The Minister in the Netherlands (Tobin) to the Secretary of State

No. 107

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s unnumbered Instruction of September 10, 1923, enclosing a copy of an Instruction, [Page 192] dated August 25, 1923, addressed to the American Embassy at London, dealing with the question of the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment in American territorial waters. In the next to the last paragraph on page 2 of this Instruction, the Department directed me to submit a report setting forth any information concerning the views held by Dutch officials on this subject which might come to my knowledge.

Pursuant to the Department’s request, I now have the honor to report that, on October 2d, I had a favorable opportunity to discuss the matter in question with Jonkheer van Karnebeek, Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs, who showed a most gratifying desire of cooperating with the United States Government. In reply to my inquiry, Mr. van Karnebeek declared that whilst he would not like to use any expressions which might be construed into an endorsement of the present Prohibition Law, widely divergent as it is from Dutch feelings and convictions on this subject, he had at the same time not the least hesitation in expressing an assurance that the Dutch Government looked with complete disfavor upon any project of using the Dutch flag for the purpose of covering smuggling operations into America. The Dutch Government, he continued, would never consent to its authority being used for the purpose of violating the domestic regulations of a friendly nation. He expressed the hope that a way might be found for relieving the disadvantages that the present law inflicted upon the Dutch commercial marine. He felt it to be a blow to Dutch marine interests that Dutch ships were no longer permitted to carry, even under seal, sufficient liquors for their passengers to use in neutral waters. He referred, he said, not merely to ships plying directly between Dutch and American ports, but to others which were obliged to touch at American ports as part of an extensive commerce to other countries. A large traffic, he asserted, was carried on by Holland in the export of beer to Central and South American countries. Under the present law, it was impossible for ships carrying such merchandise to make a call, in passing, at any American port, without the danger of having their cargo, destined for other countries, confiscated.

I asked Mr. van Karnebeek how far the Dutch Government’s claim of marine jurisdiction extended, and he answered: “One league from the shore line.”

I inquired of the Minister if he considered it likely that the Dutch Government, in return for relief from the inconveniences which he described, would be willing to enter into an agreement for the extension of the right of search to the twelve mile limit. He answered Yes”, and repeated his strong conviction that his Government would [Page 193] readily coöperate in measures to prevent the abuse of the Dutch flag by smugglers.

As the Department is aware, questions of Dutch foreign policy are largely determined by Mr. van Karnebeek himself, and his views are therefore of the utmost importance in judging what stand the Netherlands Government will take on any important question. I shall not fail to inform the Department promptly of any new developments in the matter in question, and shall submit a report regarding the attitude of Dutch legal authorities toward the question of the three mile limit in the near future.

I have [etc.]

Richard M. Tobin