germany, which was communicated to the press, and which our authorities could compare with any they received on kindred subjects, was not drafted in the same language as the notes addressed to Whitehall. It was very much sterner, and the German authorities judged it to be a serious document; so serious indeed, that the emperor at once assembled his principal naval, military and diplomatic advisers, in order that it might be examined in conference.

Finally (a circumstance that was unknown to us at the time), the Secretary of State, and Mr. Lansing, the state counsellor, did not leave the impression upon Count Bernstorff that they left upon Sir Cecil. Mr. Lansing certainly admitted to the German ambassador, that submarine war upon a commerce was reasonable; but whatever placatory remarks he may have made, his reception of the declaration was interpreted by Bernstorff as a serious warning.

      Lansing repeated to me, he telegraphed, that he had drafted the American note upon submarine warfare under the conviction that if an American vessel were destroyed, it would cause extraordinary excitement among the people and that the consequences would be unforeseeable.6

This was far graver than anything said to our ambassador, and Bernstorff was satisfied that the American government did not intend to make equal protests to the two sides - the attitude which they announced officially to our ambassador. In the German ambassador's opinion the protests might be simultaneous; they would never be of equal vigour: I do not believe, he wrote, that this government will ever decide to take such measures with England that the position will improve.

iv) America and the allied munition supplies

But all these consoling indications did not conceal the stark fact that American public demanded a strictly impartial conduct by the president, and that this demand might, at any moment, force the government to forbid the export of munitions. The secretary of state warned us of this officially, and a few words are necessary to explain how serious an American embargo upon munitions would have been to the allies.

In October, 1914, the Bethlehem steel company engaged to supply us with 100,000 shrapnel shell for 18-pounder guns; with 30,000 4.7" shrapnel, and 30,000 high explosive shell. These first orders were rapidly enlarged, and by the end of 1914, we had placed orders for 1,280,000 filled, about 4,000,000 empty, shell, and for at least 200,000,000 rounds of small arm ammunition. The latest contracts provided that the deliveries should be continued up to August, 1916. The importance of these contracts can, however, only be understood by reviewing them conjointly with the appreciations of the military position, which were then before the cabinet.

The most important of these was a general review that had been prepared by Sir John French at the beginning of the year. In this paper, the commander-in-chief estimated that the British, French and Russian armies would jointly be numerically stronger than those of the enemy, until the late autumn, when the recruits coming forward from the enemy's training camps might redress the balance. The British and French commanders in the field were, therefore, persuaded, that it was of the highest importance to attack the German positions early in the year, with our full strength. [229] Sir John French added, however, and this was the significant part of his report, that the execution of this plan was entirely contingent upon the delivery of more munitions.

      In order to attain the double objective...... he wrote, it is absolutely necessary that I should have more troops, a liberal supply of artillery ammunition of all kinds, but especially high explosive, and a sufficient number of heavy guns. I have constantly been told that the ammunition and the guns will be available by the middle of this month, and if this is actually so there will be nothing...... to hinder the progress of the operations I have outlined.

The War Office's appreciation differed, for they estimated that the enemy's armies were temporarily stronger than ours. They counted that the armies then being raised would redress the balance; and as the American munition contracts were depended upon for equipping these armies rapidly, their review only supplemented the commander-in-chief's on this all important question.

It is small wonder, therefore, that when Sir Cecil Spring-Rice reported the secretary of state's ominous remarks about food supplies for Germany and munition supplies for Great Britain, Sir Edward Grey minuted the paper with an instruction, in his own handwriting, that Sir Cecil was to discover, whether the president was at all likely to prohibit the export of arms on his own authority, whilst congress was in recess: Sir Cecil Spring-Rice replied that he was convinced that the bill then before congress would not be passed, and that the president would never act without congressional sanction. On the general position, however, he reported, after watching every indication of the American temper during the month of February, that the British government would be well advised not to retaliate against the German submarine campaign, and to stand aloof, as diplomatic friction between Germany and America was certain to be aggravated as the campaign progressed.

v) The British and French government's deliberations upon the reprisals to be undertaken against Germany

The month of February, when the order for reprisals was sanctioned by the cabinet, was thus the second occasion during the war, when every indication of American policy and intentions was considered by the government as a whole. On the first occasion, October, 1914, the American attitude had appeared so uncertain, that the government had deemed it wise to make a concession. The review made in February shewed that the same unsteady influences were still operating, but our observations, having been now spread over a longer period, enabled us to make a better estimate of their strength. First, more was now known about the president's desire to mediate. In October it had seemed a possible danger, in that the president might have been contemplating mediation in the old style, which consisted in forcing a particular settlement upon the belligerents, and in bringing severe pressure upon the party reluctant to accept it. Colonel House's explanations must have shown that there was not the least danger of this. Secondly, there was a growing conviction in government circles that concessions to American public opinion were of doubtful value; for there were no indications that the points ceded by the October order had been appreciated in the circles from which the clamour started. After the order, as before it, there had been the same angry criticisms, and the same half threatening comments about British practices at sea. Time had thus shown, that Sir Eyre Crowe's appreciation was accurate: That we should never placate congress and the American press, as a whole, and that the best policy would be to stand firm, and at the same time to spare no pains to explain that our measures were reasonable. Time had also shown, that congress had been less influenced by these successive blasts of popular excitement than had been anticipated. On the other hand, the German declaration of submarine war had made American public opinion more unsteady then [sic] ever, and had forced the government to a conduct of public affairs of which the ultimate consequences were unforeseeable.

[230] From all this the cabinet might reasonably have decided, that as our ambassador in Washington advised caution, and as the naval authorities did not believe the submarine campaign would be dangerous, it would be as well to postpone retaliation and reprisals, until the torpedoing of some great merchantman, or a repetition of Captain von Hennig's attack upon a hospital ship strengthened our case. For it must be remembered that there was no public clamour in England when our policy was being considered. The press answered the German announcement with excited leading articles about piracy and murder; but they affected great contempt for the campaign itself. The Times announced: That the day had arrived, and that nobody appeared to be any the worse for it; other leading organs professed equal indifference. Indeed the campaign began so badly for the Germans, that the first lord's assurance to parliament was judged by all to be an accurate estimate of the danger. [Scriptorium comments: emphasis added. Evidently the sinking of the Lusitania shortly afterwards was not as unwelcome as it was made out to be, since it finally "strengthened our case".]

Nevertheless, the cabinet decided on reprisals very early in the month; for a first draft of a retaliatory order was presented to them on 9th February, and it contained all the essential passages of the declaration finally issued. No other principle of retaliation was announced in any of the drafts subsequently prepared; so that the cabinet may be said to have decided to order special reprisals about a week after the first German declaration.

This is confirmed by statements made by two of the ministers most concerned. On 11th February, the prime minister announced in the house: That the government were considering the question of adopting more stringent measures against German trade; four days later, Mr. Churchill stated definitely that reprisals had been approved:

      The reply, which we shall make, he said, will not perhaps be wholly ineffective. Germany cannot be allowed to adopt a system of open piracy and murder, or what has always hitherto been called open piracy and murder on the high seas, while remaining herself protected by the bulwark of international instruments which she has utterly repudiated and defied, and which we, much to our detriment, have respected. There are good reasons for believing that the economic pressure which the navy exerts is beginning to be felt in Germany...... A further declaration on the part of the allied governments will promptly be made which will have the effect for the first time of applying the full force of naval pressure to the enemy.

After this first approval, the attorney-general was made responsible for revising the announcement; and he explained it to Admiral Moreau and Monsieur Fromageot, who crossed to England, as representatives of the French government.

M. Fromageot and Admiral Moreau had been instructed to press an entirely different project upon the British government. They wished, in the first place, to announce, that the allies would make a fund from the sale of all German property found in neutral ships; and that they would make compensatory payments from the fund to neutrals who were injured by the German submarine campaign. The French further desired, that, after this announcement had been made, the allied governments should invite each northern neutral to concert measures with them for stopping all trade with Germany.

The Foreign Office authorities were impressed by these proposals, which, as they said, were a most adroit manoeuvre for making a breach of the declaration of Paris palatable to neutrals; but their admiration for the French delegates' ingenuity and power of contrivance did not reconcile them to the project. After the proposal had been considered carefully, Sir Eyre Crowe informed M. Fleuriau, the representative of the French embassy, that the cabinet could not agree to make retaliation against Germany contingent upon negotiations with neutrals. These negotiations would necessarily be long, and the public would become restive; in any case, neutrals would probably be tempted, by our very invitation, to make a concerted resistance against what we proposed. The French government withdrew their proposals, and on [231] 20th February informed us that they would act with the British government: in order to make their adherence the more emphatic Monsieur Augagneur, the minister of marine, told a deputation of French pressmen, that the allies had resolved: To tighten the network of surveillance which obstructs German supplies. The French did, however, suggest an additional paragraph, inviting neutrals to assist the allied governments to stop Germany's overseas trade. The British government could not agree to this; for they had then determined that the announcement should contain no suggestion of bargain, negotiation or compromise.

The announcement was, at this date, in what may be called a second edition, which differed very slightly from the first draft. In the original, it had been stated that the allied fleets would detain and bring into port any vessel that was suspected of carrying German goods: in the revised text it was stated that the allied fleets would consider themselves free to do so. There was no other alteration of any consequence. This document was reprinted twice, and was ready for issue on 26th February; the alterations inserted in these two last editions were quite trivial.

vi) Sir Edward Grey was prepared to consider a compromise

From all this it will be clear, that, if the British archives were our only sources of information, it would be safe to conclude, that the cabinet decided on special reprisals early in the month of February; and that, having so decided, they never again wavered or hesitated. Nevertheless, it is practically certain that the cabinet did hesitate, and that Sir Edward Grey asked Colonel House to inform the president that we would consider a compromise. The offer was made so guardedly that it is impossible to say precisely what was suggested. The known facts are these.

Colonel House discussed American mediation with Sir Edward Grey on 7th and 10th February; and it is fairly certain that no immediate issue was examined at either interview. On both occasions, Colonel House stated that the American president would not concern himself with such territorial readjustments as the belligerents might agree to; his report to President Wilson ran thus:

      We went over some of the ground we had covered on Sunday, regarding a permanent settlement, and Sir Edward reverted to his view that our government should be a party...... I told Sir Edward, more directly than I did on Sunday that we could not do so; that it was not only the unwritten law of our country, but our fixed policy, not to become involved in European affairs.

On 13th February, there was another interview, during which Sir Edward tried hard to force the American envoy to consider the actual state of Europe, and it would seem as though he made some impression; for the result of these conversations was that Colonel House reported, very guardedly, to the president, that some connexion must be made between the empyrean in which his proposals floated, and the earth on which they were to operate.7 Three days later (16th February) Mr. Page received a telegram from Mr. Bryan, in which he was instructed to press the British government to allow foodstuffs to go into Germany. The instructions ended: You may suggest that it seems probable that the war zone order will be withdrawn. It was not until some days later that these proposals were presented officially at the Foreign Office; but Mr. Page carried out his instructions on the following day, when Sir Edward Grey and the prime minister had luncheon at the American embassy. The purpose of the luncheon was to enable Sir Edward to continue his conversations with Colonel House.

On this occasion the British ministers informed Colonel House, quite bluntly, that they could not engage the government to countenance a negotiation for peace, unless the American president could secure a promise from the enemy that all invaded territory would be evacuated. Colonel House now tried hard to get Sir Edward, and [232] afterwards Mr. Asquith, to examine the last proposal from America, but reported: With usual British slowness they put it off until Thursday. Quite obviously, therefore, Colonel House associated himself with the proposals that Mr. Page had been instructed to press on the previous day; and the conversation left a different impression upon the two American diplomats. To Colonel House it seemed as though the British ministers had merely adjourned the discussion: Mr. Page considered that they had been more definite:

      A full and frank canvas of the whole situation, he wrote, by the prime minister, Sir Edward Grey and me, at noon luncheon to-day brought out the possibility that the British government may propose to the German government, in answer to Bernstorff's note that it will not put food on absolute contraband list if Germany will sow no more mines, and will attack no more commercial ships by submarines.

The cabinet approved the announcement of reprisals about a week before the prime minister and Sir Edward had this conversation with the American ambassador, which is possibly why Mr. Page added, that the British ministers' inclination to a compromise was to be regarded as very secret.

On the following day (February 17th) the cabinet approved a revised draft of the declaration of reprisals; and on 20th February Mr. Page received detailed instructions from Mr. Bryan about the bargain that he was to negotiate: our restrictions upon foodstuffs were to be bartered against the submarine campaign against commerce. He presented these additional proposals in an official letter on 22nd February; and discussed them with Sir Edward on the following day. Sir Edward has left no record of this conversation about which Mr. Page reported:

      He is non-committal, but I inferred from his conversation that he favours your proposals, at least in principle. But he informed me that it would require some time to give an answer since it must be presented first to the cabinet and then to the allies.

Sir Edward Grey thus confirmed the impression that he had left upon the American ambassador at luncheon on the 17th: that there was no obstacle to a compromise, and that he personally was inclined to it.

From these indications, it can safely be inferred that Sir Edward Grey thought himself bound to explore the American proposals notwithstanding that the government were preparing an announcement of unlimited economic war. This incipient negotiation was, however, so conducted that there was no English record of it, which makes it peculiarly difficult to appreciate Sir Edward's motives; and to decide whether he disliked the economic campaign because he thought its consequences would be dangerous, or because he thought it impracticable, or because it was abhorrent to him to make women, children, old men, and sick persons suffer hunger, for no better reason than that they happened to be citizens of a state with which we were at war. Also, it is impossible to decide whether Sir Edward's misgivings were personal to himself, or whether he was the representative of a party in the cabinet, or whether his cabinet colleagues were informed about the bargain that he countenanced.

There is, however, no trace of these hesitations in such cabinet records as we possess; for, on 24th February, the cabinet approved and amended another draft of the retaliatory order, and it is probable that the official American note was considered conjointly.8 Nothing definite was decided on that day, however; for on 25th February, Sir Maurice Hankey circulated a memorandum, in which he urged the cabinet to countenance no compromise, as the only weakness which Germany had hitherto shown was in regard to her food supply. This shows that the question was still an open one on that day, and the day following. On 1st March, however, the order was ready for issue. During the three intervening days, therefore, the British [233] government must have determined to accept the German challenge and to refuse all compromise. Notwithstanding this, however, it is certain that Sir Edward was still anxious that the reprisals we had ordered should not make all compromise impossible, and that he asked Colonel House to make this known to the president. Proof of this is to be found in a document of a later date; and it must here suffice to say that months afterwards, when Sir Edward Grey openly doubted whether the blockade could be persisted in, Lord Crewe reported the matter to the cabinet, and informed them that: Sir Edward had already informed the president of the United States through a secret and indirect channel that His Majesty's government would not refuse to consider such a proposal. The remainder of the paper made it plain that the proposal was the bargain suggested at the conversations on 17th and 23rd February, and in the note of 22nd February.

vii) The reprisals order in council

The declaration of reprisals was presented to neutrals on 1st March; and the order in council, or legal instrument of the declaration, was published eleven days later. In the preamble of our declaration the government explained, that, by declaring a war area within which all enemy ships were to be destroyed, the Germans were, in effect, announcing that submarines would attack merchant vessels at sight, without ascertaining what were their cargoes, or on what voyages they were engaged, and without giving any heed to the safety of the passengers and crew. Then, after reciting the recognised customs about visit and search, discrimination between neutral and enemy property, and provision for all persons found on board a captured vessel, and after showing that a submarine commander could observe none of them, the announcement continued:

      Germany is adopting these methods against peaceful traders and non-combatant crews, with the avowed object of preventing commodities of all kinds (including food for the civil population) from reaching or leaving the British islands or northern France. Her opponents are therefore driven to frame retaliatory measures in order, in their turn, to prevent commodities of any kind from reaching or leaving Germany...... The British and French governments will hold themselves free to detain and take into port ships carrying goods of presumed enemy destination, ownership or origin. It is not intended to confiscate such vessels or cargoes unless they would otherwise be liable to condemnation.

The order in council which gave effect to this declaration was the first order since the war began, in which the forces of the crown were empowered to stop all German trade, import or export. This was stated in the last clause of the preamble, which ran: And whereas, His Majesty has therefore decided to adopt further measures to prevent commodities of any kind from entering or leaving Germany. The order itself was in eight articles. As the previous orders sufficiently explained how contraband intended for Germany would be dealt with, no additional provisions were necessary on that head. The direct trade of Germany was to be stopped under the provisions of the first two articles, which stipulated that no vessel proceeding to a German port, or sailing from one, after 1st March, would be allowed to complete her voyage. The first article, therefore, announced that non-contraband goods intended for Germany would be requisitioned, or restored to the owner on such terms as the court should deem just. The second article, under which exports were to be dealt with, laid down that goods laden at a German port should be placed in custody, and requisitioned or sold.9

The third and fourth clauses were those which most concerned neutrals; for it was in these articles declared, that a vessel proceeding to a neutral port, or coming from one, would not be allowed to complete her voyage, if she were carrying goods [234] intended for the enemy, or goods of enemy ownership or origin. These goods would be treated in exactly the same fashion as goods dealt with under the two preceding articles.

The sixth article declared, that vessels which proceeded to an enemy port, after clearing for a neutral or an allied port, would be liable to condemnation, if captured on any subsequent voyage.

It will be obvious, therefore, that this famous order could not have been issued unless an extraordinary occasion had been provided. The declaration of Paris, signed more than half a century before, provided that the neutral flag should cover the goods on board a ship entitled to fly that flag, unless they were contraband. With certain equitable modifications, most carefully weighed and considered, the reprisals order swept away this rule; in the words of an officer in the treaty department: We do not pretend that our reprisals policy is consistent with the ordinary rules of international law. It is our answer to the illegalities committed against us by Germany.

The retaliatory order was, however, very skilfully devised, in that the most serious opposition to it was certain to be American; and it was not open to the American administration to object that the order in council violated the declaration of Paris, because their government had not adhered to it. The only objection that the American government were at liberty to make - and which indeed they did make - was that the order conferred the rights of a blockading squadron upon squadrons that were not blockading any coast, and which were, in consequence, only entitled to stop contraband with an enemy destination. It will therefore be proper to consider this contention.

There was certainly substance in the objection. Admiral de Chair's squadron was patrolling a line between the Faeroes and Iceland; and the Downs boarding flotilla was many hundred of miles from the German coasts, yet these forces were thenceforward to stop all goods of enemy destination or origin, the duty of a blockading force. The point to be considered, however, is whether these practices were as striking an innovation as the Americans pretended, which can only be settled by a retrospective review of restraints upon commerce that the Americans had themselves imposed.

viii) American precedents considered

When Abraham Lincoln declared the confederate states to be blockaded, the navy department stationed forces of cruisers off the principal ports of entry to the rebel states, and reinforced them with river and inshore flotillas. The vessels engaged on these duties were ordered to stop all goods going to or from the rebel states, and were blockading forces in the old, most rigid, sense of the word. If the navy department had taken no measures but these, the American government would have had the right to say that they had always interpreted the law of blockade in an orthodox conservative way; but in point of fact, the navy department enforced the blockade of the southern states by other measures as well.

The British islands of Bermuda and Nassau, and the Spanish port of Havannah soon became bases of a blockade running fleet; the masters who passed the cordon of federal cruisers knew, by the weather and by agents, when the cruisers were likely to be away from their stations; and though many captures were made, the traffic flourished. In order to supplement the blockading forces off the rebel coast, the navy department therefore sent a squadron to the West Indies under the command of Commodore Wilkes. Although this squadron was stationed off neutral harbours, and was not entitled, by the strict and literal laws of nations, to arrest any vessel [235] unless it were carrying a contraband cargo direct to the enemy, the American government ordered Commodore Wilkes to do far more than this:

      The primary object of the West India squadron, wrote Secretary Welles, is the protection of our commerce...... Next to this is the intercepting and capture of illicit traffic, and sending in for adjudication vessels overtaken on the high seas that are manifestly engaged in it.

There was, in these instructions, no word about distinguishing between contraband and non-contraband, and no syllable of explanation as to what Secretary Welles meant by illicit traffic. Commodore Wilkes was, moreover, given all the boarding and searching instructions of the blockading forces; and was made to understand, that he was to hold up any ship that was under the slightest suspicion of blockade running. The ship's position, course and cargo mattered nothing; she was to be searched: Without regard to clearance or destination. Also, Commodore Wilkes felt quite at liberty, indeed empowered, to place chains of watching cruisers off neutral ports; not to search for contraband, but to harry vessels suspected of blockade running.

      There are many vessels running the blockade, he wrote. They consider they can do it with impunity. I am fully confident that, with a sufficient force I can put a stop to it, or make it so difficult as to cause it to cease. There are positions which I desire to occupy, which their vessels must pass and resort to, of which I am fast obtaining information.

The areas that Commodore Wilkes subjected to this maritime domination were, of course, the exits and approaches to the neutral harbours of the Bahamas. Later in the year, he asked that even more forces might be sent to him: In order that every point of egress or ingress to Nassau and other confederate rendezvous may be guarded.

These orders and instructions to Commodore Wilkes gave him far wider powers than any conferred on the 10th cruiser squadron by the March order in council, and the American courts reviewed them and pronounced them legal. On 2nd April, 1862, the British vessel Bermuda was held up while on her way to Nassau, at a point that is not far from the eastern coast of Great Abaco island.10 The vessel was then sent to New York for adjudication; and after a long and elaborate judgement, the cargo was condemned on the grounds that it was contraband with an ulterior, and enemy destination; the ship was also condemned as a contraband carrier, and as enemy property. But, in order to leave no doubt that the vessel was condemnable on the wider charge of blockade running, the court stated: Having thus disposed of the questions connected with the ownership, control and employment of the Bermuda, and the character of her cargo we need to say little on the subject of liability for the violation of the blockade...... Then after reciting all the evidence available about the real intentions of the master and the final destination of the vessel, the court concluded:

      The liability to condemnation for attempted breach of blockade was, by sailing with such purpose, fastened on the ship as firmly as it would have been by proof of intent that the cargo should be transported by the Bermuda herself, to a blockaded port, or as near as possible, without encountering the blockading squadron.

A similar judgement condemned the ship Circassian, which was captured on her way to Havannah. These decisions sufficiently prove that the American government claimed powers of interception far greater than any to which we pretended. They had established watching cruisers at the very entrance to a neutral port, which we had no intention of doing; they had given their naval commanders far severer instructions than any issued by us; and their courts had pronounced the instructions legal.

The American treatment of cargoes with an enemy destination is, however, the relevant analogy. Our orders in council proclaimed, that we should condemn all contraband goods going to the enemy through any channel; and that we should [236] buy up, or turn back, other kinds of goods. Though not stated in the order, we relied upon our knowledge of neutral firms, and the business upon which they were engaged, to supply us with evidence about enemy destination and ownership. The American courts had maintained that far more rigorous measures than this were justifiable applications of legal principles.

On 3rd February, 1863, the bark Springbok was seized by an American cruiser, when she was on a voyage from London to Nassau; it was found that she was carrying a general cargo of foodstuffs, and a few cases of contraband. It was admitted by the court, that the ship's papers were regular, and that they showed that the voyage on which she was captured was from London to Nassau. The papers relating to the merchandise showed, that the owners of the ship had no interest in the cargo; the persons dealing with the cargo were all known to have been concerned in trade with the southern states. The case was therefore exactly analogous to the cases considered almost daily by the contraband committee. They, like the American court, had to consider what was to be done about cargoes being consigned to countries that were bases of enemy trade; they, like the American court, had to recognise that the ship's papers and cargo manifests showed nothing but a neutral destination for ship and cargo; and they, like the American court, had a good deal of information about the business of the consignees.

The analogy ends, however, when the decision of the American court is compared with the decision that would have been made if the British order in council had been applicable to the case. Our courts might conceivably have considered, that there was a very strong presumption that the contraband was intended for the enemy, in which case they would have condemned it. The contraband carried by the Springbok was, however, only a small proportion of the whole lading; and with regard to the rest, our courts would, at the most, have ordered that it was to be pre-empted or bought in. This would have been done, moreover, as an act of retaliation warranted by extraordinary circumstances. The American court condemned the entire cargo, and maintained that they were applying the ordinary law of nations.11

The American courts made a somewhat milder judgement in the case of the Peterhoff's cargo, for they released a large number of consignments that were not contraband. In some respects, however, the decision was even severer. The Peterhoff was carrying her cargo to the Mexican town of Matamoros, which is separated from the Texan, then the rebel, town of Brownsville, by the river Rio Grande, a stream that can be crossed in a rowing boat. Nothing incriminating or suspicious was known about the consignees of the cargo, and the mere fact that contraband was being carried to Matamoros, which was acknowledged to be a neutral depot for Brownsville, was deemed to justify its condemnation. Our courts never gave such weight to general assumptions of ulterior destination; so that it may be said that both the principles upon which we acted, and our method of giving effect to them, were more considerate to neutral trade than American practice.

ix) The American proposals for a compromise, the German government's deliberations upon them, and the British reply

Having thus decided to retaliate, the government could only give the American proposals for a compromise one answer. These proposals were: (i) That both governments should agree to lay mines only for defence, and to lay such mines as should be harmless if they parted their moorings; (ii) that submarines should only attack merchant vessels in order to enforce visit and search, and (iii) that merchantmen should not disguise their identity by flying a neutral flag.

In addition, the German government were to agree, that all food imported from the United States should be consigned to agencies appointed by the United States; and that these agencies should be solely responsible for distributing it to the civil population: the German government was to exercise no control over them whatever. The British government were to agree, that foodstuffs consigned to these agencies would not be interfered with.

It has already been shown, that these proposals were laid before the cabinet on 24th February; and that the cabinet virtually refused to entertain the American offer, by approving and publishing the retaliatory order. This left the Foreign Office authorities free to answer the note as they deemed best; and when the paper was first presented, they were rather divided as to the answer most proper to be given. As the first lord had announced in parliament that the submarine operations against commerce were not likely to be dangerous; and as this was universally known to be the Admiralty's considered opinion - which was confirmed by the poor results of the first weeks of the campaign - it seemed obvious, that the German government would secure very great advantages by accepting the proposals outright. In Mr. Hurst's words, the advantage to Great Britain would be that a few tramp steamers would not be sunk; and to Germany, that her food supplies would be secured to her for the rest of the war. The other legal adviser to the Foreign Office, Mr. Malkin, doubted whether the German government would accede to these proposals, and pointed out, that although the bargain was entirely to Germany's advantage, it was nevertheless probable, that the Germans would be reluctant to abandon a campaign from which they hoped for so much. For this reason Mr. Malkin urged, that no answer should be given, until the Germans had themselves replied; it will therefore be of some interest to ascertain the opinion of the high authorities in Germany.

Our two best informants, Bethmann Hollweg and Helfferich, say little about the American proposals, and nothing at all about the view they took of them. They state merely, that the negotiation came to nothing on account of British opposition. Bethmann Hollweg's silence is rather remarkable; for he held very strong opinions, which he had to defend against criticism from Tirpitz and Bachmann.

But although we lack an unequivocal statement from the ministers who were best qualified to judge what advantages Germany would have secured from the American proposals, it seems fairly certain, that these proposals were far less attractive to the German authorities than they would have been a few weeks previously. There was a revival in the German industries during the month of February; and the first orders about the distribution of foodstuffs gave such relief, that Dr. Delbrück was able to state in the Prussian diet, that the nation would not lack basic food supplies before the next harvest. This was an official utterance from a minister who had the relevant statistics before him.12 In confirmation of this, Mr. Gerard, the American ambassador, informed his government, on 17th February, that German supplies of food and raw materials would not fail during the year; he had been instructed to report on the economic state of Germany, and was, presumably, at some trouble to ascertain the facts. The German ministers did not, therefore, regard the American proposals as a line of escape from a dangerous economic position, which they probably [238] would have done, if those same proposals had been presented two months previously, when the economic dislocation of the country was more serious. In contrast to this, the submarine campaign against commerce was still thought to be the opening move of what would prove a decisive manoeuvre. It is true Admiral Tirpitz and Admiral Bachmann both regretted, that the declaration had been so hastily issued; but they never swerved from their opinion, that, when sufficient submarines were available, and when submarine attacks upon freightships could be supplemented by mining the entrances to all British harbours, then, Great Britain would be so endangered, that her government would be obliged to sue for peace.

This indifference to the American proposals was, moreover, strengthened by the naval staff's objections. Admiral Bachmann doubted whether American foodstuffs could be brought to Germany, unless the German merchant service carried them. America notoriously had no tonnage available; the spare tonnage of other neutrals was being rapidly absorbed into the British service; and the enormous rise in freight prices was proof, that existing tonnage did not suffice for the actual carrying trade of the world. It seemed to Admiral Bachmann, therefore, that, if the American proposals were agreed to, as they stood, very little foodstuff would be imported into Germany; and that it would be necessary to stipulate, that if German merchantmen in neutral harbours were sold to neutrals, Great Britain would not subsequently capture them. Even if this were conceded, Bachmann and Tirpitz still thought that the advantage would be with Great Britain.

The German ministers were therefore indifferent to the American proposals, or extremely critical of them; but the chancellor was convinced it would be unwise to reject the American offer outright (he then knew that Colonel House would be in Berlin shortly), and he had strong objections to inserting any of Admiral Bachmann's stipulations in the official reply. To ask that German merchantships should be free from capture after they had been sold to neutrals was, in his opinion, to ask that a recognised rule of international law should be abrogated to secure a German advantage; and that the American government should, as it were, guarantee and uphold the abrogation. Apart from this, Bethmann Hollweg ascertained, that Admiral Bachmann's opinions were his own, and that the shipping magnates did not share them. Ballin, Stinnes, and the Hamburg and Bremen chambers of commerce were all satisfied, that American foodstuffs could be carried to Germany by neutral tonnage then in service.

As these opinions could not be reconciled by exchanging written memorials, the emperor summoned a conference at Bellevue, at which the naval authorities were at open controversy with the chancellor: even the cold official minutes make mention of Admiral von Tirpitz's angry tone of voice, and of Bethmann Hollweg's gesticulations. At the end of the meeting Admiral von Müller sided with the chancellor, and pointed out that the American note could be agreed to without abandoning submarine war, which could: Still quietly go forward. The emperor endorsed the chancellor's view; but the note drafted as a result of this conference was by no means an official endorsement of the American proposals. Everybody present agreed, that the American government offered no proper equivalent to the abandoning of submarine warfare; and the note, as finally drafted, was little but a clumsy suggestion, that the Americans should offer to secure more advantages for Germany; and that the German government should undertake rather less than the American president had invited them to undertake. The Germans stipulated, that a supply of all raw materials on the free list of the declaration of London should be assured to them, in addition to the foodstuffs mentioned in the American note. If this were granted, the German government professed themselves willing to moderate submarine warfare; but their undertakings were very guarded, and they refused to abandon minelaying.13 [239] This ill-composed document superseded another, of which no copy had been made public. It would seem, therefore, as though Admiral von Müller's policy of agreeing to the American proposals, and getting on quietly with submarine warfare had left a deep impression.

As Mr. Malkin had foreseen, the German reply to the American proposals indicated how our rejection of them should be drafted. The Foreign Office answered, therefore, that as the Germans had not undertaken to abandon submarine and mining operations against peaceful commerce, so, they had virtually refused the American offer. It is, indeed, rather strange that Bethmann Hollweg and Jagow should ever have imagined that their note would throw the odium of refusal upon Great Britain. They had, in effect, invited the American government to force Great Britain and France to withdraw their contraband lists, and had given no assurance worth having upon what Mr. Lansing and Mr. Bryan had insisted in such grave language: That American lives and property should not be put in jeopardy by the German submarine fleet. Bethmann Hollweg and Jagow must have very much misunderstood the American government's temper if they imagined, that the administration at Washington would embitter their relations with Great Britain and France, in return for such vague and flimsy undertakings as the German government offered.

x) What reception was given to the reprisals order by neutral governments

When the last of these notes was despatched, every proposal for a compromise had been rejected; so that the governments at war had nothing left to do, but to watch the consequences of their diplomatic preparations; and to observe how neutrals would receive these successive announcements of the fierce and implacable struggle that was henceforth inevitable.

The policy of the northern neutrals was not doubtful: their citizens suffered from the German submarine campaign long before they suffered from our reprisals against it, and the Netherlands and Norwegian Foreign Ministers virtually informed our diplomatic representatives that they would not retaliate. They were thus obliged to be equally easy about the retaliation order, and their protests were mild and formal. The three Scandinavian governments presented notes in which each announced, that they made positive reservations about their commerce. The Netherlands government stated, that they were not concerned with what belligerents did to injure one another; but that they could not be indifferent to the abrogation of the declaration of Paris. The Foreign Office were satisfied that the northern governments attached no importance to these notes, and that no reply need be given to them.

The American reception of our announcement was the important matter, the test of our long diplomatic preparation. The American ambassador was given our first announcement on 1st March; he said, at once: He was sure it would not give rise to trouble with the United States government; and that he himself, had prepared them for it. Mr. Page's statement was valuable, in that Colonel House was still in London, in close consultation with him. Sir Cecil Spring-Rice could not however report such a good reception as Mr. Page had promised. He again warned the Foreign Office, that the president was as determined as ever to do nothing that might prejudice his mediation; and that he would in all probability think it necessary to lodge a vigorous protest as proof of his impartiality. On the other hand, our ambassador reported that the legal adviser to the state department was advising amicable negotiations on questions of practical detail, such as the treatment of cotton cargoes. When the American government's first note was presented (8th March), there were, therefore, strong indications that they would acquiesce. This note was far less severe than Sir Cecil Spring-Rice had anticipated, and was, in effect, a long demurrer against applying modified blockade that we had announced. The note ended, however, with the significant admission that modern warfare had made old fashioned, orthodox blockades impossible.

[240] Another, and rather severer note was, however, presented on 2nd April. The American government now made an elaborate criticism of the order in council; and showed, which was not very difficult in the circumstances, that we were attempting to isolate Germany by measures of restraint for which there was no precedent. But the note, though critical, was friendly, and contained some remarkable statements. The American government admitted, that the law of nations was subject to organic development; and that it did not cease to be the law, because it was adapted to changing circumstances. They admitted, also, that blockading lines might be established at considerable distances from the blockaded coasts; and that blockading forces might even be stationed on the lines of approach to neutral harbours. More remarkable still, the American government virtually acquiesced in our claim, that we had a right to stop all goods from passing into Germany; for they asked us to assure them, that American merchantmen with a neutral destination, or point of departure, would not be interfered with: When it was known that they did not carry goods which were contraband or goods destined to, or proceeding from, ports within the belligerent territory affected. This was substantially a declaration, that the American government would not object if the order in council were applied, ad literam; and that they only desired to be assured, that no additional restraints were contemplated. But while admitting all this, the American government protested against any interference with neutral trade in non-contraband goods, no matter what its ultimate destination might be. Sir Eyre Crowe was quite baffled by the note, which seemed to him:

      To represent a compromise of different views, and to leave it open to the United States government to turn in different directions, as they may be compelled, or disposed hereafter, owing to the pressure of politicians, traders or theorists.

Anybody who has studied Sir Cecil Spring-Rice's reports upon the president's desire to rally every section of American society to his policy; upon his difficulties; and upon the fierce accusations to which he was exposed, will agree that Sir Eyre Crowe's appreciation was accurate. The information collected by our ambassador in Washington, during the week that followed the presentation of the note, showed, however, that for the moment, the Washington administration attached far more importance to their acquiescences, than to their criticism. On 7th April, the Times published an article, which their correspondent had written after consulting the legal adviser to the state department: the article stated, that the American government freely acknowledged the British government's right to enforce a blockade by somewhat unorthodox methods. More important than this, however, were Sir Cecil Spring-Rice's reports upon the attitude of the great shipping and export magnates, who were all pressing for a settlement of practical details, and asking for guidance about the treatment of particular cargoes. Sir Cecil was even able to report, that large numbers of influential persons, out of desire for some clear and definite rule, would be very glad to see our contraband lists include all goods that we desired to prevent from reaching Germany.

The Foreign Office's considered opinion was, therefore, that the note was a sort of invitation to a legal controversy; and it was decided that Professor Oppenheim should be invited to assist in drafting the answer. The reply did, indeed, most ably elaborate the admissions of the American note, by reviewing the organic development of the law of blockade and contraband; and by showing how American practices had modified old rules without violating basic principles. The British note has subsequently been reproduced, almost textually, in more than one American work upon public law.

It can therefore be said to have been the great achievement of the Foreign Office, that they secured substantial acquiescence to the measure that made the isolation of Germany possible. It is true this acquiescence was no guarantee for the future: the American government were as free after April, 1915, as they were [241] before, to yield to those sections of public opinion which were pressing for active opposition. Observations of the influences to which the president was exposed, of their strength and fluctuations, had therefore to be made as meticulously, and to be considered as carefully, as before. But if the reports sent to England by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice are read conjointly with the reports that Bernstorff was sending, at the same time, to Berlin, the success of British diplomacy becomes apparent. Notwithstanding his nervous, apprehensive temper, Sir Cecil Spring-Rice felt at liberty to report, at the end of April, when the order in council was in full operation, and when the Americans were less exposed to passing squalls of excitement:

      I think we may say that, roughly speaking, you have achieved, so far, a very great diplomatic success in your negotiations with this government. You have asserted the rights of a belligerent in a very severe form because those rights are necessary to the existence of this country.

Count Bernstorff, it would seem, was only able to report a rising resentment at the first sinkings of the U-boats, and demands for explanations that might, at any moment, become dangerous protests. This initial contrast was made more striking later: the German government were forced to withdraw their first orders to the U-boat commanders, and every attempt to act upon the original declaration was made impossible by the American government. No demand was ever lodged with us, that we should balance German temperaments to their submarine operations by easing the restraints that we were imposing upon European trade. This is proof sufficient, that what the Germans were attempting was impracticable, and that our measures were properly adjusted to circumstances.

xi) The economic theatre when the reprisals order was issued

When the allied governments had thus declared, to the whole world, that, as far as they were able, they would stop up all sources of the enemy's power, and strangle every artery of their trade and commerce, the tasks that awaited accomplishment were tolerably well delineated. It was clear, that the measures hitherto taken against the enemy's commerce had been, as it were, the shocks, or frontier battles, of what was likely to be a long drawn campaign; and that the positions and strengths of the forces engaged had very much altered since the winter months, when it had been uncertain what sources of supply would remain open to the Germans, after the first scramble for foodstuffs, metals, and propellants had terminated.

High hopes had then been excited by the confusion in the enemy's industries, and by the excitement and anxieties of their populations, during the first shortages, but these hopes could no longer be entertained. By April, 1915, the German government, and in lesser degree the Austro-Hungarian, had organised their nations into military societies, which were acting as auxiliaries to the forces in the field, and the resulting position was roughly this. All grain supplies were being distributed by the government or their appointed agents, and regulations for the supplies of meat were being enforced throughout the two empires. There was no longer any doubt, that the measures taken would secure a sufficient supply of food to the armies, and the civil population, until the harvest was gathered. Doctor Delbrück made several confident statements in the Reichstag, and our own experts admitted that his confidence was justifiable. This, however, only signified that one preliminary encounter in the campaign had ended satisfactorily to the enemy: every forecast of its ultimate consequences was so tainted with uncertainty and conjecture that calculation, in the proper sense of the word, was impossible

If the food supplies available to the enemy had been drawn exclusively from their own soil, then, perhaps, a scientific estimate might have been made of the consumption of the people, and the stocks available. It was, however, plain enough, that all the border neutrals could very much increase their deliveries of native produce to Germany, and so strengthen German resistance. Holland sent about twelve thousand head of cattle, and about 19,000 tons of meat to Germany, during the first [242] quarter of the year; while Denmark sent about 50,000 tons of native meats; in each case the quantities were far above the normal. During the same period Sweden shipped 80,000 head of cattle to Germany: the usual figure was about 42,000. In the east, the same thing was occurring in spite of great impediments. Early in the year, the Roumanian government imposed an export tax upon grain and corn, with the avowed purpose of keeping supplies in the country; notwithstanding this, the Austro-Hungarian authorities forced the Roumanians into an agreement to deliver about 3,500 tons of grain daily, after the harvest had been gathered. Nothing certain could be forecasted from all this: statisticians could, it is true, have estimated what proportion of the German deficit would be made good by these additional deliveries, but the calculation would have been no indication of the future; for nobody could say, whether the border neutrals would continue to supply foodstuffs in these quantities, and nobody could estimate what German consumption would be: it was certain only, that the high prices of meats and flour, and the regulated allowance for bread, would reduce consumption; and that the enormous army in the field would increase it, by unknown quantities. The uncertainty as to the future can, indeed, be best appreciated by juxtaposing appreciations made by two of the highest experts in Great Britain. Sir James Wilson, president of the international institute of agriculture, estimated that the German recovery was only temporary; and that wants and shortages would become really pressing during the autumn of 1916: Mr. Rew, the assistant secretary to the board of agriculture, after examining all the facts and probabilities scrutinised by Sir James Wilson: the deficits that were certain; the wastage at the front; the probability that the harvest yield would be lower than normal, owing to shortage of labour and of drag horses, concluded, that the German nation had adjusted supply and demand; and that their diet, though abnormal, was sufficient: In short, Mr. Rew concluded, I have no belief in economic pressure as a means of victory to our arms....

The uncertainty and futility of all calculation and forecast was still further emphasised by the news which reached us a few weeks after the order had been in operation. As soon as the spring thaws and rains were over, the Austro-German armies fell upon the Russian forces in the eastern theatre, and utterly defeated them. The Russian armies abandoned all their conquests in Galicia, and throughout the summer, the Germans advanced through Poland and southern Russia. The countries thus reduced were rich in corn, grain, cattle and oil; so that, from the moment these victories were announced, the blockade became the blockade of a new country, for which no statistics had ever been taken, or could possibly be obtained. Experts were at issue as to the consequences: some predicted that ill-organised countries like Poland and southern Russia, held by a million armed men, would yield little or nothing but a few supplies to the troops in occupation; others foresaw the opposite, and believed that German conquests in the east would relieve the shortages in Germany.

Yet notwithstanding this uncertainty, and these discouraging facts, it was as certain as anything could be that the campaign was promising enough to be persisted in. Neither the German nor the Austrian censor could disguise, that the civil population in each country was distressed and anxious; and that the recovery in Austria had been far slower than the recovery in Germany. In both countries supplies had been secured, but prices had continued to rise, and the two enemy governments had been unable to regulate them. Also, one great weakness was even then evident: for reasons that we could not trace to their sources, fats, oils and greases were uncommonly difficult to obtain. Seeing that all our first measures had failed to stop, or even check, the enemy's enormous purchases of lards and fats; and seeing that the enemy had just slaughtered a prodigious number of pigs, in order that a greater proportion of the potato harvest might be delivered to the population, this was the last thing that would have been expected; and the proper inference was an [243] encouragement to those engaged in the endeavour to stop the enemy's supplies, and another warning, if more were needed, against prediction or forecast. This surprising shortage, the most obvious of all the results observed during the summer of 1915, was only explainable by admitting, that restraints upon the enemy's trade, however incomplete, were giving results that were unforeseeable; that one shortage automatically caused another; and that, however imperfect its mechanism and design might be, we were operating an engine of enormous power.

xii) The enemy's metal supplies, and the state of their trade with the border neutrals

If it was uncertain whether we could, or could not, reduce the enemy's population by hunger and want, it was even more uncertain whether we could so restrict their supplies of metals, textiles and propellants as to enfeeble their armies in the field. Military experts were satisfied that a really severe shortage in the most important metals would be of great military consequence. Was it, however, in our power to bring this about? Germany's position in respect to these metals was closely analogous to her position in respect to food: the home supplies were not sufficient; but the country's industries had been converted into a vast arsenal that consumed less than the national industries in times of peace; and this arsenal was drawing considerable supplies from sources that we could not hope to control.

Sweden was the most important of Germany's metal suppliers. From the reports of our observers, we estimated that about 100,000 tons of iron ore were passing monthly from Narvik to western Germany; this was a considerable supplement to the native supplies, but it was in itself supplemented by weekly cargoes of pig iron, iron bars, iron slag and iron scrap. In addition, Mr. Phillpots, the assistant commercial attaché, was reporting weekly cargoes of brass scrap, aluminium scrap, copper scrap, copper wire, tin plates and tin. Moreover, just as the northern neutrals were raising their production of home grown foods, so, they were raising their production of metals. On this point the Swedish statistics were ominous.

    August-December,   August-December,  
    Exports to Germany of: 1913. 1914.
          Unwrought copper (in tons) 526 2,071
          Miscellaneous metal scraps 729 2,310
          Unwrought aluminium Nil 5,511

In addition, Norway was becoming a metal supplier second only in importance to Sweden. The figures available during the first months of the year were these:

    Exported from Norway to Germany:   During the year
          Iron (in tons): 1913.   1914.
                Norwegian pig iron     552   2,004
          Lead (in tons):   26     146

The figures certainly showed decreases in Norwegian exports of copper and aluminium, but the inference which was to us so important, at a moment when the entire economic theatre was under survey, was that the Germans, by their exchange system, had secured to themselves a regular supply of metals from this border country. We learned, shortly after these figures were available, that the Norwegian copper magnates, under the guidance of Admiral Börresen, had agreed to supply Germany with 10,000 tons of copper, in return for machinery.

But, when all the relevant figures were assembled, nothing certain could be inferred from them except that this movement of Scandinavian metal towards Germany was important. Whether these additional supplies would be sufficient was the merest speculation. The search for metals in Germany was continuing without pause or respite, which implied that supplies, from all sources, were not meeting the demand. [244] On the other hand, there were no signs of shortage or unemployment in the metal industries, and unless some shortage occurred, it was tolerably certain, that the blockade would not dislocate the industries themselves; for it was estimated that the textile, metal and engineering concerns in the country were now fulfilling government contracts roughly equal in value to the value of their commercial sales in ordinary times.

The final outcome of the campaign was thus a matter of the purest speculation, but at least certain strategic points were visible on the theatre in which it was to be fought, and at least there were indications of the measures that would have to be taken, if the struggle was to be fought to a decision. First, and perhaps most important, it was evident that the control of cotton was an object that must be pursued with all the energy of which we were capable. It was no longer possible to accept the judgement of military experts as final. They had reported that no military advantage was to be expected from the stoppage of cotton: it was now patent, that, if the enemy's explosive factories were independent of overseas cotton, the enemy's populations were very much concerned with it, and that the stoppage of cotton with all its attendant difficulties and political dangers was the first task that confronted the Foreign Office; and that the task was the more difficult to accomplish in that it was not even begun. Every neutral state in Europe was fast becoming a base of cotton supplies.

Secondly, it was patent that Sweden had now become Germany's most important conduit pipe, and that the original agreement was becoming unworkable. Our relations with the Swedish authorities were steadily deteriorating, and it was not to be disguised that Swedish policy was obstructing a settlement. The controversy about the detention of copper cargoes, during the first months of the year, may be treated as a disagreement on technical matters, provoked by an executive committee, whose members were ignorant of the political consequences of their measures. In April, it was evident that Swedish policy, and the sympathies of the Swedish government, were irritating the controversy; for we then had proof before us, that the Swedish authorities had been surreptitiously unfriendly when the Scandinavian powers presented their notes upon submarine warfare, and upon the use of the neutral flag: every sentence to which we took exception in the note presented to us had been drafted by the Swedish Foreign Office.

More important than this, however, was the growing volume of evidence that a large proportion of the Swedish trade with Germany was being carried on in defiance of the export regulations, and that the authorities were conniving at it. At the beginning of the year, Mr. Howard had been reluctant to believe that this was so: during the following months, however, our authorities received from the assistant commercial attaché, Mr. Phillpots, a succession of despatches, which obliged everybody to revise their opinions. Thanks to an industry that must have been prodigious, Mr. Phillpots contrived to report the weekly movements of cargoes from Trelleborg, Malmö and Stockholm, and to expose the subterfuges that were employed to evade the export regulations, in despatches which are, in point of substance, amongst the most instructive and penetrating, and in point of form, the most disorderly and confusing, documents that have ever been compiled by a diplomatic agent. Any abbreviation of the immense collection of facts assembled by Mr. Phillpots is an injustice to his industry: here, however, is the substance of what he reported during the first months of the year.

  • From Stockholm, there were daily shipments of brass, aluminium, tin, copper, cocoa, preserved foodstuffs and cocoa.
  • From Göteborg, the shipments were of cocoa, stearine and meat, hides, oil, lard.
  • From Malmö, lard, pork and cocoa.
  • From Trelleborg, tin, copper.
  • From Helsinfborg [sic], copper.

[245] On the evasion of regulations Mr. Phillpots reported, that goods imported from other Scandinavian countries were generally sent straight forward; and that the prohibitions on metals were easily evaded, as the Swedish officials were not attempting to distinguish between what was native and what imported.

If, after studying these reports, any person in authority still hesitated to believe that the Swedish authorities were deliberately, and as a matter of policy, conniving at the transit trade in contraband, his doubts must have been dissipated by the Swedish government's treatment of their lard imports. During the first months of the year, this commodity, which hitherto had been passing through Denmark, changed its direction and moved towards Sweden. Mr. Phillpots reported that enormous shipments were going forward to Germany, notwithstanding that it had been placed on the list of prohibited exports at the request of our minister. When asked for an explanation, M. Wallenberg answered that he had always intended to grant exemptions for the lard that was afloat when the prohibitions were ordered. When asked whether these would be the only exemptions granted, M. Wallenberg declined to answer. Even Mr. Howard, who had been so reluctant to believe that the Swedish government were deliberately deceitful, and who had sent so many warnings about the detention of Swedish ships, was now persuaded that the Swedish government were playing double, and that severe detentions would be the only remedy.

Furthermore, the Swiss national industries were now delineating themselves as a strategic point that would only be secured by measures to which all other measures of control bore little or no resemblance. In the first place, the German administration had scored its greatest success in that country; and the textile and metal industries in northern Switzerland were fast coming within the orbit of German exchange system. Secondly, no system of control that we could devise could possibly sever the commercial arteries between Germany and the cantons: Westphalian coal would always supplant British coal, carried precariously over the Alps, and along the congested railway system of northern Italy; apart from which, the Swiss government were determined to defend a peculiar traffic, called by them the commerce de perfectionnement, and to sign no agreement that imperilled it. This trade was the outcome of the affinities between the two countries. The engineering firms of northern Switzerland were partly German owned; those under purely Swiss management were managed by directors of German speech; and both countries possessed a highly specialised engineering plant. As a result, it had become customary for German firms to manufacture metal articles essential to the Swiss watch-making trade, and for a large number of Swiss engineering firms to work as sub-contractors for the German concerns in Westphalia. This arrangement was a rational division of labour which no Swiss government could allow to be disturbed; and in order to protect the system, the Swiss authorities were bound to resist any attempt to control the exchange of raw materials that was essential to it. As a reminder how difficult it would be to close up the Swiss channel, even partially, our authorities had evidence before them that the Germans, in spite of all the shortages apparent, had yet sufficient supplies of raw copper and other metals to bring a large number of Swiss firms within the compass of their system.

This was the complex of difficulties and obstructions that were to be overcome if the order in council was to be more than an empty threat, or a vainglorious proclamation, and the subsequent history of the blockade is, in large measure, the history of collateral endeavours directed against the economic objectives then visible in the theatre of war. These endeavours divide themselves into the following groups: (i) the negotiations preliminary to declaring cotton to be contraband, (ii) the devising of a system for checking the inflated trade between northern neutrals and Germany, which eventually became the rationing system, (iii) measures taken to check the flow of contraband from its source in America, which eventually [246] became the navicert system, (iv) negotiations with Sweden, distinguishable from all others undertaken by the political influences that obstructed them, and (v) measures for controlling the economic resources of the British empire. A few words should be added about these last.

Notwithstanding that the war trade division had supplanted the first rudimentary organisation for granting licences to export British goods, indirect trade between Great Britain and Germany continued unchecked during the first quarter of the year. In each of the neutral countries our expert advisers reported, that British tin was passing to Germany, and that oils and greases, produced in the empire, were being carried to the enemy; and were making good the shortages in fats and greases. The committee for the restriction of enemy supplies repeatedly reminded the authorities, that we should never be able to stop neutral transit trade with Germany, if neutral authorities were daily and weekly collecting proofs that we ourselves were party to it, and that our own record was almost as bad as theirs. But notwithstanding that the warnings were multiplied, and that our list of prohibited exports were enlarged week by week, the trade flourished; and it was only when the first quarter of the year was out that the damage done to our case was apparent: our re-export trade to foreign countries had fallen unless those countries bordered upon Germany; with them it had risen in the following proportions:

Quarter ending
March, 1914.   March, 1915.  
Re-exports to: £ £
      Sweden 194,720 1,224,914
      Norway 149,606   688,027
      Denmark 118,743 1,156,795
      Netherlands         1,314,319   3,529,449

When these totals were examined with the reports sent in by our agents and observers, and with statistics for particular commodities, it could only be concluded that Great Britain was becoming not so much a pipe, or channel, as an open sluice gate for as much British tin, as much Egyptian and Indian cotton, as much Australian wool, meat and corn, as much oil and linseed, and as much flax, tea and cocoa, as could be poured into the enemy's borders. The assistance given to the enemy was a less serious matter than the damage done to our reputation for honourable dealing. Our representations to neutrals, and above all our good name in America, so important to us when American public opinion and American policy were unsteady, were both exposed to the damaging retort, and the telling accusation, that we ourselves had not got clean hands, and that our indignation was hypocritical. To this damage another was added: the mistrust and suspicion of a hard pressed and stricken ally, whose government had severed every commercial connexion with the enemy.

1See Mr. Churchill's remarks in the House of Commons, 15th February: Losses will no doubt be incurred, of that I give full warning, but we believe that no vital injury can be done if our traders put to sea regularly, and act in the spirit of the gallant captain of the merchant ship Laertes...... and if they take the precautions which are proper and legitimate, we expect the losses will be confined within manageable limits, even at the outset, when the enemy must be expected to make his greatest effort to produce an impression. ...back...

2One of the under secretaries of state. ...back...

3See Captain Auphan's review of the French convoy system and trade route protection in the war of American Independence. Revue Maritime, March, April, 1925. ...back...

4See Captain Count zu Dohna Schlodien's operations in the Moewe. Naval Operations, Vol. III, pp. 267-70. ...back...

5Mr. Hurst must be given the honour of having grasped this; his minute ran thus: The more Scandinavian produce that comes to this country the better. How do we lose by the Scandinavians avoiding the Berlin decree by putting their vessels en route for this country under convoy? Germany's object is to get a better answer to the neutral government if she torpedoes a neutral merchantman not under convoy, but I do not see that that injures us. It seems to me that every neutral merchant ship blown up is another nail in the German coffin, and if convoys are discouraged by us and the idea abandoned, it may lead to an increase in the number of mines sown by the Germans...... (20314/f, 13659/15). ...back...

6Krieg zur See Handelskrieg mit U-booten, Band I, p. 134. ...back...

7See his report 15th February, Intimate Papers, Vol. I, p. 380. ...back...

8On 23rd February Sir Edward wrote on the docket of the official note: Circulate at once to the cabinet with minutes. ...back...

9The proceeds were to be paid into court and dealt with in such manner as the court may in the circumstances deem to be just. ...back...

10Prize cases decided in the United States Supreme Court, 1798-1918, Vol. III, p. 1566. ...back...

11The judgement shows that the American judges regarded the rule of continuous voyage as one of universal application, and considered that it would be pedantic to treat it as a rule that was applicable merely against contraband with an enemy destination, or (as Lord Stowell had applied it) as a rule for circumventing the artifices of British merchants who were trading with the enemy. The relevant passage is quite explicit, and runs: We do not now refer to the cargo for the purpose of determining whether it was liable to condemnation as contraband, but for the purpose of determining its real destination; for, we repeat contraband or not, it could not be condemned if really destined for Nassau and not beyond: and contraband or not, it must be condemned if destined to any rebel port, for all rebel ports are under blockade. - Prize cases decided in the United States Supreme Court, Vol. III, p. 1627. ...back...

12He was Minister for the Interior. ...back...

13See Text of Note in Foreign Relations of the United States Supplement, 1915, p. 129, and Politische Dokumente, p. 327. ...back...

A History of the Blockade of Germany
and of the countries associated with her in the Great War:
Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey.

by A. C. Bell (Historical Section, Committee of Imperial Defence).