Mr. Stevens to Mr. Blaine.

No. 44]

Sir: The customs authorities here have been in the practice of exacting from American merchant captains a fee or fine of $25 for each Chinaman coming here as a seaman in the service of the ship, claiming that this was for watching him while he was here. This being [Page 343] recently reported to me by the consul, I have demanded the refunding of the money and a final abandonment of like procedure in the future. I have maintained that the established course of the United States allows no distinction of nationalities of men in service under the American flag; that so long as they are in duly enlisted service on American vessels the presumption must be maintained that they are so far American citizens. To this, on advice of the Hawaiian attorney-general, the customs officials have yielded.

But suppose the attorney-general should decide, as I have good reasons to believe he will, to advise the customs officials to demand that the United States consul must require the American vessel to give a bond of $50 or $100, on discharge of a Chinese sailor arriving here on said vessel from an American or foreign port, to the effect that said Chinaman shall work only on rice or sugar plantations in this country after discharge from the vessel, or return him to whence he was taken. Against giving any such bond my advice is emphatic. Under the Hawaiian civil code, adopted years since, the consul can discharge American sailors here any time within sixty days after arrival here. But recently restrictive laws have been passed by the legislature regarding the admission of Chinese. So long as the Chinaman is in legal service on board the American vessel I have no doubt he must be considered as an American sailor, as I have maintained during my service here and in other countries. I have always made it a rule to insist on the rights of the American vessel and flag to the full limit permitted by maritime legal authorities and the facts, and to demand nothing beyond, though always giving my own country the benefit of doubt. As to the right of the consul to discharge the Chinese-American sailor here I am not free from strong doubt, especially in view of the restrictive policy of the United States in respect of Chinese. Can I demand of the Hawaiian officials what the United States officials at San Francisco or Tacoma can not in like cases permit? If the United States vessel brings the Chinaman here as an American sailor, must not the American vessel take him away as an American sailor? Will the Department of State give its decision on this point?

I am, etc.,

John L. Stevens.