File No. 763.72112/1266

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

No. 533]

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of a letter which I am to-day addressing to the Ambassador, the terms of which I hope will receive the Department’s approval.

It seems to me highly desirable that we should do everything possible to prevent the utilization of war measures in this country as instruments for the transfer to British control of various lines of trade and commerce.

I have [etc.]

Robert P. Skinner
[Page 449]

The Consul General at London ( Skinner ) to the American Ambassador ( Page )

Sir: I have the honor to bring to your attention the following facts in regard to trading in cotton in this country, in the hope that you will find it practicable to lay the circumstances before the Foreign Office on my behalf and to obtain the views of that department of the Government.

Although cotton has not been declared contraband of war, the British authorities have taken steps in their own interests, the effect of which has been practically to prevent the shipment of the commodity mentioned from American ports to various neutral ports in Europe. Many cargoes which went forward from the United States under the so-called cotton agreement have been detained in this country and shipments forwarded outside the terms of that agreement are in an even less favorable situation.

As far as can be observed, the British authorities have interposed a veto upon the carrying on of this important branch of our trade with the Scandinavian countries and with Holland. While this has been the situation during the past few months in respect of shipments from the United States, enormously increased quantities of cotton, and American cotton principally, have been exported from Great Britain to the same destinations from which our own trading ships are excluded.

It cannot have escaped your observation that the extraordinary recent re-exportations of cotton from Great Britain have led to a discussion of the question in Parliament, and according to trustworthy reports, the House of Commons has been informed that the Board of Trade has now set up a cotton licensing committee for the purpose of scrutinizing more closely exports of the commodity under consideration, apparently with the intention of permitting the business to continue subject to control.

I should very much like to be informed whether any steps have been taken by any branch of the British Government to facilitate the carrying on of business in cotton between the United States and neutral European ports, as it certainly cannot be admitted that all American ships bringing cotton to Europe are to be detained and their cargoes placed in the prize courts, while the trade of this country is given every opportunity to be carried on and to be increased.

The matter is one of such grave concern that I earnestly hope it may prove possible to obtain a full discussion of the subject at a very early date.

I have [etc.]

Robert P. Skinner