Mr. Bayard to Mr. Gresham.

No. 250.]

Sir: I had the honor to receive, on the 15th instant, your instruction No. 437, dated July 5, in relation to the status of citizens of the United States residing in the South African Republic, and inquiring as to the action of Her Majesty’s Government in relation to British subjects resident in that region.

In pursuance of an appointment, I called on Lord Kimberley at the foreign office yesterday, and found the subject had already seriously engaged his attention.

The question of the exemption of British subjects, resident in other countries, from compulsory military service, had been submitted to the [Page 254] law officers of the Crown, whose reply was to the effect that, by the general rule of law, such exemption was not held to exist, and that it was not claimed as a legal right by Great Britain, but that, by conventional agreement, based upon mutuality between governments, such an exemption could be established.

And Lord Kimberley also said that by existing treaties between the South African Republic and Portugal, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, severally, it is mutually stipulated that resident citizens of either and both of the respecting contracting governments shall be exempted from compulsory military service.

The Government of the Transvaal had, under its commandeer-law, sought to compel British subjects within its jurisdiction to enlist in its military service against the Kaffre tribes, and this had led to much discontent, the individual resistance of the impressed citizens, and in many cases to their imprisonment for refusing to perform such military duties.

The presence in the Transvaal of Sir Henry Loch, governor of Cape Colony, was, however, conducive to a discreet and amicable arrangement, and the framing of a convention (now pending) containing a “most favored nation” clause is expected to secure to British subjects the same exemption from compulsory military duty as is enjoyed by the citizens of those governments above enumerated who have treaties with the South African Republic of a mutual nature on the subject.

I have, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.