Mr. Bayard to Mr. Hall.
Washington, March 12, 1885.
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 316, of the 10th ultimo, in which you inclose copies of the correspondence between the legation at Guatemala and Mr. Leavitt, the United States consul at Managua, respecting the case of José Dolores Gomez, and request more definite instructions for such cases.
It appears that Mr. Gomez, who is said to be a political fugitive from Nicaragua, voluntarily took passage at San José de Guatemala for Punta Arenas, Costa Rica, on board the Pacific Mail steamship Honduras, with the knowledge that the vessel would enter en route the port of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
The Government of Nicaragua upon learning of this fact ordered the commandant of the port of San Juan del Sur, to arrest Gomez upon the arrival of the Honduras at that port.
The minister for foreign affairs of Nicaragua informed Mr. Leavitt, United States consul at Managua, of the action of the Government by a telegram, as follows:
Government has ordered the commander of port San Juan del Sur to arrest José Dolores Gomez, a fugitive prisoner, who is on hoard of the steamer Honduras, now en route to that port. I suppose the captain will not interfere with the action of the commander, hut to avoid whatever difficulties likely to arise I suggest you to send a telegraphic message to the captain of the Honduras at San Juan del Sur, stating that the order has been issued by the Government, and recommending him to support the commander as there is no ground on the part of the captain to hinder the execution of the Government order.
It appears that before Mr. Leavitt had an opportunity to act upon this request, you telegraphed him as follows:
Reported here arrest of a transit passenger bound to Panama on board steamer Honduras at San Juan del Sur. Say respectfully to Nicaraguan minister of foreign affairs that our Government never has consented and never will consent to the arrest and removal from an American vessel in a foreign port, of any passenger in transit, much less if offense is political.
It appears that Mr. Leavitt declined to comply with the request of the minister of foreign affairs, and followed your instructions by submitting a copy in writing to the minister.
From the brief outline given by the consul of the subsequent proceedings, it appears that the Government authorities at San Juan del Sur, upon the arrival of the Honduras at that port, requested the captain to deliver up Mr. Gomez. This he declined to do, and set sail without proper clearance papers.
The consul reports that for these offenses the captain has been tried by the Nicaraguan Government and found guilty, and although he has not been able to learn the nature of the sentence, he is convinced, from the present attitude of the Government, that the sentence will be executed in case of the return of the captain or the vessel within the jurisdiction of the Government of Nicaragua.
As the nature and character of the proceedings against the captain of the Honduras are not known to this Department, a full and detailed report should be made as early as practicable. It is clear that Mr. Gomez voluntarily entered the jurisdiction of a country whose laws he had violated.[Page 83]
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It may be safely affirmed that when a merchant vessel of one country visits the ports of another for the purposes of trade, it owes temporary allegiance and is amenable to the jurisdiction of that country, and is subject to the laws which govern the port it visits so long as it remains, unless it is otherwise provided by treaty.
Any exemption or immunity from local jurisdiction must be derived from the consent of that country. No such exemption is made in the treaty of commerce and navigation concluded between this country and Nicaragua on the 21st day of June, 1867.
I am, &c.,