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BOARD OF EDITORS OF THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
Chandler P. Anderson, New York, N. Y.
Editor in Chief
James Brown Scott, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
Washington, D. C.
Secretary of the Board of Editors and Business Manager of the Journal George A. Finch, 2 Jackson Place, Washington, D. C.
In a letter dated January 8, 1915, from the Honorable William J. Stone, of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, to the Secretary of State, some twenty grounds of complaint are set forth by AustroGerman sympathizers against the United States, which has, in the opinion of the sympathizers, shown partiality to Great Britain, France and Russia as against Germany and Austria during the present war between those Powers. It is unnecessary to enumerate the categories summarized by Senator Stone in his letter, as they are dealt with one by one, and in their order of statement, in the detailed and convincing reply which Secretary Bryan made on January 20, 1915:
Secretary Bryan's letter follows in full:1
Department Of State, Washington, January 20, 1915.
Dear Mr. Stone: I have received your letter of the 8th instant, referring to frequent complaints or charges made in one form or another through the press that this Government has shown partiality to Great Britain, France, and Russia against Germany and Austria during the present war, and stating that you have received numerous letters to the same effect from sympathizers with the latter powers. You summarize the various grounds of these complaints and ask that you be furnished with whatever information the department may have touching these points of complaint, in order that you may be informed as to what the true situation is in regard to these matters.
In order that you may have such information as the department has on the subjects referred to in your letter, I will take them up seriatim.
(1) Freedom of communication by submarine cables versus censored communication by wireless.
The reason that wireless messages and cable messages require different treatment by a neutral Government is as follows:
Communications by wireless can not be interrupted by a belligerent. With a submarine cable it is otherwise. The possibility of cutting the cable exists, and if a belligerent possesses naval superiority the cable is cut, as was the German cable near the Azores by one of Germany's enemies and as was the British cable near Fanning Island by a German naval force. Since a cable is subject to hostile attack, the responsibility falls upon the belligerent and not upon the neutral to prevent cable communication.
A more important reason, however, at least from the point of view of a neutral Government, is that messages sent out from a wireless station in neutral territory may be received by belligerent warships on the high seas. If these messages, whether plain or in cipher, direct the movements of warships or convey to them information as to the location of an enemy's public or private vessels, the neutral territory becomes a base of naval operations, to permit which would be essentially unneutral.
As a wireless message can be received by all stations and vessels within a given radius, every message in cipher, whatever its intended
1 Senate Document, No. 716, 63d Congress, 3d Session.
destination, must be censored; otherwise military information may be sent to warships off the coast of a neutral. It is manifest that a submarine cable is incapable of becoming a means of direct communication with a warship on the high seas. Hence its use can not, as a rule, make neutral territory a base for the direction of naval operations.
(2) Censorship of mails and in some cases repeated destruction of American letters on neutral vessels.
As to the censorship of mails, Germany as well as Great Britain has pursued this course in regard to private letters falling into their hands. The unquestioned right to adopt a measure of this sort makes objection to it inadvisable.
It has been asserted that American mail on board of Dutch steamers has been repeatedly destroyed. No evidence to this effect has been filed with the Government, and therefore no representations have been made. Until such a case is presented in concrete form, this Government would not be justified in presenting the matter to the offending belligerent. Complaints have come to the department that mail on board neutral steamers has been opened and detained, but there seem to be but few cases where the mail from neutral countries has not been finally delivered. When mail is sent to belligerent countries open and is of a neutral and private character it has not been molested, so far as the department is advised.
(3) Searching of American vessels for German and Austrian subjects on the high seas and in territorial waters of a belligerent.
So far as this Government has been informed, no American vessels on the high seas, with two exceptions, have been detained or searched by belligerent warships for German and Austrian subjects. One of the exceptions to which reference is made is now the subject of a rigid investigation, and vigorous representations have been made to the offending Government. The other exception, where certain German passengers were made to sign a promise not to take part in the war, has been brought to the attention of the offending Government with a declaration that such procedure, if true, is an unwarranted exercise of jurisdiction over American vessels in which this Government will not acquiesce.
An American private vessel entering voluntarily the territorial waters of a belligerent becomes subject to its municipal laws, as do the persons on board the vessel.
There have appeared in certain publications the assertion that failure
to protest in these cases is an abandonment of the principle for which the United States went to war in 1812. If the failure to protest were true, which it is not, the principle involved is entirely different from the one appealed to against unjustifiable impressment of Americans in the British Navy in time of peace.
(4) Submission without protest to British violations of the rules regarding absolute and conditional contraband as laid down in The Hague conventions, the declaration of London, and international law.
There is no Hague convention which deals with absolute or conditional contraband, and, as the declaration of London is not in force, the rules of international law only apply. As to the articles to be regarded as contraband, there is no general agreement between nations. It is the practice for a country, either in time of peace or after the outbreak of war, to declare the articles which it will consider as absolute or conditional contraband. It is true that a neutral Government is seriously affected by this declaration as the rights of its subjects or citizens may be impaired. But the rights and interests of belligerents and neutrals are opposed in respect to contraband articles and trade and there is no tribunal to which questions of difference may be readily submitted.
The record of the United States in the past is not free from criticism. When neutral this Government has stood for a restricted list of absolute and conditional contraband. As a belligerent, we have contended for a liberal list, according to our conception of the necessities of the case.
The United States has made earnest representations to Great Britain in regard to the seizure and detention by the British authorities of all American ships or cargoes bona fide destined to neutral ports, on the ground that such seizures and detentions were contrary to the existing rules of international law. It will be recalled, however, that American courts have established various rules bearing on these matters. The rule of "continuous voyage" has been not only asserted by American tribunals but extended by them. They have exercised the right to determine from the circumstances whether the ostensible was the real destination. They have held that the shipment of articles of contraband to a neutral port "to order," from which, as a matter of fact, cargoes had been transshipped to the enemy, is corroborative evidence that the cargo is really destined to the enemy instead of to the neutral port of delivery. It is thus seen that some of the doctrines which appear to bear harshly upon neutrals at the present time are analogous to or outgrowths from policies adopted by the United States when it was a belligerent. The Government therefore can not consistently protest against the application of rules which it has followed in the past, unless they have not been practiced as heretofore.
(5) Acquiescence without protest to the inclusion of copper and other articles in the British lists of absolute contraband.
The United States has now under consideration the question of the right of a belligerent to include "copper unwrought" in its list of absolute contraband instead of in its list of conditional contraband. As the Government of the United States has in the past placed "all articles from which ammunition is manufactured" in its contraband list, and has declared copper to be among such materials, it necessarily finds some embarrassment in dealing with the subject.
Moreover, there is no instance of the United States acquiescing in Great Britain's seizure of copper shipments. In every case, in which it has been done, vigorous representations have been made to the British Government, and the representatives of the United States have pressed for the release of the shipments.
(6) Submission without protest to interference with American trade to neutral countries in conditional and absolute contraband.
The fact that the commerce of the United States is interrupted by Great Britain is consequent upon the superiority of her navy on the high seas. History shows that whenever a country has possessed that superiority our trade has been interrupted and that few articles essential to the prosecution of the war have been allowed to reach its enemy from this country. The department's recent note to the British Government, which has been made public, in regard to detentions and seizures of American vessels and cargoes, is a complete answer to this complaint.
Certain other complaints appear aimed at the loss of profit in trade, which must include at least in part trade in contraband with Germany; while other complaints demand the prohibition of trade in contraband, which appear to refer to trade with the allies.
(7) Submission without protest to interruption of trade in conditional contraband consigned to private persons in Germany and Austria, thereby supporting the policy of Great Britain to cut off all supplies from Germany and Austria.
As no American vessel so far as known has attempted to carry con