HC Deb 09 May 1854 vol 133 cc37-8

said, he wished to ask the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether by the recent Orders in Council coals were prohibited as contraband of war, or otherwise, from being conveyed by the vessels of the neutral Powers into any port or place in the dominions of Russia, not being in a state of blockade?


said, the question was one of very great importance, and, at the same time, of very great difficulty. Coal was not included as contraband of war in the terms of the Orders in Council, but instructions had been given to Her Majesty's cruisers that coals should be treated as an article of doubtful character. It was laid down by the rules of the code regulating the conduct of commercial transactions in time of war, that coal should be treated as an article of doubtful character, and in point of fact it had been so treated in the course of last war. He might illustrate the case of coal by that of hemp. It was possible that an article of a doubtful character might be intended for purposes of a commercial nature, in which case it was treated as an ordinary commercial article; it was possible also that it might be intended for purposes of war, in which case it was treated as contraband of war. The instructions, therefore, issued to Her Majesty's officers for their guidance were, to exercise a sound discretion in judging of it, both as to the port of destination to which the article was being conveyed, and from any reasonable presumption they might entertain as to the use to which the commodity of coal was to be applied. If they should be satisfied, on looking both at the port of destination and the other grounds which might exist for judging as to its real character, that it was intended bonâ fide for commercial purposes, then they were not to touch it; but if, on the other hand, they should come to an opposite conclusion, then the article would be taken possession of, and dealt with in the Court of Admiralty as Statute and international law directed.

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