The Secretary of State to the Secretary of the Treasury ( McAdoo )


Your August 6. Neither the neutrality laws of the United States nor proclamation of the President make it unlawful to export contraband of war in the ordinary course of commerce.1 No situation has yet arisen wherein our general neutrality relations might require the prevention of the exportation of contraband. Whether any duty rests upon collectors of customs in the premises, in view of the legality of the exportation of contraband in due course of commerce, is a, matter falling within the regulations of your department.

This answers yours August 6 quoting telegram from collector, Port Arthur, Texas, respecting clearance of vessels with cargo of fuel oil and petroleum products.2 In view of the character of the inquiry, it might be well to advise collector at Port Arthur that shippers take risk of seizure on high seas of contraband of war to belligerent governments.

W. J. Bryan
  1. See the Department’s printed circular of August 15, 1914, regarding neutrality, contraband, and the seizure of ships and cargo, ante, p. 274, for the statement The sale or shipment of contraband of war by citizens of the United States to citizens or subjects of any of the belligerent powers, in the course of commerce, is not prohibited by the neutrality laws or the President’s proclamation. See the note of the French Chargé d’Affaires, of August 8, and reply of the Secretary of State of August 13, 1914, ante, pp. 5579, for a discussion in part of the question of the exportation of contraband of war. See the instructions to collectors of customs, August 10, 1914, post, p. 597, for the following statement: You will not refuse clearance to merchant vessels, whether of the United States or other neutral power, or whether of a belligerent power, solely on the ground that the cargo contains contraband of war.
  2. Not printed.