File No. 763.72112/282
The British Ambassador (Spring Rice) to the Acting Secretary of State
Washington, November 1, 1914.
[Received November 2.]
Sir: In your note of the 29th ultimo you called my attention to the anxiety which prevailed in the Southern States as to the liability to seizure of turpentine and rosin as “naval stores.” You point out that however groundless such apprehension may be it is well to quiet it by assurances which can leave no doubt of the intention of the belligerent governments.
In compliance with your request I at once communicated with Sir Edward Grey pointing out to him that your Government considered it desirable in the interests of neutral trade to relieve a situation which was daily growing more embarrassing.
Sir Edward Grey has now informed me in reply that in view of the representations which you have made he has pleasure in giving the official assurance that the British Government has not in fact any present intention of interfering with turpentine and rosin.
At the same time, and in order to prevent misapprehension in the future or the establishment of a precedent which may prove embarrassing to both our Governments in the future, Sir Edward Grey wishes me to point out that the British Government has published a contraband list for the guidance of the public and that it would not be advisable to make official statements in answer to individual enquiries as to whether or not specified articles can be held to fall under any of the heads enumerated in the contraband lists and are therefore immune from capture.
You will no doubt agree that if statements in answer to individual enquiries become a general practice, there would be a constant succession of such enquiries and there would be no finality. In accordance with the recognised tradition of British and American law, the proper interpretation of contraband lists is a matter which each Government reserves for the decision of its prize courts.
I am [etc.]