File No. 341.115P51/62
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Page)
2394. Your despatch 2299. The note addressed to you by Foreign Office under date October 6, 1915, confirms Department’s original [Page 609] supposition seizure cargo steamer Joseph W. Fordney was an illegal act on part British authorities since goods were seized on suspicion and without probable cause. These goods were subject to seizure only if consigned to German Government or its armed forces. Department observes Foreign Office states that, as His Majesty’s Government “now” have reason to believe that the goods “were for the enemy Government or its armed forces, proceedings for condemnation are being taken on that ground.” In other words, it appears that approximately one half year after seizure goods British authorities believe they have such evidence as alone would have justified seizure this cargo. Department does not perceive the pertinency to matter under discussion of statement to you by Foreign Office pointing out that when it was arranged that you should be informed regarding detention of ships, with an indication of the grounds of detention, it was emphasized that this undertaking would not be understood as debarring British Government from raising additional grounds for proceeding against a cargo or ship in prize court. If adequate evidence warranting seizure goods was not disclosed by due examination of vessel at time of its seizure, there of course could be no lawful seizure of the cargo and, therefore, no subsequent lawful prize court proceedings.
Communicate with Foreign Office in sense foregoing, and since it would appear from British Government’s own statement cargo was illegally seized, you may renew your request for its release.