Mr. Blaine to Señor Lazcano.
Washington, March 13, 1891.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 10th instant, in which you inform me that your Government has prohibited, until further orders, the importation into the Republic of arms and munitions of war of all kinds.
In conveying this information you request me, if possible, to communicate this decree to the custom-houses of the United States in order that the shipment of such articles to Chile may be prevented; and in this relation you state that an agent of the insurgents in Chile has arrived in the city of New York for the purpose of purchasing arms and munitions of war.
The laws of the United States on the subject of neutrality, which may be found under title lxvii of the Revised Statutes, while forbidding many acts to be done in this country which may affect the relations of hostile forces in foreign countries, do not forbid the manufacture and sale of arms or munitions of war. I am therefore at a loss to find any authority for attempting to forbid the sale and shipment of arms and munitions of war in this country, since such sale and shipment are permitted by our law. In this relation it is proper to say that our statutes on this subject are understood to be in conformity with the law of nations, by which the traffic in arms and munitions of war is permitted, subject to the belligerent right of capture and condemnation.
Since your note has directed attention to the subject of neutrality, it should be stated that our laws on that subject are put in force upon [Page 315] application to the courts, which are invested with the power to enforce them and to inflict the penalties prescribed for their violation. Our statutes not only forbid the infringement in this country of the rules of neutrality, but also impose grave penalties for their infraction.
I will inclose a copy of your note to the Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney-General.