Mr. Bayard to Mr. Phelps.
Washington , October 31, 1888.
Sir: Referring to my personal communication of the 26th instant, in relation to the correspondence of Lord Sackville with a person signing [Page 1674] the name of Charles F. Murchison, I now transmit copies of the text of the cipher telegrams* sent you since that date, dated respectively the 25th and 26th instant.
Although in that letter of the 26th I inclosed copies of the Sackville-Murchison correspondence, and also printed slips of the report of the published statements of Lord Sackville made to the correspondents of certain newspapers, yet, for the purpose of unbroken statement of this most regrettable incident and the results it has brought about, I now transmit other copies of the letters† referred to, and of the interview of Lord Sackville with the reporter of the New York Tribune, as it appeared in that newspaper in its issue of the 24th instant.
An examination of the letter of Murchison, dated Pomona, Cal., September 4,1888, and of the reply thereto of Lord Sackville, dated Beverly, Mass., September 13, 1888, discloses the facts that a naturalized citizen of the United States, of English birth, made therein full recital of the supposed issues of the political canvass now pending in the United States, avowing British interests to be paramount with him, and seeking to obtain the advice of the representative of Great Britain in the United States as to how the writer should cast his vote in the approaching Presidential election. The letter contains, in varied form, repeated avowals of the writer’s British sympathies, and the minister is asked to inform him which candidate will most favor English interests, because it would put the writer at rest and enable him to assure many of his countrymen that they would do England a service by voting for a certain candidate if the opinion of the British minister should be favorable thereto.
To this letter, as you will perceive, Lord Sackville readily replied and gave the advice as asked for, combining therewith, by innuendo at least, unfavorable reflections upon the Senate and the President in relation to important and unsettled international questions.
The date and tone of Lord Sackville’s reply indicate not the slightest hesitancy, nor suggests rebuke to a correspondent exhibiting such gross perfidy toward the country whose citizenship he had assumed, nor denounces the disrespect to himself personally of applying to him—the official of a foreign government, admitted to the especially privileged position of envoy to the United States—for secret advice whereby to influence the most important function of our citizenship.
Lord Sackville overlooked or disregarded all this, and fortified his advisory letter by inclosing an extract from an editorial article in a New York newspaper expressing with vigor and clearness the views he was disposed to favor.
Such an answer to such a letter can only be characterized as a gross breach of diplomatic privilege and decorum—an unjustifiable abuse of his lordship’s position here as the accredited envoy of a friendly power. His conduct was wholly inconsistent with prudent, delicate, and scrupulous abstention from intermeddling with the domestic affairs of the country by whom he had been so kindly and hospitably received. He dangerously invaded the exclusive sovereignty of this Government over its own soil, its own citizens, and its affairs of the deepest moment.
Furthermore, on the 23d of October, Lord Sackville held an interview with a reporter of the New York Tribune—which was published in that journal on the 24th—in which he distinctly impugned the sincerity of the President and the Senate, and, in phrases of disrespect and derision, aspersed the integrity of both. His lordship has since signified no disposition [Page 1675] to make public or official modification or retraction of his statements.
You will also observe that the letter of his lordship’s correspondent promised to keep the information sought for entirely secret, and in this Lord Sackville co-operated by making his reply “private,” thereby participating in an avowed underhand endeavor to influence not only a single American citizen, but many others in the exercise of the highest and most sacred civic franchise—that of voting in the election of President and Vice-President of the United States.
Conduct so dangerons to the integrity and safety of our political institutions and so conspicuously at war with international duty and good faith could not, when discovered, be suffered to be passed by or to become a precedent In this country, and therefore, as soon as I had read the letter of Murchison, together with Lord Sackville’s reply, you were directed, by order of the President on the 25th instant, to lay the facts before Her Majesty’s Government, and on the following day I renewed and emphasized my statements in terms which clearly intimated to Her Majesty’s Government the impossibility of Lord Sackville continuing to represent his Government in this country. It was the hope and desire of the President that Her Majesty’s Government would immediately recognize the propriety of taking steps to relieve the situation thus created by the action of Her Majesty’s minister, which has given rise to strong feeling and exceeding regret in the United States. But, after thus having fulfilled the requirements of comity, and having awaited action on the part of the Government of Great Britain, and having received from you information that delay attendant upon an extended discussion of the facts—which was deemed by the President to be wholly unnecessary—would in all likelihood ensue, the President felt constrained by the duty of his office, under the circumstances I have detailed, to exercise the high discretion inherent in every sovereign state of terminating the official residence in this country of a foreign minister who was no longer acceptable.
I inclose for your further information a copy of a report* made by me on this subject to the President, and with it a copy of the letter addressed to Lord Sackville on the 30th instant,† terminating his official relations to this Government, and his lordship’s acknowledgment thereof.‡
This Government is ready to receive any communication in relation to the affairs and interests of Her Majesty’s Government through such other channel as may be established.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,