File No. 763.72112/1208

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

No. 1468]

Sir: Referring to my cablegram No. 2129 of May 19,1 I have the honor to transmit herewith to the Department copy, in duplicate, of a memorandum respecting American ships and cargoes detained at British ports, which I have received from Sir Edward Grey in reply to my numerous conversations with him upon this subject, and also a copy, in duplicate, of a note verbale substantiating his memorandum.

I have [etc.]

W. H. Page
[Enclosure 1]

Memorandum Respecting American Ships and Cargoes Detained at British Ports

There is at the present moment detained in this country but one American ship, the Joseph W. Fordney . This vessel, with a cargo of feeding stuffs consigned to E. Klingener at Malmö was brought into Kirkwall on the 8th April. She had been sighted by His Majesty’s ships about ten miles from the Norwegian coast, and had thereupon endeavoured, with the evident desire to evade search, to escape rapidly into Norwegian territorial waters, but without success. On the vessel’s arrival at Kirkwall enquiries were at once addressed to His Majesty’s Minister at Stockholm in regard to the consignee of the cargo and a reply was received to the effect that no person of the name could be identified at Malmö, though a person of the name, who resided at Gothenburg and was manager of the Gothenburg branch of the Hamburg firm of Hugo Hartvig, had stated that the consignments addressed to him on board the Joseph W. Fordney were intended for storage in Malmö.

The suspicious conduct of the vessel in endeavouring to elude His Majesty’s patrols, and the known connections of the consignee of her cargo, have tended to confirm other evidence which has come to the knowledge of His Majesty’s Government that the foodstuffs were in reality destined for [Page 428] Germany. It was accordingly decided, as the United States Ambassador was duly informed, that the cargo must be placed in the prize court and the vessel is at present discharging at Portishead, on the completion of which operation she will be released. His Majesty’s Government feel satisfied that, in the circumstances of this case, undue interference with American interests can not with reason be imputed to them.
The number of neutral vessels carrying American cargoes and at present held up, is thirty-six; of these, twenty-three carry cargoes of American cotton. The United States Government are aware that, since the enforcement of the blockade measures announced in the supplement of the London Gazette of the 12th March last, His Majesty’s Government have acted, as regards shipments of American cotton, in accordance with the provisions of an arrangement arrived at in collaboration with representatives of the American cotton interests. The terms of the arrangement are as follows:
All cotton for which contracts of sale and freight engagements have already been made before the 2d March is to be allowed free (or bought at contract price if stopped), provided the ship sails not later than the 31st March.
Similar treatment is to be accorded to all cotton insured before the 2d March, provided it is put on board not later than the 16th March.
All shipments of cotton claiming the above protection are to be declared before sailing, and documents produced to and certificates obtained from consular officers or other authority fixed by the Government.
In accepting this scheme, which, it may be noted, applies to shipments of cotton for neutral destinations only, the principal representative of the American cotton interests described it to His Majesty’s Ambassador at Washington as conceding all that the American interests could properly ask. It was never suggested that vessels or cargoes with an enemy destination should be allowed to proceed. His Majesty’s Government were, moreover, given to understand that the provisions of the arrangement were acceptable to the United States Government.
As the United States Ambassador has already been informed, it is intended shortly to furnish a statement showing precisely what cargoes, or portions of cargoes, His Majesty’s Government have dealt with under the above arrangement, and, as regards those which they have decided to purchase at contract price, under the terms of paragraph 1 of the arrangement, direct discussions have already been opened with special representatives of the American parties interested in London.
A considerable portion of the cotton has already been sold, and arrangements are being made for handing over the proceeds to the parties entitled to receive the total value as a first instalment of the completed transaction. It is obvious that all these arrangements require some time for adjustment. Meanwhile it is not believed that the original owners can, as appears to be apprehended, be suffering acutely by the delay of full payment. It is to be presumed that, in accordance with the customs of the trade, the owners drew bills for the value of their goods before or at the time of shipment, and, if such bills have been negotiated in the usual way, it is difficult to understand why the drawers should be put to inconvenience on this account, at least before the date when the bills fall due.
On an impartial review of the facts it will, His Majesty’s Government feel sure, be admitted that no arbitrary interference with American interests has, in regard to these cargoes, occurred, seeing that His Majesty’s Government have acted throughout in conformity with the terms of an arrangement agreeable to the interests concerned, and that United States citizens will suffer no pecuniary loss.
As regards other American cargoes or portions of cargoes which have been placed in the prize court, His Majesty’s Government only resort to this measure in cases where either the goods concerned are contraband, or there is evidence that, although ostensibly consigned to a person in a neutral country, they are in reality destined for the enemy, in contravention of the rules of blockade. The right to submit such cases to the public investigation of a judicial tribunal is one which His Majesty’s Government can not forego, and they feel convinced that enlightened opinion in the United States of America can not adversely criticise their course of action in this respect.
It is true that a number of these cases have been pending in the prize court for some time. This is notably the case in regard to certain vessels carrying large shipments of meat and lard, ostensibly consigned to Scandinavian ports. The United States Government are, however no doubt aware that much of the delay involved in these instances is due to the fact that negotiations have been carried on for many weeks with a representative of the principal American meat packers for an arrangement designed to limit the importation into neutral countries adjacent to Germany to the quantities actually required in those countries for bona fide home consumption. The American meat packers have demanded, as a part of the settlement to be agreed upon, that His Majesty’s Government should buy the cargoes of the several ships now held up in the prize court. Hence the delay in bringing these cases to adjudication. It may be added that the ill-success which has so far attended these negotiations is due, not to a refusal of His Majesty’s Government to entertain the idea of purchase, but to the uncompromising attitude taken up by the American negotiator, who appears unwilling even to discuss any modification of his own demands as regards price. This stage having now been reached, His Majesty’s Government have decided to go on with the prize-court proceedings in these cases, and it is not expected that a decision will be much longer delayed.
It may finally be pointed out that the repeated complaints as to the great injury suffered generally by American trade in consequence of the interference due to British naval measures derives little substance from the published American trade returns. A table of figures taken from these returns, and showing the amount of recent American trade with Germany and with neutral countries supplying Germany, is annexed hereto.1 It certainly tends to disprove any contention that American trade with neutral countries has recently suffered. It will be seen that, whereas American exports to Germany and Austria in February 1915, fell $21,500,000, as compared with the same month in 1914, American exports to Scandinavia, Holland, and Italy rose by the enormous figure of $61,200,000.
Similar figures for the month of March have not yet reached His Majesty’s Government, but they have received statistics for that month of the value of exports and imports through New York as issued by the collector of that port, and, while pointing that the large increase in value of exports in 1915 compared with those of 1914 (as shown in the tables annexed), they desire especially to call attention to a separate statement indicating the increase in the amount of the export to Scandinavian and Dutch ports of two commodities only, bacon and lard. These figures show that, as against 1,253 boxes of bacon and 9,186 tierces of lard exported to the ports noted in the above countries in March 1914, there were exported in March 1915, 32,222 boxes of bacon and 95,676 tierces of lard.
His Majesty’s Government consider that the abnormal increase of supplies imported by neutral countries as shown in these statistics alone justifies their assumption as to the ultimate destination of many items of cargo consigned to one or other of the countries in question on vessels which they have detained, but they would call attention to the fact that it is only when they have believed themselves to be in possession of conclusive evidence of the enemy destination of cargo that they have seized such cargo, and that American interests, as for instance in the case of cotton, have received especially sympathetic consideration.
[Enclosure 2—Note verbale]

The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Grey) to the American Ambassador (Page)

No. 57189/15]

Sir Edward Grey presents his compliments to the United States Ambassador, and with reference to the Foreign Office memorandum No. 57189 of May 14 [Page 430] has the honour to inform his excellency that the opening statement, to the effect that only one American vessel was then detained in the United Kingdom, did not embrace cotton ships, which are dealt with in subsequent paragraphs of the memorandum.

There were, as his excellency is aware, two American cotton ships, the Southerner and the Carolyn, then detained in the United Kingdom.

Sir E. Grey considers that the memorandum of May 14 was not sufficiently explicit on this point, in regard to which he wishes to leave no room for misunderstanding.

  1. Not printed, as it contains only a summary of the following enclosed memorandum.
  2. The statistical tables, which were transmitted separately as enclosures to the Ambassador’s despatch No. 1476, May 22 (File No. 763.72112/1222), are not printed.