Mr. Fish to Mr. Stenersen.
Washington , August 20, 1874.
Sir: The delay in replying to your note of the 22d of June last, in reference to thedouble pilotage fees demanded of the captain of the [Page 1120] corvette Balder, in which you request information whether American vessels of war are required to paydouble pilotage in similar cases, and if not, whether foreign vessels of wardo not enjoy in the United States in such cases the same privileges as are accorded to American vessels in the United Kingdoms and in other European countries, has been occasioned by a desire to examine the question.
I have now the honor to inform you that it was provided by an act of Congress of August 7, 1789, that pilots should continue to be regulated by the several States.
The pilotage system in the United States is entirely under State authority, the State prescribing the regulations and collecting the fees. The pilot laws affecting the port of New York, in this instance, are a part of the statutes of the State of New York. Upon an examination of the law, I find that it applies in terms not only to merchant-vessels but to ships of war both of the United States and of foreign countries. No discrimination appears to be made against foreign ships of war.
I am not informed whether any general rule exists in foreign countries exempting foreign vessels of war from the payment of pilot fees, but in the United States the whole matter has been transferred to the several States, and whatever reciprocal courtesy exists, or whatever exemptions are made, rest entirely with the States, and over all these matters the United States has no jurisdiction.
Accept, sir, &c.,