Contraband

Contraband

Overview
The word contraband, reported in English since 1529, from Medieval French contrebande "a smuggling," denotes any item which, relating to its nature, is illegal to be possessed or sold.

Used for goods that by their nature, e.g. too dangerous or offensive in the eyes of the legislator (those are termed contraband in se) are forbidden, and for so-called derivative contrabande, i.e. goods that may normally be owned but are liable to be seized because they were used in committing an unlawful act and hence begot illegally, such as:
  • Smuggling
    Smuggling
    Smuggling is the clandestine transportation of goods or persons, such as out of a building, into a prison, or across an international border, in violation of applicable laws or other regulations.There are various motivations to smuggle...

     goods
  • stolen goods – knowingly participating in their trade is an offense in itself, called fencing
    Fence (criminal)
    A fence is an individual who knowingly buys stolen property for later resale, sometimes in a legitimate market. The fence thus acts as a middleman between thieves and the eventual buyers of stolen goods who may or may not be aware that the goods are stolen. As a verb, the word describes the...

  • the fruits of fraud
    Fraud
    In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation...

    , forgery
    Forgery
    Forgery is the process of making, adapting, or imitating objects, statistics, or documents with the intent to deceive. Copies, studio replicas, and reproductions are not considered forgeries, though they may later become forgeries through knowing and willful misrepresentations. Forging money or...

     etc.

The word is also used as an adjective, again meaning 'distributed or sold illicitly'.


In international law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

, contraband is enemy goods carried by vessels of neutral nations during wartime that may be confiscated by a belligerent
Belligerent
A belligerent is an individual, group, country or other entity which acts in a hostile manner, such as engaging in combat. Belligerent comes from Latin, literally meaning "to wage war"...

 power and thus prohibited from delivery to the enemy.
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Encyclopedia
The word contraband, reported in English since 1529, from Medieval French contrebande "a smuggling," denotes any item which, relating to its nature, is illegal to be possessed or sold.

Used for goods that by their nature, e.g. too dangerous or offensive in the eyes of the legislator (those are termed contraband in se) are forbidden, and for so-called derivative contrabande, i.e. goods that may normally be owned but are liable to be seized because they were used in committing an unlawful act and hence begot illegally, such as:
  • Smuggling
    Smuggling
    Smuggling is the clandestine transportation of goods or persons, such as out of a building, into a prison, or across an international border, in violation of applicable laws or other regulations.There are various motivations to smuggle...

     goods
  • stolen goods – knowingly participating in their trade is an offense in itself, called fencing
    Fence (criminal)
    A fence is an individual who knowingly buys stolen property for later resale, sometimes in a legitimate market. The fence thus acts as a middleman between thieves and the eventual buyers of stolen goods who may or may not be aware that the goods are stolen. As a verb, the word describes the...

  • the fruits of fraud
    Fraud
    In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation...

    , forgery
    Forgery
    Forgery is the process of making, adapting, or imitating objects, statistics, or documents with the intent to deceive. Copies, studio replicas, and reproductions are not considered forgeries, though they may later become forgeries through knowing and willful misrepresentations. Forging money or...

     etc.

The word is also used as an adjective, again meaning 'distributed or sold illicitly'.

International law of war


In international law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

, contraband is enemy goods carried by vessels of neutral nations during wartime that may be confiscated by a belligerent
Belligerent
A belligerent is an individual, group, country or other entity which acts in a hostile manner, such as engaging in combat. Belligerent comes from Latin, literally meaning "to wage war"...

 power and thus prohibited from delivery to the enemy. Traditionally, contraband is classified into two categories, absolute contraband and conditional contraband. The former category includes arms, munitions, and various materials, such as chemicals and certain types of machinery that may be used directly to wage war or be converted into instruments of war.

Conditional contraband, formerly known as occasional contraband, consists of such materials as provisions and livestock feed. Cargo of this kind, while presumably innocent in character, is subject to seizure if, in the opinion of the belligerent nation that seizes them, the supplies are destined for the armed forces of the enemy rather than for civilian use and consumption. In former agreements among nations, certain other commodities, including soap, paper, clocks, agricultural machinery and jewelry, have been classified as non-contraband, although these distinctions have proved meaningless in practice.

Under conditions of modern warfare, in which armed conflict has largely become a struggle involving the total populations of the contending powers, virtually all commodities are classified by belligerents as absolute contraband.

During the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

-owned slaves who sought refuge in Union military camps or who lived in territories that fell under Union control were declared "contraband of war." This policy was first articulated by General Benjamin F. Butler
Benjamin Franklin Butler (politician)
Benjamin Franklin Butler was an American lawyer and politician who represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and later served as the 33rd Governor of Massachusetts....

 in 1861, in what came to be known as the "Fort Monroe Doctrine," established in Hampton, Virginia
Hampton, Virginia
Hampton is an independent city that is not part of any county in Southeast Virginia. Its population is 137,436. As one of the seven major cities that compose the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, it is on the southeastern end of the Virginia Peninsula. Located on the Hampton Roads Beltway, it hosts...

. By war's end, the Union had set up 100 contraband camps in the South, and the Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony (1863–1867) was developed to be a self-sustaining colony. Many adult freedmen worked for wages for the Army at such camps, teachers were recruited from the North for their schools by the American Missionary Association
American Missionary Association
The American Missionary Association was a Protestant-based abolitionist group founded on September 3, 1846 in Albany, New York. The main purpose of this organization was to abolish slavery, to educate African Americans, to promote racial equality, and to promote Christian values...

, and thousands of freedmen enlisted from such camps in the United States Colored Troops
United States Colored Troops
The United States Colored Troops were regiments of the United States Army during the American Civil War that were composed of African American soldiers. First recruited in 1863, by the end of the Civil War, the men of the 175 regiments of the USCT constituted approximately one-tenth of the Union...

 to fight with the Union against the Confederacy.

Numerous treaties defining contraband have been concluded among nations. In time of war, the nations involved have invariably violated these agreements, formulating their own definitions as the fortunes of war indicated. The Declaration of London
Declaration of London
The London Declaration concerning the Laws of Naval War is an international code of maritime law, especially as it relates to wartime activities, proposed in 1909 at the London Naval Conference by the leading European naval powers, as well as the United States and Japan, after a multinational...

, drafted at the London Naval Conference of 1908–1909, and made partly effective by most of the European maritime nations at the outbreak of World War I, established comprehensive classifications of absolute and conditional contraband. As the war developed, the lists of articles in each category were constantly revised by the various belligerents, despite protests by neutral powers engaged in the carrying trade. By 1916 the list of conditional contraband included practically all waterborne cargo. Thereafter, for the duration of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, nearly all cargo in transit to an enemy nation was treated as contraband of war by the intercepting belligerent, regardless of the nature of the cargo. A similar policy was inaugurated by the belligerent powers early in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

Under international law, the citizens of neutral nations are entitled to trade, at their own risk, with any or all powers engaged in war. No duty to restrain contraband trade is imposed on the neutral governments, but neither have neutral governments the right to interfere on behalf of citizens whose property is seized by one belligerent while in transit to another. The penalty traditionally imposed by belligerents on neutral carriers engaged in commercial traffic with the enemy consists of confiscation of cargo. By the people of London, this was extended to include condemnation of the carrying vessel provided that more than half the cargo was contraband. The right of warring nations to sink neutral ships transporting contraband is not recognized in international law, but this practice was initiated by Germany in World War I and was often resorted to by the Axis Powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

in World War II.

Sources