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Secretary of State John Sherman to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to the Court of St. James’s John Hay


                                  Department of State         

                                  Washington, April 23, 1898. 

     In the event of hostilities between United States and Spain, the policy of this Government will be not to resort to privateering, but to adhere to the following recognized rules of international law: First, the neutral flag covers enemy’s goods, with the exception of contraband of war; second, neutral goods, with the exception of contraband of war, are not liable to capture under the enemy’s flag; and, third, blockades in order to be binding must be effective.1


Source Note Print: FRUS, p. 971.

Footnote 1: The three provisions of international law are from the Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law of 1856 to which the United States was a partial signatory. The fourth provision barred privateering. The U.S. and Spain never signed this provision, but both declined to use privateers during the war. Núñez, The Spanish American War, Blockades and Coastal Defense, 19. 

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