The Secretary of State to Goulder, White and Garry


Your letter June 30 and telegram July 3, concerning removal by Canadian authorities, German and Austrian seamen from American [Page 751] merchant vessel in territorial waters, Canada. Ross case referred to by you appears to make no reference to conditions during times war. See Wildenhus case, 120 U. S. 1, where the court said:

It is part of the law of civilized nations that when a merchant vessel of one country enters the ports of another for the purposes of trade, it subjects itself to the law of the place to which it goes, unless by treaty or otherwise the two countries have come to some different understanding or agreement; for, as was said by Chief Justice Marshall in The Exchange, 11 U. S. (7 Cranch) 144 (3:296) “it would be obviously inconvenient and dangerous to society, and would subject the laws to continual infraction, and the government to degradation, if such... merchants did not owe temporary and local allegiance, and were not amenable to the jurisdiction of the country....”

See also United States vs. Diekelman, 92 U. S. 520.

There appear to be no treaty provisions between the United States and Great. Britain exempting American merchant vessels from local jurisdiction while in British territorial waters. This Department has reached decision that in absence such treaty provisions it would not be justified in making diplomatic objection such removal where alien seamen removed are citizens or subjects of powers hostile to the country in whose port the vessel lies.

Robert Lansing