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may be put forward by His Majesty's Government arising out of the detention of these parcels in Sweden, if such claims shall not previously have been settled by diplomatic discussions.
STOCKHOLM, June 5, 1916.
FOREIGN OFFICE, June 19, 1916.
On the 25th April I had the honor to address a note to you regarding the contentions advanced by your Government against the action of His Majesty's Government in detaining for examination the parcels mails from Swedish ships.
I feel obliged to draw your attention to the fact that His Majesty's Government have as yet received no satisfaction in regard to the parcels mails from Great Britain in transit for Russia which have now been detained for months by the Swedish Government. I have already pointed out that this action is wholly illegal. These mails have been detained by the Swedish Government in contravention generally of the principles of international law, and specifically of the agreement between the British and Swedish Post Offices of the 10th and 26th May, 1904, and the only pretext on which it is sought to justify this breach of the agreement and of the law of nations is that it is a retaliation for the action of His Majesty's Government in exercising the belligerent right of examining parcels mails carried on Swedish ships.
As it is admitted by all neutral Governments that parcels mails are not entitled to any special immunities from the laws governing the naval action of belligerent Powers in regard to merchandise on the high seas, this pretext cannot be regarded as worthy of serious attention either by His Majesty's Government or by any impartial person in neutral countries.
His Majesty's Government must therefore demand that the Swedish Government shall without further delay release the parcels mails which they have detained, and I must further give notice that His Majesty's Government will claim damages for the loss suffered by British subjects owing to the action of the Swedish Government.
I have, &c.
SWEDISH LEGATION, London, June 29, 1916. Sir,
Under instructions from my Government, I have the honor to transmit the following communication which has been sent to me by telegraph from Stockholm:
“In their note of the 25th April the British Government gave their views concerning questions connected with the detention of certain postal parcels. This note has been explained by a note verbale communicated by Sir Esmé Howard on the 6th June. In the view of the Swedish Government it appears impossible to reconcile the contents of these documents with the terms of the declarations previously made by the British Government on the subject of the recourse to arbitration. The Swedish Government had especially relied upon the declarations made in a telegram from Sir Edward Grey to the British Legation at Stockholm, which were communicated to the Swedish Government on the 28th February. In this telegram no allusion is to be found to certain restrictions which have now been laid down. If the promises of the British Government went beyond what was contained in the British note of the 31st January, the King's Government might conclude that the British Government were fully entitled to give a wide interpretation to this note, which, moreover, in the passage in question, does not limit itself to postal packets or to Swedish vessels. The King's Government still believe that these promises were not in harmony with the spirit of the existing arbitration convention. Even if the measures taken against neutrals could be described as "conduct of naval operations by the Allied Governments against their enemies,' an arbitral award which would not be pronounced till after the conclusion of peace could in no way imperil the vital interests of a country no longer at war. On the other hand, the King's Government take note with satisfaction of the declaration made in the note of the 25th April, to the effect that the validity of the Orders in Council according to international law can be successfully contested before the Prize Court. The final result obtained in the case of the Zamora is thus confirmed by the British Government. Further, the King's Government note with satisfaction that though limiting the scope of the special offer made in the note of the 25th April, the explanatory note verbale does not in any way affect the reference made in the above note to the general offer of arbitration addressed to other neutral Governments.
“In these circumstances, the King's Government do not wish to lay stress on the inadequacy of the special offer, and are prepared to accept the actual proposals of the British Government. In doing so they wish it to be expressly understood that they adhere entirely to their point of view with regard to the measures taken both by them and by the British authorities. The repeal of the order which had brought about the actual detention of certain postal parcels does not therefore imply the resumption of the transmission of postal parcels in general, but only that the parcels so detained will be forwarded to their destination, provided that there is no obstacle to this in the general prohibitions as to the export and transit of certain commodities. So long as the British Government maintains the measures, of which the Swedish Government is entitled to complain, with regard to postal parcels and postal correspondence, the King's Government do not see their way to renew permission for this transit, and must reserve to themselves the right to take other measures, should necessity arise.
“The Swedish Government hope, however, that such measures will not become necessary, and that the British Government will in certain respects act in the same conciliatory spirit as has inspired the King's Government in accepting the British proposals and in thus eliminating a cause of complaint, and as it appears, of irritation. There is, indeed, no lack of occasions for displaying towards Sweden this spirit, which is so greatly to be desired in the interest of good relations between the two countries.”
I avail, &c.
FOREIGN OFFICE, July 6, 1915. I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 29th June, in which you convey to me the reply of the Swedish Government to the recent communications from His Majesty's Government in regard to the detention of mails.
In reply to your note, I have the honor to point out that the refusal of the Swedish Government to transit further parcels mails between the United Kingdom and Russia is a violation of the agreement concluded between the British and Swedish Post Offices in 1904 concerning the direct exchange of parcels by parcels post. This refusal, therefore, renders the present proposal of the Swedish Government entirely unsatisfactory as a reply to the demand which I had the honor to make in my communication of the 19th June.
While, therefore, taking note of the promise of the Swedish Government to release the parcels at present detained by them, I have the honor to inform you that unless the Swedish Government engage to carry out their obligations under the agreement of 1904 in the case of future parcels dispatched from the United Kingdom or from Russia through Sweden, His Majesty's Government must withdraw all the offers of arbitration they have made.
His Majesty's Government maintain all their rights under the agreement of 1904, and especially the right to claim damages under Article 13, which they now hereby claim, together with such additional damages, over and above the sums provided for in that article, as may be due under the general provisions of international law and the requirements of international comity.
I have, &c.
SWEDISH LEGATION, London, July 24, 1916. In reply to the notes which your Excellency was good enough to address to me on the 19th ultimo and the 6th instant, concerning the detention of certain postal packets, arbitration, &c., I have been authorized to make the following communication to you:
In a note dated the 19th June, 1916, you asked in the name of your Government that the King's Government should release, without further delay, the postal packets detained in Sweden by the order of the 16th December, 1915. At the same time, you announced the intention of the British Government to claim such damages as might be due to British subjects as a result of this measure.
Before this note could reach Stockholm, the King's Government had decided to reply in the affirmative to the British notes of the 25th April and 5th June, simply accepting the proposals formulated therein. Sir Esme Howard had been informed of this decision, which had even been put into execution by orders given to the Postal Administration. In these circumstances, the demand made in the note of the 19th June seemed to have no further object, and it appeared useless to start a discussion on the motives that the British Government thought it necessary to invoke in support of this demand.
The King's Government have taken note with surprise of the communication dated the 6th July which I have already had the honor of acknowledging. The King's Government had the right to believe that as the British proposals regarding arbitration and the release of the postal packets detained in Sweden had been accepted by the Swedish Government without reserve, nothing remained but to give a more official form to the convention which was virtually concluded, a task that could not have been difficult. They therefore did not hesitate to proceed immediately with the release of the postal packets which had been detained.
The British Government, on their part, thought themselves entitled to subordinate the acceptance of the Swedish “proposal” to the condition that the King's Government would engage to carry out the obligations arising from the agreement come to in 1904 between the Swedish and British Postal Administrations, by permitting in future the transit of postal parcels between the United Kingdom and Russia.
This is a new condition. It was neither put forward nor mentioned anywhere in the correspondence regarding arbitration. On the contrary the King's Government expressed on more than one occasion their hope that the British Government would, by ceasing the disputed measures, save them the necessity of resorting to retaliation. This hope does not appear to be realized. The British Government having preferred to retain their liberty of action cannot be surprised at the Swedish Government claiming for themselves the same liberty. It must be remembered that the consignments in question have in fact completely ceased for several months, the postal parcels having been sent by other routes.