File No. 763.72112/630
The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador ( Spring Rice )
Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of January 1 last, relative to the inclusion by His Majesty’s Government of turpentine and rosin within its contraband list.1
I note your excellency’s statement that in taking the measure of placing resinous products and turpentine on the list of contraband, His Britannic Majesty’s Government followed the usage of all maritime nations, and notably that of the United States, when at war, who have invariably claimed and exercised the right of making [Page 307] additions from time to time to their lists of contraband—a right explicitly conferred in the Declaration of London.
I do not for a moment suppose that by this statement your excellency intends to advance the principle that belligerents have the right to add at their pleasure to the list of contraband without reference to the character of the article involved, for in that case I would be compelled to question the principle.
Regarding your statement, when speaking of shipments of copper, that in every case of a cargo seized which was embarked before notification its full value has been paid, except when the cargo itself has been released, your excellency will permit me to say such is not my understanding. To the contrary, the Department is in receipt of very recent complaints from shippers of copper on board the steamships Kroonland and others, seized at Gibraltar, that compensation has not been made by His Britannic Majesty’s Government, but that the copper has been sent, or will be sent, to the prize court for adjudication; that in other cases of copper seized the interested parties were compelled to accept payment at a price below the current price in New York, and probably London, to say nothing of the price of copper at the point of destination, and that in the cases of copper now held at Gibraltar, the price proposed to be paid is below that of New York, the point of shipment.
The Department has no intention of questioning any principle of international law or recognized usage, but is disposed toward a liberal application of those principles to the situation produced by the war in Europe. As has been pointed out to your excellency’s Government, the United States cannot agree in several particulars to the application made by His Britannic Majesty’s Government of the accepted principles of international law. It is much to be desired that the two Governments may come nearer to an agreement as to the relative rights of belligerents and neutrals.
In conclusion permit me to assure your excellency that this Government is not unmindful of the situation in which His Britannic Majesty’s Government finds itself at this time and has no desire to unnecessarily or needlessly press upon it any matter which is not deemed of material consequence to the rights of American citizens.
I have [etc.]