File No. 656.119/184

The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page ) to the Secretary of State

[Telegram]

7787. Your unnumbered despatch [telegram No. 5860] of November 20 for House was delivered to him on the eve of his departure for France. He asked me to take subject up with the British Government and answer. Mr. Balfour and Lord Robert Cecil think that requisitioning the Dutch ships would cause irritation in Holland but neither they nor the military and naval authorities have the least fear that it would drive the Dutch into war against us. One of several strong reasons why they would not join Germany is the certainty that they would lose their colonies. …

A Dutch commission is now here discussing with Lord Robert Cecil the whole relations of Holland to the Entente powers. Cecil makes the suggestion that if we decide to requisition the Dutch ships in American ports we refrain from making a dramatic seizure of them all at once. If a small number of them be requisitioned with the best understanding that can be made with the shipowners, the Dutch Government will be easier to deal with thereafter. This was the general plan followed by the British with Norway. The success of it in Cecil’s opinion will depend on the secrecy with which it be done. Complete secrecy will greatly lessen Dutch humiliation and irritation and is here regarded as absolutely necessary. If you decide to requisition these ships the irritation would be softened by the exportation to Holland of certain well-chosen commodities.

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[For a letter from the Commercial Adviser of the British Embassy, received November 30, 1917, urging that negotiations with the Netherlands be conducted in London and discussing the questions involved, see ante, page 1078.]