Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Squadron
Received at 840 pm Apl 26 1898
Dated Washington DC 26 Apl
To Sampson, Keywest Fla
Following proclamation of the President of the united states is forwarded for your information: whereas by an act of congress approved april 25 1898 It is declared that war exists & that war has existed since the 21st day of Apl AD 1898 Including said day between the U S of A and the Kingdom of Spain1 Whereas it be desirable that such war should be conducted upon principles in harmony with the present views of nations & sanctioned by their recent practice It has already been announced that the policy of this government will be not to resort to privateering but to adhere to the rules of the declaration of paris.2 Now therefore I, William McKinley President of the United States of America by virtue of the powers vested in me by the constitution + the laws do hereby declare + proclaim one, the neutral flag covers enemys goods with the exception of contraband of war; Two neutral goods not contraband of war are not liable to confiscation under the enemies flag, three blockade in order to be binding must be effective. Four, Spanish merchant vessels in any port or places within the United States shall be allowed till May 21st 1898 inclusive for loading their cargoes and departing from such ports or places and such Spanish merchant vessels if met at sea by any United States ship shall be permitted continue their voyage if on examination of their papers it shall appear that their cargoes were taken on board before the expiration of the above term provided that nothing here in contained shall apply to Spanish vessels having on board any officer in the military or naval service of the enemy or any coal except such as may be necessary for their voyage; or any other articles prohibited of contraband of war or any dispatch of or to the Spanish govt. five, any Spanish merchant vessel which prior to apl 21, 1898 shall have sailed from any foreign port bound for any port or place in the United States shall be permitted to enter such port or place and to discharge her cargo and afterwards forthwith to depart without molestation + any such vessel if met at sea by an US ship shall be permitted to continue her voyage to any port not blockaded. Six, The right of search is to be exercised with strict regard for the rights of neutrals + the voyage of mail steamers are not to be interfered with except on the clearest grounds of suspicion of a violation of law in respect of contraband or blockade in whitness3 where of, I have here unto at my hand + carries the seal of the united states to be affixed, done at the city of Washington on the 26th day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety eight and of the independence of the US the one hundred and twenty second.
William McKinley by the president,
Jon Sherman Secty States.4
Source Note: C, DNA, RG 313, Entry 47. Cable sent by way of The International Oceanic Telegraph Company on multiple pages. Company information below header contains liability conditions and transmission limitations. Stamp in upper-left corner of first page: “RECEIVED,/FLAG-SHIP N. A. STATION/APR 27 1898.”
Footnote 1: The Declaration of War finally passed on 25 April 1898, but the United States Congress and Senate specifically dated the declaration to solidify the legality of President McKinley’s 21 April 1898 Cuban blockade order. Trask, War with Spain in 1898, 57.
Footnote 2: Reference to the Paris Declaration respecting Maritime Law of 1856, that, among other things, abolished privateering as an instrument of warfare.
Footnote 3: That is, Witness.
Footnote 4: Secretary of State John Sherman.