Arthur James Balfour Balfour.

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The Rt. Hon. A. J, BALFOUR.






The Rt, Hon. A, J, BALFOUR, ^\





By The Rt. Hon, A. J. BALFOUR.

Great interest had naturally been excited
in America over the threatened blockade of
Germany by the Allied Fleets ; and many
criticisms have been directed against the
Governments responsible for this policy.
This is most natural and legitimate. The
Order in Council affects both neutral
interests and international law. And the
United States of America — the greatest of
all neutrals and a leader of reform in inter-
national procedure — has a double interest
in the discussion.

Let me say, before I go further, that I
am in no sense personally responsible for
the policy which nas been adopted. I was
not consulted upon it ; and I view with the
greatest dislike any course which seems in
the smallest degree to violate the rules of
international warfare. But those who will
consent to consider the present case on its

(4741r— 8.) Wt. — G4531. 10,000. 5/15. D&S. Q.2.



merits will. I think, be persuaded that the
policy of the Allies has a conclusive moral

Put shortly, the case is this. The
Germans declare that they will sink every
merchant ship which they believe to be
British, without regard to life, without
regard to the ownership of the cargo, with-
out any assurance that the vessel is not
neutral, and without even the pretence of
legal investigation. The British reply that
if these are to be the methods of warfare
employed by the enemy the Allies will
retaliate by enforcing a blockade designed
to prevent all foreign goods from entering
Germany and all German goods irom going

Whether such a policy be, or be not, in
harmony with the accepted rules of inter-
national law is a point to which I shall
refer in a moment. But this, at least, may
be said in its favour. It cannot cause the
death of a single innocent civilian ; it can-
not destroy neutral lives and neutral
property without legal process ; it cannot
inflict injury upon neutral commerce com-
parable in character or extent to that

which would be produced by a blockade
whose legality was beyond question.

But this contention, however true, is in
the eyes of some critics quite immaterial.
Law (they say) is law. Those who break
it are guilty of a wrong which does not
become a right because others have broken
it in a manner yet more deserving of
condemnation. The German practice may
be brutal to belligerents and reckless
towards neutrals : the British practice may
be careful of human life and tender towards
the interests of non - combatants. No
matter. Neither can find justification in
the accepted rules of war : both, therefore,
fall under the same condemnation.

But such a mode of reasoning applies the
most rigid technical standards in a case
where technical standards must be used
with caution. It appeals to the letter of
international law, but it ignores the spirit.

The Meaning of Discrimination.

What, in the eyes of the objector, is the
defect of the British Order in Council ? It
is that the blockade of which notice is there

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given does not possess all the characteristics
of a blockade as defined in authoritative
text-books ; and that, in particular, it
violates the rule which forbids " discrimina-
tion " in favour of one neutral as against

Now the object of this rule seems clear.
It is designed to prevent the blockading
Power using its privileges in order to
mete out different treatment to different
countries ; as for instance, by letting ships
of one nationality pass the blockading
cordon while it captures the ships of
another. Such a procedure is. on the face
of it, fair. It could have no object but to
assist the trade of one neutral as against
the trade of another, and arbitrarily to
redistribute the burden which war un-
happily inflicts on neutrals as well as on
belligerents. Now I submit that if there
be " discrimination " inflicted by the British
blockade, it is not discrimination of this
kind. It does no doubt leave the German
trade with Sweden and Norway in the same
position as the German trade with Holland
and Denmark, and in a different position
from the German trade with America or

Africa. Bat the " discrimination " (if it is
to be so described) is not the result of a
deliberate policy, but of a geographical
accident. It is not due to any desire to
favour Scandinavian exporters as compared
with American exporters ; and in practice
it will have no such effect. They are not,
nor to any important extent can they be,
competing rivals in the German markets.

If any man be in doubt whether this
point be technical or substantial, let him
weigh the following considerations. The
rule against discrimination was devised (as
we have seen) in the interests of neutrals.
But which is best for neutrals — that three
should be a blockade conducted in the
ordinary way, or that there should be a
blockade of the new pattern described in the
Order in Council ? The latter may indeed
ignore the Baltic, and treat Scandinavia as
if, like Holland, it were divided from
Germany only by a land frontier. But
while the discrimination so produced can
inflict no substantial injury on any neutral,
the blockade to which it is due, unlike its
more orthodox predecessors, forbids the
capture either of neutral shipping or

neutral u - o


Online LibraryArthur James Balfour BalfourThe British blockade → online text (page 1 of 1)