No. 458.
Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Baker.

No. 299.]

Sir: I have received your No. 907, of the 27th ultimo, concerning the supposed subjection of Mr. John Dalton, United States consul at Cindad Bolivar to arrest and detention in the military barracks there in virtue of an executive order of President Guzman Blanco.

My No. 297, of the 12th instant, will have already shown you the interest which is here taken in this question.

I have now to approve your note of protest addressed to Mr. Seijas on the 1st ultimo, and also your reply of April 26 to Mr. Seijas’s note of the 7th.

You appear to correctly understand the situation, and have in great measure met the strangely sophistical and fallacious argument of Mr. Seijas. [Page 586] The gist of the matter is not that a consular officer may have been adjudged liable to arrest for alleged contempt of the authority of the country, but that an American citizen should be punished for such charged contempt by a mere executive order, without intervention of any competent judicial authority, and without process of any kind, or hearing, or opportunity of defense. In other words, our ground may be briefly summarized as holding that in time of peace the executive or military arm may not usurp the functions of the judiciary as toward an alien, without violating the laws of nations, the rights of hospitality, and the comity of treatment usual among friendly States.

These considerations are merely general, and their application to the case in hand necessarily depends on whether Mr. Dalton, or any other citizen of the United States, has in fact been subjected to deprivation of liberty by military force without civil process. It is still hoped that this may not have been the case. If, however, it has been done, a reply to Mr. Seijas’s note of April 7 will be in order, and you will be instructed accordingly.

I am, &c.,