To the consular officers of the United
States at sea-ports.
Washington , March 13, 1888.
Gentlemen: An important question has recently arisen in regard to the precise meaning of the term “American seamen,” or “seamen of the United States,” as used in our statutes. The question arose in considering the right of one Caspar Klypool, an alien, shipped as a seaman on an American vessel in the United States for a voyage terminating in a foreign country, and who had been injured on the voyage, to receive relief in such foreign port on the termination of the voyage, and to be returned to the United States.
For your instruction and guidance a part of the correspondence on this subject between this Department and the Treasury Department is hereto appended.
The conclusions reached by this Department, and concurred in by the Treasury Department (as more fully appears in the appended letters), are as follows:
- A seaman of foreign nationality who ships in an American vessel in a port of the United States, with intent to attach himself for an indefinite though not necessarily a long time to the American merchant service, becomes thereby a seaman of the United States within the meaning of the statute and regulations authorizing the relief and transportation, at Government expense, of destitute seamen to the United States; and he retains that character, with its privileges, until divested of it by taking service in a foreign vessel, or by abandonment of the seaman’s calling.
- The act of August 3, 1882, for the exclusion of pauper immigrants, has no application to this class of persons, when transported hither at the expense of this Government; and such a seaman, so returned, can not be lawfully refused admittance by the port authorities, on the ground [Page 1656] that he is a foreigner without the means or ability to take care of himself, and is likely to become a public charge.
Your attention is called to that part of the appended letter of the Secretary of the Treasury which suggests that it would be advisable for returned seamen to bear a certificate from the forwarding consular officer to be exhibited to the examining officers of the home port.
I am, gentlemen, your obedient servant,