to Sir Edward Thornton.
Washington, January 30, 1879.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 28th instant, communicating a copy of an instruction addressed by the Marquis of Salisbury to Her Majesty’s chargé d’affaires at Bogotá, directing him to protest against the law passed by the Colombian Congress requiring all vessels arriving at the free ports of the republic to deposit their registers with the principal national local authority, to be returned by that officer when the vessel should clear for sea. You further express the hope that such instruction’s may be sent to the minister of the United States at Bogotá as may induce him to co-operate with Her Majesty’s chargé d’affaires in this matter, as far as it may be proper for him to do so.
In reply, I have to state that the legislation complained of has given rise to difficulty at various times since 1854. It was thought, however, that the diplomatic arrangement of the 27th of July, 1876, to which this government was a party, would operate to remove the cause of complaint.
The more recent case of the American schooner “Lorine,” which was seized at Aspinwall (Colon) under peculiarly aggravated circumstances, revived the question as between this government and that of Colombia; and, on the departure for his post of Mr. Ernest Dichman, the newly-appointed minister of the United States at Bogotá, the subject was made the occasion of specific instructions to that officer, who was informed that this government was not aware of any modification, executive or legislative, of the diplomatic accord of 1876; that even were that agreement annuled, we could not freely assent to the delivery of the registers [Page 487] of national vessels into the custody of another government, and that such custody was regarded as contrary to the principles and usage of commercial international law.
Mr. Dichman was therefore instructed to bring the matter anew to the notice of the Colombian Government, and to ask that steps be taken to complete the arrangement of 1876, and remove the conflict then acknowledged to exist between the law and the practice of nations, and especially to instruct the local authorities in such terms as to prevent a recurrence of vexatious and arbitrary acts like the proceedings had with regard to the “Lorine.”
Mr. Dichman replied, under date of October 27, 1878, that he had already brought the subject to the notice of the Government of Colombia, and had been assured that no desire existed to deviate from the diplomatic agreement of 1876; that the inspector of the port at Aspinwall had been changed, and that application would be made to Congress to have the law repealed.
Inasmuch as the interests of the United States Government in this matter are, in the main, identical with those of the other countries concerned in the agreement of 1876, Mr. Dichman will be instructed to exert himself, in harmony with his colleagues, to bring about a definite settlement of the question in the manner contemplated in his previous instructions.
A copy of your note and its inclosure will be sent to him for his information.
I have, &c.,