Mr. Bayard to Mr. Lewis.
Washington, January 29, 1889.
Sir: I inclose a copy of a letter from Messrs. A. Mudgett & Co., of 39 South street, New York, and of its inclosures, by which it appears that on the 9th May, 1888, the American bark Carrie Heckle (Capt. M. E Colcord, master) parted her chain at Tort Natal, and, losing one anchor, was forced by stress of weather to “bear away to Delagoa Bay,” where she arrived on the 17th of May, with all her papers except a bill of health from the Portuguese consul at Port Natal; and it further appears that, notwithstanding the captain procured such a bill by telegraph, under the direction of the authorities at Dalegoa Bay, he was fined in the sum of about £15 sterling, and paid the amount under protest.
The above facts are admitted in the record of the imposition of the fine; and the statement is made that vis major and distress could not exempt from the fine, since no provision for such contingency was contained in the regulations.
Notwithstanding the absence of such a provision from the regulations, it is a principle universally accepted and founded in the strictest justice, that a vessel can not be held liable for a penal violation of port laws by being driven into port by stress of weather, a rule so clear and necessary that argument can not add any force to it.
It is hoped the Portuguese Government will remit the fine.
I am, etc.,