The American view of this condition was:.
Great Britain cannot expect the United States to submit to such manifest injustice or to permit the rights of its citizens to be so seriously impaired. Whatever may be the conjectural conclusions to be drawn from trade statistics, which, when stated by value, are of uncertain evidence as to quantity, the United States maintains the right to sell goods into the general stock of a neutral country, and denounces as illegal and unjustifiable any attempt of a belligerent to interfere with that right on the ground that it suspects that the previous supply of such goods in the neutral country, which the imports renew or replace, has been sold to an enemy.
That is a matter with which the neutral vendor has no concern and which can in no way affect his rights of trade. The British practice had run counter to the assurances Great Britain made in establishing the blockade, which was to be so p. Great Britain admitted that the blockade should not, and promised that it would not, interfere with the trade of countries contiguous to her enemies. Nevertheless, after six months' experience of the "blockade," the United States Government was convinced that Great Britain had been unsuccessful in her efforts to distinguish between enemy and neutral trade.
The United States challenged the validity of the blockade because it was ineffective in stopping all trade with Great Britain's enemies. A blockade, to be binding, must be maintained by force sufficient to prevent all access to the coast of the enemy, according to the Declaration of Paris of , which the American note quoted as correctly stating the international rule as to blockade that was universally recognized. The effectiveness of a blockade was manifestly a question of fact:. Furthermore, from the recent placing of cotton on the British list of contraband of war it appears that the British Government had themselves been forced to the conclusion that the blockade is ineffective to prevent shipments of cotton from reaching their enemies, or else that they are doubtful as to the legality of the form of blockade which they have sought to maintain.
Moreover, a blockade must apply impartially to the ships of all nations. The American note cited the Declaration of London and the prize rules of Germany, France, and Japan, in support of that principle. In addition, "so strictly has this principle been enforced in the past that in the Crimean War the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on appeal laid down that if belligerents themselves trade with blockaded ports they cannot be regarded as effectively blockaded. The Franciska, Moore, P. This decision has special significance at the present time p. Finally, the law of nations forbade the blockade of neutral ports in time of war.
The Declaration of London specifically stated that "the blockading forces must not bar access to neutral ports or coasts. Though not regarded as binding upon the signatories because not ratified by them, the Declaration of London, the American note pointed out, had been expressly adopted by the British Government, without modification as to blockade, in the Order in Council of October 9, More than that, Secretary Lansing recalled the views of the British Government "founded on the decisions of the British Courts," as expressed by Sir Edward Grey in instructing the British delegates to the conference which formulated the Declaration of London, and which had assembled in that city on the British Government's invitation in These views were:.
It may be instituted to prevent the ingress only, or egress only, or both. The United States Government therefore concluded that, measured by the three universally conceded tests above set forth, the British policy could not be regarded as constituting a blockade in law, in practice, or in effect.
So the British Government was notified that the American Government declined to recognize such a "blockade" as legal. The ruling was that goods of contraband character, seized while going to the neutral port of Nassau, though actually bound for the blockaded ports of the South, were subject to condemnation. Secretary Lansing recalled that Sir Edward Grey, in his instruction p. Certainly if such was the intention the decision would pro tanto be in conflict with the practice of the British courts. His Majesty's Government sees no reason for departing from that practice, and you should endeavor to obtain general recognition of its correctness.
The American note also pointed out that "the circumstances surrounding the Springbok case were essentially different from those of the present day to which the rule laid down in that case is sought to be applied. When the Springbok case arose the ports of the confederate states were effectively blockaded by the naval forces of the United States, though no neutral ports were closed, and a continuous voyage through a neutral port required an all sea voyage terminating in an attempt to pass the blockading squadron. Secretary Lansing interjected new elements into the controversy in assailing as unlawful the jurisdiction of British prize courts over neutral vessels seized or detained.
Briefly, Great Britain arbitrarily extended her domestic law, through the promulgation of Orders in Council, to the high seas, which the American Government contended were subject solely to international law. So these Orders in Council, under which the British naval authorities acted in making seizures of neutral shipping, and under which the prize courts pursued their procedure, were viewed as usurping international law. The United States held that Great Britain could not extend the territorial jurisdiction of her domestic law to cover seizures on the high seas.
A recourse to British prize courts by American claimants, governed as those courts were by the same Orders in Council which determined the conditions under which seizures and detentions were made, constituted in the American view, the form rather than the substance of redress:. Nevertheless, it is seriously suggested that claimants are free to request the prize court to rule upon a claim of conflict between an Order in Council and a rule of international law.
How can a tribunal fettered in its jurisdiction and procedure by municipal enactments declare itself emancipated from their restrictions and at liberty to apply the rules of international law with freedom?
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The very laws and regulations which bind the court are now matters of dispute between the Government of the United States and that of His Britannic Majesty. The British Government, in pursuit of its favorite device of seeking in American practice parallel instances to justify her prize-court methods, had contended that the United States, in Civil War contraband cases, had also referred foreign claimants to its prize courts for redress. Great Britain at the time of the American Civil War, according to an earlier British note, "in spite of remonstrances from many quarters, placed full reliance on the American prize courts to grant redress to the parties interested in cases of alleged wrongful capture by American ships of war and put forward no claim until the opportunity for redress in those courts had been exhausted.
This did not appear to be altogether the case, Secretary Lansing pointed out that Great Britain, during the progress of the Civil War, had demanded in several instances, through diplomatic channels, while cases were pending, damages for seizures and detentions of British ships alleged to have been made without legal justification. Moreover, "it is understood also that during the Boer War, when British authorities seized the German vessels, the Herzog , the General and the Bundesrath , and released them without prize court proceedings, compensation for damages suffered was arranged through diplomatic channels.
The point made here was by way of negativing the position Great Britain now took that, pending the exhaustion of legal p. The United States summed up its protest against the British practice of adjudicating on the interference with American shipping and commerce on the high seas under British municipal law as follows:.
The note, as the foregoing series of excerpts show, presented an array of legal arguments formidable enough to persuade any nation at war of its wrongdoing in adopting practices that caused serious money losses to American interests and demoralized American trade with neutral Europe. Great Britain, however, showed that she was not governed by international law except in so far as it was susceptible to an elastic interpretation, and held, by implication, that a policy of expediency imposed by modern war conditions condoned, if it did not also sanction, infractions.
Nothing in Great Britain's subsequent actions, nor in the utterances of her statesmen, could be construed as promising any abatement of the conditions. In fact, there was an outcry in England that the German blockade should be more stringent by extending it to all neutral ports. The existing restrictions satisfied Great Britain that Germany, without being brought to her knees, was feeling the pinch of food shortage.
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To that extent—and it was enough in England's view—the blockade was effective, the contentions of the United States notwithstanding. So Great Britain's course indicated that she would not relax by a hair the barrier she had reared round the German coast; but she sought to minimize the obstacles to legitimate neutral trade, so far as blockade conditions permitted, and was disposed to pay ample compensation for losses as judicially determined.
The outlook was that American p. Satisfaction by arbitration thus remained the only American hope in face of Great Britain's resolve to keep Germany's larder depleted and her export trade at a standstill, whether neutrals suffered or not. Incidentally, the United States was reminded that in the Civil War it served notice on foreign governments that any attempts to interfere with the blockade of the Confederate States would be resented.
The situation then, and the situation now, with the parts of the two countries reversed, were considered as analogous. A parliamentary paper showed that the British measures adopted to intercept the sea-borne commerce of Germany had succeeded up to September, , in stopping 92 per cent of German exports to America. Steps had also been taken to stop exports on a small scale from Germany and Austria-Hungary by parcel post. The results of the blockade were thus summarized:. Exceptions which have been made are cases in which a refusal to allow the export goods to go through would hurt the neutral country concerned without inflicting injury upon Germany.
Wherever there has been a reasonable ground for suspecting the destination, the goods have been placed in charge of a prize court. Doubtful consignments have been detained pending satisfactory guarantees. So far as possible all trade between neutrals and Germany, whether arising from oversea or in the country itself, is restricted. The case of the Chicago meat packers, involving food consignments to neutral European countries since the war's outbreak, came before a British prize court before the American protest had been lodged.
Apparently the issues it raised dictated in some degree the contentions Secretary Lansing made. The goods were declared forfeited to the Crown. One of the factors influencing the decision was the sudden expansion in shipments of food products to the Scandinavian countries immediately after the war began.
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The president of the prize court, Sir Samuel Evans, asserted that incoming vessels were carrying more than thirteen times the amount of goods to Copenhagen—the destination of the four ships involved—above the volume which under normal conditions arrived at that port. He cited lard, the exportation of which by one American firm had increased twentyfold to Copenhagen in three weeks after the war, and canned meat, of which Denmark hitherto had only taken small quantities, yet the seized vessels carried hundreds of thousands of tins.
The confiscation formed the subject of a complaint made by Chicago beef packers to the State Department on October 6, The British Court condemned the cargoes on the grounds: 1 that the goods being in excess of the normal consumption of Denmark, raised a presumption that they were destined for, i. The Chicago beef firms besought the Government to register an immediate protest against the decision of the prize court and demand from the British Government adequate damages for losses arising from the seizure, detention and confiscation of the shipments of meat products.
They complained that the judgment and the grounds on which it was based were contrary to the established principles of international law, and subversive of the rights of neutrals. The judgment, they said, was unsupported by fact, and was based on inferences and presumptions. Direct evidence on behalf of the American firms interested, to the effect that none of the seized shipments had been sold, consigned or destined to the armed forces or to the governments of any enemy of Great Britain, was uncontradicted and disregarded and the seizures were upheld in the face of an admission that no precedent of the English courts existed justifying the condemnation of goods on their way to a neutral port.
An uncompromising defense of the prize court's decision came to the State Department from the British Government a few days later. Most of the seizures, it said, were not made under the Order in Council of March 11, , the validity of which and of similar orders was disputed by the United States Government. The larger part of the cargoes were seized long before March, The ground for the seizures was that the cargoes were conditional contraband destined from the first by the Chicago beef packers, largely for the use of the armies, navies and Government departments of Germany and Austria, and only sent to neutral ports with the object of concealing their true destination.
From cablegrams and letters in the possession of the British Government and produced in court, the statement charged, "it was clear and that packers' agents in these neutral countries, and also several of the consigners, who purported to be genuine p. No attempt was made by any written or other evidence to explain away the damning evidence of the telegrams and letters disclosed by the Crown.
The inference was clear and irresistible that no such attempt could be made, and that any written evidence there was would have merely confirmed the strong suspicion, amounting to a practical certainty, that the whole of the operations of shipment to Copenhagen and other neutral ports were a mere mask to cover a determined effort to transmit vast quantities of supplies through to the German and Austrian armies.
A portion of the Western press had denounced the confiscation as a "British outrage" and as "robbery by prize court"; but the more moderate Eastern view was that, while American business men had an undoubted right to feed the German armies, if they could, they were in the position of gamblers who had lost if the British navy succeeded in intercepting the shipments.
Exaggerated values placed on American-owned goods held up for months at Rotterdam and other neutral ports by British became largely discounted on October 1, , under the scrutiny of the Foreign Trade Advisers of the State Department. These goods were German-made for consignment to the United States, and would only be released if the British Government were satisfied that they were contracted for by American importers before March 1, , the date on which the British blockade of Germany began.
The next issue the United States raised with Great Britain related to the seizure of three ships of American registry—the Hocking , Genesee and the Kankakee —in November, , on the ground that they were really German-owned. France had also confiscated the Solveig of the same ownership for a like reason.
The four vessels belonged to the fleet of the American Transatlantic Steamship Company, the formation of which under unusual circumstances was recorded earlier in this history.
Great Britain and France served notice that this company's vessels were blacklisted, and became seizable as prizes of war because of the suspicion that German interests were behind the company, and that its American officials with their reputed holdings of stock were therefore really prizes for German capital. The Bureau of Navigation had at first refused registry to these vessels, but its ruling was reversed, and the vessels were admitted, the State Department taking the view that it could not disregard the company's declaration of incorporation in the United States, and that its officers were American citizens.
Great Britain sought to requisition the vessels for navy use without prize-court hearings, but on the United States protesting she agreed to try the cases. Another dispute arose, in January, , over the operation of the Trading with the Enemy Act, one of Great Britain's war measures, the provisions of which were enlarged to forbid British merchants from trading with any person or firm, resident in a neutral country, which had German ownership or German trade connections.
The United States objected to the prohibition as constituting a further unlawful interference with American trade. It held that in war time the trade of such a p.
An example of the working of the act was the conviction of three members of a British glove firm for trading with Germany through their New York branch. While the act would injure American firms affiliated with German interests, it aimed to press hardest upon traders in neutral European countries contiguous to Germany who were trading with the Germans and practically serving as intermediaries to save the Germans from the effect of the Allies' blockade.
One of the most difficult problems which Government officials had encountered since the war began, presented itself for solution. The Appam , as elsewhere described, was captured by a German raider, the Moewe Sea Gull , off Madeira, and was crowded with passengers, crews, and German prisoners taken from a number of other ships the Moewe had sunk. Lieutenant Berg, for lack of a safer harbor, since German ports were closed to him, sought for refuge an American port, and claimed for his prize the privilege of asylum under the protection of American laws—until he chose to leave.