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ment, who hold them not to be binding, to call upon Great Britain to observe those conventions in her war against Germany.
6. The only other treaty referred to in your note is the Declaration of London. This is a document of which Sweden was not a signatory; which has been ratified by none of the Powers that did sign it; and which consequently has no validity as an international instrument at all. I should not, in the circumstances, have thought it possible that the Swedish Government, when reproaching His Majesty's Government with the violation of solemn treaties, could have intended to allude to the Declaration of London, were it not that your note specifically argues that rubber cannot properly be treated as contraband because it is included in the list of articles which the Declaration stipulates shall not be so treated. The Swedish Government are of course aware that whilst His Majesty's Government have, by the terms of an Order in Council, undertaken to consider themselves bound by the rules of international law embodied in certain of the clauses of the Declaration of London, the articles setting up the free list was specifically excluded from that undertaking. The seizure of the rubber is justified on the doctrine of continuous voyage, which has been applied and recognized by other nations before this war, and of the benefit of which the British Government ought not now to be deprived.
7. I therefore put aside the argument based on the Declaration of London as wholly irrelevant, and the first of the grounds on which the Swedish protest is based must surely be disposed of by the considerations set forth above.
8. The second proposition, which would derive a special degree of sanctity for the parcel post from the fact that it is sent under the direct guarantee of the neutral state, appears to His Majesty's Government to involve a novel and somewhat far-reaching doctrine. Coupled with the further argument that the enactment of a Swedish prohibition of the export of an article of contraband operates as a bar to the belligerent's right to seize such contraband, the proposition amounts to a claim that a belligerent should for the enforcement of his right of search and capture rely on a neutral Government. The belligerent right of Great Britain to seize contraband intended to pass into Germany is not affected by the existence of Swedish laws or regulations governing the export of the particular class of goods to that country. The right to stop contraband having an in
tended enemy destination cannot be taken away by any action on the part of a neutral Power which may make it unlikely that the intended destination will in fact be reached. It is a right which His Majesty's Government cannot possibly abandon, and against its proper exercise they cannot admit that international law entitles any neutral state to protest.
9. Turning to the objections raised to the seizure of the particular consignments, I note that the Swedish Government profess ignorance as to there having been any suspicion of the presence of contraband in the mails on board the Hellig Olaf before they were searched. In this respect it is not unnatural that His Majesty's Government should have had the advantage of the Swedish authorities. They did have information that contraband was being shipped in the mails by this and other neutral vessels. Events have shown how accurate was their information. But even if this practical test were not now at hand, it will surely not be contended that a belligerent's right to seize contraband is in abeyance unless and until the Government of the neutral country to which the goods were ostensibly consigned declare itself satisfied that there are sufficient grounds to suspect their innocence?
10. The British authorities have followed the course which is not merely sanctioned but prescribed by one of the most ancient and unquestioned rules of international law. The shipments on board a neutral vessel were searched, and the contraband found was placed in the Prize Court. A diplomatic protest against this procedure cannot claim to rest on any sanction of international law. On the contrary, it violates the cardinal principle of the law of nations that the legality of the detention or capture of neutral ships or cargoes must be tested in the belligerent's Prize Court before it can properly be made the subject of diplomatic intervention.
11. As regards the parcel mail on board the steamship Stockholm, I have already had the honor to inform you that none of the parcels subjected to examination were finally detained. All were forwarded to their destination with but slight delay, The Swedish Government will not, I feel sure, call in question the belligerent right of visit and search itself. That right is absolute, and, provided the search is carried out with the due regard for neutral interests which the circumstances permit, there is no warrant in international law or practice for claiming that the belligerent may be called upon to explain
why in a particular instance he had thought it necessary to exercise his right.
12. In contrast with the scrupulously correct manner in which the British authorities have throughout acted in dealing with neutral parcels mails, the seizure by the Swedish Government of the Russian transit mail was a wholly and avowedly illegal act, all the more regrettable since it affects not only the acknowledged rights of this country, against whom the Swedish action was frankly directed, but also the rights of Russia. Such action is a direct challenge not only to the belligerent rights, but to the national sovereignty of Great Britain. No Power has shown itself more sensitive to any infringement of national sovereignty than Sweden, and the Swedish Government will therefore easily understand the feeling of Great Britain in the matter.
13. His Majesty's Government do not suppose the Swedish Government deliberately meditated an unprovoked departure from their policy of neutrality of so grave a character for the purpose of creating friction with this country. His Majesty's Government, for their part, have gone out of their way to demonstrate by repeated overtures their sincere desire to arrive at some friendly arrangement with Sweden in order to alleviate and diminish the difficultes which the pursuit of any naval war unavoidably creates for neutral maritime commerce. It has been a matter of profound regret to His Majesty's Government that their persistent efforts in this direction have not been crowned with success. They have been given to understand that the difficulties encountered are to be explained very largely by the sensitiveness of the Swedish Government on a question believed to involve some interference of a foreign Government with internal Swedish concerns, which precludes the possibility of their concluding or sanctioning the conclusion of a practical working arrangement with the interests directly concerned such as is feasible in the case of other neutral countries. I am afraid there lies at the bottom of this apprehension a tendency to show a want of appreciation of the fact that a belligerent has not only duties towards neutrals, but also rights as against his enemy, which are equally sanctified by all the prescriptions of international law, and that the difficulty in so regulating the exercise of those rights as to interfere as little as possible with bonâ fide neutral trade is best met by friendly co-operation between the belligerent Government and the neutral traders in order to facilitate
the task of distinguishing genuine neutral trade from the illicit transactions which the belligerent is entitled to stop.
14. If in the exercise of the belligerent's undoubted rights, such as the right of visit and search, it is thought by a neutral Government that the British naval or other authorities have gone beyond what the law of nations enables them to do, I can only repeat that it would be more consonant with the principles governing the intercourse between two friendly Governments if, before resorting to an open violation of British rights as a counter-measure to a supposed grievance, the correctness of the assumption on which the neutral based his complaint were brought to the test in the manner and by the machinery prescribed for this purpose by the consensus of all authorities of international law, as well as by the precedents set in every modern naval war. The rule that the legality of any act or interference with neutral ships or cargoes on the high seas must in the first instance be tested in a court of prize is one to which Great Britain, when herself neutral, has never failed to show obedience, often at the cost of considerable inconvenience and loss to British subjects and important British interests. She cannot in fairness be asked to agree to a contrary course now that she herself is at
15. His Majesty's Government have the most absolute confidence that neutral claimants receive a fair and impartial hearing, and obtain full justice, in the British prize courts. I may, however, add that if nevertheless a neutral Government were to consider that the result of any particular judgment in the British prize court had in practice failed to give proper redress to one of their subjects, His Majesty's Government would be quite ready to listen sympathetically to any diplomatic representations on the subject, and they do not exclude the possibility of settling the controversy by some reference to arbitration after the conclusion of the war.
16. In view of the explanations which I have now given as to the true bearing of the incidents complained of by the Swedish Government — explanations which I need hardly assure them are offered in no controversial spirit — I feel sure they will understand the position of His Majesty's Government and recognize the justice and reason of their attitude, and I venture to express the earnest hope that orders will, without further delay, be given for the release of the detained Russian parcel mails.
17. I shall have the honor to address a further communication to you on the subject of the search of letter mails, to which reference is made in the concluding paragraph of your note under reply.
I have, &c.
Count Wrangel to Sir Edward Grey. - (Received February 12)
SWEDISH LEGATION, London, February 11, 1916. Sir,
As I had the honor to inform your Excellency on the 1st of this month, I did not fail to communicate to my Government a copy of the note that you were good enough to address to me on the 31st January last, on the subject of the seizure of a certain number of postal parcels.
In reply to the latter note, my Government instructs me to make to you the following communication:
If, in the note which I had the honor to hand to you on the 21st January, the Royal Government spoke of "the brushing aside of existing treaties,” &c., the context of the note shows that it was considering, in the first instance, the eventuality of the British Government's being desirous of pleading the rules of the blockade in support of certain measures adopted. The Royal Government considered that, when speaking of “the solemn international agreement regulating these questions,” they had indicated sufficiently clearly the Declaration of Paris of the 16th April, 1856. It now recognizes with satisfaction the fact that the British Government make no further mention of the blockade, and only put forward in justification of the seizure of postal parcels on board the Stockholm, bound for America, the general right of search belonging to belligerents, a right which has reference to contraband. It is really difficult to conceive how parcels destined for America could be suspected of having an enemy destination. There is, moreover, no need to demonstrate at any great length that, generally speaking, the recognized rules with regard to search and seizure were ignored in the present case, as in