No. 263.
Count Sala to Mr. Bayard .


Mr. Secretary of State: By a circular bearing late of the 19th of December last the representatives of the Republic near the various Governments which signed the convention of March 14, 1884, for the protection of submarine cables were instructed to propose to those Governments the holding of a conference with a view to the execution of Article 12 of that international instrument.

The delegates of the various powers which accepted the invitation of the French Government met at Paris on the 12th of May last, and suspended their labors on the 22d of the same month, after having arranged, in a protocol, the terms of the draft; of a declaration which they pledged themselves to recommend to their respective Governments for adoption.

I have the honor herewith to transmit to you twenty copies of the report of the proceedings of the conference in question. This report contains the text of the protocol that was signed by the delegates on the 21st of May last, official notice of which it is incumbent upon the Government of the Republic to give to the various states which signed the convention of March 14, 1884, or which have acceded thereto. This instrument consists of a declaration explanatory of Articles 2 and 4 of the convention of March 14, 1884, and removes the difficulties that were originated by the restriction introduced in Article 4 of the English law for the execution of the convention relative to the scope of its fourth article.

In order to enable the different Governments, and especially the London cabinet, to adopt such decisions as may be required by an acceptance of the proposed declaration, it is important to change this draft of a declaration, without delay, to a definitive instrument. I am consequently instructed, Mr. Secretary of State, to request you to be pleased to authorize the representative of the Federal Government at Paris, as soon as possible, by telegraph, to sign the declaration. My Government would be very glad if this formality could be accomplished without any unnecessary delay.

In the course of its labors the conference found that of the twenty-five states that have ratified the convention relative to submarine cables, or that have acceded thereto, twelve (Germany, the Argentine Republic, Austria-Hungary, Brazil, Spain, the United States, Guatemala, Roumania, Russia, Salvador, Servia, and Turkey) have not yet enacted or promulgated the laws necessary to render the convention operative. In this connection it is well not to lose sight of the fact that the penal clauses of the convention are not sufficient to secure the repression of the infractions for which it provides, since that instrument does not specify what punishment is to be inflicted. It is therefore necessary, in order that ‘the convention may become operative on this point in each state, that the laws of that state should contain express provisions for the repression of any violation of the articles which declare punishable certain acts of injury or destruction (Article 2) of submarine cables; or that they should [Page 361] prescribe for vessels engaged in laying or repairing cables certain rules calculated to facilitate operations relative to cables. (Articles 5 and 6.)

Owing to the deficiencies thus found to exist in the laws of a certain number of countries, the conference was able to perform but a part or its task, and it adjourned to the 1st of December next, with a view to allowing to the above-named states the time necessary for them to make known what legislative enactments they propose to promulgate in order to meet the engagement growing out of Article 12 of the convention.

As most of the Governments have adhered, at least in principle, to the second proposition, which formed the subject of Mr. de Freycinet’s circular of 19th of December last, and the object of which was to fix the 1st day of January, 1887, as the time when the international instrument of March 14, 1884, should take effect, the convention, at its meeting on the 1st of December next, will not only have to examine the new laws that shall be communicated to it, but it will also have to prepare definitively the list of the states forming the union for the protection of submarine cables. It is therefore necessary that the delegate of the United States should be furnished with precise instructions as regards the decision to be adopted in the case of states that shall not be able by the 1st of December next to show that they have enacted laws that meet the requirements of Article 12 of the convention. I need not, therefore, remind you, Mr. Secretary of State, how important it is that all legislative enactments necessary to render the convention operative should be adopted by the United States before the next meeting of the delegates in order that the conference may take cognizance thereof.

I will recapitulate these remarks. The object of the communication Which I am instructed to make to the American Government is twofold, viz:

To request it to authorize its representative at Paris, with as little delay as possible, to sign the explanatory declaration adopted by the conference which met at Paris on the 12th of May last.
To call its attention to the necessity of enacting, before the 1st of December next, such laws or of adopting such regulations as may be necessary to render the convention operative, and, further, to call attention to to fact that it is very important that the delegate of the United States should be able to make known at the next meeting of the conference the views of his Government in relation to the situation of the signatory powers that shall be unable to put the convention into execution on the 1st day of January, 1887.

I should be grateful to you, Mr. Secretary of State, if you could enable me, as speedily as possible, to make known at Paris the reply of the Federal Government.

Be pleased to accept, etc.,