Mr. Olney to Baron von Thielmann.

No. 53.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 30th ultimo, concerning the agreement of Mr. Gresham, in his note of April 24 last, to pay one-third of $2,000 understood to be the gross amount required to complete the land surveys in Samoa, and the action of the consul-general of the United States at Apia in declining to cooperate with his colleagues to that end.

I find, upon examination of the matter, that Mr. Gresham’s note of April 24 last agreed to defray one-third of the expenses to which you allude, amounting to $2,000, and that on May 14, 1895, Mr. Mulligan, our consul-general at Apia, was given copies of the correspondence on [Page 1145] that subject between yourself, the British ambassador, and this Department, showing that fact.

A dispatch just received from Mr. Mulligan, No. 70, of the 9th ultimo, furnished his reasons for withholding payment of this Government’s share toward those expenses, concerning which you complaim.

Mr. Mulligan explains that he did not feel authorized to unite in directing these surveys to be commenced until the cost should first be ascertained, or until it was definitely determined whether the expenses of the survey would actually fall within the stipulated sum of $2,000.

It is no doubt known to your Government that the consular body at Apia united in a note to Mr. Thomas Maben, the surveyor of the late land commission, dated August 17 last, with a view to determine definitely the cost of the work.

Mr. Maben’s reply is dated August 21, 1895, and its purport must equally be known to His Majesty’s Government. It is to the effect that he would undertake to complete the surveys, under certain stated conditions, for $2,300. Mr. Maben adds:

If it could be arranged that the natives’ attorney, Mr. Gurr, could go under the authority of the Samoan Government and remain with the surveyor to arrange all native objections to the boundary lines that were being run on the ground, then I feel convinced that all the claims in Savaii at least can be done for the $2,000. The four claims in Upolu outside of Cornwall’s and Pritchard’s would not cost more than $300.

If I might venture an opinion in the matter. I should say that, owing to the surrounding difficulties, the fairest and most satisfactory way of getting this work done is to do it on the lines formerly adopted by the commission, and especially as it is simply completing the commission’s work. Should, however, you decide otherwise, and insist upon a definite contract, I will undertake to survey the claims in Savaii for the $2,000 and the four claims in Upolu, namely, 959, 960, 895, and 2095, for $300, on the condition that the natives’ attorney or some other white representative of the Samoan Government is with me during the whole of the work armed with authority to prevent all native obstructions to the progress of the survey, and on the further condition that in the event of my not being able, through native obstruction, to complete the survey of the whole of the claims, or any one of them, I shall be paid a fair amount for the work I have done and the expenses incurred.

Should the work have to be performed in the hurricane season, Mr. Maben estimates its cost at $500 or $600 additional.

Again, it is stated in a letter addressed to the consular body by Mr. R. Skeen, late secretary to the Samoan land commission, under date of August 27 last, that in the list of surveys directed to be made by that commission a particular one, that of the Falealili survey, which in the compromise agreement, dated October 27, 1894, between Dr. Stockflith and various native objectors concerning lands lying at the back of Siumu and Falealili, was but partially completed. This last survey or line, Mr. Mulligan thinks, might add somewhat to the cost of Mr. Maben’s estimate, in which it is not included.

The original agreement of Mr. Gresham undoubtedly contemplated the payment by the Government of the United States of one-third of $2,000, which was at the time regarded as ample to defray all expenses connected with the surveys ordered by the commission. Mr. Mulligan’s investigation and information from the best sources attainable convinced him, and I feel certain the foregoing statement will convince you, that the work could not be performed within the limit covered by his instructions. He did not consider himself authorized to go beyond that sum, although he might with perfect propriety have consented to act in accordance with Mr. Gresham’s agreement and have paid the one-third of the expenses thereunder as this Government’s quota. He chose, however, to submit the question with the necessary information to his Government for its further consideration and direction.

[Page 1146]

I regard Mr. Mulligan’s action under the circumstances as both practical and reasonable, and I can not perceive how the brief delay thus occasioned will seriously interfere with the completion of the work—a result, I may assure you, this Government is as deeply interested in seeing accomplished as is that of His Majesty.

I have every disposition to see carried out in letter and in spirit the agreement of my predecessor with reference to the payment due from this Government as its equitable share toward those expenses. Mr. Mulligan’s prudence has not only enabled me to more fully understand the question but to add that this Government accepts Mr. Maben’s estimate of $2,300 for the entire work and will defray its one-third of the expense thereof. My judgment is that the aggregate sum named ought to be sufficient to complete the entire surveys and permit the closing up of the work of the land commission. I trust the two other Governments concerned will adopt a similar view.

I request that you will have the kindness to make known to His Majesty’s Government the conclusions herein and to add that Mr. Mulligan will be instructed to see that the work is promptly begun in order that no unnecessary delay may be entailed in prosecuting the surveys to completion. He will be authorized to draw for and pay over this Government’s share of the expense.

I am in receipt of a note of like purport from the British ambassador, and have given him a similar reply.

Accept, etc.,

Richard Olney.