Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Daggett.
Washington , February 2, 1884.
Sir: Referring to my instruction No. 38, of the 15th of November last, in relation to the exclusive privileges recently granted by the Government of Hawaii to the Oceanic Steamship Company, an American line, with regard to carrying and landing of Chinese immigrants, I have now to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 108, of the 21st of December, on that subject.
In my No. 38, just referred to, you were directed to present the subject to His Hawaiian Majesty’s Government in the most friendly spirit, believing as the President then did, and still believes, that the mere suggestion of the matter would at once commend to the justice and friendly feeling of His Hawaiian Majesty toward this Government the propriety of such measures as might be found necessary, remedial, and precautious in regard to the unjust discrimination complained of.[Page 277]
I have read with careful attention the correspondence on the subject between Mr. Gibson, the Hawaiian minister for foreign affairs, and yourself, and, as it appears to this Government, the real question in the case has been misconceived by Mr. Gibson. That question is not the grievance or complaint of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company or of any other American line of steamships, nor the relative rights of such lines, although these questions may be incidentally involved. It is an international question between the two Governments, involving the true construction or interpretation of the sixth article of the treaty of the 20th of December, 1849. For the sake of precision I again quote that article, which reads:
Steam-vessels of the United States which may be employed by the Government of the said States in the carrying of their public mails across the Pacific Ocean, or from one port in that ocean to another, shall have free access to the ports of the Sandwich Islands, with the privilege of stopping therein to refit, to refresh, to land passengers and their baggage, and for the transaction of any business pertaining to the public mail service of the United States, and shall be subject in such ports to no duties of tonnage, harbor, light-houses, quarantine, or other similar duties, of whatever nature or under whatever denomination.
Nothing can be clearer or plainer than the wording of this article. Steam vessels of the United States means all steam vessels of the United States, with the single qualification that they shall be employed in carrying the mails of the United States, all such vessels, no matter of what line, are equally entitled in the ports of Hawaii to all the privileges stipulated for and secured by the terms of that article. If the immigration of the subjects of China into Hawaii is prohibited by the laws of the latter Kingdom, as Hawaii has, of course, a perfect and complete sovereign right to do, then all American steamships, of whatever line, are bound to respect such prohibitory law. If, on the other hand, Chinese immigrants are permitted to come to Hawaii, either indiscriminately or in limited numbers, or under any other conditions that may be imposed by the laws or regulations of that Kingdom, then such immigrants are passengers within the meaning of the article of the treaty which I have quoted, and all American steamships carrying the mail possess an undoubted right, under the stipulations of the treaty, to take them as passengers and to land them in any of the ports of Hawaii in accordance with such stipulations. To say that Hawaiian vessels shall alone have the right to carry such passengers would be a discrimination against American vessels; to say that the ships of a nation foreign to both the United States and Hawaii shall enjoy such exclusive right would be equally a discrimination against American steamers; and to say that one particular line shall possess such exclusive carrying privilege, to the exclusion of all other American lines or steam vessels of this country, would be no less a discrimination against American steam vessels, and would be held by this Government to be a violation of the plain letter of the sixth article of the treaty of 1849. Such an interpretation of the treaty as would permit any of these discriminations to be put in force and practice by the Government of Hawaii is one that this Government could not for a moment assent to, and yet that is the interpretation which, by fair and irresistible inference, the argument of Mr. Gibson seems to demand for it.
This Government seeks no exclusive privilege for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. On the contrary, it would be equally as ready to denounce any such exclusive privilege granted to that line at any time in the future as it is now to denounce the unjust discrimination in favor [Page 278] of the Oceanic, which is also an American line. What it does demand is that all American steamships, of whatever line, shall, with respect to the carrying trade and within the limitations of the sixth article of the treaty of 1849 between the two Governments, be placed on a basis of impartial equality with each other, with the vessels of the most favored nation, and with the vessels of the Hawaiian Kingdom. This is the only interpretation of the treaty that seems just to the President, and the only one he is prepared to assent to. Neither the question of sanitary measures nor the rights of any particular line of American steamships are involved, and in your future correspondence with the minister for foreign affairs of Hawaii you will carefully avoid and respectfully decline any discussion on these two latter points. The sole question in the present contention is that the exclusive privilege now already or about to be granted to the Oceanic Line is conceived by this Government to be an unjust discrimination against all other American steamships carrying the mails between the eastern and western shores of the Pacific Ocean; that it is in contravention of the letter and spirit of the article of the treaty referred to; and the President hopes, as he believes, that the Government of Hawaii, noted no less for its high intelligence than for its sense of justice, will speedily adopt the proper measures to rescind the privilege, if granted, and if not granted, to prevent its fulfillment.
I am, &c.,