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I understood Lord Salisbury to say when I saw him with M. de Staal, and again last week alone, that it is now proposed to give effect to the conventional arrangement for the protection of seals by an order in council, not by act of Parliament.
When Mr. Phelps left the latter was thought necessary, and last week I received a telegram from tho Secretary of State asking me to obtain contidentially a copy of the proposed act of Parliament, with a view to assimilating our contemplated act of Congress thereto. I replied, after seeing Lord Salisbury last Saturday, that there would be no bill introduced in Parliament, but an order in council.
May I ask now if this be incorrect, as, in that event, I should particularly like to correct my former statement by this day's mail.
To this the following reply was on the same date addressed to Mr. White:
FOREIGN OFFICE, April 28, 1888. MY DEAR WHITE: Lord Salisbury is afraid that he did not make himself understood when last he spoke to you about the Seal Fisheries Convention."
An act of Parliament is necessary to give power to our authorities to act on the provisious of the convention when it is signed. The order in council will be merely the machinery which the act will provide for the purpose of bringing its provisions into force. The object of this machinery is to enable the Government to wait till the other two powers are ready. But neither convention nor bill is drafted yet, because we have not got the opinions from Canada, which are necessary to enable us to proceed. Yours, etc.,
Eric Barrington, It is evident from this correspondence that if the United States Gov. ernment was misled upon the 230 April into the belief that Her Majesty's Government could proceed in the matter without an act of Parliament, or could proceed without previous reference to Canada, it was a mistake which must have been entirely dissipated by the correspondence which followed in the ensuing week.
Mr. Blaine is also under a misconception in imagining that I ever gave any verbal assurance, or any promise of any kind, with respect to the terms of the projected convention. Her Majesty's Government always have been, and are still, anxious for the arrangement of a convention which shall provide whatever close time in whatever localities is necessary for the preservation of the fur-seal species. But I have represented that the details must be the subject of discussion, a discussion to which those who are locally interested must of necessity contribute. I find the record of the following conversation about the date to which Mr. Blaine refers:
The Marquis of Salisbury to Sir L. West.
FOREIGN OFFICE, March 17, 1888. Sir: Since forwarding to you my dispatch No. 23 of the 22d ultimo, I have been in cominunication with the Russian ambassador at this court, and have invited his excellency to ascertain whether his Government would authorize him to discuss with Mr. Phelps and myself the suggestion made by Mr. Bayard in his dispatch of the 7th February, that concerted action should be taken by the United States, Great Britain, and other interested powers, in order to preserve from extermination the fur-seals wbich at certain seasons are found in Behring Sea.
Copies of the correspondence on this question which has passed between M. de Staal and myself is inclosed herewith.
I request that you will inform Mr. Bayard of the steps which have been taken, with a view to the initiation of negotiations for an agreement between the three powers principally concerned in the maintenance of the seal fisheries. But in doing so you should state that this action on the part of Her Majesty's Government must not be taken as an admission of the rights of jurisdiction in Behring Sea exercised there by the United States authorities during the fishing seasons of 1886–87 and 1887–288, nor as affecting the claims which Her Majesty's Government will have to present on account of wrongful seizures which have taken place of British vessels engaged in the seal-fishing industry. I am, etc.,
In pursuance of this dispatch, the suggestion made by Mr. Bayard, to which I referred, was discussed and negotiations were initiated for an agreement between the three powers. The following dispatch contains the record of what I believe was the first meeting between the three powers on the subject:
The Marquis of Salisbury to Sir L. West.
FOREIGN OFFICE, April 16, 1888. Sir: The Russian Ambassador and the United States charge d'affaires called upon me this afternoon to discuss the question of the seal fisheries in Behring Sea, which had been bronght into prominence by the recent action of the United States.
The United States Government had expressed a desire that some agreement should be arrived at between the three Governments for the purpose of prohibiting the slanghter of the seals during the time of breeding; and, at my request, M. de Staal had obtained instructions from his Government on that question.
At this preliminary discussion it was decided prorisionally, in order to furnish a basis for negotiation, and without definitirely pledging our Governments, that the space to be covered by the proposed convention should be the sea between America and Russia north of the forty-seventh degree of latitude; that the close time should extend from the 15th April to the 1st November; that during that time the slaughter of all seals should be forbidden, and vessels engaged in it should be liable to seizure by the cruisers of any of the three powers and should be taken to the port of their own nationality for condemnation; that the traffic in arms, alcohol, and powder should be prohibited in all the islands of those seas; and that, as soon as the three powers had concluded à convention, they should join in submitting it for the assent of the other maritime powers of the northern seas.
The United States chargé d'affaires was exceedingly earnest in pressing on us the importance of dispatch, on account of the inconceivable slaughter that had been and was still going on in these seas. He stated that, in addition to the vast quantity bronght to market, it was a common practice for those engaged in the trade to shoot all seals they might meet in the open sea, and that of these a great number sank, so that their skins could not be recovered. I am, etc.,
It was impossible to state more distinctly that any proposal made was provisional, and was merely made for the purpose of enabling the requisite negotiations to proceed. The subsequent discussion of these proposals was undoubtedly delayed in consequence of the length of time occupied by the Canadian Government in collecting from considerable distances the information which they required before their opinion on the subject could be thoroughly formed, and after that it was delayed, I believe, chiefly in consequence of the political events in the United States unconnected with this question. I think it desirable to correct the misconceptions which have arisen with respect to these transactions, though I do not think that, even if the view of them which is taken by Mr. Blaine is accurate, they would bear out the argument which he founds upon them.
I shall be glad if you will take the opportunity of informing Mr. Blaine of these corrections. I am, etc.,
Sir Julian Pauncefote to Mr. Blaine.
WASHINGTON, June 30, 1890. SIR: I have received a dispatch from the Marquis of Salisbury with reference to the passage in your note to me of the 4th instant, in which you remark that in 1888 his lordship abruptly closed the negotiations lecanse " the Canadian Government objected,” and that he “ assigned no other reason whatever."
In view of the observations contained in Lord Salisbury's dispatch of the 20th of June, of which a copy is inclosed in my last preceding note of this date, his lordship deems it unnecessary to discuss at any greater length the circumstances which led to an interruption of the negotiations of 1888.
With regard, however, to the passage in your note of the 4th instant above referred'to, his lordship wishes me to call your attention to the following statement made to him by Mr. Phelps, the United States Minister in London, on the 3d of April, 1888, and which was recorded in a dispatch of the same date to Her Majesty's Minister at Washington:
“ Under the peculiar political circumstances of America at this moment," said Mr. Phelps, " with a generl election impending, it would by of little use, and indeed hardly practicable, to conduct any negotiation to its issue before the election had taken place.” I have, etc.,
Mr. Blaine to Sir Julian Pauncefote.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, July 2, 1890. SIR: Your note of the 27th ultimo, covering Lord Salisbury's reply to the friendly suggestion of the President, was duly received. It was the design of the President, if Lord Salisbury had been favorably inclined to his proposition, to submit a form of settlement for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government which the President believed would end all dispute touching privileges in Behring Sea. But Lord Salisbury refused to accept the proposal unless the President should "forthrith" accept a formal arbitration, which his lordship prescribes.
The President's request was made in the hope that it might lead to a friendly basis of agreement, and he can not think that Lord Salisbury's proposition is responsive to his suggestion. Besides, the answer comes so late that it would be impossible now to proceed this season with the negotiation the President had desired.
An agreement to arbitrate requires careful consideration. The United States is perhaps more fully committed to that form of international atljustment than any other power, but it can not consent that the form in which arbitration shall be undertaken shall be decided without full consultation and conference between the two Governments.
I beg further to say that you must have misapprehended what I said touching British claims for injuries and losses alleged to have been inflicted upon British vessels in Behring Sea by ageuts of the United States. My declaration was that arbitration would logically and necessarily include that point. It is not to be conceded, but decided with other issues of far greater weight. I have the honor to be, sir, etc.,
JAMES G. BLAINE.
Mr. Blaine to Sir Julian Pauncefote.
BAR HARBOR, MAINE, July 19, 1890. SIR: I regret that circumstances beyond my control have postponed my reply to your two notes of June 30, which were received on the 1st instant, on the eve of my leaving Washington for this place. The note which came to hand on the forenoon of that day inclosed a dispatch from Lord Salisbury, in which bis lordship, referring to my note of May 29, expresses "a wish to point out some errors” which he thinks I “had gathered from the records in my office."
The purpose of Lord Salisbury is to show that I misapprehended the facts of the case when I represented him, in my note of May 29, as hav. ing given such “verbal assurances” to Mr. Phelps as warranted the latter in expecting a convention to be concluded between the two Governments for the protection of the seal fisheries in Behring Sea.
Speaking directly to this point his lordship says: Mr. Blaine is under a misconception in imagining that I ever gave any verbal assurance or any promise of any kind with respect to the terms of the proposed convention.
In answer to this statement I beg you will say to Lord Salisbury that I simply quoted, in my note of May 29, the facts communicated by our Minister, Mr. Phelps, and our chargé d'affaires, Mr. White, who are responsible for the official statements made to this Government at differ ent stages of the seal fisheries negotiation.
On the 25th day of February, 1888, as already stated in my note of May 29, Mr. Phelps sent the following intelligence to Secretary Bayard, viz:
Lord Salisbury assents to your proposition to establish by mutual arrangement between the Governments interested a close time for fur-seals between April 15 avd November 1, in each year, and between one hundred and sixty degrees of longitude west, and one hundred and seventy degrees of longitude east in the Bering Se a. And he will cause an act to be introcluced in 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 Governinents in that region.
Mr. Phelps has long been known in this country as an able lawyer, accurate in the use of words, and discriminating in the statement of facts. The Government of the United States necessarily reposes implicit confidence in the literal correctness of the dispatch above quoted.
Sometime after the foregoing conference between Lord Salisbury and Mr. Phelps had taken place, his lordship invited the Russian Embassador, M. de Staal, and the American chargé, Mr. White (Mr. Phelps being absent from London), to a conference held at the Foreign Office on the 16th of April, touching the Behring Sea controversy. This conference was really called at the request of the Russian Embassador, who desired that Russian rights in the Bering Sea should be as fully recognized by England as American rights had been recognized in the verbal agreement of February 25 between Lord Salisbury and Mr. Phelps. The Russian Embassador received from Lord Salisbury the assurance (valuable also to the United States) that the protected area for seal life should be extended southward to the forty-seventh degree of north latitude, and also the promise that he would have “a draft convention prepared for submission to the Russian Embassador and the American chargé."
Lord Salisbury now contends that all the proceedings at the conference of April 16 are to be regarded as only provisional, in order to fur
66 nish a basis for negotiation, and without definitely pledging our Government.”. While the understanding of this Government differs from that maintained by Lord Salisbury, I am instructed by the President to say that the United States is willing to consider all the proceedings of April 16, 1888, as canceled, so far as American rights may be concerned. This Government will ask Great Britain to adhere only to the agreement made between Lord Salisbury and Mr. Phelps on the 25th of February, 1888. That was an agreement made directly between the two Governments and did not include the rights of Russia. Asking Lord Salisbury to adhere to the agreement of February 25, we leave the agreement of April 16 to be maintained, if maintained at all, by Russia, for whose cause and for whose advantage it was particularly designed.
While Lord Salisbury makes a general denial of having given "verbal assurances," he has not made a special denial touching the agreement bet veen himself and Mr. Phelps, which Mr. Phelps has reported in special detail, and the correctness of which he has since specially affirmed on more than one occasion.
In your second note of June 30, received in the afternoon of July 1, you called my attention (at Lord Salisbury's request) to a statement which I made in my note of June 4 to this effect:
It is evident, therefore, that in 1888 Lord Salisbury abruptly closed the negotiation because, in his own phrase, “the Canadian Government objected.”
To show that there were other causes for closing the negotiation Lord Salisbury desires that attention be called to a remark made to him by Mr. Phelps on the 3d day of April, 1888, as follows: “Under the peculiar circumstances of America at this moment, with a general election impending, it would be of little use and indeed hardly practi. cable to conduct any negotiation to its issue before the general election has taken place."
I am quite ready to admit that such a statement made by Mr. Phehs might now be adduced as one of the reasons for breaking off the negotiation, if in fact the negotiation had been then broken off, but Lord Salisbury immediately proceeded with the negotiation. The remark ascribed to Mr. Phelps was made, as Lord Salisbury states, on the 3d of April, 1888. On the 5th of April Mr. Phelps lett London on a visit to tle United States. On the 6th of April Lord Salisbury addressed a private note to Mr. White to meet the Russian ambassador at the foreign office, as he had appointed a meeting for April 16 to discuss the questions at issue concerning the seal fisheries in Bering Sea.
On the 23d of April there was some correspondence in regard to an order in council and an act of Parliament. On the 27th of April Under Secretary Barrington, of the foreign office, in an official note, informed Mr. White that “the next step was to bring in an act of Parliament."
On the 28th of April Mr. White was informed that an act of Parliament would be necessary in addition to the order in council, but that “ neither act nor order coud be draughted until Canada is heard from."
Mr. Phelps returned to London on the 22d of June, and immediately took up the subject, earnestly pressing Lord Salisbury to come to a conclusion. On the 28th of July he telegraphed his Government expressing the “fear that owing to Canadian opposition we shall get no convention." On the 12th of September Mr. Phelps wrote to Secretary Bayard that