No. 167.
Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. West.

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith, with a view to its being brought by you to the attention of the Governor-General of Canada, a copy of a letter recently received by this Department from Mr. Henry McMorran, general manager of the Port Huron and Northwestern Railway, in relation to a ferry privilege granted in August of last year by the municipal authorities of Sarnia, Canada, to Mr. James Lockhead, conferring on him the exclusive ferry privileges for twenty-seven years between that town and Port Huron, on the opposite American shore.

[Page 244]

It seems, further, from the statements of Mr. McMorran’s letter, that the right to grant such exclusive privilege is claimed by Sarnia under a provision in the charter granted twenty-three years ago; and by the local by-laws and municipal regulations of Port Sarnia, it seems also that heavy penalties and personal arrest and imprisonment are demanded against vessels and masters of such vessels, other than British, entering that port without going through the formalities of custom-house entry and clearance.

By the existence of the exclusive privilege referred to, and the enforcement of these municipal regulations, ferry-boats owned by American citizens at Port Huron are excluded from the privilege of plying between that port and Port Sarnia. While it is not doubted that the municipal authorities of Port Sarnia, or the Dominion or provincial government, may grant such a privilege to any subject of Her Majesty in Ontario or any other part of the British North American possessions, excluding all other citizens of the Province of Ontario or the Dominion of Canada, it is conceived that the application of the rule to citizens of the United States is in contravention of the spirit and letter of the treaties on the subject between the two nations from 1783 down to that of 1842, in all of which the navigation of the waters forming the boundary line between the United States and Her Majesty’s North American possessions, by the vessels of both countries, is contemplated and provided for on an entirely free and equal footing.

Ferry-boats on these waters must, of course, comply with such regulations as may be properly made by the local municipal authorities of the adjacent neighboring cities or towns on each side of the boundary between which they ply; but these regulations, it is contended by this Government, should be common to the boats of the United States and Canada. Any other view than this of the existing treaty stipulations would, it is believed, lead to practices which could not be otherwise looked upon than as an obstruction to commerce. I need not observe to you that in case the municipal authorities of Port Huron, under such power as it might be vested with by the legislature of Michigan, should adopt a similar course to that inaugurated by the authorities of Port Sarnia, it could only result in giving rise to a state of unfriendly and unneighborly feeling between the two municipalities, which both this Government and that of Her Majesty entertain a common and earnest desire to obviate at all times. I deem it entirely unnecessary to enter into any extended discussion of the subject, believing, as I do, that this simple suggestion of the matter to the Governor-General, through you, will secure the adoption of such measures as will remedy the existing evil and remove the cause of complaint now presented on the part of the Port Huron municipality.

I have, &c.,


Mr. McMorran to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

Dear Sir: A controversy has arisen at this point in relation to a ferry franchise between this city and the village of Sarnia, on the opposite shore, in the Dominion of Canada, by the village of Sarnia granting to a man named James Lockhead the exclusive right to ferry between that village and this city for a period of twenty-seven [Page 245] years from August, 1883, under a special act granted to that village by the Governor-General of the Province of Canada some twenty-three years ago. We have four boats, engaged in the ferry business, and is the only ferry line that has existed continually between the two points for the last thirty years. We-desire to know whether the village of Sarnia has the power to grant an exclusive franchise of this nature, thereby shutting off our boats from landing on that side, without conflicting with some of the international treaties in existence. I understand that our United States statutes allow ferry-boats to land here without clearing and reporting, which would give them free access to our side, while our boats are shut out from landing on their side by their local by-law, which provides for the arrest of the officer of any boat landing on that side except boats controlled by this Lockhead, and fining them, in the discretion of their village magistrate, from $20 to $50 for each landing, which is prohibitory to our boats. Any information you can give me will be duly appreciated.

I am, &c.,