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 , December 29, 1888. (Received January 10.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose a copy of a note received from Lord Salisbury on the 27th instant, relative to the case of Lord Sackville. I have acknowledged the reception of it, and said that I had transmitted it to my Government for its consideration. This leaves it open to such reply as you may deem it advisable to make.
It will be observed that in my note to Lord Salisbury of the 4th instant, to which his note is an answer, I merely stated the view that I conceive to be the correct one, in respect to the obligation of a Government to withdraw its minister at the request of the Government to which he is accredited, without attempting to support it by argument or citation, or expressing any anticipation that it would be thought open to question.
I inclose a copy of a telegram sent you this morning.
I have, etc.,
The Marquis of Salisbury to Mr. Phelps.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 4th instant, inclosing the reported conversations upon which, on the 27th October last, you principally based the request preferred by the President of the United States that Lord Sackville, Her-Majesty’s minister at Washington, should be recalled. That letter, with its inclosures, has been referred to Lord Sackville, and I have now the honor to transmit to you a copy of his reply so far as it relates to them.
The request in answer to which you have been good enough to forward these papers was made in order that Her Majesty’s Government might be enabled to form a judgment on the complaint against Lord Sackville which was based upon them. But it has ceased to be of any practical importance, inasmuch as on the following Tuesday morning, the 30th October, the President of the United States terminated all diplomatic intercourse with Lord Sackville and forwarded his passports to him.
In your letter under reply you explain the course thus pursued by observing:
“In asking from Her Majesty’s Government the recall or withdrawal of its minister, upon a representation of the general purport of the letter and statements above mentioned, the Government of the United States assumed that such request would be sufficient for that purpose, whatever consideration the reasons for it might afterwards demand or receive.
“It was believed that the acceptance or retention of a minister was a question solely to be determined, either with or without the assignment of reasons, by the Government to which he was accredited.”
The general principles admitted by the practice of nations upon this matter are of more importance than the particular case in reference to which the above doctrine is laid down. Her Majesty’s Government are unable to assent to the view of international usage which you have hero laid down. It is, of course, open to any government, on its own responsibility, suddenly to terminate its diplomatic relations with any other state, or with any particular minister of any other state. But it has no claim to demand that the other state shall make itself the instrument of that proceeding, or concur in it, unless that state is satisfied by reasons, duly produced, of the justice of the grounds on which the demand is made.
The principles which govern international relations on this subject appear to Her Majesty’s Government to have been accurately laid down by Lord Palmerston on the occasion of Sir Henry Bulwer’s sudden dismissal from the Court of Madrid in 1848:
“The Duke of Sotomayor, in treating of that matter, seems to argue as if every Government was entitled to obtain the recall of any foreign minister whenever, for reasons of its own, it might wish that he should be removed but this is a doctrine to which I can by no means assent.
“It is quite true, as said by the Duke of Sotomayor, that the law of nations and international usage may permit a Government to make such a demand; but the law of [Page 1711] nations and international usage also entitle the Government to whom such a request may he preferred to decline to comply with it. I do not mean to say that if a foreign Government is able to state to the Government of Her Majesty grave and weighty reasons why the British minister accredited to such Government should he removed, Her Majesty’s Government would not feel it to be their duty to take such representations into their serious consideration, and to weigh them with all the attention which they might deserve. But it must rest with the British Government in such a case to determine whether there is or is not any just cause of complaint against the British diplomatic agent, and whether the dignity and interests of Great Britain would be best consulted by withdrawing him, or by maintaining him at his post.” (Viscount Palmerston to Señor Isturiz, 12th June, 1848.)
What view Her Majesty’s Government would have taken of Lord Sackville’s action if the President of the United States had laid before them “grave and weighty reasons” for his removal, it would be superfluous now to consider. Private communications made by an embassador in good faith have never, I believe, before been made the subject of international complaints; and considerable doubt seems to rest upon the precise purport of the more public statements made by Lord Sackville to the newspaper reporters. But these were fair matters for examination and discussion, if any such discussion had been desired. It is sufficient; under existing circumstances to say that there was nothing in Lord Sackville’s conduct to justify so striking a departure from the circumspect and deliberate procedure by which in such cases it is the usage of friendly states to mark their consideration for each other.
I will abstain from comment upon the considerations, not of an international character, to which you refer as having dictated the action of the President; I will only join with the Government of the United States in expressing my regret that a personal incident of this character should have in any degree qualified the harmony which for a long time past the enduring sympathy of the two nations has impressed upon the mutual relations of their Governments.
I have, etc.,
Lord Sackville to the Marquis of Salisbury.
My Lord: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your lordship’s dispatch of the 8th instant, inclosing a copy of a letter from Mr. Phelps explaining the views of the United States Government on the subject of the termination of my mission, and requesting me to furnish your lordship with any observations I may have to make thereon. I have the honor, therefore, to submit to your lordship:
- That it is manifest that my reply to the Murchison letter, marked “Private,” was never intended for publication, and that I never anticipated that it would be published and used for the political purposes described.
- That the reply in question contained no imputations against the integrity of the President in his action upon important questions of foreign policy.
- That the assertion that such insinuations had been made by me rests entirely upon the distorted statements of newspaper reporters under the influence of strong political partisanship.
- That it is these distorted statements which are dwelt upon as the chief cause of my dismissal.
- That the statement, that no contradiction or explanation of them had ever been published by me, is true, but that all mention of my letter to Mr. Bayard, copy of which was inclosed in my dispatch of the 31st of October, is omitted; and in this connection I beg to refer your lordship to my statement forwarded in Mr. Herbert’s dispatch of the 9th November.
- That any contradiction to statements made by newspaper reporters in the United States through the press could only lead to unseemly and undignified controversy.
- That Mr. Bayard was, as Secretary of State, in possession of my disclaimer of any intention of impugning the action of the Executive, and that he could have given such publicity to it as he thought fit under the circumstances.
- That never in my intercourse with Mr. Bayard after the publication of my letter did he give me to understand that the correspondence and the “Tribune “interview was regarded by the Government of the United States as “a grave and unprovoked affront.”
- That, therefore, it was made to assume such a character only in consequence of political exigencies, upon which I may be permitted to say further comment is unnecessary, and would certainly be unpleasant.
I have etc.,
Mr. Phelps to Mr. Bayard.
London , December 29, 1888.
Mr. Phelps informs Mr. Bayard of the reception of a reply from Lord Salisbury in the Sackville case.