It's a red-letter day when the U. S. State Department takes off its kid gloves for handling the English Foreign Office. Last Saturday Mr. Hull put them in his glove box, and slammed the lid. He let it be known that he didn't like English search of U. S. mail going to neutral countries, and furthermore, he didn't like the excuses she offered for it. It is a complicated situation, but the essence of it is that though England has agreed in the past not to make such a search, she feels that her assumed right to look for contraband anywhere abrogates this agreement.
Beneath the outwardly smooth course of Anglo-American relations there runs a current of nagging hostility. The London Daily Express had this sarcastic bit to say on the death of Senator Borah: "We remember him as a biter critic of Britain. In this country he was always regarded as an extremist, but it must be remembered that all Americans shared his creed: America first." It would do no good to fan these smoldering embers, but The State Department can serve well the cause of keeping America at peace by insisting on the rights of neutrals. That these rights, if not the very independence of the neutrals themselves, are irksome to England, is shown clearly by Mr. Churchill's speech of last Saturday. It was an open bid for the neutral powers of Europe to join the Allies, and more of the same can be expected in preparation for the big spring push. It is up to the State Department to rouse itself from lethargy, and prove that America can be first in defining neutral rights in a war world.