Mr. Bayard to Mr. Gresham.

No. 380.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge your telegraphic instruction of the 25th instant in relation to the finality of the exercise of the Executive power by proclamation over the time for bringing into force the provisions of laws of the United States to prevent collisions at sea.

On Wednesday, the 30th instant, I called at the foreign office and communicated to Lord Kimberley the substance of your telegram, that the President, acting under the terms of the statute, had proclaimed a day certain (March 1, next) for its prospective operation, and had thereby exhausted his authority over the subject.

His Lordship told me he had received information to the same effect from Sir Julian Pauncefote.

I remarked that, in adopting the regulations recommended by the International Maritime Conference at Washington, the influence of the distinguished British members had been largely controlling, and it was very much to be regretted that, after the lapse of so long a time (from [Page 275]1890 to 1895), with no indication of a change of opinion on the part of Her Majesty’s Government, that now, suddenly, upon the eve of putting the regulations, so deliberately considered and agreed upon, into legal operation, the dissent or hesitation of Great Britain should, for the first time, be suggested.

His Lordship regretted, but said he supposed Congress could authorize “a temporary suspension of the proposed regulations for six months,” intimating, but not explicitly stating, that by that time Her Majesty’s Government would be prepared to act coordiuately with the United States to carry out the regulations.

During my visit at the foreign office the naval attaché of the French embassy called at this embassy and said he was instructed by his Government to inquire as to the action taken, or proposed to be taken, by the United States in reference “to the new Rules of the Road at Sea.” He stated that his Government had no objection to the new rules, as proclaimed by the President of the United States, and would have made them operative on their own vessels were it not for their proximity to England, and her position as a great maritime power, which compelled them to follow her lead in such matters.

This seems natural enough, and in communicating the foregoing to you I very respectfully suggest whether, under existing circumstances, and in view of the eminently practical and gravely important nature of the proposed regulations, it would not be advisable for the present Congress, by an amendatory joint resolution, to authorize the President to revoke temporarily, and in his discretion to renew, his proclamation, bringing the regulations into force, so as to secure cooperation upon the part of Great Britain, and consequently of other maritime powers.

The great object and purpose of the conference can only be attained by the concurrent international adoption of a single code of regulations to become the law for all, and the common guide for the safety of each and all.

The shocking and disastrous collision causing the loss of the steamship Elbe in the North Sea yesterday, and the death of so many human beings, impressively suggests the imperative necessity of a distinct and mutual understanding between approaching vessels, and their joint and unquestionable submission to laws regulating the respective conduct of each and both of them.

I have, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.