300.115/14331: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Davis)

5885. Your despatch 9821, September 3, 1918,28

You will address a note to Foreign Office as follows:

“I have the honor to refer to Your Excellency’s note of August 24, 1918,29 regarding the release of American owned goods detained by the British authorities. As the economic blockade of the Central Powers has now been raised, the Government of the United States believes that American owned goods detained by the British authorities under the Order in Council of March 11, 1915, should be released to the American owners upon the production of documents establishing their title to the goods at the time of detention. My Government is also of the opinion that in cases in which it has been deemed advisable by the British authorities to sell the goods, the proceeds of the sale should be released to the American owners.

In a large number of cases arrangements were made whereby the American owners of goods detained by the British authorities deposited the invoice value of the goods with the British Prize Court to effect the release of the goods for use in the manufacture of materials necessary for the prosecution of the war by this country. My Government instructs me to inform Your Excellency that it is of the [Page 630] opinion that the British Government should take immediate steps to pay over these funds upon the submission of documents establishing American ownership of the goods at the time of detention.

In bringing these matters to Your Excellency’s attention my Government instructs me to refer to the assurances contained in Viscount Grey’s note of March 15, 1915, to Mr. Page,30 as follows: ‘His Majesty’s Government have felt most reluctant at the moment of initiating a policy of blockade to exact from neutral ships all the penalties attaching to a breach of blockade. In their desire to alleviate the burden which the existence of a state of war at sea must inevitably impose on neutral sea-borne commerce, they declare their intention to refrain altogether from the exercise of the right to confiscate ships or cargoes which belligerents have always claimed in respect of breaches of blockade. They restrict their claim to the stopping of cargoes destined for or coming from the enemy’s territory.’

I am instructed by my Government to request Your Excellency to furnish me an expression of the views of the British Government with regard to release of these goods and moneys at an early date.”

Consult Consulate General regarding its despatch 7352 of January 27 last, and urge upon Foreign Office importance of early favorable decision in this matter as a large number of complaints have been lodged with the Department relative to the non-release of these goods and moneys by the British.

  1. Ante, p. 617.
  2. Ante, p. 618.
  3. See telegram no. 1798, Mar. 15, 1915, from the Ambassador in Great Britain, Foreign Relations, 1915, supp., p. 143.