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"Fifth, every effort is being made to introduce a system of rationing which will insure that the neutrals concerned will import only such quantities of articles as are specified as normally imported for their own consumption."
The case of the Chicago meat packers, involving food consignments to neutral European countries since the war's outbreak, came before a British prize court before the American protest had been lodged. Apparently the issues it raised dictated in some degree the contentions Secretary Lansing made. The British authorities had seized thirty-three vessels mainly bearing meat products valued at $15,000,000, twenty-nine of which had been held without being relegated for disposal to the prize courts. The remaining four cargoes, held for ten months, and worth $2,500,000 were confiscated by a British prize court on September 15, 1915. The goods were declared forfeited to the Crown. One of the factors influencing the decision was the sudden expansion in shipments of food products to the Scandinavian countries immediately after the war began. The president of the prize court, Sir Samuel Evans, asserted that incoming vessels were carrying more than thirteen times the amount of goods to Copenhagen—the destination of the four ships involved-above the volume which under normal conditions arrived at that port. He cited lard, the exportation of which by one American firm had increased twentyfold to Copenhagen in three weeks after the war, and canned meat, of which Denmark hitherto had only taken small quantities, yet the seized vessels carried hundreds of thousands of tins.
The confiscation formed the subject of a complaint made by Chicago beef packers to the State Department on October 6, 1915. The British Court condemned the cargoes on the grounds: (1) that the goods being in excess of the normal consumption of Denmark, raised a presumption that they were destined for, i. e., eventually would find their way into Germany. (2) That, owing to the highly organized state of Germany, in a military sense, there was practically no distinction between the civilian and military population of that country and therefore there was a presumption that the goods, or a very large proportion of them, would necessarily be used by the military forces of the German Empire. (3) That the burden of proving that such goods were not destined for, i. e., would not eventually get into the hands of the German forces, must be accepted and sustained by the American shippers.
The Chicago beef firms besought the Government to register an immediate protest against the decision of the prize court and demand from the British Government adequate damages for losses arising from the seizure, detention and confiscation of the shipments of meat products. They complained that the judgment and the grounds on which it was based were contrary to the established principles of international law, and subversive of the rights of neutrals. The judgment, they said, was unsupported by fact, and was based on inferences and presumptions. Direct evidence on behalf of the American firms interested, to the effect that none of the seized shipments had been sold, consigned or destined to the armed forces or to the governments of any enemy of Great Britain, was uncontradicted and disregarded and the seizures were upheld in the face of an admission that no precedent of the English courts existed justifying the condemnation of goods on their way to a neutral port.
An uncompromising defense of the prize court's decision came to the State Department from the British Government a few days later. Most of the seizures, it said, were not made under the Order in Council of March 11, 1915, the validity of which and of similar orders was disputed by the United States Government. The larger part of the cargoes were seized long before March, 1915. The ground for the seizures was that the cargoes were conditional contraband destined from the first by the Chicago beef packers, largely for the use of the armies, navies and Government departments of Germany and Austria, and only sent to neutral ports with the object of concealing their true destina
From cablegrams and letters in the possession of the British Government and produced in court, the statement charged, “it was clear and that packers' agents in these neutral countries, and also several of the consigners, who purported to be genuine
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neutral buyers, were merely persons engaged by the packers on commission, or sent by the packers from their German branches for the purpose of insuring the immediate transit of these consignments to Germany.
No attempt was made by any written or other evidence to explain away the damning evidence of the telegrams and letters disclosed by the Crown. The inference was clear and irresistible that no such attempt could be made, and that any written evidence there was would have merely confirmed the strong suspicion, amounting to a practical certainty, that the whole of the operations of shipment to Copenhagen and other neutral ports were a mere mask to cover a determined effort to transmit vast quantities of supplies through to the German and Austrian armies."
A portion of the Western press had denounced the confiscation as a "British outrage" and as "robbery by prize court"; but the more moderate Eastern view was that, while American business men had an undoubted right to feed the German armies, if they could, they were in the position of gamblers who had lost if the British navy succeeded in intercepting the shipments.
Exaggerated values placed on American-owned goods held up for months at Rotterdam and other neutral ports by British became largely discounted on October 1, 1915, under the scrutiny of the Foreign Trade Advisers of the State Department. These goods were German-made for consignment to the United States, and would only be released if the British Government were satisfied that they were contracted for by American importers before March 1, 1915, the date on which the British blockade of Germany began. Early protests against their detention complained that $50,000,000 was involved; later the value of the detained goods was raised to $150,000,000. But actual claims made by American importers to the British Embassy, through the Foreign Trade Advisers, seeking the release of the consignments, showed that the amount involved was not much more than $11,000,000 and would not exceed $15,000,000 at the most
SEIZURE OF SUSPECTED SHIPSTRADINO WITH THE E NE MY — THE APPA м — THE ANGLO - FRENCH LOAN - FORD
THE next issue the United States raised with Great Britain
related to the seizure of three ships of American registrythe Hocking, Genesee and the Kankakee—in November, 1915, on the ground that they were really German-owned. France had also confiscated the Solveig of the same ownership for a like reason. The four vessels belonged to the fleet of the American Transatlantic Steamship Company, the formation of which under unusual circumstances was recorded earlier in this history. Great Britain and France served notice that this company's vessels were blacklisted, and became seizable as prizes of war because of the suspicion that German interests were behind the company, and that its American officials with their reputed holdings of stock were therefore really prizes for German capital. The Bureau of Navigation had at first refused registry to these vessels, but its ruling was reversed, and the vessels were admitted, the State Department taking the view that it could not disregard the company's declaration of incorporation in the United States, and that its officers were American citizens. Great Britain sought to requisition the vessels for navy use without prize-court hearings, but on the United States protesting she agreed to try the cases.
Another dispute arose, in January, 1916, over the operation of the Trading with the Enemy Act, one of Great Britain's war measures, the provisions of which were enlarged to forbid British merchants from trading with any person or firm, resident in a neutral country, which had German ownership or German trade connections. The United States objected to the prohibition as constituting a further unlawful interference with American trade. It held that in war time the trade of such a person or firm domiciled in a neutral country had a neutral status, and consequently was not subject to interference; hence goods in transit of such a trader were not subject to confiscation by a belligerent unless contraband and consigned to an enemy country.
An example of the working of the act was the conviction of three members of a British glove firm for trading with Germany through their New York branch. They had obtained some $30,000 worth of goods from Saxony between October, 1915, and January, 1916, the consignments evading the blockade and reaching New York, whence they were reshipped to England. One defendant was fined $2,000; the two others received terms of imprisonment.
While the act would injure American firms affiliated with German interests, it aimed to press hardest upon traders in neutral European countries contiguous to Germany who were trading with the Germans and practically serving as intermediaries to save the Germans from the effect of the Allies' blockade.
The appearance of a captured British steamer, the Appam, at Newport News, Va., on February 1, 1916, in charge of a German naval lieutenant, Hans Berg, and a prize crew, involved the United States in a new maritime tangle with the belligerents. One of the most difficult problems which Government officials had encountered since the war began, presented itself for solution. The Appam, as elsewhere described, was captured by a German raider, the Moewe (Sea Gull), off Madeira, and was crowded with passengers, crews, and German prisoners taken from a number of other ships the Moewe had sunk. Lieutenant Berg, for lack of a safer harbor, since German ports were closed to him, sought for refuge an American port, and claimed for his prize the privilege of asylum under the protection of American lawsuntil he chose to leave. Count von Bernstorff, the German Ambassador, immediately notified the State Department that Germany claimed the Appam as a prize under the PrussianAmerican Treaty of 1828, and would contend for possession of the ship