Mr. Maynard to Mr. Evarts.
Constantinople , August 29, 1879. (Received October 2.)
Sir: A dispatch from the agency and consulate-general at Cairo mentions a recent homicide by an American citizen at Alexandria, and propounds certain questions relative to the trial of the offender. The vice-consul-general at Constantinople, who chanced in Alexandria at the time, corroborates the statement with additional particulars. I have made answer to the propositions, and both dispatch and answer are submitted to your careful attention.[Page 988]
The most important inquiry is that which seeks the construction and legal effect of the proviso to section 4109, Revised Statutes, in these words, “Provided, That in cases where a consular officer is interested, either as party or witness, such minister shall have original jurisdiction.” Now, in the present case, should the consular agent at Alexandria be a witness, and should his appointment as consular agent be found legal, does the jurisdiction of the minister thereby become exclusive or only concurrent with that of the consul? The same question in one form or another has previously occurred, and it has seemed to me, after examination, that the jurisdiction given to the minister by the proviso is concurrent only, the legislative intent conforming to the actual requirement.
For a trial of such gravity I desire the best advice possible, and therefore beg you to examine the question. Should you differ with me in opinion, and hold the jurisdiction of the minister to be exclusive, please intimate whether the cause—parties and witnesses—should be brought for trial to the legation in the capital, or should the minister go to the district of the cause, after the manner of an American circuit judge, or an English judge at nisi prius. Either course would be extremely inconvenient.
I have, &c.