to Mr. Wurts.
Washington , September 12, 1888.
Sir: I have to inclose herewith a copy of a letter of the 6th instant from the Acting Secretary of the Navy, accompanied by a report of commander of the U. S. S. Thetis, communicating to the Navy Department a copy of a notice served upon the American whaling ship Belvedere by the commanding officer of the Russian corvette Aleut during the whaling season of 1887. The Belvedere was at the time in Plover Bay, in Bering Sea, into which harbor she had put for the purpose of making necessary repairs, and among other things the notice contains is a statement that the captains of foreign vessels can not repair or obtain stores for their ships on the coasts of Bering or Okhotsk Seas or of the peninsula of Kamschatka, but for all such purposes must go to Petropaulovski, a settlement on the lower end of the peninsula above mentioned.
The Department is informed that the reason for this order is the desire of the Russian Government to prevent an illicit traffic in intoxicating liquors, which has been carried on by foreign whaling vessels with the native Indians on the coasts and islands in the quarter referred to. To the accomplishment of this important design, this Department does not desire to interpose any obstruction; and it recognizes the practical difficulties which the subject presents to the Russian Government, with the long line of coast to be policed. But the Department is reliably informed, and its information is readily supported by an inspection of the extent of the coast in question, that vessels of the whaling fleet are compelled by stress of weather and other casualty to seek such places of refuge as Plover Bay to repair and refit. For example, the distance from that harbor to Petropaulovski is believed to be about 800 miles.
This fact alone establishes the impossibility of American whaling ships pursuing their ancient and accustomed occupation in the remote waters in question, under such an interdiction as the notice apparently seeks to impose.
You will bring this matter to the attention of the Imperial Government, with a view of securing the American whaling fleet against molestation when seeking the harbors of the coasts and islands referred to, for purposes legitimately connected with or incident to the object of their voyage.
I am, etc.,