Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

rather than political or international grounds. It goes without saying that the agitation of this minority was supported in every way by the German representatives. There was no law in America to prohibit such support, which could not, moreover, be regarded as a breach of American neutrality. It is true that in this way a few Germans got themselves into an awkward position because they were suspected of stirring up the GermanAmericans, who together with the Irish played a leading part in the agitation against the Government. In particular, Dr. Dernburg became unpopular in America, since he began to address meetings in addition to his journalistic work. The Washington Government regarded him as the leader of the "hyphenated Americans" who were opposing the policy of the President's Administration, because the latter took up the strict legal standpoint that the traffic in munitions was permissible, and that it would therefore be a breach of neutrality in our favor if such traffic were forbidden after the outbreak of hostilities. President Wilson himself even had an idea of nationalizing the munition factories, which would have rendered traffic with the combatant Powers a breach of international law. When, however, he sounded Congress on this matter, it became evident that a majority could not be obtained for such a step. The United States had already brought forward a similar proposal at the Hague Conference with the intention of conceding one of the chief demands of the pacifists. It was in wide circles in America an axiom that the munitions factories were the chief incentives to war. As during the first winter of the war there were very few such factories in America the President's plan was not merely Utopian but meant in all seriousness, in which connection it should be noted that American industrial circles were among Mr. Wilson's bitterest opponents. If Mr. Wilson's proposal had been known to German public opinion he would have been more favorably judged.

The negotiations which I had to carry out on this question of the munitions traffic concerned themselves also with the question of the coaling of our ships of war. This was based on an agreement between the American Government and the Hamburg-Amerika line. The port authorities had at first shown themselves agreeable. As a result of the English protest the attitude of the American Government became increasingly strict. With the actual coaling I had nothing to do. That came within the sphere of the Naval Attaché, who, for obvious reasons connected with the conduct of the war at sea, kept his actions strictly secret. My first connection with this question was when I was instructed to hand over to the American Government the following memorandum, dated 15th December, 1914:

“According to the provisions of general international law, there is nothing to prevent neutral States from allowing contraband of war to reach the enemies of Germany through or out of their territory. This is also permitted by Article VII. of the Hague Convention of the 19th October, 1907, dealing with the rights and duties of neutrals in the case of land or sea war. If a State uses this freedom to the advantage of our enemies, that State, according to a generally recognized provision of international law, which is confirmed in Article IX. of the two aforesaid Conventions, may not hamper Germany's military power with regard to contraband through or out of its territory.

The declaration of neutrality of the United States takes this view fully into account since the furnishing of contraband of war to all combatants is likewise permitted: ‘All persons may lawfully and without restriction by reason of the aforesaid state of war, manufacture and sell within the United States, arms and ammunitions of war and other articles ordinarily known as contraband of war.'

“This principle has been accepted in the widest sense by the public declaration of the American State Department of the 15th October, 1914, with regard to neutrality, and contraband.

“Nevertheless different port authorities in the United States have refused to supply the necessary fuel to merchant vessels in which it might be carried to German ships of war on the high seas or in other neutral ports. According to the principles of international law already mentioned, there is no need for a neutral State to prevent the transport of fuel in this way; such a State then ought not to hold up merchant ships loaded in this way nor interfere with their freedom of movement, once it has countenanced the supply of contraband to the enemy. The only case in which it would be the duty of such a nation to hamper the movements of these ships in this one-sided fashion would be one in which such traffic might be turning the ports into German naval bases. This might perhaps have been the case if German coal depots had been situated at these ports, or if the ships used them for a regular calling port on their way to the German naval forces. It is, however, unnecessary to urge that the occasional sailing of a merchant ship with coal for German ships of war does not make a port into a base for German naval enterprises out of keeping with neutrality.

Our enemies are obtaining contraband of war from the United States, in particular rifles, to the value of many milliards of marks; this is within their rights. But toleration becomes serious injustice if the United States refuses to allow the occasional provisioning of our

ships of war from her ports. This would mean anequal treatment of the combatants and a recognized rule of neutrality would be infringed to our disadvantages."

This memorandum played an important part in the subsequent negotiations, because Mr. Flood, the president of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the American House of Representatives, interpreted it as amounting to a German agreement to the supply of arms and ammunition to her enemies.

In view of the situation in the United States, it was to our interest to leave the struggle for a prohibition of the munitions traffic to our American friends. The efforts of Senator Stone in this direction are well known, and have been recently quoted before the Commission of the German National Assembly. If a considerable number of influential Americans took up the case for the prohibition there was far more hope of bringing it about than if it was apparent that the American Government were surrendering to German pressure. The pacifist Mr. Bryan was very sensitive on this point and visited me frequently to assert his neutrality.

I therefore advised the Imperial Government in this matter not to send an official Note for the moment, so that the American agitation in favor of the prohibition of munition traffic might have full freedom for development. As, however, our enemies continually harked back to the idea that the Imperial Government did not take exception to the supply of munitions, I was forced, as the result of continual pressure from our American friends, to alter my attitude, and, after receiving permission from Berlin, to hand to the Washington Government on 4th April, 1915, a memorandum, of which I give the most important part here.

“Further I should like to refer to the attitude of the

United States towards the question of the export of arms. The Imperial Government is convinced that the Government of the United States agree with them on this point, that questions of neutrality should be dealt with not merely with regard to the strict letter, but the spirit also must be taken into consideration, in which neutrality is carried through.

The situation arising out of the present war cannot be compared with that in any previous war. For this reason no reference to supplies of arms from Germany in such wars is justified; for then the question was not whether the combatants should be supplied with material but which of the competing States should secure the contract.

“In the present war all the nations which possess a war-industry of any importance are either themselves involved in the war, or occupied with completing their own armament, and therefore have prohibited the export of war material. The United States are accordingly the only neutral State in a position to supply war-material. The idea of neutrality has, therefore, assumed a new significance, which is quite independent of the strict letter of the laws that have hitherto prevailed. On the other hand the United States are founding a gigantic war industry in the broadest sense, and they are not only working the existing plant but are straining every nerve to develop it and to erect new factories. The international agreement for the protection of the rights of neutrals certainly arose from the necessity of protecting the existing branches of industry in neutral countries as far as possible against an encroachment upon their prerogatives. But it can in no way accord with the spirit of honorable neutrality, if advantage is taken of such international agreements to found a new industry in a neutral State, such as appears in the development in the

« AnteriorContinuar »