« PreviousContinue »
Sir Julian Pauncefote to Mr. Blaine.
WASHINGTON, May 23, 1890. SIR: I have the honor to inform you that a statement having appeared in the newspapers to the effect that the United States revenue cruisers have received orders to proceed to Behring Sea for the purpose of preventing the exercise of the seal fishery by foreign vessels in nonterritorial waters, and that statement having been confirmed yesterday by you, I am instructed by the Marquis of Salisbury to state to you that a formal protest by Her Majesty's Government against any such interference with British vessels will be forwarded to you without delay. I have, etc.,
Mr. Blaine to Sir Julian Pauncefote.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, May 26, 1890. SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 23d instant, in which you inform me that Her Britannic Majesty's Government will formally protest against certain action recently taken by this Government for the protection of the Alaskan seal fisheries. I have, etc.,
JAMES G. BLAINE.
Mr. Blaine to Sir Julian Pauncefote.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, May 29, 1890. SIR: Your note of the 23d instant, already acknowledged, informs this Government that you “have been instructed by the Marquis of Salisbury to state that Her Majesty's Government would forward without delay a protest” against the course which this Government has found it necessary, under the laws of Congress, to pursue in the waters of the Bering Sea.
In turn, I am instructed by the President to protest against the course of the British Government in authorizing, encouraging, and protecting vessels which are not only interfering with American rights in the Rehring Sea, but which are doing violence as well to the rights of the civilized world. They are engaged in a warfare against seal life, disregarding all the regulations which lead to its protection and committing acts which lead ultimately to its destruction, as has been the case in every part of the world where the abuses which are now claimed as British rights have been practiced.
The President is surprised that such protest should be authorized by Lord Salisbury, especially because the previous declarations of his lordship would seem to render it impossible. On the 11th day of November, 1887, Lord Salisbury, in an official interview with the Minister from the United States (Mr. Phelps), cordially agreed that “a code of regulations should be adopted for the preservation of the seals in Behr.
ing Sea from destruction at improper times, by improper means, by the citizens of either country." And Lord Salisbury suggested that Mr. Phelps should obtain from his Government and submit to him (Lord Salisbury) a sketch of a system of regulations which would be arlequate for the purpose.” Further interviews were held during the following month of February (1888) between Lord Salisbury and the American Minister, and between Lord Salisbury and the American Minister accompanieil by the Russian embassador. In answer to Lord Salisbury's request Mr. Phelps submitted the regulations" which the Govern ment of the United States desired; and in a dispatch of February 25 Mr. Phelps communicated the following to Mr. Bayard, Secretary of State:
Lord Salisbury assents to your proposition, to establish by mutual arrangement botween the governments interested, a close time for fur seals, between April 15 and November 1, and between 160 degrees of longitude west and 170 degrees of longitude east in the Behring Sea. And he will cause an act to be introduced into Parliament to give effect to this arrangement so soon as it can be prepared. In his opinion there is no doubt that the act will be passed.
He will also join the United States Government in any preventive measures it may be thought best to adopt, by orders issued to the naval vessels of the respective gov. ernments in that region.
Early in April (1888) the Russian ambassador, Mr. de Staal, advised the American chargé “that the Russian Government would like to have the regulations which might be agreed upon for the Behring Sea extended to that portion of the latter in which the Commander Islands are situated, and also to the Sea of Okhotsk, in which Robben Island is situated.”
On the 16th of April, at Lord Salisbury's invitation, the Russian ambassador and Mr. White, the American chargé (Mr. Phelps being absent from London) met at the foreign office for the purpose of discussing with Lord Salisbury the details of the proposed conventional arrangement for the protection of seals in Behring Sea."
“ With a view to meeting the Russian Government's wishes respecting the waters surrounding Robben Island, his lordship suggested that beside the whole of Bering Sea those portions of the Sea of Okhotsk and of the Pacific Ocean north of north latitude 47, should be included in the proposed arrangement. His lordship intimated furthermore, that the period proposed by the United States for a close time, from April 15 to November 1, might interfere with the trade longer than absolutely necessary for the protection of seals, and he suggested October 1, instead of a month later, as the termination of the period of seal protection.” Furthermore, Lord Salisbury“ promised to have a draft convention prepared for submission to the Russian ambassador and the American minister."
On the 23d of April the American chargé was informed by Lord Salisbury that "it is now proposed to give effect to a seal convention by order in council, not by act of Parliament.” It was understood that this course was proposed by Lord Salisbury in order that the regulations needed in Behring Sea might be promptly applied.
You will observe, then, that from the 11th of November, 1887, to the 23d of April, 1888, Lord Salisbury had in every form of speech assented to the necessity of a close season for the protection of the seals.
The shortest period which he named was from the 15th of April to the 1st of October—five and one-half months. In addition, his lordship suggesteil that the closed sea for the period named should include the whole of the Behring Sea and should also include such portion of the Sea of Okhotsk as would be necessary to protect the Russian seal fish
ery on Robben Island; that the closed season be extended as far sonth as the 47th degree of north latitude–120 miles south of the northern boundary of the United States on the Pacific Ocean. He promised further to draft a convention upon the subject between England, Russia, and the United States.
These assurances were given to the American minister, to the Amer ican chargé, to the Russian ambassador, and on more than one occasioi. to two of them together. The United States had no reason, therefore, to doubt that the whole dispute touching the seal fisheries was practically settled. Indeed to have distrusted it would have been to ques. tion the good faith of Lord Salisbury. In diplomatic intercourse between Great Britain and the United States, be it said to the honor of both governments, a verbal assurance from a minister has always been equal to his written pledge. Speaking the same language, there has been no room for misunderstanding between the representatives of the two governments, as may easily happen between those of different tongues. For a period of six months, therefore, without retraction or qualification, without the suggestion of a doubt or the dropping of a hint, the understanding between the two governments, on the assurance of Lord Salisbury, was as complete as language could make it.
On the 28th of April, five days after Lord Salisbury's last pointed assurance, five days after he had proposed to perfect the scheme, not by the delay of Parliament, but by the promptness of an order in council, the American chargé was informed that the act of Parliament would be necessary in addition to the order in council, and that neither act nor order could be drafted until Canada is heard from."
For several weeks following April 28, there were many calls by the American charge at the foreign office to learn whether - Canada had been heard from.” He called alone and called in company with the Russian ambassador. Finally, on the 20th of June, Lord Salisbury told him that an urgent telegram had been “ sent to Canada a week ago with respect to the delay in its expedition,” and that a reply had been "received by the secretary of state for the colonies, saying that the matter will be taken up immediately.” Mr. White, relying entirely upon these assurances, ventured to "hope that shortly after Mr. Phelps' return the British Government will be in a condition to agree upon the terms of the proposed convention.
Mr. Phelps returned to London on the 22d of June, two days after Mr. White's interview with Lord Salisbury, and immediately after the urgent telegram had been sent to Canada. On the 28th of July Mr. Phelps had received no assurances from Lord Salisbury, and telegraphed the Department of State lis “ fear that, owing to Canadian opposition, we shall get no convention." In a dispatch to his Government of the 12th of September, he related having had interviews with Lord Salisbury respecting the convention, which, he says, bad been “ virtually agreed upon, except in its details.” Mr. Phelps goes on to say:
The consideration of it has been suspended for communication by the British Govo ernment with the Canadian Government, for which purpose an interval of several months had been allowed to elapse. During this long interval the attention of Lord Salisbury had been repeatedly called to the subject by the American legation, and on those occasions the answer received from him was that no reply from the Canadian authorities had arrived.
Mr. Phelps proceedls in the dispatch of September 12 to say: I again pressed Lord Salisbury for the completion of the convention, as the extermination of seals by the Canadian vessels was understood to be rapidly proceeding. His lordship, in reply, did not question the propriety or the importance of taking measures to prevent the wanton destruction of so valuable an industry in which, as he remarked, England had a large interest of its own; but his lordship stated that the Canadian Government objected to any such restrictions, and that until its consent could be obtained Her Majesty's Government was not willing to enter into the convention.
It was thus finally acknowledged that the negotiation into which Lord Salisbury had cordially entered, and to which he had readily agreed, even himself suggesting some of its most valuable details, was entirely subordinated to the judgment and desire of the Canadian Gov. ernment. This Government can not but feel that Lord Salisbury would have dealt more frankly if, in the beginning, he had informed Minister Phelps that no arrangement could be made unless Canada concurred in it, and that all negotiation with the British Government direct was but a loss of time.
When you, Mr. Minister, arrived in this country a year ago, there seemed the best prospect for a settlement of this question, but the Russian minister and the American Secretary of State have had the experiences of Mr. Phelps and the Russian ambassador in London repeated. In our early interviews there seemed to be as ready a disposition on your part to come to a reasonable and friendly adjustment as there has always been on our part to offer one. You will not forget an interview between yourself, the Russian minister, and myself, in which the lines for a close season in the Behring Sea laid down by Lord Salisbury were almost exactly repeated by yourself, and were inscribed on maps which were before us, a copy of which is in the possession of the Russian minister, and a copy also in my possession. A prompt adjustment seemed practicable- an adjustment which I am sure would have been honorable to all the countries interested. No obstacles were presented on the American side of the question. No insistance was made upon the Behring Sea as mare clausum; no objection was interposed to the entrance of British ships at all times on all commercial errands through all the waters of the Behring Sea. But our negotiations, as in London, were suddenly broken off for many weeks by the interposition of ('auada. When correspondence was resumed on the last day of April, you made an offer for a mixed commission of experts to decide the questions at issue.
Your proposition is that pelagic sealing should be prohibited in the Behring Sea during the months of May, June, October, November, and December, and that there should be no prohibition during the months of July, August, and September. Your proposition involved the condition that British vessels should be allowed to kill seals within 10 miles of the coast of the Pribilof Islands. Lord Salisbury's proposition of 1888 was that during the same months, for which the 10-mile privilege is now demanded, no British vessel hunting seals should come nearer to the Pribilof Islands than the 47th parallel of north latitude, about 600 miles.
The open season which you thus select for killing is the one when the areas around the breeding islands are most crowded with seals, and especially crowded with female seals going forth to secure food for the hundreds of thousands of their young of which they have recently been delivered. The destruction of the females which, according to expert testimony would be 95 per cent of all which the sealing vessels might readily capture, would inflict deadly loss npon the rookeries. The de struction of the females would be followed by the destruction of their young on the islands, and the herds would be diminished the next year by this wholesale slaughter of the producing females and their offspring
The ten-mile limit would give the marauders the vantage ground for killing the seals that are in the water by tens of thousands searching for food. The opportunity, under cover of fog and night, for stealing silently upon the islands and slaughtering the seals within a mile or even less of the keeper's residence would largely increase the aggregate destruction. Under such conditions the British vessels could evenly divide with the United States, within the three-mile limit of its own shores and upon the islands themselves, the whole advantage of the seal fisheries. The respect which the sealing vessels would pay to the ten-mile limit would be the same that wolves pay to a flock of sheep so placed that no shepherd can guard them. This arrangement according to your proposal, was to continue for three months of each year, the best months in the season for depredations upon the seal herd. No course was left to the United States or to Russia but to reject the proposition.
The propositions made by Lord Salisbury in 1888 and the propositions made by Her Majesty's Minister in Washington in 1890 are in significant contrast. The circumstances are the same, the conditions are the same, the rights of the United States are the same in both years. The position of England has changed, because the wishes of Canada have demanded the change. The result then with which the United States is expected to be content is that her rights within the Behring Sea and on the islands thereof are not absolute, but are to be determined by one of Iler Majesty's provinces.
The British Government would assuredly and rightfully complain if an agreement between her representative and the representative of the United States should, without notice, be broken off by the United States on the ground that the State of California was not willing that it should be completed. California has a governor chosen independently of the executive power of the National Government; Canada has a governor appointed by the British Crown. The legislature of California enacts laws with which the executive power of the United States has no right whatever to interfere; Canada enacts laws with which the executive power of Great Britain can interfere so far as absolutely to annul. Can the Government of the United States be expected to accept as final a decision of the Government of Great Britain that an agreement with the United States can not be fulfilled because the province of Canada objects?
This review of the circumstances which led to the present troubles on the Behring Sea question has been presented by direction of the President in order to show that the responsibility does not rest with this Government. The change of policy made by Her Majesty's Gov. ernment without notice and against the wish of this Government, is in the President's belief the cause of all the differences that have followed. I am further instructed by the President to say that while your proposals of April 30 can not be accepted, the United States will continue the negotiation in hope of reaching an agreement that may conduce to a good understanding and leave no cause for future dispute. In the President's opinion, owing to delays for which this Government is not responsible, it is too late to conclude such negotiation in time to apply its results the present season. He therefore proposes that Her Majesty's Government agree not to permit the vessels (which in his judgment do injury to the property of the United States) to enter the Behring Sea for this season, in order that time may be secured for negotiation that shall not be disturbed by untoward events or unduly influenced by