Report by the Secretary of State to the President.
To the President:
The undersigned has the honor to submit for your consideration the following statement, with a view to receive your direction thereon:
On the 4th of September last a letter purporting to be written by one Charles F. Murchison, dated at Pomona, Cal., was sent from that place, to the British minister at this capital, in which the writer solicited an expression of his views in regard to certain unsettled diplomatic questions between the United States and Great Britain, stating at the [Page 1671] same time that such an expression was sought by him for the purpose of determining his vote at the approaching Presidential election. He stated that he was a naturalized citizen of the United States, of English birth, but that he still considered England the motherland, and that this fact led him to seek advice from the British representative in this country. He further stated that the information he sought was not for himself alone, but to enable him to give certain assurances to many other persons in the same situation as himself, for the purpose of influencing and determining their political action as citizens of the United States, of English birth, but who still regarded their original obligation of allegiance as paramount. The letter also contained gross reflections upon the conduct of this Government in respect to questions now in controversy and unsettled between the United States and Great Britain, and both directly and indirectly imputed insincerity in such conduct.
To this letter the British minister at once replied from Beverly, Mass., under date of the 13th of September last. In his reply he stated that—
any political party which openly favored the mother country at the present moment would lose popularity, and that the party in power is fully aware of that fact;
and that in respect to the—
questions with Canada which have been unfortunately re-opened since the rejection of the (fisheries) treaty by the Republican majority in the Senate and by the President’s message, to which you allude, all allowances must therefore be made for the political situation as regards the Presidental election.
The minister thus gave his assent and sanction to the aspersions and imputations above referred to.
Thus under his correspondent’s assurance of secrecy, in which the minister concurred by marking his answer “private,” he undertook to advise a citizen of the United States how to exercise the franchise of suffrage in an election close at hand for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency of the United States, and through him, as the letter suggested, to influence the votes of many others.
Upon this correspondence being made public, the minister received the representatives of the public press, and in frequent interviews with them, intended for publication, added to the impugnments which he had already made of the good faith of this Government in its public action and international dealings. Although ample time and opportunity have been offered him for the disavowal, modification, or correction of his statements, to some of which his attention was called personally by the undersigned, yet no such disavowal or modification has been made by him through the channels in which his statements first found publicity.
The question is thus presented, whether it is compatible with the dignity, security, and independent sovereignty of the United States to permit the representative of a foreign Government in this country not only to receive and answer without disapproval and confirm by his repetition aspersions upon its political action, but also to interfere in its domestic affairs by advising persons formerly his countrymen as to their political course as citizens of the United States.
As between this country and Great Britain there can be no controversy as to the complete severance of the ties of original allegiance by naturalization. Disputes on this point were finally put at rest by the treaty of naturalization concluded between the two countries on the 13th of May, 1870. Therefore it will not be contended, nor was such a contention ever admitted by us, that citizens of the United States of British [Page 1672] origin are subject to any claim of the country of their original allegiance.
The undersigned also has the honor to call attention to the provisions of section 5335 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, by which severe penalties are visited upon the citizens of the United States who, without the authority or permission of this Government, “commences or carries on any verbal or written correspondence or intercourse with any foreign Government, or any officer or agent thereof,” either with an intent to influence the action of such Government or its agents, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or with an intent to defeat the measures of the Government of the United States.” Those penalties are made equally applicable to every citizen of the United States, not duly authorized, who “counsels, advises, or assists in any such correspondence” with similar unlawful intent.
The undersigned respectfully advises that the attention of the Attorney-General of the United States be directed to these enactments in order that an investigation may be made with a view to ascertain whether they have not been violated in the present case by the correspondent of the British minister.
By your direction, the attention of the British Government has in a spirit of comity been called to the conduct of its minister, as above described, but without result. It therefore becomes necessary for this Government to consider whether, as the guardian of its own self-respect and of the integrity of its institutions, it will permit further intercourse to be held through the present British minister at this capital. It is to be observed that precedents are not wanting as to the question under consideration. It is a settled rule, essential to the maintenance of international intercourse, that a diplomatic representative must be persona grata to the Government to which he is accredited. If by his conduct he renders himself persona non grata, an announcement of the fact may be made to his Government.
In the present case all the requirements of comity have been fulfilled, the facts having been duly communicated to Her Majesty’s Government with an expression of the opinion of this Government in regard thereto.
Washington, October 29, 1888.