International Law

International Law


Just at the same moment the United States had become the great neutral Powerenjoying the advantages of the carrying tradeand the Government of theUnited States issued a series of vehement protests against the assumptionof the contraband character of provisions in any circumstancesIt is probablethat in future provisions will only be contraband when destined for a portin which an enemy's fleet is lyingThe point on which I desire to fix yourattention is that the test of articles which are contraband of war is notyet settled.

The other portion of the older law which is not affected by the Declarationof Paris is BlockadeBlockade is defined as the interruption by a belligerentof access to a placeor to territorywhich is in possession of an enemy.

Blockade is probably confined to maritime hostilitiesbut it has considerableexternal resemblance to a siege by landand the law of the one acting byland has visibly affected the law of the other acting by seaBut as a matterof fact the objects of blockade and siege are not the sameThe aim of asiege is the capture of a strong place or town besetThe aim of a blockadeis to put stress on the population of a portor on the population behinditthrough denying it communicationcommercial or otherwisewith the restof the world accessible to it only by seaThis it effects by the rules ofInternational Lawwhich permit blockading ships to capture ships of theother belligerent which attempt to enter the blockaded portor to come outof itor which may reasonably be suspected of having this intention.

There are two main conditions of the capture of neutral vessels by a blockadingsquadronOne is that they must be warned of the existence of the blockade.

The mode of giving this notice required by law varies in different countries.

France and certain other countries give notice to each ship individually,their cruisers stopping itand seeing that the stoppage is notified on theship's papersEngland and the United States make public notice in theirown territoryand communicate the fact of the blockade to foreign Powers.

Under modern circumstanceswhere information is conveyed over the civilisedworld by newspapers and the electric telegraphit certainly seems that theEnglish and American practice is sufficientIt is hardly possible that thereshould be ignorance nowadays of the existence of an established blockade.

The second condition is that mentioned in the Declaration of Paristheblockade must be effectivethat isit must be maintained by a naval forcestrong enough to prevent access to the blockaded coastIt is the act ofsecretly evading a force on the whole adequate which constitutes the offensethat subjects a neutral ship to capture -what is called 'running the blockade.'

The stress laid on the sufficiency of the blockade is a legacy from the lastcenturyHardly any country has not been at some time or other accused ofestablishing what is called a 'paper blockade;that is to saypubliclyannouncing the blockade of a particular portion of the coastbut not supportingit by a sufficient force of shipsIt is justly thought that such a blockadegives the maximum of annoyance to honest neutralsbut allows a maximum numberof dishonest neutral adventurers to penetrate the lineNothing can justifythe absolute interdiction of a portion of the coast to neutral commerce excepta method likely on the whole to secure that endA blockade must as a generalrule be continuously maintainedbut an exception is allowed in the caseof ships driven away by storm and stress of weather.

Sir Henry James Sumner Maine