File No. 763.72112/1233

The Consul General at London (Skinner) to the Secretary of State

No. 458]

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that I have been in communication with the Admiralty marshal on the subject of the costs of discharging cargo from vessels brought into British ports under the order in council of March 11. The Admiralty marshal has stated to me that he has instructed the customs officials to require the masters, or ships’ agents, to discharge such cargoes, and should they make any complaint or protest as to the matter of payment, to inform the master or ships’ agents, that the payment of the expenses in no way precludes them from making a claim therefor in the prize court.

I have protested against this decision and have informed the Admiralty marshal that as the order in council itself does not appear to warrant the placing of any further burdens upon neutral shipping, by way of compelling them to bear the cost of discharging cargo, and as there is certainly no warrant for any such course of action in the precepts of international law, I shall advise the masters of American ships engaged in innocent commercial undertakings to refuse to pay bills of this kind. Privately I am of the opinion that if masters refuse to pay these bills, the Admiralty marshal will meet them himself. However that may be, it seems to me utterly unfair that neutral shipping should be saddled with the expense of carrying out the instructions of the British Government solely in its own interest, and I shall be glad to learn the Department’s views upon this point.

I have [etc.]

Robert P. Skinner