to Mr. Phelps.
Washington , November 6, 1886.
Sir: On October 7, 1886, the United States fishing vessel, the Marion Grimes, of Gloucester, Mass., Alexander Landry, a citizen of the United States, being her captain, arrived shortly before midnight, under stress of weather, at the outer harbor of Shelburne, Nova Scotia. [Page 363] The night was stormy, with a strong head-wind against her, and her sole object was temporary shelter. She remained at the spot where she anchored, which was about seven miles from the port of Shelburne, no one leaving her until 6 o’clock the next morning, when she hoisted sail in order to put to sea. She had scarcely started, however, before she was arrested and boarded by a boat’s crew from the Canadian cruiser Terror. Captain Landry was compelled to proceed to Shelburne, about seven miles distant, to report to the collector. When the report was made, Captain Landry was informed that he was fined $400 for not reporting on the previous night. He answered that the custom-house was not open during the time that he was in the outer harbor. He further insisted that it was obvious from the storm that caused him to take shelter in that harbor, from the shortness of his stay, and from the circumstances that his equipments were exclusively for deep-sea fishing, and that he had made no effort whatever to approach the shore, that his object was exclusively to find shelter. The fine, however, being imposed principally through the urgency of Captain Quigley, commanding the Terror, Captain Landry was informed that he was to be detained at the port of Shelburne until a deposit to meet the fine was made. He consulted Mr. White, the United States consular agent at Shelburne, who at once telegraphed the facts to Mr. Phelan, United States consul-general at Halifax, it being of great importance to Captain Landry, and to those interested in his venture, that he should proceed on his voyage at once. Mr. Phelan then telegraphed to the assistant commissioner of customs at Ottawa that it was impossible for Captain Landry to have reported while he was in the outer harbor on the 8th instant, and asking that the deposit required to release the vessel be reduced. He was told in reply that the minister declined to reduce the deposit, but that it might be made at Halifax. Mr. Phelan at once deposited at Halifax the $400, and telegraphed to Captain Landry that he was at liberty to go to sea. On the evening of October 11 Mr. Phelan received a telegram from Captain Landry, who had already been kept four days in the port, stating that “the custom-house officers and Captain Quigley” refused to let him go to sea. Mr. Phelan the next morning called on the collector at Halifax to ascertain if an order had issued to release the vessel, and was informed that the order had been given, “but that the collector and captain of the cruiser refused to obey it, for the reason that the captain of the seized vessel hoisted the American flag while she was in custody of Canadian officials.” Mr. Phelan at once telegraphed this state of facts to the assistant commissioner at Ottawa, and received in reply, under date of August 12, the announcement that “collector has been instructed to release the Grimes from customs seizure. This department has nothing to do with other charges.” On the same day a dispatch from the commissioner of customs at Ottawa was sent to the collector of customs at Halifax reciting the order to release the Grimes, and saying “this [the customs] department has nothing to do with other charges. It is department of marine.”
The facts as to the flag were as follows:
On October 11, the Marion Grimes, being then under arrest by order of local officials for not immediately reporting at the custom-house, hoisted the American flag. Captain Quigley, who, representing, as appeared, not the revenue, but the marine department of the Canadian administration, was, with his “cruiser,” keeping guard over the vessel, ordered the flag to be hauled down. This order was obeyed; but about an hour afterwards the flag was again hoisted, whereupon Captain [Page 364] Quigley boarded the vessel with an armed crew and lowered the flag himself. The vessel was finally released under orders of the customs department, being compelled to pay $8 costs in addition to the deposit of $400 above specified.
The seriousness of the damage inflicted on Captain Landry and those interested in his venture will be understood when it is considered that he had a crew of twelve men, with full supplies of bait, which his detention spoiled.
You will at once see that the grievances I have narrated fall under two distinct heads.
The first concerns the boarding by Captain Quigley of the Marion Grimes on the morning of October 8th, and compelling her to go to the town of Shelburne, there subjecting her to a fine of $400 for visiting the port without reporting, and detaining her there arbitrarily four days, a portion of which time was after a deposit to meet the fine had been made.
This particular wrong I now proceed to consider with none the less gravity, because other outrages of the same class have been perpetrated by Captain Quigley. On August 18th last I had occasion, as you will see by the annexed papers, to bring to the notice of the British minister at this capital several instances of aggression on the part of Captain Quigley on our fishing vessels. On October 19, 1886, I had also to bring to the British minister’s notice the fact that Captain Quigley had, on September the 10th, arbitrarily arrested the Everett Steele, a United States fishing vessel, at the outer port of Shelburne. To these notes I have received no reply. Copies are transmitted, with the accompanying papers, to you in connection with the present instruction, so that the cases, as part of a class, can be presented by you to Her Majesty’s Government.
Were there no treaty relations whatever between the United States and Great Britain, were the United States fishermen without any other right to visit those coasts than are possessed by the fishing craft of any foreign country simply as such, the arrest and boarding of the Grimes, as above detailed, followed by forcing her into the port of Shelburne, there subjecting her to fine for not reporting, and detaining her until her bait and ice were spoiled, are wrongs which I am sure Her Majesty’s Government will be prompt to redress. No Governments have been more earnest and resolute in insisting that vessels driven by stress of weather into foreign harbors should not be subject to port exactions than the Governments of Great Britain and the United States. So far has this solicitude been carried that both Governments, from motives of humanity, as well as of interest as leading maritime powers, have adopted many measures by which foreigners as well as citizens or subjects arriving within their territorial waters may be protected from the perils of the sea. For this purpose not merely light-houses and lightships are placed by us at points of danger, but an elaborate life-saving service, well equipped with men, boats, and appliances for relief, studs our seaboard in order to render aid to vessels in distress, without regard to their nationality. Other benevolent organizations are sanctioned by Government which bestow rewards on those who hazard their lives in the protection of life and property in vessels seeking in our waters refuge from storms. Acting in this spirit the Government of the United States has been zealous, not merely in opening its ports freely, without charges to vessels seeking them in storm, but in insisting that its own vessels, seeking foreign ports under such circumstances; and exclusively [Page 365] for such shelter, are not under the law of nations subject to custom-house exactions.
In cases of vessels carried into British ports by violence or stress of weather [said Mr. Webster in instructions to Mr. Everett, June 28, 1842] we insist that there shall be no interference from the land with the relation or personal condition of those on board, according to the laws of their own country; that vessels under such circumstances shall enjoy the common laws of hospitality, subjected to no force, entitled to; have their immediate wants and necessities relieved, and to pursue their voyage without molestation.
In this case, that of the Creole, Mr. Wheaton, in the Revue Française et Étrangère (IX, 345), and Mr. Legaré (4 Op. At. Gen., 98), both eminent publicists, gave opinions that a vessel carried by stress of weather or forced into a foreign port is not subject to the law of such port; and this was sustained by Mr. Bates, the umpire of the commission to whom the claim was referred (Rep. Com. of 1853, 244, 245):
The municipal law of England [so he said] cannot authorize a magistrate to violate the law of nations by invading with an armed force the vessel of a friendly nation that has committed no offense, and forcibly dissolving the relations which, by the laws of his country, the captain is bound to preserve and enforce on board. These rights, sanctioned by the law of nations, viz, the right to navigate the ocean and to seek shelter in case of distress or other unavoidable circumstances, and to retain over the ship, her cargo, and passengers, the law of her country, must be respected by all nations, for no independent nation would submit to their violation.
It is proper to state that Lord Ashburton, who conducted the controversy in its diplomatic stage on the British side, did not deny as a general rule the propositions of Mr. Webster. He merely questioned the applicability of the rule to the case of the Creole. Nor has the principle ever been doubted by either Her Majesty’s Government or the Government of the United States; while, in cases of vessels driven by storm on inhospitable coasts, both Governments have asserted it, sometimes by extreme measures of redress, to secure indemnity for vessels suffering under such circumstances from port exactions, or from injuries inflicted from the shore.
It would be hard to conceive of anything more in conflict with the humane policy of Great Britain in this respect, as well as with the law of nations, than was the conduct of Captain Quigley towards the vessel in question on the morning of October 8th.
In such coasts, at early dawn, after a stormy night, it is not unusual for boats, on errands of relief, to visit vessels which have been struggling with storm during the night. But in no such errand of mercy was Captain Quigley engaged. The Marion Grimes, having found shelter during the night’s storm, was about to depart on her voyage, losing no time while her bait was fresh and her ice lasted, when she was boarded by an armed crew, forced to go 7 miles out of her way to the port, and was there under pressure of Captain Quigley, against the opinion originally expressed of the collector, subjected to a fine of $400 with costs, and detained there, as I shall notice hereafter, until her voyage was substantially broken up. I am confident Her Majesty’s Government will concur with me in the opinion: that, as a question of international law, aside from treaty and other rights, the arrest and detention under the circumstances of Captain Landry and of his vessel were in violation of the law of nations as well as the law of humanity, and that on this ground alone the fine and the costs should be refunded and the parties suffering be indemnified for their losses thereby incurred.
It is not irrelevant, on such an issue as the present, to inquire into the official position of Captain Quigley, “of the Canadian cruiser Terror.” [Page 366] He was, as the term “Canadian cruiser” used by him enables as to conclude, not an officer in Her Majesty’s distinctive service. He wsa not the commander of a revenue cutter, for the head of the customs service disavowed him. Yet he was arresting and boarding, in defiance of law, a vessel there seeking shelter, over-influencing the collector of the port into the imposition, of a fine, hauling down with his own hand the flag of the United States, which was displayed over the vessel, and enforcing arbitrarily an additional period of detention after the deposit had been made, simply because the captain of the vessel refused to obey him by executing an order insulting to the flag which the vessel bore. If armed cruisers are employed in seizing, harassing, and humiliating storm-bound vessels of the United States on Canadian coasts, breaking up their voyages and mulcting them with fines and costs, it is important for reasons presently to be specified that this Government should be advised of the fact.
From Her Majesty’s Government redress is asked. And that redress, as I shall have occasion to say hereafter, is not merely the indemnification of the parties suffering by Captain Quigley’s actions, but his withdrawal from the waters where the outrages I represent to you have been committed.
I have already said that the claims thus presented could be abundantly sustained by the law of nations, aside from treaty and other rights. But I am not willing to rest the case on the law of nations. It is essential that the issue between United States fishing vessels and the “cruiser Terror” should be examined in all its bearings, and settled in regard not merely to the general law of nations, but to the particular rights of the parties aggrieved.
It is a fact that the fishing vessel Marion Grimes had as much right under the special relations of Great Britain and the United States to enter the harbor of Shelburne as had the Canadian cruiser. The fact that the Grimes was liable to penalties for the abuse of such right of entrance does not disprove its existence. Captain Quigley is certainly liable to penalties for his misconduct on the occasion referred to. Captain Landry was not guilty of misconduct in entering and seeking to leave that harbor, and had abused no privilege. But whether liable or no for subsequent abuse of the rights, I maintain that the right of free entrance into that port, to obtain shelter, and whatever is incident thereto, belonged as much to the American fishing vessel as to the Canadian cruiser.
The basis of this right is thus declared by an eminent jurist and statesman, Mr. R. R. Livingston, the first Secretary of State appointed by the Continental Congress, in instructions issued on January 7, 1782, to Dr. Franklin, then at Paris, intrusted by the United States with the negotiation of articles of peace with Great Britain:
The arguments on which the people of America found their claim to fish on the banks of Newfoundland arise, first, from their having once formed a part of the British Empire, in which state they always enjoyed as fully as the people of Britain themselves the right of fishing on those banks. They have shared in all the wars for the extension of that right, and Britain could with no more justice have excluded them from the enjoyment of it (even supposing that one nation could possess it to the exclusion of another) while they formed a part of that Empire than they could exclude the people of London or Bristol. If so, the only inquiry is, bow have we lost this right? If we were tenants in common with Great Britain while united with her, we still continue so, unless by our own act we have relinquished our title. Had we parted with mutual consent, we should doubtless have made partition of our common rights by treaty. But the oppressions of Great Britain forced us to a separation (which must be admitted, or we have no right to be independent); and it [Page 367] can not certainly be contended that those oppressions abridged our rights or gave new ones to Britain. Our rights, then, are not invalidated by this separation, more particularly as we have kept up our claim from the commencement of the war, and assigned the attempt of Great Britain to exclude us from the fisheries, as one of the causes of our recurring to arms.
As I had occasion to show in my note to the British minister in the case of the Everett Steele, of which a copy is hereto annexed, this “tenancy in common,” held by citizens of the United States in the fisheries, they were to “continue to enjoy “under the preliminary articles of 1782, as well as under the treaty of peace of 1783; and this right, as a right of entrance in those waters, was reserved to them, though with certain limitations in its use by the treaty of 1818. I might here content myself with noticing that the treaty of 1818, herein reciting a principle of the law of nations as well as ratifying a right previously possessed by fishermen of the United States, expressly recognizes the right of these fishermen to enter the “bays or harbors” of Her Majesty’s Canadian dominions, “for the purpose of shelter and of repairing damages therein.” The extent of other recognitions of rights in the same clause need not here be discussed. At present it is sufficient to say that the placing an armed cruiser at the mouth of a harbor in which the United States fishing vessels are accustomed and are entitled to seek shelter on their voyages, such cruiser being authorized to arrest and board our fishing vessels seeking such shelter, is an infraction not merely of the law of nations, but of a solemn treaty stipulation. That, so far as concerns the fishermen so affected, its consequences are far-reaching and destructive, it is not necessary here to argue. Fishing vessels only carry provisions enough for each particular voyage. If they are detained several days on their way to the fishing banks the venture is broken up. The arrest and detention of one or two operates upon all. They cannot as a class, with their limited capital and resources, afford to run risks so ruinous. Hence, rather than subject themselves to even the chances of suffering the wrongs inflicted by Captain Quigley, “of the Canadian cruiser Terror,” on some of their associates, they might prefer to abandon their just claim to the shelter consecrated to them alike by humanity, ancient title, the law of nations, and by treaty, and face the gravest peril and the wildest seas in order to reach their fishing grounds. You will therefore represent to Her Majesty’s Government that the placing Captain Quigley in the harbor of Shelburne to inflict wrongs and humiliation on United States fishermen there seeking shelter is, in connection with other methods of annoyance and injury, expelling United States fishermen from waters, access to which, of great importance in the pursuit of their trade, is pledged to them by Great Britain, not merely as an ancient right, but as part of a system of international settlement.
It is impossible to consider such a state of things without grave anxiety. You can scarcely represent this too strongly to Her Majesty’s Government.
It must be remembered, in considering this system, so imperiled, that the preliminaries to the article of 1782, afterwards adopted as the treaty of 1783, were negotiated at Paris by Dr. Franklin, representing the United States, and Mr. Richard Oswald, representing Lord Shelburne, then colonial secretary, and afterwards, when the treaty was finally agreed on, prime minister. It must be remembered, also, that Lord Shelburne, while maintaining the rights of the colonies when assailed by Great Britain, was nevertheless unwilling that their independence should be recognized prior to the treaty of peace, as if it were a concession wrung from Great Britain by the exigencies of war. His [Page 368] position was that this recognition should form part of a treaty of partition, by which, as is stated by the court in Sutton v. Sutton (1 Bus. & M., 675), already noticed by me, the two great sections of the British Empire agreed to separate, in their articles of separation recognizing to each other’s citizens or subjects certain territorial rights. Thus the continuance of the rights of the United States in the fisheries was recognized and guaranteed; and it was also declared that the navigation of the Mississippi, whose sources were, in the imperfect condition of geographical knowledge of that day, supposed to be in British territory, should be free and open to British subjects and to citizens of the United States. Both powers also agreed that there should be no further prosecutions or confiscations based on the war; and in this way were secured the titles to property held in one country by persons remaining loyal to the other. This was afterwards put in definite shape by the following article (Article X) of Jay’s treaty:
It is agreed that British subjects who now hold lands in the territories of the United States, and American citizens who now hold lands in the dominion of His Majesty, shall continue to hold them according to the nature and tenure of their respective estates and titles therein, and may grant, sell, or devise the same to whom they please in like manner as if they were natives; and that neither they nor their heirs or assigns shall, so far as may respect the said lands and the legal remedies incident thereto, be regarded as aliens.
It was this article which the court in Sutton v. Sutton, above referred to, held to be one of the incidents of the “separation” of 1783, of perpetual obligation, unless rescinded by the parties, and hence not abrogated by the war of 1812.
It is not, however, on the continuousness of the reciprocities, recognized by the treaty of 1783, that I desire now to dwell. What I am anxious you should now impress upon the British Government is the fact that, as the fishery clause in this treaty, a clause continued in the treaty of 1818, was a part of a system of reciprocal recognitions which are interdependent, the abrogation of this clause, not by consent, but by acts of violence and of insult, such as those of the Canadian cruiser Terror, would be fraught with consequences which I am sure could not be contemplated by the Governments of the United States and Great Britain without immediate action being taken to avert them. To the extent of the system thus assailed I now direct attention.
When Lord Shelburne and Dr. Franklin negotiated the treaty of peace, the area on which its recognitions were to operate was limited. They covered, on the one hand, the fisheries; but the map of Canada in those days, as studied by Lord Shelburne, gives but a very imperfect idea of the territory near which the fisheries lay. Halifax was the only port of entry on the coast; the New England States were there and the other nine were provinces, but no organized governments to the west of them. It was on this area only, as well as on Great Britain, that the recognitions and guarantees of the treaty were at first to operate. Yet comparatively small as this field may now seem, it was to the preservation over it of certain reciprocal rights that the attention of the negotiators was mainly given. And the chief of these rights were: (1) the fisheries, a common enjoyment in which by both parties took nothing from the property of either; and (2) the preservation to the citizens or subjects of each country of title to property in the other.
Since Lord Shelburne’s premiership this system of reciprocity and mutual convenience has progressed under the treaties of 1842 and 1846, so as to give to Her Majesty’s subjects, as well as to citizens of the United States, the free use of the river Detroit on both sides of the island, Bois [Page 369] Blanc, and between that island and the American and Canadian shores, and all the several channels and passages between the various islands lying near the junction of the river St. Clair with the lake of that name. By the treaty of 1846 the principle of common border privileges was extended to the Pacific Ocean. The still existing commercial articles of the treaty of 1871 further amplified those mutual benefits by embracing the use of the inland waterways of either country, and defining enlarged privileges of bonded transit by land and water through the United States for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Dominion. And not only by treaties has the development of Her Majesty’s American dominion, especially to the westward, been aided by the United States, but the vigorous contemporaneous growth under the enterprise and energy of citizens of the Northwestern States and Territories of the United States has been productive of almost equal advantages to the adjacent possessions of the British Crown, and the favoring legislation by Congress has created benefits in the way of railway facilities which under the sanction of State laws have been and are freely and beneficially enjoyed by the inhabitants of the Dominion and their Government.
Under this system of energetic and co-operative development the coast of the Pacific has been reached by the transcontinental lines of railway within the territorial limits of the respective countries, and, as I have stated, the United States being the pioneers in this remarkable progress, have been happily able to anticipate and incidentally to promote the subsequent success of their neighbors in British America.
It will be scarcely necessary for you to say to Lord Iddesleigh that the United States, in thus aiding in the promotion of the prosperity, and in establishing the security of Her Majesty’s Canadian dominions, claims no particular credit. It was prompted, in thus opening its territory to Canadian use, and incidentally for Canadian growth, in large measure by the consciousness that such good offices are part of a system of mutual convenience and advantage growing up under the treaties of peace and assisted by the natural forces of friendly contiguity. Therefore it is that we witness with surprise and painful apprehension the United States fishermen hampered in their enjoyment of their undoubted rights in the fisheries.
The hospitalities of Canadian coasts and harbors, which are ours by ancient right, and which these treaties confirm, cost Canada nothing and are productive of advantage to her people. Yet, in defiance of the most solemn obligations, in utter disregard of the facilities and assistances granted by the United States, and in a way especially irritating, a deliberate plan of annoyances and aggressions has been instituted and plainly exhibited during the last fishing season—a plan calculated to drive these fishermen from shores where, without injury to others, they prosecute their own legitimate and useful industry.
It is impossible not to see that if the unfriendly and unjust system, of which the cases now presented are part, is sustained by Her Majesty’s Government, serious results will almost necessarily ensue, great as is the desire of this Government to maintain the relations of good neighborhood. Unless Her Majesty’s Government shall effectually check these aggressions a general conviction on the part of the people of the United States may naturally be apprehended that, as treaty stipulations in behalf of our fishermen, based on their ancient rights, cease to be respected, the maintenance of the comprehensive system of mutual commercial accommodation between Canada and the United States could not reasonably be expected.[Page 370]
In contemplation of so unhappy and undesirable a condition of affairs I express the earnest hope that Her Majesty’s Government will take immediate measures to avert its possibility.
With no other purpose than the preservation of peace and good will and the promotion of international amity, I ask you to represent to the statesmen charged with the administration of Her Majesty’s Government the necessity of putting an end to the action of Canadian officials in excluding American fishermen from the enjoyment of their treaty rights in the harbors and waters of the maritime provinces of British North America.
The action of Captain Quigley in hauling down the flag of the United States from the Marion Grimes has naturally aroused much resentment in this country, and has been made the subject of somewhat excited popular comment; and it is wholly impossible to account for so extraordinary and unwarranted an exhibition of hostility and disrespect by that official. I must suppose that only his want of knowledge of what is due to international comity and propriety and overheated zeal as an officer of police could have permitted such action; but I am confident that, upon the facts being made known by you to Her Majesty’s Government, it will at once be disavowed, a fitting rebuke be administered, and the possibility of a repetition of Captain Quigley’s offense be prevented.
It seems hardly necessary to say that it is not until after condemnation by a prize court that the national flag of a vessel seized as a prize of war is hauled down by her captor. Under the fourteenth section of the twentieth chapter of the Navy Regulations of the United States the rule in such cases is laid down as follows:
A neutral vessel, seized, is to wear the flag of her own country until she is adjudged to be a lawful prize by a competent court.
But, a fortiori, is this principle to apply in cases of customs seizures, where fines only are imposed and where no belligerency whatever exists. In the port of New York, and other of the countless harbors of the United States, are merchant vessels to-day flying the British flag which from time to time are liable to penalties for violations of customs laws and regulations. But I have yet to learn that any official, assuming, directly or indirectly, to represent the Government of the United States, would under such circumstances order down or forcibly haul down the British flag from a vessel charged with such irregularity; and I now assert that if such act were committed, this Government, after being informed of it, would not wait for a complaint from Great Britain, but would at once promptly reprimand the parties concerned in such misconduct and would cause proper expression of regret to be made.
A scrupulous regard for international respect and courtesy should mark the intercourse of the officials of these two great and friendly nations, and anything savoring of the contrary should be unhesitatingly and emphatically rebuked. I cannot doubt that these views will find ready acquiescence from those charged with the administration of the Government of Great Britain.
You are at liberty to make Lord Iddesleigh acquainted with the contents of this letter, and, if desired, leave with him a copy.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,