Mr. Wetter to Mr. Uhl.

No. 82.]

Sir: I have the honor to state that the Waller affair culminated in his trial by a military court and a sentence of twenty years’ imprisonment. Furthermore, his stepson, Paul Bray, has been expelled from Madagascar, and leaves per steamer Djeunah to-day for Zanzibar.

I have been busy trying to get such papers as I have received from the French authorities translated and ready for transmission by this mail, but finding I will not be able to do so and that they are very incomplete, I will merely send you herein the information of the position I have assumed and my reasons therefor, and will send all documents and copies of letters, etc., by next mail.

As soon as I heard that Waller had been arrested, I immediately wrote as stated in my No. 81 of March 11. This letter was taken to the residency by Paul Bray, Waller’s stepson, and delivered. Immediately he was handed a letter from Commandant Campion, deputy in Mr. Kiésel’s absence, by the commandant himself for me. This was the formal notice of Waller’s arrest. Bray had scarcely delivered same here when Lieutenant-Colonel Colonna’s messenger arrived with a letter written per [Page 316] orders of Mr. Campion re Waller’s arrest, and somewhat more specifically stating the reasons therefor. As these letters were not written in reply to my No. 212, and as I was unable after diligent search in the few international authorities here to find a precedent for action here, I sent for Bray, and told him he had better secure counsel to defend his father. This he did, representing to Mr. Girandeau that I had requested Girandeau to act, and leaving him under the impression I would pay the cost, and this without my authorization.

The question involved in Waller’s arrest seemed to me to be one of jurisdiction, if the French military authorities were possessed of the right to arrest and try him, under paragraphs 349 and 432, I did not feel warranted in interfering unless the man was ill-treated or denied justice.

The authorities had notified me, in the letters before mentioned, that he was to be tried for a violation of Article III1 of the printed order contained in my dispatch, No. 79, of February 7, as inclosure No. 1. The punishment for this offense was, I was informed by Mr. Girandeau, a fine of 5 to 15 francs; hence was so petty a matter as to preclude the assumption that there would be any injustice.

On the other hand, if the military occupation of Tamatave, without war having been formally declared, could not change (without the consent of the treaty powers, who had extraterritorial rights here and consuls commissioned to duly protect and secure them) any preexisting jurisdictional rights or tribunals the French authorities would have no jurisdiction over Mr. Waller. To raise that issue here now would mean so much to the French and would cause such bitter animosity toward every American, that I felt it would be unwise to assume the position unless fully warranted therein by the law of nations. I regret that among the few works of reference at my disposal here, or procurable, on international law, I was utterly unable, after a search covering many days, to discover any cases quoted in point.

It seems to me that the French can only obtain such rights to military occupation here as appertained to the Malagasy, and if the jurisdiction was limited so must be that of the French until by formal treaty this place had been ceded to them and its sovereignty passed over, our extraterritorial rights continued in force, and an American could only be tried by a mixed court, the United States consul presiding, at the most.

I regret to say that Girandeau, after examining the case and making copies of the entire record (for which, by the way, I have paid $15 out of my pocket, only to have the military authorities demand these same copies from him), refused to go on with Waller’s defense unless he were paid a fee of $150. Waller’s friends refusing to contribute anything, the other Americans here assuming the same position, and I being officially prohibited by paragraphs 349 and 432, before quoted, this heavy charge would have to fall on me if I paid; hence I refused to pay it, with the result that Girandeau withdrew from the case. The military authorities secured all the copies I had made and later appointed a French lawyer to defend Waller, with the result above given.

Waller leaves to-day for Marseilles, en route for a French military prison (I suppose Corsica).

I am, etc.,

Edw. Telfair Wetter
  1. For Article III, see inclosure 10 to dispatch No. 88, page 78.