File No. 763.72112/599

The Department of State to the Danish Legation


The memorandum of the Danish Legation of December 28, 1914, states that the Danish Government is desirous to learn whether the United States, if England applies Article 2 of the order in council of October 29, 1914, to Denmark, would recognize the right of England to seize American vessels having contraband of war to ports of Denmark.

The Department finds itself unable to make categorical answer to the question propounded, inasmuch as the same calls for a statement [Page 299] of the action which would be taken by the Government of the United States in advance of the event and of the circumstances upon which it would be called to act.

The article of the order in council referred to is as follows:

Where it is shown to the satisfaction of one of His Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State that the enemy Government is drawing supplies for its armed forces from or through a neutral country, he may direct that in respect of ships bound for a port in that country, Article 35 of the said Declaration shall not apply. Such direction shall be notified in the London Gazette and shall operate until the same is withdrawn. So long as such direction is in force, a vessel which is carrying conditional contraband to a port in that country shall not be immune from capture.

The Department is not aware of any principle of international law by which the whole territory of a neutral country may, in effect, be placed under inhibition because the enemy is receiving supplies from or through such neutral country. Manifestly the action to be taken by the United States in case Great Britain shall apply Article 2 of the order in council, referred to, to the country of Denmark must depend upon the facts and circumstances as they shall exist at the time such application is attempted, and consideration no doubt would also be given to the course and attitude of the Danish Government in that case.