to Mr. Kellar.
Washington, June 2, 1879.
Sir: Your dispatches numbered 161, 162, and 163, with their respective inclosures, have been received.
Your action with reference to the vessels recently sold and transferred to citizens of the United States, which were formerly engaged in trade under the Chilian flag, as set forth in your No. 161, of the 8th March, last, will have consideration.
An essential element of the validity of the sale of a foreign vessel to an American citizen, is the bona fide character of the sale. If circumstances should admit of any reasonable doubt as to the right of the transaction to that character, the consul is expected to do no act which will sanction or tend to sanction it, whereby the master in charge of the vessel sold would suppose that the sale entitled him to fly the flag of the United States.
I am, &c.,
Second Assistant Secretary.