Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Lowell.
Washington, October 3, 1882.
Sir: I have to acknowledge your No. 434, of the 30th August last, in relation to the arrest of Mr. Henry George.
This Department was first informed of Mr. George’s arrest by reports in the newspapers, and then telegraphed to you. Mr. George being in Great Britain, it was supposed he would communicate to you in writing the facts as to his arrest and thus afford you a basis for proper action. He however seems not to have written to you on the subject.
After his release he had, it is understood, a personal interview with you, and the action thereupon promptly taken by you on the information you possessed is justified by the statements herein contained.
His letter to the President, which at once appeared in the newspapers and was referred to this Department, contained the first detailed statement of the facts received here. As I understand that no similar communication has been made to you, I inclose a copy of the letter.
Mr. George is a citizen of the United States and a gentleman well known in this country. He states that in October, 1881, he landed in Ireland, and since then he has traveled in Great Britain, always conducting himself in a lawful manner. On the 8th of August last, he started from Dublin for the west of Ireland, and on his arrival in the town of Loughrea, at about six o’clock in the evening, he was seized by the constabulary, carried to the police prison, where, in spite of his declaration that he was a citizen of the United States, traveling through the country without criminal intent or unlawful purpose, he was held a close prisoner for about three hours, during which time his baggage and person were searched and all his letters and papers minutely examined. Finally a magistrate arrived, who was informed by the subinspector that Mr. George had been arrested upon telegraphic information that he was a [Page 297] suspicious stranger; but Mr. George’s, request to be informed of the source of the information and the ground of suspicion was refused. The subinspector further stated that nothing suspicious had been found upon Mr. George’s person or in his effects. He was thereupon discharged. Mr. George immediately protested in what appears to be proper terms against the treatment he had received, stating that he should have been given reasonable opportunity for clearing up any suspicion which might have been entertained of him before being arrested, imprisoned, and searched.
On the following day Mr. George left Loughrea and proceeded to Athenry, a town but a few miles distant in the same county and within the jurisdiction of the same inspector and magistrate. There he remained one night, and the next morning, after having visited the antiquities of the place, was about to take the train for Galway, when he was again stopped by a subinspector of constabulary and questioned as to his name, nationality, business, from whence he had come, and whither he was going. To all these questions he gave true answers, showing him to be an American citizen of reputable character traveling upon lawful business. Nevertheless, he was not permitted to take the train, but was again placed under arrest, carried to the police barracks, and his clothing and baggage again searched in the same manner as at Loughrea, and this notwithstanding the fact that his arrest, search, and discharge at Loughrea were known to the constabulary at Athenry. Mr. George, who in the whole matter appears to have acted with discretion and within his rights, demanded to be promptly taken before a magistrate, but was detained a close prisoner until the arrival in the evening of the same magistrate before whom he was examined at Loughrea; yet even then he was not discharged until nearly midnight, and after again being subjected to a long examination.
The President is persuaded that the acts so justly complained of must have been committed without authority by subordinate officials of the government. But while the first arrest was an annoyance to which innocent travelers should not be subjected, and while the search and examination were not justifiable, and seem to have been conducted in a manner not consonant with the spirit of the laws both of Great Britain and the United States, it is particularly to the repetition of the indignity that the President wishes your attention to be directed.
The second arrest occurred within forty eight hours after the first; it was made within the same jurisdiction by officers conversant with what had occurred at Loughrea, who again searched his person and effects, and again forced Mr. George to undergo an examination, and that before the same magistrate who had interrogated him at Loughrea.
These acts indicate an intention on the part of the officials to subject Mr. George to unnecessary personal annoyance.
Nor can this action be excused by the fact that he is alleged to have visited the ruins of Athenry in company with the curate and another gentleman, or that he was seen to enter shops of alleged “suspects.” The examination of Mr. George at Loughrea had presumably shown the object of his presence in Ireland, and should have convinced the authorities without an additional examination that his visit to the ruined abbey was one of curiosity, and that he entered the shops with the innocent purpose of making purchases.
Mr. George’s conduct in Athenry appears to have been natural to a traveler seeking information and amusement, and such as could not fairly subject him to suspicion. While citizens of the United States traveling or resident abroad are subject to the reasonable laws of the [Page 298] country in which they may be sojourning, it is nevertheless their right to be spared such indignity and mortification as the conduct of the officers at Loughrea and Athenry seems to have visited upon Mr. George.
This government is loath to believe that the current rumors are true that the behavior of the officers and magistrate was prompted by a prejudice said to exist among the officials in Ireland against citizens of the United States.
In Great Britain, as in the United States, it has been a governmental principle that the right of the individual to exemption from arrest or search without good reason, and without the observance of form’s calculated to insure that right, should be jealously guarded, and when unfortunate events have demanded a temporary suspension or qualification of the right great care has been exerted to avoid injustice or unnecessary indignity.
The power given to subordinate officials by the “prevention-of-crime act” is so great and the rights subjected to their discretion are so important that foreign governments may reasonably require that so far as their citizens, present in Ireland on legitimate and proper business, are concerned, the individuals selected to administer that act should be competent, well-informed, and unprejudiced. And should it appear that these officials have in the case of such foreign citizens misused the powers intrusted to them, they should be subjected to such condemnatory action, and the citizen wronged should receive such amends as the facts may warrant.
The President regrets to observe that, so far as he has the facts before him, the officials at Loughrea, and Athenry seem to have fallen far short of treating the rights of an innocent traveler with that respect which he cannot doubt Her Majesty’s Government exacts of subordinate officials.
It is not necessary now to comment upon the law under color of which these arrests were made.
As you have already addressed a note to Lord Granville on this subject, a reply will probably soon be received by you. It is trusted that the tenor of that reply may prove satisfactory to this government and also relieve Mr. George from any reproach the arrests are calculated unjustly to cast upon him. More definite instructions, therefore, than those herein contained and those heretofore received by you need not now be given.
You are authorized, if you deem it advisable to do so, to read this instruction to Lord Granville, and, should he desire it, to leave a copy of it with him.
I have, &c.,