The United States in the World War

By John Bach McMaster | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
NEUTRAL TRADE

THE entrance of the great commercial nations of Europe into the war at once involved our country in a struggle for its neutral rights. With the German merchant shipping swept from the seas, and the German fleet, save a few commerce raiders, driven into the ports and harbors of Germany, Great Britain was free to turn her attention to the destruction of that neutral trade from which Germany might obtain supplies of a warlike character. Water-borne traffic of this sort going direct to Germany in neutral bottoms was easily stopped. But to cut off the supply which found its way through neutral countries she was forced to adopt a policy which pressed heavily on the commerce of the neutrals concerned.

At the outbreak of the war the Department of State instructed our Ambassador at London to inquire if the Government of Great Britain would agree "that the laws of naval warfare as laid down by the Declaration of London of 1909," should "be applicable to naval warfare during the present conflict in Europe," provided all the governments with whom Great Britain was or might be at war would do the same. Like instructions were sent to our Ambassadors at Paris, Berlin, Vienna, St. Petersburg and the Legation at Brussels. Austria- Hungary and Germany agreed; Russia replied that whatever course of action Great Britain took she would follow. Great Britain "decided to adopt generally the rules and regulations of the Declaration in question, subject to certain modifications and additions," and set forth these additions in orders in Council. They consisted of new lists of absolute and conditional contraband, in lieu of those contained in articles 22 and 24 of the Declaration; of the announcement that the British Navy would "treat as liable to capture a vessel which carried- contraband of war with false papers if she were encountered

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