Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Lowell.
Washington, September 22, 1882.
Sir: I have, in an instruction, No. 438, of the 15th August last, acknowledged the receipt of your dispatch No. 398, of the 14th July, in [Page 294] relation to the “Prevention of crime (Ireland) act,” recently passed by the British Parliament.
The careful attention which you have evidently given to the subject, and your just comments on the policy that could have dictated so extraordinary a measure in a country whose traditional history in regard to the freedom of the individual, the security of the domicile, and the right of every man accused of crime to an impartial trial has formed its crowning glory, relieve me from the necessity of giving you anything more than general directions as to your future conduct in connection with the cases affecting American citizens that may possibly come before you. Nevertheless, I deem it proper, in the interest of our citizens and in compliance with your own expressed desire to that effect, to put you in possession of the general views of the President on this recent act of the British Parliament—an act which he conceives may seriously affect a large number of the citizens of this republic.
It is, as you justly observe, the revival of the alien act, as a part of the crimes act, that more directly concerns us, and it is this feature of the measure which has caused the President to feel anxiety as to its possible effect on the business and social relations of American citizens, particularly those of Irish birth.
Many Irish-American citizens have parents, brothers, and sisters resident in Ireland, and whenever they learn of their destitution, as the most effective mode of relief, they send a member of the family to Ireland with the means to aid them. The possibility that persons in pursuit of their lawful business enterprises, or on their mission of benevolence, should come under the operation of the proceedings contemplated by provisions of the new law, is much to be deprecated. The opportunities for this kind of annoyance which the act affords for the gratification of private enmity, as you justly remark, increases the grounds of this apprehension, and when to this is added the superserviceable zeal of local officials, it is hardly to be expected that an Irish-American citizen, however innocent he might be in act and intention, should consider his person or his property safe in that country. His private, although temporary abode, may be forcibly visited by night or day, his papers and his valuables may be taken from him and subjected to search, and he may be ordered out of the country at the will of the executive with the stigma of guilt upon him and without having had an opportunity for hearing or trial. The President, moreover, cannot contemplate the enforcement of this measure on mere suspicion against American citizens without fears of its having an unhappy influence upon the good feeling which exists between two great nations of common origin and common language.
I need scarcely add that this government has no sympathy with the motives or the methods of the class of indiscreet individuals, insignificant in number, in this country whose ill directed zeal can neither serve the cause of Ireland nor reflect credit oh the country of their adoption. The law-abiding and peaceable American citizens of Irish birth should not be exposed to suffer on their account.
The President, looking only to the interests of American citizens, has deemed it proper that these suggestions should be transmitted to you in view of any future contingency. It would be difficult, in the absence of any actual case, to give you any more specific instructions. Much must be left to your own judgment. Cases may arise when it will be necessary for you to act at once without consulting the department; in such cases the President trusts to your discretion.
You will, of course, keep the Department informed of whatever steps [Page 295] you may find it necessary to take in any and every case that may come before you, using the telegraph for that purpose when you deem it expedient.
I am, &c.,