File No. 763.72112/1935a

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Page)

No. 1758]

Sir: Among the interests of this country that have suffered most as a result of the British order in council of March 11, 1915, is the export trade in American tobacco.

Exporters, relying on the announcement of the British Government that tobacco was not to be treated as contraband, entered into contracts and engagements for export to Germany and to neutral states of Europe; having perfected their arrangements, including shipping space, they found themselves and their business confronted with the British order in council of March 11, 1915, and the refusal, in consequence thereof, of shipping lines to accept their shipments. Many consignments are reported to the Department as now lying at wharves, while exporters, dealers, and producers have complained to the Department of damages sustained and of the serious depression as a result of their being shut out froth these European markets. They cannot be expected to regard with complacence the course of Great Britain which, while acknowledging the non-contraband character of this article, denies it entrance not only to German ports but to the territories of neutrals as well, if there be suspicion of it being ultimately destined for the enemies of Great Britain. There is enclosed a copy of a letter from the Luckett-Wake Tobacco Company by which you will see that, relying on the immunity attaching to non-contraband goods, they contracted in December 1914 to deliver at Rotterdam leaf tobaccos and in January contracted with the Holland-America Line for shipping space.1 They hold through bills of lading, dated in January, for these shipments from Baltimore and New York to Rotterdam. However, when they reached the coast, the shipping line rejected the shipments unless they were consigned to the Netherlands Oversea Trust, which could not be done since the goods were not intended for ultimate consumption in Holland.

As a result of this action the goods remained at the coast subject to heavy charges and expenses, as well as possible deterioration and loss of market.

You will recall that at the time of the promulgation of the British order in council of March 11, 1915, an arrangement was effected between the British authorities and the Trade Advisers of this Department, by which cotton shipments were allowed to go forward to neutral ports for reshipment to Germany under the following conditions:

The following arrangement has been come to in London as to cotton consigned to neutral ports only:

All cotton for which contracts of sale or freight engagements had already been made before March 2 to be allowed free (or bought at contract price if stopped), provided ship sail not later than March 31.
Similar treatment to be accorded to all cotton insured before March 2, provided it is put on board not later than March 31.
All shipments of cotton claiming above protection to be declared before sailing and documents produced to and certificates obtained from consular officers or other authority fixed by Government.

Ships or cargoes consigned to enemy ports will not be allowed to proceed.

The conditions under which the tobaccos of the Luckett-Wake Tobacco Company and other dealers in tobacco were sold for shipment to Rotterdam are similar to those in the cases of cotton shipments referred to above.

You are instructed, unofficially and without recognizing the British order in council of March 11, 1915, to bring this information to the attention of the British Foreign Office, advancing the views herein outlined and emphasizing the justice of the complaint of the Luckett-Wake Company and other dealers in tobacco and the urgent desirability that shipments of tobacco, consigned to neutral European ports, be allowed uninterrupted passage.

In support of your position, you will again call Sir Edward Grey’s attention to the substance of the Department’s cablegram No. 2193 of September 28, 1915,1 in regard to the reported uninterrupted shipment of tobacco to the Netherlands for reshipment to Germany. You will inform Sir Edward Grey that the Department expects equal privileges for tobacco of American origin.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Frank L. Polk
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