Sir Julian Pauncefote to Mr. Olney.
Washington, January 16, 1896.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 27th ultimo enclosing a copy of a letter from the attorney-general [Page 691] of Louisiana in relation to the case of James Bain, purser of the British steamship Engineer.
I regret to find that the appeal which I ventured to make in this very distressing case does not appear to have been considered by the governor of the State of Louisiana, and that the attorney-general in his letter ignores altogether the facts on which that appeal is based.
I beg leave to draw your attention again to the main features of the case and to express the hope that you will press upon the authorities of Louisiana the very strong claims which Mr. Bain has upon their sympathy and liberality.
There can be no doubt that for some months prior to the event in question, foreign ships and property were exposed to great danger owing to the lawless proceedings of certain societies which attempted forcibly to prevent the employment of colored laborers in the lading and unlading of ships. Also that notwithstanding the appeals of foreign consuls adequate protection was not afforded to the foreign shipping.
The rioters were allowed by the police to assemble in a building, where they notoriously kept a “perfect arsenal,” as it has been described, of revolvers, rifles, and other weapons.
On the 12th of March, 1895, while the lading of the steamship Engineer was proceeding and the purser, James Bain, was stepping onto the wharf among the cotton bales, in the execution of his duty, he was shot in the head and arm by a body of men armed with rifles, shotguns, and revolvers, who, without provocation or warning, attacked him and the laborers engaged in loading the ship. Shots were fired across the ship, wounding a colored laborer in the chest, and the marks of the shot were to be seen on the bulwarks. The few policemen on the spot concealed themselves for safety behind the cotton bales.
The personal injuries sustained by Mr. Bain are stated in the second inclosure to this note.
A similar attack was made on the British steamship Merrimac, but fortunately the officers and crew were unhurt, though the armed mob fired at the laborers on her deck.
Mr. Bain, as soon as he was able to leave the hospital, was removed to England, and it can hardly be expected that he should have remained at New Orleans when his ship sailed to prosecute the offenders, whom, moreover, it was impossible to identify.
Article I, of the treaty of commerce and navigation between Great Britain and the United States of 1815, provides that “the merchants and traders of each nation, respectively, shall enjoy the most complete protection and security for their commerce.”
It can not be said that on the occasion in question the British steamer had any protection whatever from the armed mob which it was the duty of the local authorities to restrain.
I can hardly doubt that upon a further consideration of the case of the purser of the Engineer steps will be taken to obtain for Mr. Bain the relief to which he is so justly entitled.
I have the honor to inclose in support of the statements contained in this note extracts from documents in my possession relating to the case, and I venture again to press the claims of Mr. Bain most strongly on the favorable consideration of your Government.
I have, etc.,