File No. 763.72112/662
The Consul General at London (Skinner) to the Secretary of State
[Received January 26.]
Sir: Referring to my despatch No. 215, dated January 1,2 enclosing a note from the British Foreign Office dated December 23 stating that after consideration of my representations, payment of freight and charges incurred in connection with the release of American [Page 315] cargoes shipped before the war would be remitted, I have the honor to report that as the note from the Foreign Office was somewhat obscure, I immediately brought its terms to the attention of the procurator general. I requested the procurator general to give me his opinion as to the application of the Foreign Office note to cargoes shipped in British vessels, which, as it seemed to me, should be dealt with in the same manner as cargoes shipped in enemy vessels. I continued:
I take it that a good many releases have been effected in which freight and charges have been collected and which would have been released free of charges under the terms of the enclosed note. May I inquire how it is proposed to deal with these matters, as I assume that freight collected under these circumstances will be reimbursed?
Finally would you be kind enough to explain to me what are meant by cases “in which the cargo released would have been condemned either to confiscation or to detention if it had been taken into the prize court”? It does not seem to me possible to assume that in given cases the prize court would have condemned any cargo confiscated without actually taking the case to trial.
Perhaps you would be so good as to illustrate this class of cases by reference to one or two with which I am familiar.
I have received a reply from the procurator general, a copy of which is enclosed herewith.
The reply deals not only with my inquiries of January 1 based upon the Foreign Office note, but also with letter of December 31, 1914, reiterating the contention that under Article 43 of the Declaration of London cargoes shipped before the war were not liable to condemnation and that proceedings in the prize court in respect of such cargo were entirely inappropriate. The Department will not fail to note that upon this point the procurator general joins issue with me.
While the correspondence with the British authorities in respect of payments of freight and charges which they have been collecting on released cargo is not wholly satisfactory, at least some substantial progress has been made. The procurator general states that he is now prepared to consider applications for the reimbursement of freight collected under these circumstances.
I have no means of knowing what particular claimants have paid freight which should be reimbursed, except as to perhaps three hundred cases which have been brought to my personal attention. Perhaps the Department may have some suggestions to make upon this point.
I have [etc.]