The British Ambassador ( Lindsay ) to the Secretary of State
Washington , June 27, 1936.
Sir: I have the honour to inform you that I have received instructions from His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to invite your attention to the following circumstances attending the recent seizure of the British motor vessel Miserinko of Bridgetown, Barbados, by the United States Coastguard authorities.
- It appears that this vessel, which for some time had been suspected of being utilised for the smuggling of liquor into the United States, was seized with some six thousand gallons of alcohol on board by the United States Coast Guard Patrol Boat Harriet Lane off the coast of Maine on the 15th March last. In a communication addressed to His Majesty’s Consul General at Boston on the 12th June by the Commander of the Boston Division of the United States Coast Guard, in reply to an enquiry by the former, it is stated that the vessel was first sighted by aircraft at a distance of 17 miles from the coast; that she was 31 miles distant from the coast when pursuit began, and 45 miles distant when finally overhauled. The normal speed of the vessel is said to be about 10 knots.
- From the above statement it emerges that when pursuit began the vessel was outside United States territorial waters and moreover outside the limit of one-hour’s steaming distance from the coast laid down in the Anglo-United States Liquor Smuggling Convention of 1924.9 There can, therefore, in the view of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom be no justification under this Convention for the seizure. It is understood, however, that the authorities based their action upon the United States Anti-Smuggling Act of 1935.10 claiming that the Miserinko is substantially controlled by United States citizens. But even if this be the case His Majesty’s Government could not admit that the Anti-Smuggling Act, whatever its provisions, could in the circumstances of the present case justify the seizure of a vessel lawfully flying the British flag. Even though seizure could be justified under United States law, such law could have no international application outside United States territorial waters proper.
- It is the opinion of His Majesty’s Government therefore that the seizure of the vessel was an illegal action under international law, and I have accordingly been instructed to request that the Miserinko [Page 108] should be released. In making this request His Majesty’s Government reserve full rights to put forward a claim for compensation at some later date.
I have [etc.]
R. C. Lindsay
- Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. i, p. 158.↩
- Approved August 5, 1935; 49 Stat. 517.↩