File No. 300.115/4301a
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Page)
1852. It is brought to the attention of the Department that the steamship Neches, of American register, sailing from Rotterdam to [Page 473] a port of the United States, carrying a general cargo, after being detained at the Downs, was brought to London where it was made by the British authorities to discharge cargo, the property of American citizens.
The ground advanced to sustain this action, it appears, is that the goods originated, in part at least, in Belgium, and fall, therefore, within the provisions of paragraph 4 of the order in council of March 11, which stipulates that every merchant vessel sailing from a port other than a German port, carrying goods of enemy origin, may be required to discharge such goods in a British or Allied port. The Government of the United States very earnestly reiterates its position with respect to this order in council as set forth in its instruction to the Embassy of March 30, 1915,1 and regards the international invalidity of the order as plainly illustrated by the present instance of the seizure of American-owned goods, passing from the neutral port of Rotterdam to a neutral port of the United States, merely because the goods came originally from territory in the possession of Great Britain’s enemy.
The Department desires that you inform the Foreign Office courteously, but plainly, that the legality of this seizure cannot be admitted, and that in the view of this Government it violates the right of the citizens of one neutral to trade with those of another, as well as with those of belligerents, except in contraband or in violation of a legal blockade of an enemy seaport. The Department must insist upon the rights of American owners of goods to bring them out of Holland in due course in neutral ships, even though such goods may have come originally from the territories of Great Britain’s enemies. Therefore, you will communicate with Foreign Office in the sense of the foregoing, and insist that goods taken from the Neches which are the property of American citizens shall be expeditiously released to be forwarded to their destination, and request to be advised at the earliest convenient moment of the British Government’s intended course in this matter.