In view of the announced purpose of the German Admiralty to engage in active naval operations in certain delimited sea areas adjacent to the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland, the Government of the United States would view with anxious solicitude any general use of the flag of the United States by British vessels traversing those waters. A policy such as the one which his Majesty’s Government is said to intend to adopt would, if the declaration of the German Admiralty be put in force, it seems clear, afford no protection to British vessels, while it would be a serious and constant menace to the lives and vessels of American citizens.
The Government of the United States, therefore, trusts that his Majesty’s Government will do all in their power to restrain vessels of British nationality in the deceptive use of the United States flag in the sea area defined by the German declaration, since such practice would greatly endanger the vessels of a friendly power navigating those waters and would even seem to impose upon the Government of Great Britain a measure of responsibility for the loss of American lives and vessels in case of an attack by a German naval force.
You will impress upon his Majesty’s Government the grave concern which this Government feels in the circumstances in regard to the safety of American vessels and lives in the war zone declared by the German Admiralty.
You may add that this Government is making earnest representations to the German Government in regard to the danger to American vessels and citizens if the declaration of the German Admiralty is put into effect.
BERLIN, (via London,) Feb. 18.—German Government’s reply to the American note follows:
The Imperial Government has examined the communication from the United States Government in the same spirit of good-will and friendship by which the communication appears to have been dictated. The Imperial Government is in accord with the United States Government that for both parties it is in a high degree desirable to avoid misunderstandings which might arise from measures announced by the German Admiralty and to provide against the occurrence of incidents which might trouble the friendly relations which so far happily exist between the two Governments.
With regard to the assuring of these friendly relations, the German Government believes that it may all the more reckon on a full understanding with the United States, as the procedure announced by the German Admiralty, which was fully explained in the note of the 4th inst., is in no way directed against legitimate commerce and legitimate shipping of neutrals, but represents solely a measure of self-defense, imposed on Germany by her vital interests, against England’s method of warfare, which is contrary to international law, and which so far no protest by neutrals has succeeded in bringing back to the generally recognized principles of law as existing before the outbreak of war.