“The Government of Great Britain have frankly declared, in concert with the Government of France, their intention to meet the German attempt to stop all supplies of every kind from leaving or entering British or French ports by themselves stopping supplies going to or from Germany. For this end, the British fleet has instituted a blockade effectively controlling by cruiser ‘cordon’ all passage to and from Germany by sea. The difference between the two policies is, however, that, while our object is the same as that of Germany, we propose to attain it without sacrificing neutral ships or non-combatant lives, or inflicting upon neutrals the damage that must be entailed when a vessel and its cargo are sunk without notice, examination, or trial.
“I must emphasize again that this measure is a natural and necessary consequence of the unprecedented methods repugnant to all law and morality which have been described above which Germany began to adopt at the very outset of the war and the effects of which have been constantly accumulating.”
American Ambassador, London.
American inquiry on reprisal method.
The American Government on March 5 transmitted identic messages of inquiry to the Ambassadors at London and Paris inquiring from both England and France how the declarations in the Anglo-French note proclaiming an embargo on all commerce between Germany and neutral countries were to be carried into effect. The message to London was as follows:
Washington, March 5, 1915.
In regard to the recent communications received from the British and French Governments concerning restraints upon commerce with Germany, please communicate with the British Foreign Office in the sense following:
The difficulty of determining action upon the British and French declarations of intended retaliation upon commerce with Germany lies in the nature of the proposed measures in their relation to commerce by neutrals.
While it appears that the intention is to interfere with and take into custody all ships, both outgoing and incoming, trading with Germany, which is in effect a blockade of German ports, the rule of blockade that a ship attempting to enter or leave a German port, regardless of the character of its cargo, may be condemned is not asserted.
The language of the declaration is “the British and French Governments will, therefore, hold themselves free to detain and take into port ships carrying goods of presumed enemy destination, ownership, or origin. It is not intended to confiscate such vessels or cargoes unless they would otherwise be liable to condemnation.”
The first sentence claims a right pertaining only to a state of blockade. The last sentence proposes a treatment of ships and cargoes as if no blockade existed. The two together present a proposed course of action previously unknown to international law.