WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 1917 (UP) - Official hint that some announcement of this government's course with regard to Germany's announced intention of waging unrestricted submarine warfare may be looked for within 24 hours, came from the state department today as the cabinet met with President Wilson.
"Nothing has yet gone forward to Germany," was the only official definite statement forthcoming by noon.
The announcement, however, that the American steamship line might be given "by tomorrow" instructions which it has requested as to permitting its ships to sail, was taken to mean some course might be determined upon by that time.
Such instructions could be given only after this government's position is taken.
Today there was every indication that President Wilson had not made up his mind, but was still struggling with what officials openly admitted is the most serious situation this nation has faced since the European war started.
The official statement quoted, obviously meant that the administration had not, at that time, communicated in any way with Ambassador von Bernstorff since the Teuton envoy presented Germany's announcement of her new sea order.
An announcement may come after the cabinet leaves what probably will prove the most historic meeting since the war with Spain.
The cabinet meetings usually take up from 30 minutes to an hour. The one this afternoon is expected to run well on toward evening.
Preceding the cabinet meeting President Wilson was booked for a conference with Senator Stone, chairman of the foreign relations committee.
He has been in almost constant conference with Col. E.M. House, his closest personal friend and advisor, since Germany's note was handed him.
There were some officials who inclined to the belief that the President may hold back his decision until he receives some word from Ambassador Gorard as to official interpretation of certain phrases in the German note and memoranda.
Every angle was to be laid before the cabinet this afternoon in writing-for Secretary Lansing, on whom will fall the brunt of answering, "thinks on paper."
Feeling predominates in official circles that a break with Germany is inevitable, if Germany carries out to the letter her avowed intentions.
But behind this feeling is another-that "the unexpected may be expected" from the president.
There was a notable change in the appearance of officials today as compared with the gloom of yesterday. Secretary Lansing was fairly beaming when he greeted newspapermen. President Wilson after his golf game appeared smiling.
There was one real and very evident cloud, however.
This was annoyance, openly expressed in some official quarters, over the puzzling attitude of German Ambassador von Bernstorff.
An almost studied gloom surrounded the Teuton embassy. Officials were at a loss to understand the undenied declarations in prominent German circles that "Bernstorff has all but packed his trunks."
They admittedly were surprised at hints from central power diplomats that "Germany means business and will go the limit."
Another undenied report was that the German ambassador expected to get his passports within 48 hours.
It was also flatly stated in German circles that, if a break with America should come, Germany would choose the Spanish ambassador to handle her affairs here.
Some believed this talk more or less designed to warn Americans and American ships from going into the actual danger zone. It was pointedly remarked, in this connection, that naturally if Americans and American ships could be kept out of the danger zone nothing could happen.
Significance was seen today in the announcement that stronger watches have been placed over the Panama canal locks, and that secret service men thruout the country are guarding against any possible plots.
The president's conviction-often expressed-is that the fighting nations "are seeing red"; that those governing the belligerent nations have reached a pitch of frenzy where they are not responsible for the acts they do.
Behind this thought lies his firm conviction that the people of Germany-those back in the homes-do no want war with the United States and the people of the United States do not want war with them.
Friends say it was this conviction that caused the president to stand out against war with Germany, in the face of which much opposition, even in his own cabinet, immediately after the sinking of the Lusitania.
At that time he took the position "that we must not act until we can act with coolness."
The same conviction is believed today to be the staying influence which has caused a delay in determining upon a course of action, which if law and logic were pursued to the letter, could mean at least a break in relations between the United States and Germany.
The conference between the president and Senator Stone this afternoon promises to be historic.
The last time they met under similar conditions was following the Sussex sinking.
The president said then that if this country pursued its diplomatic course, the loss of another American life as a result of a U-boat attack, would break friendly relations between the United States and Germany. Such a break, the president said, would result in war.
At the close of the meeting he promised Stone he never would take a step which would result in war until they had conferred.
In Teuton quarters, despite some bluster, hope is held that no action will come from the United States for at least a week.
After that time, German officials believe, all danger will be passed. Americans, they say, will voluntarily not travel on the sea thru fear of injury and American ship owners will follow German warnings in order to preserve their ships.
The danger, Teuton diplomats say, lies in the possibility of some "unfortunate mistake" before this week is up.
In the meantime, "guesses" as to the president's probable course continued along a wide range. Some went so far as to believe he would urge a "concert" of neutrals, along the lines of a league to enforce peace, to compel Germany to cease her unrestrained activities.
A prominent neutral diplomat, however, saw little hope in such a plan.