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Admiral Dewey's Views on the Operation of a Naval Blockade

Contributed by Nick Mitiuckov

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The following is information gathered by Admiral Dewey to support his views concerning the actions of all nations in regard to the operation of a naval blockade of a port. Dewey cited this information to support his actions taken against the Germans who frequently violated the blockade of Manila.

The Text:

The following extracts from the writings of well-known authorities on the subject are given in Stockton's Manual of Snow's International Law.

It may be a serious disadvantage, if not positive injury, to a blockading belligerent to have a blockaded port subject to frequent or sympathetic visits of a neutral vessel of war. The tendencies favor a limitation of such visits which usage permits as a matter of courtesy alone. The vessel of war desiring to enter the blockaded port should, in seeking permission, if necessary, establish her identity to the blockading vessels. Quotations from authorities upon this subject follow here:

Perels, a German authority, makes the following statement upon the subject, which is the more interesting from his position as lecturer at the Imperial Naval Academy at Kiel. In his work, translated into French by Arendt, he says, on page 203:

"La fermeture de la place bloquee doit etre respectee par les navires de guerre et de commerce neutres; il n'est pas rare, cependant, que les navires de guerre neutres soient exccptes dc la prohibition d'entrer... Le Gouvernement francais avait adopte une regle contraire en 1838, lorsqu'il fit mettre, par sa flotte, les cotes de la republique Argentine en etat de blocus. Le departement des affaires etrangeres rendit alors le decret suivant: 'Les batiments de guerre neutres se presentant devant un port bloque doivent aussi etre invites a s'eloigner; s'ils persistent, le commandant du blocus a le droit de s'opposer a leur entree par la force, et la responsabilite de tout ce qui peut s'en suivre pesera sur les violateurs du blocus." '

Captain Testa, of the Portuguese navy, professor at the naval school in Lisbon, in the French translation of his work, by M. Boutiron, states on page 225 that-

"D'accord avec les principes admis, le blocus etablit le droit de prohiber 1'entree des points bloques tarn pour les navires de guerre que pour les navires de commerce. Cependant, les puissances qui etablissent le blocus autorisent souvent la libre entree et la sortie des navires de guerre neutres par la consideration qu'il n'est pas presumable d'apres leur caractere, qu'ils aillent aider le belligerent bloque; et qu'en outre, la fin principale du blocus etant d'interdire le commerce par mer, 1'entree ou la sortie des navires de guerre impartiaux et non commercants ne porte pas prejudice a ce but."

Calvo says, in section 2561, page 97, of volume 4, that-

"En droit 1'acces et la sortie d'un port bloque sont interdits aussi bicn aux batiments de guerre qu'aux navires de commerce.

"Unbatimentdeguerre/ditWheaton, 'n'apasledroitd'entrer dans un port bloque ni d'en sortir, a moins qu'il n'y fut deja a 1'epoque ou a commence le blocus.' ..."

Mr. J. H. Ferguson, formerly of the Netherlands royal navy, and at one time minister of the Netherlands in China, says in his manual, volume 2, page 486, article 276:

"During the continuance of the state of blockade no vessels are allowed to enter or leave the blockaded place without special license or consent of the blockading authority. Public vessels or vessels of war of neutral powers are all equally bound by the same obligation to respect the blockade. When the public vessel of a neutral state wishes to have communication with a blockaded place, the neutral commanding officer is obliged to observe strict neutrality and to comply with the conditions under which such permission has been granted to cross the lines of the blockading belligerent. ..."

Walker, on page 522, says:

"The stringency of a blockade may indeed be relaxed in two peculiar cases. After the expiration of the period appointed for the withdrawal of ordinary neutral private vessels, and at any time during the continuance of the investment men-of-war flying the flags of neutral powers are commonly by courtesy permitted to communicate with the blockaded ports, and to maintain the public correspondence of their own or other neutral governments with their respective consular or diplomatic agents. It behooves such licensed carriers, however, to see to it that their privilege does not become a cloak for illegitimate dealings. ..."


Dewey, George, Autobiography of George Dewey, Admiral of the Navy. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987) 279-281.

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