Mr. Schenck to Mr. Fish.
London , October 15, 1873. (Received October 31.)
Sir: In conversation with Lord Tenterden yesterday at the foreign office, in the absence of Lord Granville, I adverted to the subject of a consular convention, and asked him if they were pursuing the subject as we hoped. I reminded him of our expectation that Her Majesty’s government would be prepared as soon as possible to submit a counter-projet.
Lord Tenterden repeated what Lord Granville had told me, that they were considering the matter and having conference with the proper departments. He said that, having the business in hand himself, no time should be lost in bringing it forward as soon as practicable. It would be necessary, he remarked, as I had before been informed, that some legislation should be obtained before a convention-could be negotiated and concluded, which would involve questions or settle terms relating to any exercise of powers or jurisdiction within British territory; but; under a late act of Parliament, extending the authority of the government under the merchant shipping acts, it was possible something might be soon done or agreed on in relation particularly to the arrest of deserting sailors.
Lord Tenterden assured me that, as soon as this government could be prepared to submit any proposal for consideration, it should be communicated to me.
Since that interview I have obtained and send you herewith a copy of the new act of Parliament referred to. I find nothing in it touching matters or questions to be mutually adjusted, except what is contained in the 11th section—the power given to Her Majesty to apply, by order in council, to the ships of any foreign state desirous of such advantage, the provisions of her own merchant shipping acts “relating to the engagement and discharge of seamen.” And this is to be allowed only subject to the pleasure of Her Majesty “to add to, alter, or repeal” such order when made. But I think I am not mistaken in supposing that what is wanted by the Government of the United States is, not a privilege under British law, to be given or withdrawn at the discretion of Her Majesty’s government, but a convention binding equally on both parties, and settling on a basis of perfect reciprocity the rights to be enjoyed and exercised in the ports and places of each other’s territory respectively.
I have, &c.,