Mr. Risley to Mr. Gresham.
Copenhagen , November 6, 1894 . (Received November 21.)
Sir: Referring to my No. 52, of June 23, 1894, relating to an application for an order from the Danish Government to its officials in Greenland to receive hospitably an Arctic expedition under command of Dr. Cook, of Brooklyn, you will perceive that the application was not successful for the reason that, as was stated, the last Danish ship for the season had departed before it was received.
It appears now that the expedition, not waiting for an answer to the application, or disregarding the fact that no orders had been issued for their reception in Greenland, took their departure on the steamer Miranda, and that the steamer met with disaster just off the Greenland coast.
I received a letter on the subject from the ministry of foreign affairs, dated October 22, of which I inclose a translation.
You will perceive that the minister substantially characterizes the expedition as a pleasure excursion consisting of about fifty members, that serious consequences were narrowly escaped by them, and politely calls attention to the existence of a royal ordinance of March 18, 1776, which prohibits all persons, whether Danes or foreigners, from landing at any of the ports of Greenland or the adjacent islands, without first obtaining permission of the Danish Government, except in case of disaster.
On receipt of this letter I wrote to his excellency the minister, asking, him to kindly send me a copy of the ordinance to which he referred, to the end that care might be taken to prevent future violations of its provisions. I inclose a copy of my note.
I have now received a copy of the royal ordinance, printed in both Danish and English, which I inclose. I have also had a conversation with Mr. Vedel, director-general of the ministry of foreign affairs, in which he stated in substance that the inhabitants of Greenland (Eskimos) were not sufficiently advanced in civilization to make it safe for them to be brought into contact with people or excursions from other lands; that they had no commerce and no knowledge of commerce; that the ordinance was issued and maintained for the purpose of protecting them generally, and particularly to prevent the introduction of intoxicating liquors.
The colonies of Greenland are not a source of commercial advantage or gain to Denmark. On the contrary, it costs the Danish Government a considerable sum of money each year to support them. A certain number of young Eskimos—boys and girls—are brought here each year and placed in schools specially provided for them, where they are educated as teachers and missionaries, and when qualified are sent back to their own country to do what they can in civilizing their kindred and countrymen. I am convinced that the policy of Denmark toward those remote northern provinces is dictated wholly by motives of humanity.
I also beg to respectfully call attention to the treaty of 1826, Article VI of which expressly excepts Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland from the operation of the convention. This exception was in furtherance of the policy established by the ordinance of 1776.
The Danish Government is exceedingly liberal and zealous in aiding scientific inquiry, and I have no doubt will willingly grant the privilege of landing on the shores of any of its possessions, and aiding in all [Page 204] proper ways any expedition of moderate numbers really intended for scientific research, but I am equally confident it earnestly hopes that no applications will be made to it without due regard to its above mentioned policy, and to the purely scientific character of the expedition.
I have, etc.,