The Essentials of International Public Law and Organization

By Amos S. Hershey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXIV
THE SO-CALLED LAW OF BLOCKADE

477. Definition. -- Blockade has been well defined as "the blocking of the approach to the enemy coast, or a part of it, for the purpose of preventing ingress and egress of vessels of all nations."1

478. Blockade as an Operation of War. -- Blockade is an operation of war and "must be limited to the ports and coasts belonging to or occupied by the enemy." It can be directed only against an adversary.2

____________________
1
2 Oppenheim, § 368. Blockade should not be confounded with siege, though it has points of similarity as well as of dissimilarity. War blockade should also be distinguished from pacific blockades. Cf. supra, Nos. 324 ff. With reference to their purpose, war blockades are often spoken of as strategic or commercial, but these terms have no legal significance.

As an institute of maritime International Law, blockade dates from the sixteenth century and owes its origin to the Dutch who appear to have made the first applications of it as distinct from "siege" in 1584 and 1630. The Law of blockade may be said to have been elaborated by courts and jurists during the eighteenth century. On the History of Blockade, see especially: 2 Fauchille Nos. 1596- 1609, and De blocus maritime( 1882), 2-12; 1 Kleen, 542 ff.; * Söder-

quist, Le blocus maritime( 1908), 7-119; 2 Westlake(1st ed.), 221-26, and Collected Papers,325-37.

2
Art. 1 of the unratified Declaration of Londonand Reporton the Declaration, in Higgins, 542and 572; or in Naval War College, Int. Law Topics ( 1909), 25 ff. Cf. D. L., 18 which declares that "the blockading forces must not bar access to neutral ports or coasts."

These rules, which were regarded as forming an undoubted part of the law of blockade prior to the World War, were violated in substance if not in form by the Allies during this great struggle, and it is not at all certain that they would not again be disregarded under similar circumstances.

On Feb. 4, 1915 the German Government issued its first war zone decree against Great Britain which has been frequently referred to as a submarine blockade. (This term is a misnomer, inasmuch as it possessed few, if any, of the elements of a lawful blockade.) On March 1, 1915, the British Government announced that it was the intention of the Allied Governments as a retaliatory measure "to seize all ships carrying goods of presumed enemy destination, ownership or origin." It declared, however, that these retaliatory measures would be enforced "without risk to neutral ships or to neutral or non-combatant life and in strict observance of the dictates of humanity. The British and French Governments will therefore hold themselves free to detain and take into ports ships carrying goods of presumed enemy destination, ownership, or origin. It is not intended to confiscate such vessels or cargoes unless they would other-

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