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Sir Julian Pauncefote to Mr. Blaine.
WASHINGTON, June 14, 1890. SIR: With reference to the note which I had the honor to address to you on the 11th instant, I desire to express my deep regret at having failed up to the present time to obtain from you the assurance, which I had hoped to receive, that during the continuance of our negotiations for the settlement of the fur-seal fishery question British sealing vessels would not be interfered with by United States revenue cruisers in the Behring Sea outside of territorial waters.
Having learned from statements in the public press and from other sources that the revenue cruisers Rus' and Coruin are now about to be dispatched to the Behring Sea, I can not, consistently with the instructions I have received from my Government, defer any longer the communication of their formal protest announced in my notes of the 230 ultimo and the 11th instant against any such interference with British vessels. I have accordingly the honor to transmit the same herewith. I have, etc.,
(Received June 14, 12:35, 1890.) The undersigned, Her Britannic Majesty's Envoy-Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States of America, has the honor, by instruction of his Government, to make to the Hon. James G. Blaine, Serretary of State of the United States, the following communication:
Her Britannic Majesty's Government have learned with great concern from notices which have appeared in the press, and the general accuracy of which has been confirmed by Mr. Blaine's statements to the undersigned, that the Government of the United States have issued instructions to their revenue cruisers about to be dispatched to Behring Sea, under which the vessels of British subjects will again be exposed, in the prosecution of their legitimate industry on the high seas, to unlawful interference at the hands of American officers.
Her Britannic Majesty's Government are anxious to coöperate to the fullest extent of their power with the Government of the United States in such measures as may be found to be expedient for the protection of the seal fisheries. They are at the present moment engaged in examining, in concert with the Government of the United States, the best method of arriving at an agreement upon this point. But they can not admit the right of the United States of their own sole motion to restrict for this purpose the freedom of navigation of Behring Sea, which the United States have themselves in former years convincingly and successfully vindicated, nor to enforce their municipal legislation against British vessels on the high seas beyond the limits of their territorial jurisdiction.
Her Britannie Majesty's Government are therefore unable to pass over without notice the public announcement of an intention on the part of the Government of the United States to renew the acts of interference with British vessels navigating outside the territorial waters of the l’nited States, of which they have previously had to complain.
The undersigned is in consequence instructed formally to protest against such interference, and to declare that Her Britannic Majesty's Government must hold the Government of the United States responsible for the consequences that may ensue from acts which are contrary to the established principles of international law. The undersigned, etc.,
JULIAN PAUNCEFOTE. JUNE 14, 1890.
Sir Julian Pauncefote to Mr. Blaine.
WASHINGTON, June 27, 1890. SIR: I did not fail to transmit to the Marquis of Salisbury a copy of your note of the 11th instant, in which, with reference to lis lordship's statement that British legislation would be necessary to enable Her Majesty's Government to exclude British vessels from any portion of the high seas “even for an hour,” you informed me, by desire of the President, that the United States Government would be satisfiell if Lord Salisbury would by public proclamation simply request that vessels sailing under the British flag should abstain from entering the Behring Sea during the present season.”
I have now the honor to inform you that I have been instructed by Lord Salisbury to state to you in reply that the President's request presents constitutional difficulties which would preclude Her Majesty's Government from acceding to it, except as part of a general scheme for the settlement of the Behring Sea controversy, and on certain conditions which would justify the assumption by ller Majesty's Government of the grave responsibility involved in the proposal.
Those conditions are:
I. That the two Governments agree forthwith to refer to arbitration the question of the legality of the action of the United States Government in seizing or otherwise interfering with British vessels engaged in the Bebring Sea, outside of territorial waters, during the years 1886, 1887, and 1889.
II. That, pending the award, all interference with British sealing vessels shall absolutely cease.
III. That the United States Government, if the award should be adverse to them on the question of legal right, will compensate British subjects for the losses which they may sustain by reason of their compliance with the British proclamation.
Such are the three oonditions on which it is indispensable, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, that the issue of the proposed proclamation should be based.
As regards the compensation claimed by Her Majesty's Government for the losses and injuries sustained by British subjects by reason of the action of the United States Government against British sealing vessels in the Behring Sea during the years 1886, 1887, and 1889, I have already informed Lord Salisbury of your assurance that the United States Gov. ernment would not let that claim stand in the way of an amicable adjustment of the controversy, and I trust that the reply which, by direction of Lord Salisbury, I have now the honor to return to the President's inquiry, may facilitate the attainment of that object for which we have so long and so earnestly labored. I have, etc.,
CORRESPONDENCE RELATIVE TO THE JURISDICTIONAL RIGHTS IN BERING SEA FORMERLY POSSESS SD BY RUSSIA AND TRANSFERRED TO THE UNITED STATES BY THE TREATY OF 1867.
Mr. Blaine to Sir Julian Pauncefote.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, June 30, 1890. SIR: On the 5th instant you read to me a dispatch from Lord Salis · bury dated May 22, and by his instruction you left with me a copy. His lordship writes in answer to my dispatch of the 22d January last. At that time, writing to yourself touching the current contention between the Governments of the United States and Great Britain as to the jurisdiction of the former over the waters of the Bering Sea, I made the following statement:
The Government of the United States has no occasion and no desire to withdraw or modify the positions which it has at any time maintained against the claims of the Imperial Government of Russia. The United States will not withhold from any nation the privileges which it demanded for itself when Alaska was part of the Russian Empire. Nor is the Government of the United States disposed to exercise any less power or authority than it was willing to concede to the Imperial Government of Russia when its sovereignty extended over the territory in question. The President is persuaded that all friendly nations will concede to the United States the same rights and privileges on the lands and in the waters of Alaska which the same friendly nations always conceded to the Empire of Russia.
In answer to this declaration Lord Salisbury contends that Mr. John Quincy Adams, when Secretary of State under President Monroe, protested against the jurisdiction which Russia claimed over the waters of Bering Sea. To maintain this position his lordship cites the words of a dispatch of Mr. Adams, written on July 23, 1823, to Mr. Henry Middleton, at that time our minister at St. Petersburg. The alleged declarations and admissions of Mr. Adams in that dispatch have been the basis of all the arguments which Her Majesty's Government has submitted against the ownership of certain properties in the Behring Sea which the Government of the United States confidently assumes. I quote the portion of Lord Salisbury's argument which includes the quotation from Mr. Adams:
After Russia, at the instance of the Russian American Fur Company, claimed in 1821 the pursuits of commerce, whaling, and fishing from Behring Strait to the fiftyfirst degree of north latitude, and not only prohibited all foreign vessels from landing on the coasts and islands of the above waters, but also prevented them from approaching within 100 miles thereof, Mr. Quincy Adams wrote as follows to the United States Minister in Russia:
“The United States can admit no part of these claims; the right of navigation and fishing is perfect, and has been in constant exercise from the earliest times throughout the whole extent of the Southern Ocean, subject only to the ordinary exceptions and exclusions of the territorial jurisdictions."
The quotation which Lord Salisbury makes is unfortunately a most defective, erroneous, and misleading one. The conclusion is separated from the premise, a comma is turned into a period, an important qualification as to time is entirely erased without even a suggestion that it had ever formed part of the text, and out of eighty-four words, logically and inseparably connected, thirty-five are dropped from Mr. Adams's paragraph in Lord Salisbury's quotation. No edition of Mr. Adams's work gives authority for his lordship's quotation; while the achives of this Department plainly disclose its many errors. I requote Lord Salisbury's version of what Mr. Adams said, and in juxtaposition produce Mr. Adams's full text as he wrote it:
(Lord Salisbury's quotation from Mr. Adams.)
The United States can aılmit no part of these claims; their right of navigation anıl fishing is perfect, and has been in constant exercise from the earliest times throughout the whole extent of the Southern Ocean, subject only to the ordinary exceptions and exclusions of the territorial jurisdictions.
(Full text of Mr. Adams's paragraph.)
The United States can admit no part of these claims. Their right of navigation and , of fishing is perfect, and has been in constant exercise from the earliest times, after the peace of 1783, throughout the whole extent of the Southern Ocean, subject only to the ordinary exceptions and exclusions of the territorial jurisdictions, which so far as Russian rights are concerned, are confined to certain islands north of the fifty-fifth degree of latitude, and have no existence on the continent of America.
The words in italics are those which are left out of Mr. Adams's paragraph in the dispatch of Lord Salisbury. They are precisely the words upon which the Government of the United States founds its argument in this case. Conclusions or inferences resting upon the paragraph, with the material parts of Mr. Adams's text omitted, are of course valueless.
The first object is to ascertain the true meaning of Mr. Adams's words which were omitted by Lord Salisbury. “Russian rights," said
” Mr. Adams, “ are confined to certain islands north of the fifty-fifth degree of latitude." The islands referred to are as easily recognized today as when Mr. Adams described their situation sixty-seven years ago. The best known among them, both under Russian and American jurisdiction, are Sitka and Kadiak; but their whole number is great. If Mr. Adams literally intended to confine Russian rights to those islands, all the discoveries of Vitus Behring and other great navigators are brushed away by one sweep of his pen, and a large chapter of history is but a fable.
But Mr. Adams goes still farther. He declares that “ Russian rights have no existence on the continent of America.” If we take the words of Mr. Adams with their literal meaning, there was no such thing as * Russian Possessions in America," althongh forty-four years after Mr. Adams wrote these words the United States paid Russia $7,200,000 for these “possessions" and all the rights of land and sea connected therewith.
This construction of Mr. Adams's language can not be the true one. It would be absurd on its face. The title to that far northern territory was secure to Russia as early as 1741; secure to her against the claims of all other nations; secure to her thirty-seven years before Captain Cook had sailed into the North Pacific; secure to her more than half a century before the United States had made good her title to Oregon). Russia was in point of time the first power in this region by right of discovery. Without immoderate presumption she might have challenged the rights of others to assumed territorial possessions; but no nation had shadow of cause or right to challenge her title to the vast region of land and water which, before Mr. Adams was Secretary of State, had become known as the “Russian Possessions."
Mr. Adams's meaning was not, therefore, and indeed could not be, what Lord Salisbury assumed. As against such interpretatian I shall endeavor to call his lordship's attention to what this Government holds to be the indisputable meaning of Mr. Adams's entire paragraph.
To that end a brief review of certain public transactions and a brief record of certain facts will be necessary.
At the close of the year 1799 the Emperor Paul, by aukase, asserted the exclusive authority of Russia over the territory from the Behring Strait down to the fifty-fifth degree of north latitude on the American coast, following westward " by the Aleutian, Kurile, and other islands” practically inclosing the Behring Sea. Tothe Russian AmericanCompanyó which was organized under this ukase, the Emperor gave the right to make new discoveries” in that almost unknown region, and" to occupy the new land discoveredl" as "Russian possessions. The Emperor was assassinated before any new discoveries were announced, but his successor, the Emperor Alexander I, inherited the ambition and the purpose of his father, and, in a new ukase of September 4, 1821, asserted the exclusive authority of Russia from Behring Strait southward to the fifty-first degree of north latitude on the American coast, proclaiming his authority, at the same time, on the Asiatic coast as far south as the forty-fifth degree, and forbidding any vessel to approach within 100 miles of land on either continent. I quote the two sections of the ukase that contain the order and the punishment:
SECTION 1. The transaction of commerce, and the pursuit of whaling and fishing, or any other industry on the islands, in the harbors and inlets, and, in general, all along the northwestern coast of America from Behring Strait to the fifty-first paraller of northern latitude, and likewise on the Aleutian Islands and along the easterni coast of Siberia, and on the Kurile Islands; that is, from Bebring Strait to the southern promontory of the island of Urup, viz, as far south as latitude forty-five degrees and fifty minutes porth, are exclusively reserved to subjects of the Russian Empire.
Sec. 2. Accordingly, no foreign vessel shall be allowed either to put to shore at any of the coasts and islands under Russian dominion as specified in the preceding section, or even to approach the same to within a distance of less than 100 Italian miles. Any vessel contravening this provision shall be subject to confiscation with her whole cargo.
Against this larger claim of authority (viz, extending farther south on the American coast to the fifty-first degree of north latitude), Mr. Adams vigorously protested. In a dispatch of March 30, 1822, to Mr. Poletica, the Russian minister at Washington, Mr. Adais said:
This nkase now for the first time extends the claim of Russia on the northwest coast of America to the 51st degree of north latitude.
And he pointed out to the Russian minister that the only foundation for the new pretension of Russia was the existence of a small settle. inent, situated, not on the American continent, but on a small island in latitude 570_Novo Archangelsk, now known as Sitka.
Mr. Adams protested, not against the ukase of Paul, but against the ukase of Alexander; not wholly against the ukase of Alexander, but only against his extended claim of sovereignty southward on the con. tinent to the fifty-first degree north latitude. In short, Mr. Adams protested, not against the old possessions, but against the new pretensions of Russia on the northwest coast of America-pretensions to territory claimed by the United States and frequented by her mariners since the peace of 1783 -a specification of time which is dropped from Lord Salisbury's quotation of Mr. Adams, but which Mr. Adams pointedly used to tix the date when the power of the United States was visibly exercised on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
The names and phrases at that time in use to describe the geography included within the area of this dispute are confusing and at certain points apparently contradictory and irreconcilable. Mr. Adams's denial to Russia of the ownership of territory on “the continent of America" is a fair illustration of this singular contradiction of names and places.