to Mr. Jarvis.
Washington , September 6, 1886.
Sir: I now transmit a copy of a letter from this Department to Mr. James C. Jewett, of New York City, written to that individual on the 24th of June last, in response to his communication of April 10, 1886.
With it I hand you a copy of a printed document, being Senate Executive Document No. 133 of the Forty-eighth Congress, first session, relating to the same subject-matter, of a claim by Mr. Jewett on the Government of Brazil.
It is deemed proper that you should be fully apprised of the position taken by this Department in respect to the claim thus put forth by Mr. Jewett against the Government of Brazil, in order to prevent any misconception of the proposed action of this Department in relation thereto, as well as to other claims of a like description.
While this Department is at all times ready to lend the good offices of its representatives abroad for the presentation of all valid claims founded on justice and equity of its citizens upon foreign Governments in accordance with its established regulations, and also to assist in the promotion of American interests in all proper cases and by those methods known and approved internationally, yet it is not unmindful of the concurrent obligation imposed by our professions of amity and comity with other nations, as well as by the injunctions of our own self-respect, upon which we invite those nations confidently to rely, which should secure such previous scrutiny and examination of the law and facts upon which such claims are based by their proponents as shall, prima facie, assure both parties of their justice.
The claim of Mr. Jewett, as you will see by my letter to him, had been previously twice adversely reported to the then Secretary of State by the examiner of claims, and these reports approved by the Secretary, who, on March 5, 1881, announced to Mr. Jewett that their further official presentation could not be made by this Government.
The views subsequently expressed by Mr. Blaine, Secretary of State, under a subsequent administration, under dates of August 8, 1881, and December 17, 1881, in his instructions to Mr. Osborne, your predecessor, would seem to be a practical reversal of the opinion and action of his predecessor in office, Mr. Evarts, and are not accepted by me either as to the conclusions of law or fact which they contain.
I fail to discover in the papers submitted any such formal or unequivocal concession to Mr. Jewett by the Government of Brazil as is plainly requisite under the laws of that country to vest in him, as grantee, the right to excavate and use mineral or other natural deposits of phosphate earths which may have been discovered within its territories. But, on the contrary, the prompt and decided refusal of Brazil to make any such concession to Mr. Jewett appears with entire clearness and unmistakeable force.
The utmost right that can be urged on behalf of Mr. Jewett would be that in ignorance of the laws of Brazil he had suffered himself to be misled into the formation of sanguine but groundless speculations, which [Page 43] induced the outlay of some money by him in fitting out two small vessels for the transportation of mineral deposits in advance of a legal concession by the Government of Brazil, which he was notified was essential and requisite, but which he never received.
Such a misconception on the part of Mr. Jewett, if aided by misinformation coming from an official of the Brazilian Government, might have created a basis for an appeal to the benevolence and generosity of that Government, but under no code of laws could be held to constitute a valid claim as of right.
If an application for the favor of Brazil, based upon such a supposed equity, had been made by Mr. Jewett, and for a sum reasonably proportioned to his actual pecuniary outlay, a very different case would have existed in which the personal good offices of the United States minister might have been employed for his assistance.
But the Exhibit T, on page 54 of the accompanying Executive Document No. 133, discloses that the entire alleged expenses incurred by Mr. Jewett, including outfit of his two vessels, in “exploring” for phosphate, counsel fees, agencies charges, and incidentals, were stated by himself at $27,330.27, and that upon this narrow basis consequential, remote, and highly speculative damages were built up to upwards of fifty millions of dollars, and for a claim so exorbitant the favorable action of this Department was asked as against one of the neighboring Governments of South America, with whom we are on terms of professed amity, and with whom we desire to contract closer and more intimate commercial alliance.
It is my desire that absolute confidence in the honorable friendship of the United States should exist in the minds of all nations, and I know of no better proof that can be given than of an intention to protect them from unjust demands at the hands of our own citizens.
To discriminate against speculative and unjust claims by our citizens upon foreign Governments and in favor of those founded in justice and equity, will cause our recommendations to have that weight which we desire, and create confidence in our international action.
You are instructed to make known the purport of this dispatch to the minister of foreign affairs of Brazil.
I am, &c.,