Mr. Eustis to Mr. Gresham .

No. 286.]

Sir: I had yesterday an interview with Mr. Hanotaux with reference to the cattle question.

I commenced by saying that if he would recall the terms of President Cleveland’s protest, he would remember that it was exceptionally vigorous and almost impeached the good faith of the French Government.

He said that he did not understand it in that sense, but that he did consider that the protest was a little “fiery.” Our conversation was in French.

I replied that Mr. Cleveland always carefully weighed his words, and that when he characterized the action of the French Government as unfriendly, needless, and surprising, it is impossible to misinterpret such language. I stated that I had recalled to his mind that protest, in order that he should be fully impressed with the importance of the question under discussion; that it was unfortunate for us that this was a controversy determinable exclusively by the facts in the case; that if the [Page 410] French Government could establish that any American cattle contaminated by contagious disease had been imported into France, then I had not one word to say, as neither my Government, nor American cattle raisers, nor dealers in cattle in their own interest desired that any diseased American cattle should be exported to any foreign country.

But, on the other hand, if we could disprove or refute any allegation on the part of the French Government that any American cattle affected by a contagious disease had been imported into France, then our protest was perfectly justified, and we had a right to denounce this proceeding as most unfriendly, because so needlessly inimical to our interests.

That I must frankly tell him that that ministerial decree of prohibition had produced a most unfavorable impression upon my Government and throughout the United States, because it was believed that it was founded upon no fact or sensible reason; that in his reply to our protest three cases had been cited. I analyzed these cases. Two of them were not cases of contagious disease, therefore utterly useless to support the theory of the French Government. The case of pleuro-pneumonia claimed to have been discovered at the slaughterhouse of Villejuif was the only case in point.

Unless the veterinary is very expert, he might confound pneumonia, which is not contagious, with pleuro-pneumonia as easily as yellow fever has been confounded with malarial fever.

That the average passage of a cattle steamer to Havre is sixteen days; that if it had been an imported case of pleuro-pneumonia it would certainly have declared itself on shipboard, and would have contaminated both the cattle cargo and the herd on shore.

That, in view of the extraordinary precautions taken by our Government, as shown by the fact that in 1894 one American firm landed twenty-four shiploads of cattle without a case of disease, also in view of the vigorous and vigilant inspection by the French official, and that no other animal was contaminated, it could be safely asserted that it was a physical impossibility that the case at Villejuif was one of pleuro-pneumonia; that that disease had been entirely extirpated in the United States by a vast expenditure of money by our Government.

He then stated that when he sent to us his reply it was based upon facts furnished by the minister of agriculture, and he had considered it conclusive, but he admitted that his convictions were somewhat shaken, and that inasmuch as he was not competent to pass upon these controverted facts, he asked me to submit them in writing for the consideration of the minister of agriculture. He then expressed a desire to discuss the question generally. He took the ground that our Government ought not to be so sensitive with regard to the action of the French Government, inasmuch as she had only followed the example of such Governments as Belgium and Germany. I replied that this was merely a question of internal police, and that the Government of France could not admit that its action was influenced or controlled by the action of any other Government; that such a doctrine was inadmissible, because France could not know what motives influenced the action of other Governments; that they might be honest or dishonest, purposely unfriendly, or such as France would not like to acknowledge were capable of influencing her action toward a power for which she professed sincere friendship. He seemed to acquiesce in this view.

The only other argument he advanced was based upon the doctrine of quarantine. He asked, “Suppose that cholera existed in Italy,” whether I thought France was obliged to wait until she was invaded [Page 411] by that pestilential disease before taking any sanitary measures of precaution by quarantine? I replied, “Clearly not,” and for a very simple reason, which would illustrate the force of the views I had endeavored to present. Quarantine was based upon ascertained facts; the existence of the disease, its importability, and its contagiousness were established by facts, and constituted a justification for the quarantine; and that was precisely our contention in this case. I said in further reply, “Suppose I were to notify you that my Government had issued an order prohibiting any French citizen from landing in the United States because cholera existed several years ago in France, would not the French Government consider that a most unfriendly proceeding, a violation of treaty rights, a just ground not only for complaint but for retaliation, because it would be an arbitrary interdict of intercourse between two civilized nations; and yet in the absence of any substantial facts or valid reasons, and as a matter of international right, I could not distinguish between the supposed case and the actual case as presented by the action of the French Government with reference to American cattle.”

The cablegram received from the Department enabled me to correct erroneous impressions as to the interstate regulations affecting cattle in the United States. I have related at length the interchange of views which occurred between Mr. Hanotaux and myself, in order to enable my Government to appreciate what I considered, after having heard the French side of the case, the utter want of justification for the ministerial decree prohibiting the importation of American cattle. I can not but believe that Mr. Hanotaux, who is a very intelligent and fair-minded man, regrets that there is any cause of complaint on our part, but at the same time my sense of duty compels me to express the conviction that upon this question the present ministry is dominated by influences which reflect interests that are adverse to those of the American people.

I have, etc.,

J. B. Eustis