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

No. 4321

Sir: In reference to the Department’s telegram in cipher of May 29th directing me to forward a list of cases pending in the Prize Court, and to suggest how they might be disposed of satisfactorily in view of the altered political situation, I have the honor to state [Page 602]that I have to-day forwarded a partial reply.2 The Procurator General has promised to give me a practically complete list of pending cases, a good many of which are being dealt with by London law firms, and of which I have little or no knowledge. The Crown’s legal advisers are not particularly enthusiastic over the suggestion of a general settlement of the cases upon which they have put a good deal of work for, perhaps, comprehensible reasons, but I strongly suspect that if the matter becomes one of formal negociation we shall have no difficulty in coming to some kind of understanding.

I have suggested in my reply, which has now gone forward, that all westbound goods owned by American firms and held under the Order in Council of March 11, 1915, be released, and that in the large number of cases in which such goods already have been released against deposits, the deposits be returned. I have further suggested that eastbound post parcels should be returned to senders in the United States unless enemy ownership is already admitted, and that if there exist cases of doubtful ownership such eastbound parcels shall be returned to the Department of State to be dealt with in that Department at its discretion.

As to Prize Court cases which have been prepared and are actually ready for trial, I venture to propose the appointment of a committee of three upon which there should be at least one American to decide whether the proceedings shall continue or be quashed, and further to deal with any other questions arising out of Prize Court proceedings under any head.

From an informal conversation at the Procurator General’s office I gather that his Department will object to any general scheme of effecting releases unless each release shall carry with it a guarantee of immunity from any claim for damages.

I have [etc.]

Robert P. Skinner
  1. The partial reply was forwarded in a telegram dated June 14 (file no. 763.72112/3800).