The Belgian Ambassador ( de Cartier ) to the Secretary of State
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency’s note of May 3, 1923, by which you communicated to me the [Page 137] notice issued by the Secretary of the Treasury to inform shipping everywhere that the Supreme Court of the United States holding that it is unlawful for any vessel, either foreign or domestic, to bring within the United States or within the territorial waters thereof, any liquors whatever for beverage purposes, regulations, to which all shipping will be subject, will be promulgated for carrying this decision into effect, and will become effective June 10, 1923.
The Belgian Government, to the knowledge of which I have brought the contents of Your Excellency’s note, has directed me to draw the kind attention of the American Government to the difficulties resulting from the regulations proposed to be issued in accordance with the Supreme Court’s opinion, for Belgian shipping which is obliged, by Belgian regulations, to have alcoholic beverages on board for medicinal purposes. Old established custom requires likewise, certain amount as beverage for the crew.
The Belgian Government does not contend that a ship, being in the territorial waters of a country, is not subject to the jurisdiction of that country, but it believes that that jurisdiction should not extend beyond restricting acts which might disturb public order. Upon this point, comity and practice of nations have seemed, so far, to agree.
The Belgian Government is also of the opinion that the proposed regulations may establish a dangerous precedent which might be referred to in support of any measure which might be taken by other governments to prohibit having on board various other articles such as tobacco, coffee, tea, etc.
In the opinion of the Belgian Government, the proposed regulations might also lead to difficulties derived from the fact that ships pass through jurisdiction of different nations even when not entering their ports, and that an impossible position would be created in international voyage if conflicting domestic laws were thus imposed by each successive country on vessels of other nations within their jurisdiction.
The Belgian Government cannot but think that the rules at present in force according to which liquors on board a ship finding herself in the territorial waters of the United States are kept under seal, are sufficient to prevent any fraud. It would, therefore, appreciate it if you would give the matter your kind consideration with a view to reconciling the rights involved in the question raised by the proposed regulations.
Please accept [etc.]