The Secretary of State to the Danish Minister ( Brun )

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of June 1, 1923, setting forth the views of your Government with respect to the operation of the National Prohibition Act as interpreted by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of the Cunard Steamship Company, Ltd., v. Mellon et al.

You will, of course, understand that this Government cannot well discuss the legality, in an international sense, of the operation [Page 159] of an Act of Congress the scope of which, within the territorial limits of the United States, has been authoritatively determined by the Supreme Court of the United States. While, therefore, I am not indisposed to consider in a friendly spirit views such as those expressed in your note with respect to the operation of the Act upon the vessels of foreign governments, I could not accept any suggestion questioning the competency of the Congress to enact the legislation to which you refer.

I have been interested in the extract from the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Wildenhus case, to which you kindly called my attention. Without discussing in any way the views of the Court set forth therein, I would nevertheless invite your attention to another extract from the same opinion in which Chief Justice Waite said:

“It is part of the law of civilized nations that when a merchant vessel of one country enters the ports of another for the purposes of trade, it subjects itself to the law of the place to which it goes, unless by treaty or otherwise the two countries have come to some different understanding or agreement; for, as was said by Chief Justice Marshall in ‘The Exchange’, 7 Cranch, 116, 144, ‘it would be obviously inconvenient and dangerous to society, and would subject the laws to continual infraction, and the government to degradation, if such …19 merchants did not owe temporary and local allegiance, and were not amenable to the jurisdiction of the country.’” (120 U.S. 1, 11).

I have forwarded a copy of your note to the appropriate authority of this Government, and attention has been invited to your statement that the Danish Merchant Marine Act of April 1, 1892, § 45, and the Regulations of December 10, 1892, require under certain circumstances that alcoholic liquors form a part of the ration of the crews of Danish merchant vessels. I shall be grateful if you will send me copies of the Danish laws and regulations to which you refer in order that complete information on the subject may be available.

Accept [etc.]

Charles E. Hughes
  1. Omission indicated in the original opinion.