« PreviousContinue »
Majesty's Government, which I had the honor of communicating to you in my note of the 24th of August, that instructions may be sent to Alaska to prevent the possibility of the seizure of British ships in Behring Sea. Her Majesty's Government are earnestly awaiting the reply of the United States Government on this subject, as the recent reports of seizures having taken place are causing much excitement both in England and in Canada. I remain, etc.,
H. G. EDWARDES.
Mr. Blaine to M:. Edwardes.
BAR HARBOR, September 14, 1889. SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your personal note of the 12th instant, written at Washington, in which you desire to know when you may expect an answer to the request of Her Majesty's Government, “ that instructions may be sent to Alaska to prevent the possibility of the seizure of British ships in Behring Sea."
I had supposed that my note of August 24 would satisfy Her Maj. esty's Government of the President's earnest desire to come to a friendly agreement touching all matters at issue between the two Governments in relation to Behring Sea, and I had further supposed that your mention of the official instruction to Sir Julian Pauncefote to proceed, immediately after his arrival in October, to a full discussion of the question, removed all necessity of a preliminary correspondence touching its merits.
Referring more particularly to the question of which you repeat the desire of your Government for an answer, I have the honor to inform you that a categorical response would have been and still is impracti. cable—unjust to this Government, and misleading to the Government of Her Majesty. It was therefore the judgment of the President that the whole subject could more wisely be remanded to the formal discus. sion so near at hand which Her Majesty's Government has proposed, and to which the Government of the United States has cordially assented.
It is proper, however, to add that any instruction sent to Behring Sea at the time of your original request, upon the 24th of August, would have failed to reach those waters before the proposed departure of the vessels of the United States. I have, etc.,
JAMES G. BLAINE.
The Marquis of Salisbury to Mr. Eduardes.
[Left at the Department of State by Mr. Edwardes.)
FOREIGN OFFICE, October 2, 1889. SIR: At the time when the seizures of British ships hunting seals in Behring's Sea during the years 1886 and 1887 were the subjects of discussion the Minister of the United States made certain overtures to Her Majesty's Government with respect to the institution of a close time for the seal fishery, for the purpose of preventing the extirpa tion of the species in that part of the world. Without in any way admitting that considerations of this order could justify the seizure of vessels which were transgressing no rule of international law, Her Majesty's Government were very ready to agree that the subject was one deserving of the gravest attention on the part of all the governments interested in those waters.
The Russian Government was disposed to join in the proposed nexotiations, but they were suspended for a time in consequence of objections raised by the Dominion of Canada and of doubts thrown on the physical data on which any restrictive legislation must have been based.
Her Majesty's Government are fully sensible of the importance of this question, and of the great value which will attach to an international agreement in respect to it, and Her Majesty's representative will be furnished with the requisite instructions in case the Secretary of State should be willing to enter upon the discussion.
You will read this dispatch and my dispatch No. 205, of this date, to the Secretary of State, and, if he should desire it, you are authorized to give him copies of them.
The Marquis of Salisbury to Mr. Edwardes.
(Left at the Department of State by Mr. Edwardes.)
FOREIGN OFFICE, October 2, 1889. SIR: In my dispatch No. 176 of the 17th August last I furnished yon with copies of a correspondence which had passed between this Department and the Colonial Office on the subject of the seizure of the Canadian vessels Black Diamond and Triumph in the Bering Sea by the United States revenue-cutter Rush.
I have now received and transmit herewith a copy of a dispatch from the Governor-General of Canada to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, which incloses copies of the instructions given to the special officer placed on board the Black Diamond by the officer commanding the Rush, and of a letter from the collector of customs at Victoria, together with the sworn affidavits of the masters of the two Canadian vessels.
It is apparent from these affidavits that the vessels were seized at a distance from laud far in excess of the limit of maritime jurisdiction which any nation can claim by international law.
The cases are similar in this respect to those of the ships Caroline, Onīcard, and Thornton, which were seized by a vessel of the United States outside territorial waters in the summer of 1887. In a dispatch to Sir L. West dated September 10, 1887, which was communicated to Mr. Bayard, I drew the attention of the Government of the United States to the illegality of these proceedings, and expressed a hope that due compensation would be awarded to the subjects of Her Majesty who had suffered from them. I have not, since that time, received from the Government of the United States any intimation of their intentions in this respect, or any explanation of the grounds upon which this in. terference with the British sealers had been authorized. Mr. Bayard did, indeed, communicate to us unofficially an assurance that no further seizures of this character should take place pending tlie discussion of
the questions involved between the two governments. Her Majesty's
But in view of the unexpeeted renewal of the seizures of which Her
Captain Shepard to Mr. Hankanson.
U. S. REVENUE STEAMER RUSH, BERING SEA,
Latitude 56° 22' N., longitude 1700 25' W., July 11, 1889. Sir: You are hereby appointed a special officer, and directed to proceed on board the schooner Black Diamond, of Victoria, British Columbia, this day seized for violation of law (section 1956, Reviserl Statutes of the United States), and assume charge of the said vessel, her officers, and crew, twenty-five in number, all told, excepting the navigation of the vessel, which is reserved to Capt. Owen Thomas, and which you will not interfere with unless you become convinced that he is proceeding to some other than your port of destination, in which event you are authorized to assume full charge of the vessel. Everything being in readiness, you will direct Capt. Owen Thomas to make the best of his way to Sitka, Alaska, and upon arrival at that port you will report in person to the United States district attorney for the district of Alaska, and deliver to him the letter so addressed, the schooner Black Diamond, of Victoria, British Columbia, her outfit, and the persons of Capt. Owen Thomas and Mate Alexander Galt, and set her crew at liberty. After being relieved of the property and persons intrusted to your care, you will await at Sitka the arrival of the Rush. Very respectfully, etc.,
L. G. SHEPARD, Captain U. S. Revenue Steamer Rush.
For the other inclosures see House Ex. Doc. No. 450, Fifty-first Congress, first session, pp. 6-9.
Mr. Edwardes to Mr. Blaine.
Washington, October 14, 1889. MY DEAR MR. BLAINE: When I had the honor to read to you on Saturday, the 12th instant, the two dispatches addressed to me by the Marquis of Salisbury on the subject of the seizures of British sealers in Behring sea, you inquired of me when I reached the passage which runs as follows, “Mr. Bayard did indeed communicate to us, unofficially, an assurance that no further seizures of this character should •take place pending the discussion of the questions involved between the two Governments,” if I could tell you in what way this assurance was officially communicated to Her Majesty's Government. I replied that I believed it had been so communicated in a letter addressed by Mr. Bayard to Sir Lionel West, and that that letter would be found in the printed correspondence on the subject which was laid before Congress this year.
I have since learned that the assurance which Lord Salisbury had in mind when writing the dispatch I read was not that to which I referred in my reply to you, but was an assurance communicated unofficially to his lordship by the United States minister in London, and also by Mr. Bayard to Sir Lionel West in the month of April last year. I have, etc.,
H. G. EDWARDES.
Mr. Blaine to Sir Julian Pauncefote.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, January 22, 1890. SIR: Several weeks have elapsed since I had the honor to receive through the hands of Mr. Edwardes copies of two dispatches from Lord Salisbury complaining of the course of the United States revenue-cutter Rush in intercepting Canadian vessels sailing under the British flag and engaged in taking fur seals in the waters of the Behring Sea.
Subjects which could not be postponed have engaged the attention of this Department and have rendered it impossible to give a formal answer to Lord Salisbury until the present time.
In the opinion of the President, the Canadian vessels arrested and detained in the Behring Sea were engaged in a pursuit that was in itself contra bonos mores, a pursuit which of necessity involves a serious and permanent injury to the rights of the Government and people of the Ūnited States. To establish this ground it is not necessary to argue the question of the extent and nature of the sovereignty of this Govern. ment over the waters of the Behring Sea; it is not necessary to explain, certainly not to define, the powers and privileges ceded by this Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Russia in the treaty by which the Alaskan territory was transferred to the United States. The weighty considerations growing out of the acquisition of that territory, with all the rights on land and sea inseparably connected therewith, inay be safely left out of view, while the grounds are set forth upon which this Government rests its justification for the action complained of by Her Majesty's Government.
It can not be unknown to Her Majesty's Government that one of the most valuable sources of revenue from the Alaskan possessions is the fur-seal fisheries of the Behring Sea. Those tisheries had been exclusively controlled by the Government of Russia, without interference or without question, from their original discovery until the cession of Alaska to the United States in 1867. From 1867 to 1886 the possession in which Russia had been undisturbed was enjoyed by this Government also. There was no interruption and no intrusion from any source. Vessels from other nations passing from time to time through Behring Sea to the Arctic Ocean in pursuit of whales had always abstained from taking part in the capture of seals.
This uniform avoidance of all attempts to take fur seal in those waters had been a constant recognition of the right held and exercised first by Russia and subsequently by this Government. It bas also been
the recognition of a fact now held beyond denial or doubt that the taking of seals in the open sea rapiilly leads to their extinction. This is not only the well-known opinion of experts, both British and American, based upon prolonged observation and investigation, but the fact had also been demonstratel in a wide sense by the well-nigh total de. struction of all seal fisheries except the one in the Behring Sea, which the Government of the United States is now striving to preserve, not altogether for the use of the American people but for the use of the world at large.
The killing of seals in the open sea involves the destruction of the female in common with the male. The slaughter of the female seal is reckoned as an immediate loss of three seals, besides the future loss of the whole number which the bearing seal may produce in the successive years of life. The destruction which results from killing seals in the open sea proceeds, therefore, by a ratio which constantly and rapidly increases, and insures the total extermination of the species within a very brief period. It has thus become known that the only proper time for the slaughter of seals is at the season when they betake themselves to the land, because the land is the only place where the necessary discrimination can be made as to the age and sex of the seal. It would seem, then, by fair reasoning, that nations not possessing the territory upon which seals can increase their numbers by natural growtlı, and thus afford an annual supply of skins for the use of mankind, should refrain from the slaughter in open sea where the destruction of the species is sure and swift.
After the acquisition of Alaska the Government of the United States, through competent agents working under the direction of the best ex perts, gave careful attention to the improvement of the seal fisheries. Proceeding by a close obedience to the laws of nature, and rigidly limiting the number to be annually slaughtered, the Government succeeded in increasing the total number of seals and adding correspondingly and largely to the value of the fisheries. In the course of a few years of intelligent and interesting experiment the number that could be safely slaughtered was fixed at 100,000 annually. The Company to which the administration of the fisheries was intrusted by a lease from this Government has paid a rental of 350,000 per annum, and in addition thereto $2,624 per skin for the total number taken. The skins were regularly transported to London to be dressed and prepared for the markets of the world, and the business had grown so large that the earnings of English laborers, since Alaska was transferred to the United States, amount in the aggregate to more than $12,000,000.
The entire business was then conducted peacefully, lawfully, and profitably-profitably to the United States for the rental was yielding a moderate interest on the large sum which this Government had paid for Alaska, including the rights now at issue; profitably to the Alaskan Company, which, under governmental direction and restriction, had given unwearied pains to the care and development of the fisheries; profitably to the Aleuts, who were receiving a fair pecuniary reward for their labors, and were elevated from semisavagery to civilization and to the enjoyment of schools and churches provided for their benefit by the Government of the United States; anci, last of all, profitably to a large body of English laborers who had constant employment and receivedl good wages.
This, in brief, was the condition of the Alaska fur-seal fisheries down to the year 1886. The precedents, customs, and rights had been established and enjoyed, either by Russia or the United States, for nearly a