No. 396.
Mr. Christiancy to Mr. Evarts.

No. 21.]

Sir: I inclose a copy of my letter of yesterday to Minister Osborn, and I take the liberty of asking your special attention to the remarks I have made upon what I understand to be the law, as well as the fair interpretation of your two dispatches in answer to Mr. Gibbs’s letters upon the subject of the purchase of foreign-built vessels by our citizens and their right to use our flag.

I also ask your attention to the advice stated to have been given to our consuls, in Peru, to the end that I may withdraw or modify such advice if not approved by the department.

With the highest esteem, I remain, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 21.]

Mr. Christiancy to Mr. Osborn.

Sir: I presume you will have received from the Secretary of State, before this reaches you, a dispatch in reference to the rights of foreign-built ships, purchased by Americans, to use the American flag; but lest you should not, I inclose copy of a dispatch to me in answer to Mr. Gibbs’s dispatch on same subject.

The Secretary had already, by a dispatch to me, approved the action of Mr. Gibbs in reference to the Itata, which, taken in connection with that of which I inclose copy, I understand to mean just what I had already said in my letter to you.

In short, I think the mere transfer papers formally showing such a sale should by our consuls be treated as of no effect, and that they should not authenticate or recognize it, unless and until full affirmative evidence is produced to them showing to their satisfaction that the sale was real and not merely colorable; that it was in good faith, and not for the mere purpose of obtaining the protection of our flag.

Especially should this be the rule in case of the sale by any of the belligerents in this war to American citizens, as such sales, from the very nature of the case, rest under a strong suspicion of fraud. I have advised our consuls in Peru to be guided by these principles, unless otherwise instructed by the department.

There is one other point in reference to the use of our flag which I consider of grave importance, and to which I invite your special attention.

I am informed by our consul at Iquique, Mr. Merriam, by letter dated May 23, that, in the naval engagement or engagements at and near that port, on the 21st May last, the Lamar, a Chilian transport, raised the American (our) flag. If this report be true, the use of our flag for such a purpose can only be considered in the light of a very grave insult to the flag and the Government of the United States. And I would suggest that it may be a very proper subject to be called to the attention of the Chilian Government, and, if the report be found to be correct, for a proper protest on the part of the United States against the repetition of so grave an insult to our government.

I have, &c.,


Hon. Thomas. A. Osborn,
United States Minister, Chili.