to Mr. McLane.
Washington , April 6, 1888.
Sir: Referring to your No. 554 of February 24 last, inclosing copies of the treaties between France and Anjouan (Johanna) by which the former has assumed a protectorate over the latter and has established a resident in the island, I call your attention to article 5 of the treaty of April 21, 1886, which reads as follows in your translation:
The rights of foreigners at present established in the island remain reserved without in any case the French Government being responsible for the execution of previous deeds and conventions (faits et conventions). If there should be disputes on the subject of these deeds and conventions, the Government of the Republic shall be taken as arbitrator.
There is at present an American citizen resident in the island of Johanna, Dr. B. F. Wilson, who now claims damages against the Sultan for injuries growing out of violation by the Sultan of contracts entered into between them. At various times, beginning with 1871, contracts were made by which the Sultan was to furnish certain labor to enable Dr. Wilson to work a sugar plantation called Patsy. In 1878, a lease for thirty years was granted, the Sultan furnishing certain slave labor and permitting his free subjects to work for hire. Under this lease Dr. Wilson expended large sums of money, and the plantation was rapidly improving, the production of sugar increasing each year from 1879 till 1882, when difficulties arose between the Sultan and Dr. Wilson.
The latter was subjected to a series of annoyances and violations of contract, the Sultan taking away his slaves, terrorizing the freedmen so that they refused to work, sending soldiers to kill Dr. Wilson, firing into his house, and destroying a small vessel owned by him. Dr. Wilson claims that his sugar crop, during the years 1882 and 1883 was much diminished, and the estate so injured that he has never since been able to increase its production as he would have done but for this interference; and in this he is sustained by independent and apparently impartial testimony.[Page 528]
It is alleged in reply that Dr. Wilson had aided and abetted the Sultan’s brother, Prince Mohammed, who in the year 1882 was in a state of open rebellion against his authority. This Dr. Wilson denies, and his denial is supported by the testimony of Prince Mohammed’s principal officer in that rebellion, who declares that although Dr. Wilson’s assistance was solicited by the rebels, it was distinctly and positively refused.
It would seem therefore that Dr. Wilson has been seriously injured in his planting operations by the Sultan’s violation of his contract; that even his life has been in jeopardy, and that a claim for damages properly arises. The Sultan, who had corresponded directly with this Department, was so informed, but he has not replied to this communication. I am of opinion that the case is such as may be submitted to the arbitration of the French Government, under the article of the treaty of 1886, above quoted, if Dr. Wilson shall think it to his interest to adopt that course.
You are instructed therefore to bring the case verbally to the attention of the French Government, stating its general features, and to ask whether it will direct the resident in Anjouan to receive all the proofs which may be offered by both the parties to the controversy, and whether, having these before it, it will arbitrate the claim, or whether some other way may be more proper for obtaining for Dr. Wilson the benefit of French arbitration.
I am, etc.,