Mr. Bayard to Mr. de
Washington, February 6, 1888.
Sir: I had the honor to receive in due course your note of the 16th of November last, in which you refer to cases arising where Netherlanders liable to military duty ship in Netherlands ports on board foreign vessels without having previously obtained the permission of the ministry of war under article 129 of the existing Dutch law of August 19, 1861, to which you express the hope that this Department will call the attention of the consular officers of the United States in the Netherlands.
The urgent pressure of business has prevented earlier attention to your note.
Upon consideration of the suggestion put forth, certain difficulties appear in the way of acceding to the request of your Government. The functions and duties of consular representatives of this Government in [Page 1338] regard to the shipment and discharge of seamen of American vessels are prescribed and defined, by the existing statutes of the United States, and under these it is not contemplated that such consular officers shall intervene, as officers of the foreign governments pro tanto (which they would inferentially be in such case) to aid in the enforcement of their military or other municipal statutes. Moreover, assuming that any duty of this nature might really rest on the consul, it would entail upon him a quasi-judicial function involving the construction of foreign laws as to citizenship and military service, and their application to the individual cases before him.
I could not, nor do I suppose your Government would, regard it as admissible that a consul, in such matters, should exercise a jurisdiction not conferred by treaty or contemplated by the statutes of his own country.
I regret, therefore, that, as the matter is presented, I perceive no way of acceding to the courteous suggestion of the Netherlands Government.