Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 3, 1888, Part II
Mr. Phelps to Mr. Bayard.
London , November 7, 1888. (Received November 19.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that Her Majesty’s Government gave to the press last evening the correspondence in respect to Lord Sackville, which will probably be laid before Parliament to-day. I inclose herewith copies of it, and also leading articles on the subject from the Times, Standard, Telegraph, and Daily News, London papers of this morning.
As soon as the members of Her Majesty’s Government express themselves in Parliament on the subject, I shall send you an account of what is said and my views in regard to it. Meanwhile I respectfully suggest that until we are fully informed of the proposed action of Her Majesty’s Government, no publication of correspondence should be made by the United States Government.
I send you this morning a cable dispatch of which I inclose a translation.
I have, etc.,
Mr. Phelps to Mr. Bayard.
London , November 7, 1888.
Mr. Phelps states that the Sackville correspondence was published in England on the preceding day and suggests the withholdment of publication by the United States for the present moment.
lord sackville’s recall.
The following correspondence respecting the demand of the United States Government for the recaii of Lord Sackville from Washington was issued yesterday:
The Marquis of Salisbury to Lord Sackville.
Foreign Office, October 27.
My Lord: Mr. Phelps, who is staying in my house, informed me in the course of this evening that he had received a telegram from Mr. Secretary Bayard respecting the correspondence which has been creating so much excitement in the United States, and instructing him to request Her Majesty’s Government that you should be recalled, He did not base his request on the letter which you had written to a resident in California, but on some expressions used subsequently in two interviews with a newspaper reporter, which, in the opinion of the United States Government, imputed discreditable motives to the President and the Senate.
I replied that I was glad to find there was no truth in the rumor that any diplomatic representation was to be made in regard to your private letter, which had become public only by a betrayal of confidence. It was, I said, hardly practicable to lay down the principle that a diplomatic representative was prohibited from expressing, even privately, any opinion on the events passing in the country to which he was accredited.
With respect to the language imputed to you in the interviews with newspaper reporters the case is different. Yon must be taken to have intended it for publication. But to recall you on a formal request from the Government of the United States, made under circumstances of considerable publicity, was a course which implied the censure of two Governments, and therefore before acceding to any such request Her Majesty’s Government were bound, in justice to you, to satisfy themselves of the objectionable character of the language you had uttered. I accordingly begged Mr. Phelps to be good enough to give me a copy of the expressions imputed to you that I might in the first instance ascertain from you whether you had been accurately reported, and might then bring the matter before my colleagues. Mr. Phelps replied that he had not as yet received any copy of the speeches referred to, but that he would take steps to procure one. It was consequently understood that until such a copy had been received by Her Majesty’s Government they could give no answer to the request addressed to them by the Government of the United States.
I am, etc.,
Lord Sackville to the Marquis of Salisbury .—(Received October 28.)
The letter received by me was a political plot of a Republican.
By yesterday’s mail I have written to explain the situation arising out of the publication of my private reply.
It will be on account of Presidential election if my recall is demanded.
Beg to express deep regret at what has occurred.
Lord Sackville to the Marquis of Salisbury.—(Received October 31.)
I have been informed by the Secretary of State that the President, for causes good and sufficient which he says are known to me and have been brought to the cognizance of Her Majesty’s Government, has become convinced that the official position which I now hold in the United States is not compatible with the best interests, and is detrimental to the good relations between the two Governments, and that he has therefore sent me my passports.
With regard to the charge of this legation I have to request your lordship’s instructions.
Mr. Phelps to the Marquis of Salisbury.—(Received October 31.)
London , October 31.
My Lord: I have the honor to acquaint yon that I received at a late hour last night instructions from the United States Government to communicate to your lordship that by direction of the President the Secretary of State on yesterday informed Lord Sackville, Her Majesty’s minister at Washington, that for reasons heretofore made known to your lordship his continuance in that official position was no longer acceptable and would consequently be detrimental to the relations between the two Governments; and that a passport to facilitate his withdrawal has therefore been issued to Lord Sackville.
And I am further instructed to express the hope of the President that another representative from Her Majesty’s Government may be accredited to the Government of the United States.
I have, etc.,
Lord Sackville to the Marquis of Salisbury.—(Received October 31.)
I beg to repudiate statement of Secretary of State, giving reasons for my dismissal, as an unjust attack on my integrity.
The Marquis of Salisbury to Lord Sackville. *
My Lord: I have received your telegram of yesterday informing me that you had received your passports from the President of the United States.
I have therefore to request that you will place the honorable Michael Herbert, who is the senior secretary at present on the spot, in charge of Her Majesty’s legation.
I am, etc.,
The Marquis of Salisbury to Mr. Phelps.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge your letter of yesterday’s date, intimating tome that Mr. Bayard had informed Lord Sackville, Her Majesty’s minister at Washington, that, for reasons heretofore made known to me, his continuance in that official position was no longer acceptable, and would be consequently detrimental to the relations between the two Governments; and that, in consequence, his passports had been sent to him.
On Saturday last, when I had the honor of an interview with you, you informed me that the Government of the United States desired the recall of Lord Sackville, and you stated that the ground for that application was not the letter to a Californian gentleman, which has been much canvassed in the newspapers, but the language which Lord Sackville had employed to certain reporters who “interviewed” him, and which, in the judgment of your Government, imputed discreditable motives to the President and the Senate of the United States.
I asked you if you could give me a copy of the speech or speeches to which exception was taken, but you had not received them.
I refer to this interview on account of the intimation which, as you informed me, the Secretary of State conveyed to Lord Sackville, that the reasons for which his lordship’s continuance in office was no longer acceptable had been heretofore made known to me. Nothing has been made known to me except what you did me the honor to communicate on Saturday evening; and by that communication I was only made acquainted with the interpretation which Mr. Bayard put upon certain speeches made by Lord Sackville. What those speeches contained or to whom they were made were circumstances not included in your communication, and indeed were, as I gathered, not known to yourself. I have not since received any further information on these points; and, therefore, I am unable to form any judgment upon the considerations which dictated the request which I received from the United State Government on Saturday, or the action which they took on Tuesday.
I have, etc.,
Mr. Phelps to the Marquis of Salisbury.—(Received November 2.)
London , November 2.
My Lord: I have had the honor to receive your note of yesterday.
My recollection of what passed between us in the conversation of Saturday last differs slightly from that of your lordship in one particular. I did not intend to be understood as saying that the letter of Lord Sackville formed no part of the reasons of the United States Government for desiring his recall; though I did say that the principal reason was the published imputation by Lord Sackville to the President and to the Senate of discreditable motives in their action touching the subject of the Canadian fisheries.
As the instructions I had received from the Secretary of State of the United States had been by cable message only, I was not then, and am not now, in possession of the precise language attributed to Lord Sackville, nor the particular circumstances under which it was used, but only of its general purport and effect as communicated by me to your lordship in the conversation above mentioned.
I have, however, transmitted a copy of your lordship’s note to the Secretary of State, and have requested to be furnished with all details of language and circumstance, and on receipt of his reply I shall lose no time in placing them before your lordship.
I have, etc.,
Lord Sackville to the Marquis of Salisbury.—(Received November 4.)
My Lord: With reference to telegraphic correspondence which has appeared in the London newspapers, I have the honor to inclose to your lordship copies of the letters alluded to therein, the unjustifiable publication of which has given rise to it. The letter I received I had every reason to believe was genuine, and I had no idea at the time of its real object. Under these circumstances I wrote my reply, stating what appeared to me to be the situation created by the President’s message, as a private communication.
I have now certain information that the letter from Los Angeles, in California, was fictitious and concocted by a well-known firm in conjunction with the Republican committee in New York, and that it was sent from southern California in order to prevent any suspicion on my part of its genuineness.
Mr. Bayard, whom I saw to-day, said that he regretted the incident very much, and accepted my disclaimer of any thought or intention to interfere in the domestic policy of the country. It was a campaign “trap,” into which I had inadvertently fallen, but he frankly told me that he thought I had been indiscreet. I expressed my deep regret at what had occurred, and he assured me that he bore me no ill-will.
I have, etc.,
(The correspondence inclosed has been already published.)
The Presidential election in the United States was decided yesterday iu the ballot-boxes, but no information concerning the result is likely to reach this country until a late hour to-day. We must accordingly wait a little longer to ascertain what influence, if any, the “Sackville incident,” as it is called, has exercised on the fortunes of the contending parties. The prime minister was asked yesterday by the leader of the opposition in the House of Lords whether he could give the house any information concerning this “painful incident.” He replied, naturally enough, that he preferred to present the papers to Parliament without previous comment. The papers have now been published, and we print to-day the text of the dispatches interchanged. They do not add much to our previous knowledge of the subject except upon one point, and they entirely confirm the opinion which we had previously formed and expressed upon the matter. It appears from the correspondence that when Lord Salisbury’s attention was first called to the incident by Mr. Phelps, the American minister in this country, the latter explained that he did not base the request for Lord Sackville’s recall, which he had been instructed by his Government to prefer, on the private letter written by Lord Sackville to a correspondent in California, but on some expressions subsequently used in two interviews with a newspaper reporter. Lord Salisbury replied by first drawing a very proper distinction between a private letter, [Page 1701] the contents of which could only he made public by a betrayal of confidence, and a conversation which must be taken to be intended for publication. As to the latter, he added that, before concurring in the censure passed upon Lord Sackville by the United States Government and consenting to recall him, Her Majesty’s Government felt bound, in justice to Lord Sackville, to satisfy themselves of the objectionable character of the language uttered by him. As Mr. Phelps was not able to supply the foreign secretary with a copy of the expressions complained of, it was understood that until they received such a copy Her Majesty’s Government could give no answer to the request addressed to them. The sequel we know already. Lord Sackville was summarily and unceremoniously dismissed by the Government of President Cleveland, when, as the correspondence shows, only half their complaint against him had been brought to the knowledge of the British Government, and that not the more important half. Had the Government of the United States desired to be courteous they might have used the telegraph for the purpose of placing Mr. Phelps in possession of all the information necessary to his case. Whether it was necessary for them to hold the card of summary dismissal in reserve for the purpose of trumping their adversaries’ trick is a question which need not now be too curiously discussed. The “Sackville incident” has, we are told, already been almost forgotten in the United States, each party having apparently played its cards so skillfully and with so little regard to international courtesy that neither is thought to have made much by the game. The only other matter illustrated by the correspondence is the undoubted indiscretion of Lord Sackville, which, as we acknowledged from the first, was calculated to render his continuance at Washington undesirable. It is pretty clear that this would have been Lord Salisbury’s own conclusion after he had had time and opportunity to consider the matter in all its bearings, if he had not been relieved of all further responsibility by the electioneering emergency which compelled the Government of the United States to terminate the incident by putting themselves in the wrong.
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the sackville papers.
The correspondence respecting the demand for Lord Sackville’s recall which was laid before Parliament yesterday places the precedent in a somewhat different light from that in which it has hitherto been regarded. Lord Salisbury’s first dispatch to Lord Sackville, dated the 27th of October, explains very clearly that the American Government did not demand the British minister’s recall on account of a private letter improperly published, but because he had in an interview with some representatives of the press “imputed discreditable motives to the President and the Senate.” This explanation considerably improves the position of Mr. Cleveland and Mr. Bayard, for it shows that Lord Sackville would not have been molested if he had not followed up an indiscreet letter by an unwarrantable speech. Lord Salisbury observes with much plausibility that it is “hardly practicable to lay down the principle that a diplomatic representative was prohibited from expressing even privately any opinion on the events passing in the country to which he is accredited.” But there are private letters, and private letters, and Lord Sackville in this correspondence candidly admits his error, which, as we have seen, he supplemented by another. Lord Salisbury justifies his refusal to act promptly upon the communication made to him through Mr. Phelps by the plea that he had not seen, any more than Mr. Phelps himself, an authentic report of the language attributed to Lord Sackville. He could not, he said, take a step which involved “the censure of two Governments” without proper evidence and without giving the incriminated party an opportunity to reply. We sympathize with Lord Salisbury’s anxiety to protect a subordinate, and every one must admit that the general principle he lays down is right and just. The haste with which the President acted is only to be excused by the necessity of removing from the great national contest which was decided yesterday an irrelevant and objectionable element. Lord Salisbury’s error lay in not perceiving that the recall of Lord Sackville in such peculiar circumstances involved no personal discredit, and that an envoy ceases to be useful the moment he ceases to be acceptable.
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It was generally expected that Lord Salisbury would be pressed to make some statement concerning what Lord Granville properly called the “painful incident” of the dismissal of Lord Sackville from Washington. But the leader of the opposition in [Page 1702] the Upper House was unusually forbearing, and the prime minister availed himself of the alternative left him by Lord Granville, and postponed making any observations on the subject until after the publication of the official correspondence. We print this correspondence in another column. It might have been thought impossible to exhibit American diplomacy in a worse light than was thrown upon it by the information supplied to the public by the State Department. But while the documents now published add a fresh touch of absurdity to the behavior of Mr. Bayard, they will be valued by Englishmen, because they show that Lord Salisbury has throughout acted with dignity and discretion. The last extenuation that could be pleaded for Mr. Cleveland disappears, the British foreign office being acquitted, once for all, of the suspicion that it was responsible, in any degree, for the discreditable episode. On Saturday week Mr. Phelps made his first representation on behalf of his Government, requesting that Lord Sackville should be recalled. The application was based, not on the private and confidential letter, but on some expressions used subsequently by the British embassador, in an interview with a newspaper reporter. These remarks, in the opinion of the Washington Government, imputed discreditable motives to the President and the Senate. It will not be denied, we suppose, that Lord Salisbury was justified in asking for a copy of the offensive expressions imputed to Lord Sackville, before taking a course which, as he justly observes, implied the censure of two Governments. Mr. Phelps, however, was not able to supply the required text, for the sufficient reason that he had not himself received a copy of the “speeches referred to.” Apparently, the representative of the United States was imperfectly informed of the character of the Government whom he represents in London, for he did just what any right-minded embassador would do—that is to say, he agreed to procure the necessary details, it being, of course understood that until Lord Salisbury had had a chance of seeing what Lord Sackville had really said he could not possibly decide whether there was a case for recalling him. Mr. Bayard, however, was in far too great a hurry with his electioneering coup to observe the ordinary decencies of international intercourse. Enough has been said already about the unparalleled rudeness of his message to Lord Sackville, but the papers show that he outraged truth as well as courtesy in his communication. The “good and sufficient causes” which rendered Lord Sackville’s official position detrimental to the maintenance of friendly relations had been—Mr. Bayard stated—brought to the cognizance of the British Government, “without result.” As a matter of fact, the cause mainly relied on was only indicated in general terms. It is trifling with sense to pretend that the impression which certain remarks left on the mind of Mr. Cleveland should be accepted by Lord Salisbury as a substitute for the remarks themselves. Nor is it further from the mark to complain of the fruitlessness of the representations made. Lord Salisbury did all that any self-respecting minister of a great power could, under the circumstances, have done. The question of future measures remains yet for consideration; but it is satisfactory to know that Mr. Bayard monopolizes the whole responsibility for the disgraceful incident of Lord Sackville’s dismissal.
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Another matter of national interest was touched upon for a moment during the brief sitting of the Upper House, when Lord Granville’s qualified request for a ministerial statement with reference to the Sackville incident was met by Lord Salisbury with an intimation that papers on the subject would be placed almost immediately in the hands of the members. These papers have now been presented, but they prove on examination, to carry the matter no further than the point to which the public have been able to follow its progress by means of unofficial information. The story closes—for the present, that is to say—with Lord Sackville’s abrupt dismissal by the Washington Government, and the ad interim appointment by Lord Salisbury of a subordinate official of the British legation to discharge the duties of the vacated post. What communication it is proposed to make to Mr. Bayard with reference to the summary step just taken by him we have yet to learn. Upon a review of that which has already passed we can form only a provisional judgment of the proceedings of the respective parties to what Lord Granville has justly called this “painful incident.” It has been suggested by the American defenders of the extremely prompt action of their Government that it was justified by Lord Salisbury’s “delay” in promising satisfaction for the British minister’s escapade; and the dates of the correspondence undoubtedly show that what an American Government, in the flurry of a Presidential contest, may perhaps have regarded as delay” did occur. In other words, while Lord Salisbury took instant notice of the complaint made to him by Mr. Phelps, by addressing a dispatch to Lord Sackville to inform him that the foreign office was awaiting accurate details of his imputed transgressions, it does not appear that the [Page 1703] prime minister made any attempt in the meantime to soothe the ruffled susceptibilities of President Cleveland through the medium of the Atlantic cable. His letter to the British minister was dated October 27, the same day on which he had received Mr. Phelps’s representations; and he apparently thought—so deliberately does British diplomacy move—that, in these days of fairly expeditious ocean transits, the Washington Government would be content to await a reply to their remonstrances by mail. He was to learn, however, that he had estimated the patience of that Government at more than 100 per cent, above its actual amount. To rest for longer than three days under the imputation of enjoying English patronage is evidently more than can be expected of a candidate for the Presidency of the United States; and accordingly on the 30th of October Lord Sackville received his passports. It was, in the parlance of the hunting-field, a “quick thing;” and a slow-going “Britisher” may be excused for finding the pace too good for him. Indeed, it is to be feared that our diplomacy will never learn to keep up with it; and we are not quite sure that the public of this country would think any better of that diplomacy if it contrived to do so. Celerity at the expense of courtesy is not altogether to be admired.
Tuesday, November 6.
Their lordships re-assembled to-day for the first time after the adjournment of Parliament on Monday, the 13th of August. About forty peers were present.
The Lord Chancellor took his seat upon the woolsack at 20 minutes past 4 o’clock.
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Earl Granville. The other question I desire to ask the noble marquis is this, whether he is prepared to make any statement to the House or lay any papers on the table in regard to the painful incident in relation to our minister in the United States. I should be glad if he could answer either by making a statement or promising papers, but I do not press either course unless he thinks it convenient to do so.
The Marquis of Salisbury. I think I should prefer to take advantage of the choice which the noble earl has given me, and avoid making any observations on that subject, merely saying that papers are now in the printers’ hands, and I believe they will be in the hands of noble lords to-morrow morning; and, of course, if noble lords should then think fit to raise any discussion we shall be perfectly ready to join in it.
The House rose at five minutes to 5 o’clock.
- Substance sent by telegraph.↩