Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Baker.
Washington, May 8, 1884.
Sir: Your No. 893 of the 11th ultimo has been received. You therein speak of your purpose to prepare a comprehensive despatch on the general subject of claims differences between the United States and Venezuela, and as an important point in this connection you recommend that the decree of February 14, 1873, be exhaustively examined with a view to determining whether or not, taken as a whole, its provisions constitute a domestic law which should be recognized and respected as such by foreign governments.
My No. 286 of the 8th ultimo, sending you transcripts of the correspondence lately exchanged between Mr. Soteldo and myself in regard to the Wheelock case, will have shown you that the bearing of the decree of February 14, 1873, on the question had already been considered.
As will be seen, Mr. Soteldo asserts that our Court of Claims is the prototype of the high federal court. In this he is mistaken, as I show. It is true that besides the special jurisdiction of the Court of Claims in matters of contract and statutory obligations, it may also take cognizance of such claims as may be referred to it by Congress. A foreign claim for tort might be so referred, but only with the assent of the foreigner’s Government. A case in point occurred quite recently, where this Government proposed to that of Great Britain that a claim of a British subject should, by authority of Congress, be referred to the Court of Claims for adjudication. The British Government declined the proposition on the ground that the exclusively domestic organization of the court made it inappropriate as a substitute for an international tribunal.
It is probable that this instruction, joined to the correspondence sent with my No. 286, will sufficiently answer your No. 893. Your full examination of the subject is, however, awaited and will receive due consideration. You will probably find it advisable to consider how, the unqualified acceptance of the jurisdiction of the high federal court over all alien cases would affect proceedings looking to redress in case the threatened invasion of Mr. Dalton’s consular and personal rights (reported in your Nos. 892 and 902) should be unhappily affected.
I am, &c.,