Mr. Bayard to Mr. Belmont.

No. 6.]

Sir: I transmit herewith a copy of a letter from the secretary of the American board of commissioners for foreign missions, relative to the apparent withholding of the instruments of conveyance, under which the American citizen and missionary, Mr. Doane, holds certain lands at Ponape, by the Spanish governor there.

You are instructed on behalf of the American board for whose use Mr. Doane holds these lands, to make immediate and earnest representations at the foreign office, against the action of the local authorities in retaining these important muniments of title, to the end that they may be restored. In making these representations it would be well to consult the previous correspondence relating to the Caroline Islands, including that published in Foreign Relations for 1886.

I am, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.
[Inclosure in No. 6.]

Mr. Smith to Mr. Bayard.

Dear Sir: A letter just received from Mr. Doane, our missionary in Micronesia, conveys information not before so explicitly stated which I hasten to communicate to you. It appears from this letter that Mr. Doane several months ago was called [Page 423] upon by the Spanish governor residing at Ponape to bring to him the deeds which he held of mission lands in different parts of the island. These deeds were very simple documents, stating that the native chief, to whom the land in question in each case belonged, for the sake of the gospel and for his love to the missionaries who were laboring for the welfare of his people, gave to the missionary for religious purposes, the land occupied by the church, the schoolhouse, or the missionary residences as the case might be; that this land was to be held by this missionary in the name of the American board. These deeds bear the chief’s signature, either made by himself, or when he was not able to write, with his mark added by his own hand and his name written by the missionary. Of course these documents were by no means such papers as are in use in more civilized countries for such purposes, but they were as complete and satisfactory as it was possible to secure under the circumstances. Certainly they had all validity that any transfer of the lands in these islands by the native chiefs could have. The Spanish authorities now in the islands can not secure a better title to such lands as they may desire to possess. These deeds, as I have intimated above, the Spanish governor has asked Mr. Doane to submit to him for inspection, and has promised that they should be sent to Manila in the Philippine Islands where the governor-general, who is the superior of the governor at Ponape, would examine them and give them his approval and return them. Several months have passed by and communication with Manila has been had on two or three different occasions and still the deeds remain in the hands of the governor at Ponape. Mr. Doane apprehends that he has not yet forwarded them to Manila and naturally he feels no small anxiety about the matter. He has reason to apprehend that it may be the policy of the governor to retain these deeds permanently and to ignore any rights of property which they were intended to convey. As there is abundant territory on the island not in use for our missionary purposes to meet all the possible necessities of the Spanish Government and which the native chiefs would readily give to the Spanish Government for any uses that they might desire, there would seem to be no motive for the retention of these deeds by the governor but either to annoy Mr. Doane and our other missionaries, or to invalidate their claim to the missionary premises now used and so weaken their hold upon the island and its people. The matter is in such form that it seems but suitable that our Government should be informed of the situation and the offices of our Government be invoked to secure a proper respect by the Spanish authorities to all the rightful possessions of American citizens in Ponape and the other Caroline Islands.

If I mistake not representations were made by our Government when the opposing claims of Germany and of Spain to the Caroline Islands were in dispute to the effect that all the rights of American citizens in those islands must be respected by either party to which the possession of the islands should be adjudged. It would seem, therefore, only needful that our Government should afresh make such representations to the Spanish authorities as will recall this representation and secure a definite and satisfactory pledge that the property rights of the American missionaries on Ponape and other Caroline Islands shall be scrupulously recognized by the Spanish authorities, and that due compensation shall be made for any infringement upon these rights which may thus far have been made. The presence of an American gunboat in the harbor at Ponape was a very impressive lesson to the Spanish authorities there, and it will make all the more effective such forcible and reasonable representations as our Government may now properly make.

Assured of your interest in the matter and of your readiness to further American interests in these islands in every way properly within your power, and asking early attention to this matter in view of the length of time which it may require for action at Madrid to reach Ponape,

I am, etc.,

Judson Smith.