Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 4, 1882
to Mr. Lowell.
Washington, February 10, 1882.
Sir: I inclose herewith, for your information, copies of correspondence relating to the arrest and imprisonment, by the British authorities, of Mr. Daniel McSweeny, a naturalized American citizen residing in Ireland.
I will thank you to inquire into the circumstances of this case through the proper channels, and to report the result of your investigations to this Department, meanwhile taking any action in reference to the matter which you may deem proper.
I am, &c.,
Mr. Cuddy to the President.
Dear Sir: I take the liberty of calling your attention to the inclosed letter, which was published in the San Francisco Examiner yesterday, and beg a careful consideration of its contents.
Some people may think it impertinent and officious, but I believe that what concerns one citizen concerns all citizens, no matter how exalted or humble the particular individual interested may be. When, therefore, a citizen of the United States writes a letter to [Page 197] any member of his family, or even to the public press, seeking and invoking the protection of his government, it is not only the right of any citizen to interest himself in his behalf, but also it is his duty. No second appeal was made to President Pierce in the case of citizen Kotza, who was arrested and imprisoned by the Austrian authorities. The question then propounded, “Do you or do you not respect the treaty wherein you relinquish all claim and control over subjects who have become American citizens?” should now be propounded anew to Great Britain, not only in the instance to which your excellency’s attention is herewith called, but likewise to any other citizens who are now illegally deprived of that liberty which is guaranteed to all citizens of the United States in Great Britain.
“Suspicion” or “probability” has no standing in international law or treaties. The offense must be actual and must have been committed after the law was enacted under which they have been arrested As I understand the laws of our country, there is no distinction or difference between a native or a foreign-born citizen, with the exception of the non-eligibility of the foreign-born to the office of President or Vice-President; in all other respects they are equal. Therefore in this case Mr. McSweeny is entitled to the same protection as if he was General Grant. What could or can be done for General Grant under like circumstances can likewise be done for Mr. McSweeny. One is a native citizen, the other a foreign-born citizen. Therefore, I earnestly pray you to exert all the powers of the government towards a speedy release of Mr. McSweeny and all other American citizens now illegally languishing in British dungeons.
With great respect, &c.,
Mr. Berry to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Washington, D. C., February 6, 1882. (Received February 8.)
Dear Sir: Inclosed is a letter of Daniel McSweeny, formerly a resident of California, but now in Dundalk jail, Ireland. The letter is addressed to his daughter now living in San Francisco.
His seems a hard case, and even were he justly imprisoned, he certainly is entitled to humane treatment. I call your special attention to the letter.
The appeals of his personal friends in California to me must be my excuse for thus addressing you.
british tyranny—an old californian imprisoned in ireland—a graphic letter from d. m’sweeny—a “suspect”—blaine and lowell’s indifference.
The following letter will be found peculiarly interesting at the present juncture by the readers of the Examiner, especially those of Irish birth or extraction. The writer, Daniel McSweeny, was for many years a well-known and esteemed resident of this city, doing business at the corner of Ninth and Howard streets, where he was engaged in the cattle trade. Some six years since, with his family, he returned to Ireland, where he purchased some property. When the Land League was formed, as might be expected, McSweeny warmly espoused the cause, and was a hearty worker on its behalf. This appears to have drawn on his devoted head the vengeance of the British Government. About six months ago he was arrested and confined in Dundalk jail, where he now is, and from which his letter is indited. Mr. McSweeny has a large family, six of his children being with their mother in Ireland, and two are now residents of San Francisco. Mrs. McSweeny is quite ailing, and the distress of mind caused by her husband’s unjust imprisonment is rapidly undermining her health. The many friends of Mr. McSweeny will, under these circumstances, read his letter with mingled feelings of grief and indignation. It will be seen that it is addressed to his daughter, Miss Mamie McSweeny, who is at present residing in this city:
“Dundalk Jail, December 12, 1881.
“My Dear Mamie: You must excuse me for not answering your last two letters sooner. Since the winter set in I was unable, owing to the severe cold in this dungeon, to sit still long enough to write even a few lines. I have to keep moving about continually in my narrow space to keep from freezing. You must know how dreadful it is to be locked up eighteen hours a day in this cold, damp climate, without any fire, [Page 198] and, worse still, we are compelled to stand or walk about daily for five hours in the open air, in a damp, muddy yard, ankle-deep in water, and then return to our cold cells, trembling with cold. It requires a strong constitution to stand it long.
I fear many of our brave fellows will succumb before the winter is over. As was only sentenced for sixteen months, I thought at first I might live it out; but you know I was in delicate health when I was arrested, being barely able to move about after a severe attack of sickness. All efforts on the part of your mother and all our friends failed to discover the cause of my arrest. I appealed to Mr. Lowell, United States minister at London, for protection, but he answered that it is absurd for a naturalized citizen of the United States to claim protection. He says that even an American citizen could only have recourse to an appeal to the courtesy of the British Government to be released. He added, in a later communication, that the British Government refused to give him any information about the charge against me, and that they snubbed him.
“Your mother wrote to Mr. Blaine about my case, but that gentleman did not deign even a reply. I heard nothing whatever from him.
“About a couple of weeks ago I saw in the English papers a report of his speech in Philadelphia, wherein he states that he is more loyal to Queen Victoria than any British subject. So it would appear that we appealed to the wrong man. I am now in jail going on seven months, charged with no crime, and not even a shadow of suspicion that I violated any law; and when our American minister asks a civil question about me he as snubbed, insulted, and his flag trampled on; but he does not appear to make much fuss about it, and the American Government takes no notice of the question any more than the King of the Sandwich Islands would. Truly, it is rather an awkward position for me. I swore allegiance to the United States, renounced my allegiance to all kings, princes, or foreign potentates forever; but most particularly to Queen Victoria, of whom it was alleged I was a subject, but which I deny: but I went through the form lest she might claim me. I have in my possession a very nice document, with the proud American eagle perched on it, purporting to be a certificate of American citizenship.
“The American Government will not recognize me. I have no claim on France, or on Russia. I have no country or government to raise its voice, while England, slowly but surely, is putting me to death; but death itself would be preferable to this torture.
“So you see now what the once proud title of American amounts to. But it is a question that should be settled. Millions in the United States should be interested in my fate, lest it might be their misfortune some day to visit their native home and find themselves cast into a dungeon and put to death without trial by judge or jury. It matters little how the question is settled so far as my case is concerned. It will not take many more days in this dungeon to settle it. Your mother, of course, will try and make her way to California with the children again. Our property will be confiscated.
“The landlord magistrates in our district have raised the poor rate to 18 per cent, on the assessed valuation of our property, while on their own it was only 2½ per cent, but they have the resources of civilization at their backs.
“There are now fifty suspects in this jail, some of whom are among the most reputable men in their respective districts. The charge against the most of them is, ‘preventing people from doing what they had a legal right to do, namely, to pay no rents.’ It looks so funny to see on their cell doors, in large letters, ‘No rent.’ We have one man from Dublin whose father died a few days ago; he applied to the authorities to see his father buried, but they answered that they ‘could not see the way to grant his request.’ And this young man does not know what he was arrested for.
“Give my kindest regards to all my old California friends.
“Your fond father,