Mr. Blaine to Mr. Stevens.

No. 38.]

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 44, of the 25th ultimo relative to the subject of Chinese sailors enlisted on American merchantmen. You state that the customs authorities of Hawaii have exacted of the captains of American vessels a fee or fine of $25 for each Chinese coming there as a seaman in the service of the ship, claiming that it was for watching him while there; but that on your request the authorities have decided to refund the money so exacted, and to discontinue the imposition of such a fee in the future. You suggest a fear, however, that in case the captain of an American vessel should desire to discharge a Chinese sailor in Hawaii the authorities may require the captain to give a bond that the discharged sailor [Page 344] shall only work on rice or sugar plantations, or that the vessel will return him to the country whence he came; and you ask my instructions in the premises.

In the late case of Tu re Ross (140 U. S., 472) decided by the Supreme Court May 25, 1891, Mr. Justice Field, having under consideration the status of an alien enlisted on an American ship, said:

By such, enlistment he becomes an American seaman—one of an American crew on board of an American vessel—and as such entitled to the protection and benefit of all the laws passed by Congress on behalf of American seamen and subject to all their obligations and liabilities * * * He could then insist upon treatment as an American seaman and invoke for his protection all the power of the United States which could be called into exercise for the protection of seamen who were native born. He owes for that time to the country to which the ship on which he is serving belongs, a temporary allegiance.

So long as a Chinese remains an American seaman he is entitled to the same protecting care of the authorities of the United States as other American sailors. Our law recognizes the changed status of a Chinese while a sailor, and it has been held that a Chinese seaman coming into the ports of this country is not inhibited by the Chinese exclusion, acts from temporarily landing on shore without any attempt to remain. (Tu re Moncan, 14 Fed. Rep., 44; Tu re Ah Kee, 22 Fed. Sep., 519.) But if such a person should not depart with his vessel or with some other vessel in the ordinary pursuit of his vocation upon the high seas, his presence in the country would become unlawful. And so, without respect to his status, so long as he remains a sailor a vessel could not be permitted to discharge a Chinese in one of our ports and leave him in this country in violation of our laws prohibiting the importation of Chinese laborers.

On the 25th of November last the British minister complained to this Government that the authorities of the port of Baltimore had warned the captain of the British ship Oxford, lately arrived at that port manned by a Chinese crew, that any member of the crew who landed would under existing law be liable to arrest. The matter was called to the attention of the Treasury Department, which, on the 2d day of December, replied that it would “instruct the collector of the port that as the Chinamen are seamen their temporary landing for the purposes of the vessel, without any attempt to remain in the United States, may be permitted, but that care is to be taken that they depart from the United States in the ship.”

The present law of this country excludes Chinese laborers, and its execution requires reasonable regulations. We can not deny the same right to any other government. The proper distinction is whether such regulations are a reasonable incident of such laws. The imposition of a fine or fee under the circumstances and for the purposes indicated in your dispatch does not seem to have been such a regulation, and I therefore learn with pleasure that it is proposed to discontinue it. This Government, however, can not object to a regulation prohibiting or regulating the discharge of Chinese sailors in Hawaii which is general in its application and is warranted by the laws of that kingdom.

I am, etc.,

James G. Blaine.