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legal effect of a notice officially given to a foreigngovernment is, that it becomes binding upon every individual of that nation. “It is the duty of governments," says Lord Stowell, “ for the protection of their subjects, to communicate the information which they have received, and no individual is allowed to plead ignorance of it. I shall hold, therefore, that a neutral master can never be heard to aver, against notification to his government, that he was ignorant of the fact."1 It has been even held, that a formal notification to one nation, after the lapse of a reasonable time, will be presumed to have been received by the subjects of a neighboring nation, operating however, upon them, not from the time when it was formally given to the one nation, but from such period when it may fairly be presumed to have been received by the subjects of the other."2
It is well established that when notice of the blockade, either actual or constructive, is given, the neutral cannot lawfully go to the station of the blockading force, under the pretence of obtaining information of its continuance. “The merchant," says Lord Stowell, “is not to send his vessel to the mouth of the river, and say, 'If you don't meet a blockading force, enter; if you do, ask a warning, and proceed elsewhere. Who does not at once perceive the frauds to which such a rule would be introductory? The true rule is, that, after the knowledge of an existing blockade, you are not
· The Neptunus, 2 Rob., 110; vide also The Welvaart Van Pillaw, 2 Rob., 128, and i Acton, 61.
? The Adelaide, 2 Rob., 110, and note ; The Jonge Petronella, 2 Rob., 131; The Calypso, 2 Rob., 298.
to go to the very station of blockade upon pretence of inquiry."
The rule, with regard to notification of a blockade, is somewhat relaxed on behalf of nations at a great distance from the blockading power; and this relaxation was made to operate favorably to adventures from America, during the war at the close of the last century, between France and Great Britain, by the tribunals of the latter nation.
It is not to be presumed that such a relaxation of the rule would now be permitted, since maritime nations have been brought into such proximity by ocean steam navigation.
A definite rule as to notification of a blockade, is established by the treaty of 1794, between the United States and Great Britain, in the following terms: “Whereas, it frequently happens that vessels sail for a port or place belonging to an enemy, without knowing that the same is either besieged, blockaded or invested, it is agreed that every vessel so circumstanced may be turned away from such port or place; but she shall not be detained, nor her cargo, if not contraband, be confiscated, unless after notice she shall again attempt to enter; but she shall be permitted to go to any other port or place she may think proper.”
The receipt of notice of blockade will not operate to prevent a neutral from retiring without mo. lestation from the blockaded port where she was lying at the time of such notification. And she may retire with a cargo on board, provided the
· The Spes and Irene, 5 Rob., 76; The Betsy, 1 Rob. 332; The Neptunus, 2 Rob., 114; vide also, 1 Acton, 141, 101.
same were actually laden, and had become neutral property at the time of the receipt of such notification. But where the notification of blockade gives to neutral vessels lying in the blockaded ports a certain number of days to retire, they are not at liberty to purchase cargo to be laden after such notification, even though they may retire before the expiration of the time limited in the notification. And a cargo actually delivered on board a neutral vessel, under such circumstances, after the notification, is, in law, deemed a fresh purchase.
An actual notice of a blockade must be regular and specific, in order to be legal.
A blockade was ordered by Great Britain of the single port of Amsterdam, but a British commander notified a neutral about entering, that a blockade existed of all the Dutch ports. It was held to be an illegal and insufficient notice, even as to Amsterdam. " Because,” says Lord Stowell, “it took from the neutral all power of election as to what other port of Holland he would enter, when he found the port of his destination under blockade. A commander of a ship must not reduce a neutral master to this kind of distress, and I am of opinion that if the neutral had contravened the notice, he would not have been subject to condemnation."
A neutral may be charged with sufficient knowledge of a blockade to be binding upon his conduct without any formal notification, by the mere notoriety of the fact. Such formal notice is never requi. site to neutrals lying in the blockaded ports. “The
· The Rolla, 6 Rob., 364 ; The Betsy, 1 Rob., 92, and 152.
· The Henrick and Maria, 1 Rob., 146; The Rolla, 6 Rob., 364.
continued fact,” says Lord Stowell, “is a sufficient notice. It is impossible for those within to be jų. norant of the forcible suspension of their commerce, the notoriety of the thing supersedes the necessity of particular notice to each ship."1
An important distinction has been recognized and acted upon in various cases, between a formal notification, through a notice to his government, or by notice to himself, and notification presumed from notoriety. In the former case, no plea of ignorance is ever permitted. In the latter, it is allowed to prevail, if actually established by the proof—and there is also this additional distinction that, in the case of formal notification, the mere act of sailing to the blockade, with a contingent design to enter, if the blockade be raised, is, of itself, a consummation of the offence of violation of the blockade, because, in the case of such a notification, the port is consid. ered closed, until a formal revocation of the notification; but no such presumption arises where the notification is simply of the fact, by notoriety, and therefore, in such case, it is no offence for a neutral to pursue a voyage on a doubtful or provisional destination.
But, in order to charge a neutral with liabilities incident to a blockade, there must be not only an actually existing legal and effectual blockade, End formally or constructively known, but there must be a violation of the blockade so existing and
" The l’row Judith, 1 Rob., 152. · The Columbia, 1 Rob., 146, 156; The Mercurius, 1 Rob., 83; The Hurtiye Hane, 3 Rob., 324; The Neptunus, 2 Rob., 110.
known; and this leads to a consideration of the What is a vio
lation of a third branch of the subject, namely, what is a vio- blockade. lation of a blockade.
The breach of a blockade may be either by going into or coming out of the blockaded place with a cargo laden after the commencement of the blockade; but, in order to constitute such a going into the blockaded port as will subject a neutral to the penalties of confiscation, it is not necessary that the entrance be completed. If the vessel is placed in the vicinity, in a situation so near that it may enter with impunity when it pleases; and especially if the vessel be placed so as to be under the protection of shore batteries, it is considered a breach of the blockade. In such cases, it is regarded as a presumption de jure, that the vessel is so placed with an intention to violate the blockade; and notwithstanding that such a presumption may operate severely in individual instances of innocence,“ yet,” says Lord Stowell, “it is a severity necessarily connected with the rules of evidence, and essential to the effectual exercise of this right of war." The blockade may be violated as well by the coming out of the blockaded place as by going in. The cases of innocent egress are, where vessels, lying in the blockaded port at the time of the commence. ment of the blockade, retire upon notification, with. out taking a cargo on board, unless such cargo were laden before the blockade was effective; and so laden, upon purchase before made in good faith. If a cargo be subsequently laden, the act is consid
'The Neutralitet, 6 Rob., 30; The Charlotte Christine, 6 Rob., 101;. The Gute Erwarting, 6 Rob., 182.