The German reply, handed to the American Ambassador at Berlin, follows:
Berlin, March 1, 1915.
The undersigned has the honor to inform his Excellency, Mr. James W. Gerard, Ambassador of the United States of America, in reply to the note of the 22d inst., that the Imperial German Government have taken note with great interest of the suggestion of the American Government that certain principles for the conduct of maritime war on the part of Germany and England be agreed upon for the protection of neutral shipping. They see therein new evidence of the friendly feelings of the American Government toward the German Government, which are fully reciprocated by Germany.
It is in accordance with Germany’s wishes also to have maritime war conducted according to rules, which, without discriminatingly restricting one or the other of the belligerent powers in the use of their means of warfare, are equally considerate of the interests of neutrals and the dictates of humanity. Consequently it was intimated in the German note of the 16th inst. that observation of the Declaration of London on the part of Germany’s adversaries would create a new situation from which the German Government would gladly draw the proper conclusions.
Proceeding from this view, the German Government have carefully examined the suggestion of the American Government and believe that they can actually see in it a suitable basis for the practical solution of the questions which have arisen.
With regard to the various points of the American note, they beg to make the following remarks:
First—With regard to the sowing of mines, the German Government would be willing to agree, as suggested, not to use floating mines and to have anchored mines constructed as indicated. Moreover, they agree to put the stamp of the Government on all mines to be planted. On the other hand, it does not appear to them to be feasible for the belligerents wholly to for ego the use of anchored mines for offensive purposes.
Second—The German Government would undertake not to use their submarines to attack mercantile of any flag except when necessary to enforce the right of visit and search. Should the enemy nationality of the vessel or the presence of contraband be ascertained, submarines would proceed in accordance with the general rules of international law.
Third—As provided in the American note, this restriction of the use of the submarines is contingent on the fact that enemy mercantile abstain from the use of the neutral flag and other neutral distinctive marks. It would appear to be a matter of course that such mercantile vessels also abstain from arming themselves and from all resistance by force, since such procedure contrary to international law would render impossible any action of the submarines in accordance with international law.