Baron von Thielmann to Mr. Olney.
Washington, September 19, 1895.
Mr. Secretary of State: As your excellency must have learned from the reports of the United States representative at Apia, an oral agreement was made by the consuls of the three treaty powers, in September, 1894, with the senior officers of the vessels of war then present in Samoa, according to which, in order to prevent the smuggling of arms, all merchant vessels found in Samoan waters, without regard to the flag, were to be subjected to search. In June of this year the execution of this agreement formed the subject of consultations between the consular representatives of the three treaty powers, present at that time in Apia, and the binding force of the agreement was recognized by the present consuls as still continuing, so far as regards the vessels of their respective nations. The reservation was, however, made at the same time that this agreement should be submitted to the Governments of the treaty powers for subsequent approval.
In the opinion of the Imperial Government, in view of the danger arising to the whites in Samoa from the smuggling of arms, and the Samoan Government’s lack of effectual means of preventing this illegal trade, there can be no doubt of the advantage of a search of the merchant vessels for arms and ammunition by the war vessels.
As there are, however, hardly ever war vessels from all the three treaty powers in Samoa at the same time, it is, in the opinion of the Imperial Government, extremely desirable, and in fact admits of no, doubt, that the war vessels of one power should have the right to subject the vessels sailing under another flag to a search.
This is the more advisable because war vessels are stationed in Samoa, not only in the interest of a power, but for the protection of the citizens of all the treaty powers, and because, in case of necessity, the protection of the war vessels then present would be afforded to all the whites without regard to their nationality.
The abuse of this permission granted to commanders will be prevented beforehand by a stipulation that, where circumstances permit, the consul of the country whose flag the vessel to be searched carries shall be notified of the proposed proceeding.
Searches of boats and vessels under foreign flags have actually taken place repeatedly already, and the British war vessel Curacoa, especially, has repeatedly stopped German schooners.
As the British Government, on its part, has signified its consent to the execution of the agreements concluded in Samoa between the commanders of vessels and the consuls respecting the searching of merchant vessels, I have the honor, by direction of the Imperial Government, to request, most respectfully, the adhesion of the United States Government to this measure and await, most respectfully, a kind declaration from your excellency as to the attitude of the United States on this subject, in order that I may communicate it to my Government.
I avail myself, etc.,