No. 224.
Mr. Fish to Mr. Peirce.

No. 71.]

Sir: Your dispatches Nos. 147 and 151, relative to the hospital system at Honolulu, have been received. This is a subject which has for many years occasioned much trouble and anxiety to the Department. This probably may be expected to continue until some such measure as that which you recommend shall be carried into effect; namely, the construction there, by this Government, of a hospital for its own purposes, to be under the supervision of a retired surgeon in the Navy.

[Page 484]

At present, and for some time past, it seems that the sick seamen of the United States have been and are medically treated in a hospital of which John S. McGrew, M. D., is proprietor, pursuant to a contract between him and Thomas Adamson, jr., late consul of the United States at Honolulu, which contract was subsequently approved by the Department. There were ample grounds for this approval; for among other letters from high sources attesting the personal and professional worth of Dr. McGrew, is one from yourself to him, of the 5th of August, 1869. An erroneous impression, however, seems to be current, that because he, a private physician in Honolulu, is professionally employed to treat invalid seamen of the United States, the building where he lodges them for that purpose is necessarily a United States hospital. The Department apprehends that you yourself may have been misled by this impression into the course which recently you have thought proper to take with reference to Dr. McGrew and his hospital. It seems that that building is not far from the King’s palace, so called, and is also opposite to a hotel. A case of small-pox having been reported to be under treatment there, occasioned such alarm that Mr. Harris, the Hawaiian minister for foreign affairs, under date the 15th of May last, addressed you a note stating that it was not agreeable to His Hawaiian Majesty to have the hospital so near his house, and that it would be a favor if it were removed. The note also refers to a previous conversation with you on the subject; but expresses distrust as to whether you have authority in the matter. It may be regretted that in the conversation referred to you should not have so impressed Mr. Harris with a true view of the relation between this Government and the hospital as to have confirmed his distrust as to your authority. Even, however, if you had not succeeded in this, the future correspondence and apparent irritation upon the subject might have been avoided, if, by informal personal interviews with Dr. McGrew, you had endeavored to induce him to comply with the wishes of the Hawaiian government. He is a private citizen of the United States, and the hospital is his property. This Government is bound to protect both pursuant to treaty and public law, and not to injure either at the instance of, or through undue deference to, the local authorities. The 8th article of the treaty with the Hawaiian Islands, of the 20th of December, 1849, stipulates in respect to the citizens and subjects of the parties respectively, “their dwellings, warehouses, and all premises appertaining thereto, destined for the purposes of commerce or residence, shall be respected.”

It would have been preferable for the Hawaiian authorities to have objected to the choice of Dr. McGrew of a site for his hospital, but when once chosen he should not have been expected to vacate it contrary to his own wish, except by due process of law through the proper tribunals.

You also impugn the accommodations and management of Dr. McGrew’s hospital, and in support of your views transmit a copy of letters addressed to you by Drs. Ver Meulen and Browne of the Navy. The statements in these letters, however, are regarded as too vague to warrant a concurrence in their opinion. This is especially the case as statements of an entirely opposite character are on file in the Department from persons professionally and otherwise of the highest authority. Under these circumstances the Department feels constrained to withhold its sanction of your course in this instance.

I am, &c.,

Hamilton Fish.