Mr. Judd to Mr. Sundell.
Dear Sir:Your favors of the 2d and 4th instant are at hand. It seems to me that the question of the sufficiency or insufficiency of the blockade of Swinemünde should not be anticipated by you in advance of any demand for your official action.
I have seen in the newspapers that the government of the United States has been officially notified of the intention of the Danish government to establish a blockade, and it has, by proclamation, brought that notice to the attention of its citizens.
You have also received a notice to the same purport; the regularity and effect of that notice may or may not hereafter become the subject for serious discussion under the rules prescribed by Denmark for the conduct of its officers.
You also advise me that the Danish pilots in the sound or belts are notifying all vessels of the blockade.
It seems to me that enough has been done to show clearly and distinctly what the Danish government mean, and the next step on their part is to carry such instructions into effect in accordance with the law of nations, which requires an “effective blockade.”
The United States government is not a party to the Paris treaty, for the reason that greater freedom of the seas was demanded upon its side than was provided for in the stipulations of that treaty.
The question, under the circumstances, becomes one of fact, to be determined upon the evidence submitted to the prize court before which condemnation is sought against any vessel charged with breaking or attempting to break the blockade. We have claimed for our courts full jurisdiction and authority to pass upon these questions, and demanded that the adjudications should be [Page 212] respected. Our government will concede the same authority to the courts of other nations, and respect all decisions made in good faith and according to law. While so doing it will not neglect to look after the interest of vessel owners, not only upon the question of law, but as to the facts.
For you to anticipate the questions thus to be determined, and in advance declare the “blockade ineffective,” before the occurrence of any case calling for your official action, and especially to undertake to instruct the master of a vessel or the consignee of a cargo that they can with safety run into the port of Swinemünde, now claimed to be blockaded, would be assuming a responsibility that you are not called upon to assume. These parties must take upon themselves the responsibility of the conduct of the vessel, and your duty is to aid them all in your power, if they become involved in difficulties. To that end all information as to the condition of the blockading force, &c., &c., should be carefully preserved, so as to be made available, but no act or advice of yours should lead them into experiments.
While I should have a very decided opinion, if all the facts are shown in the circular that accompanied your letters, I certainly should not utter that opinion in advance, in such a manner as to induce the parties interested to violate what is claimed by Denmark to be an effective blockade.
I have had an interview at the ministry of foreign affairs upon this subject, and although the insufficiency of the blockade is there claimed, and notwithstanding the official notice to that effect given by the Prussian government, they were very desirous that I should understand that the government assumed none of the responsibility which neutral vessels might incur in running into Swinemünde.
You say you have laid all the facts before the State Department. The Secretary’s proverbial promptness, and his habit of elaboration, will give you, at the earliest day, complete and full instruction.
As our government has been enforcing a blockade for a long time, its attitude is such as forbids its representatives from assuming any doubtful position upon such questions.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Charles J. Sundell, U. S. Consul, Stettin.