Mr. Willis to Mr. Gresham.

No. 88.]

Sir: I inclose herewith a memorandum of an interview with Mr. Hatch, minister of foreign affairs, on the 18th instant, in regard to the case of J. F. Bowler, who has asked the protection of our Government as an American citizen, and who is now serving his sentence in prison.

I also inclose copy of the correspondence on the subject; also copy of the record of proceedings.

It is claimed that Mr. Bowler is not entitled to the protection of our Government because he was naturalized under the Monarchy. He has not taken the oath of allegiance to the Republic. Section 130, Hawaiian Civil Code, sets forth the oath of allegiance as follows:

The undersigned, a native of ——, being duly sworn, upon his oath declares that he will support the constitution and the laws of the Hawaiian Islands, and bear true allegiance to His Majesty ——, the King.

The taking of the above oath naturalizes the alien and admits him to Hawaiian citizenship. (Reports of Supreme Court of the Hawaiian Islands, Vol. V., p. 169.)

Mr. P. C. Jones, whose letter of inquiry as to his present citizenship I inclose in a dispatch of this date, having taken the oath of allegiance [Page 836] to the Monarchy, applied in the year 1882 to our Government for information touching his right to protection. Mr. Frelinghuysen replied:

In the absence of a direct judicial determination of the question, I do not feel disposed to deny to Mr. Jones any right or privilege pertaining to his character of American citizenship, and therefore, while the Department will not undertake to express any authoritative opinion on the effect which his course in Hawaii may ultimately have on his status in that regard, you are authorized to extend to him such protection as may be properly due to a citizen of the United States residing in and having acquired a commercial domicile in a foreign State. This protection must, of course, be limited and qualified by the liabilities and obligations incident to such commercial domicile.

If you should conclude that Mr. Bowler is entitled to protection, there are several questions suggested in the record and in the interview with Mr. Hatch, the most important of which is that of jurisdiction.

The record came half an hour ago and I have thought it proper to send without delay.

With assurances, etc.,

Albert S. Willis.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 88.]

Memorandum of interview with the Hon. F. M. Hatch, minister of foreign affairs, February 18, 1895.

Mrs. Bowler, the wife of John T. Bowler, came to the legation on Sunday night with the information that her husband had been required to don the prison garb, under a sentence of which I knew nothing except from newspaper report of preceding afternoon. I immediately addressed a note to Mr. Hatch, asking him if this sentence had been confirmed, and if so, could I have an interview with him at the earliest opportunity. He fixed 9 o’clock this morning, at which time I met him the at foreign office.

I reminded him of the understanding which had been in existence as to United States citizens who were political prisoners—which was that I should be informed of all the steps taken against them. I said to him that this understanding had been between myself and Mr. Smith, while he (Mr. Smith) was acting as minister of foreign affairs, and also that I had received from him on the 6th instant a similar assurance, and expressed my surprise that I had not been therefore notified of the sentence against Bowler. He said there was some mistake in regard to the matter in the office, and presumed that it arose from the fact that Mr. Bowler was probably a naturalized Hawaiian citizen. I replied that the Government could not have so thought, as it had sent me official notice to attend Bowler’s trial as an American citizen, which I had done.

I called his attention to the question of prison garb, and asked him for a copy of the sentence against Mr Bowler, which ne sent for. Upon perusing it, I called” his attention to the fact that there was nothing in the sentence of the military commission or of the commander in chief referring to the garb in which a prisoner was to be clothed, and asked him under what law or regulation such action had been taken. He replied that it was a prison regulation. I answered that these prison regulations must be either under the law or beyond the law. If beyond the law they could not be enforced, and if under any law of the Republic of Hawaii, that law, I claimed, was suspended by martial law, and that the imposition of the prison garb was an addition to the punishment. He said the commander in chief could issue an order now requiring this garb to be worn. I said that it was not, as I understood the matter, within the power of the commander in chief to increase a sentence which had once been pronounced. He then claimed that the keeper of the prison himself had the right to put this garb upon a prisoner, I replied that if he could put this garb upon him he could put iron balls around his neck or could increase in any way the physical suffering of a prisoner, and I respectfully denied the right of any jailer to increase a sentence of the military commission approved by the commander in chief. I then called his attention to a different view of it—that, even admitting it was within the strict letter of the law, was it the best thing to be done for the future of the country? Would it not leave in the hearts of these men and their children an undying enmity against the Government when they recalled what they would doubtless con elude was an unnecessary stigma? He replied that it was necessary to make [Page 837] treason odious, and thus deter other criminals, and referred to the severe punishment of Kiel in Canada, who had been let off and who renewed his attack upon the Government, and was most severely dealt with therefor.

I then asked him if any prisoners had been released. He said there had been, and mentioned a man named White, who, he said, was very guilty and ought not to have gotten off—that he was a dynamite-bomb thrower. I then said: “Do you mean to say for your Government that White was guilty?” He said: “Yes; and he ought not to have been released.” He said others had been released, they being given the option to leave the country or stand trial. I then made the point that it was not fair to citizens of the United States to subject them to a trial and punishment when an opportunity was given to others of greater guilt—as in the case of Mr. White—to leave the country, and I asked him in this connection if the Government would consent to Mr. Bowler leaving the country on the same conditions as the others. He peremptorily declined this proposition, saying that Mr. Bowler had been tried and found guilty. I then asked him if Bowler’s sentence was not the highest sentence of the law. He said that it was. I then asked him if prisoners who had been guilty of actual treason—captured with arms in their hands—had not received a less punishment than Mr. Bowler. He said that some of them had received punishment of five years’ imprisonment and a fine; but as they had no money and the fine of $5,000 would have meant another year’s imprisonment, the President had remitted the fine. “Then,” I said, “it is evident from your statement that men with arms in their hands have been given less sentence by your Government than this man, who was found guilty of only misprision of treason, and who was not an actual participant.”

In connection with the prison garb question, I also asked him if there was any country in the world where political prisoners were required to don the prison garb of the common felon. He said that he did not know that there was, but he was not willing to admit that Mr. Bowler was a political prisoner. I replied that I was satisfied that my Government would consider Mr. Bowler and all of these persons political prisoners, and that we would, under international law as I construed it, be entitled to present the case in that way, and if discrimination had been made in favor of other nationalities it was the duty of our Government and its privilege to inquire into these things.

I then asked him if Mr. Bowler was not permitted to leave the country whether his Government would consent to suspend that part of his sentence (if it was apart of it) which involved the wearing of the prison garb. I said that in my judgment there might be some questions raised as to the legality of the whole proceeding. He said he would prefer that to be done rather than waive the regulation in regard to the prison dress; that they were a small community out in the Pacific Ocean, and must show firmness and enforce laws; that if they withdrew this regulation it would be construed as weakness; that they could not allow to one nationality that which was denied to another; and that there were so many political questions and nationalities now pressing for attention on his Government that it would be impossible to yield.

I then asked him if I could have for my Government a copy of the record and of the evidence, and I would not in this conversation ask for a suspension of any portion of the sentence except that referring to the prison garb. The principal object that I had in view, I said to him in conclusion, was to have an opportunity to present these matters, which involved serious questions of citizenship and of property; that I did not feel it proper to decide questions of such importance without consultation with the home Government.

The conversation then turned upon the question of citizenship. I said that as at present advised I was not prepared to admit that even if Mr. Bowler, or anyone of the other prisoners, had taken out naturalization papers they had deprived themselves of the right to have the protection of our Government; that many persons now supporting his Government still claimed American citizenship, although they had taken out naturalization papers and held public office here, and that I had a communication before me now upon this subject. I said if his Government desired to discuss these questions it seemed to me that it could be made a part of the record; that I did not myself wish, in view of the conflicting opinions that had been expressed in regard to citizenship here, to say to any man that he was not entitled for that reason to the protection of my Government, but that I would reserve that question for the decision of my Government in these different cases; that I had no desire to intrude officiously upon him in behalf of any who were not our citizens, and that as to our citizens I desired to go only as far as my duty in their behalf required me to go; that he would bear me witness that I had not sought in any way to embarrass his Government in its hour of trial, but that he must admit that these arrests and imprisonments of so many American citizens should be inquired into, and in a friendly way I was there for that purpose.

He then asked that I submit the requests I had made in writing, that he might present them to the cabinet—which I agreed to do.

[Page 838]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 88.]

Mr. Willis to Mr. Hatch.

Sir: Referring to the case of J. F. Bowler, an American citizen, who by the sentence of a military commission confirmed by your President, has been required to pay a fine of $5,000 and to be confined in prison for five years at hard labor, I have the honor to submit to your friendly consideration the following requests:

  • First. That Mr. Bowler be permitted to leave the country upon the terms extended to other prisoners alleged to be guilty of the same or greater offenses.
  • Second. That for the information of my Government a copy of the record and evidence in his case be furnished.
  • Third. That, pending the time necessary to communicate with my Government upon the subject, that portion of the punishment which requires Mr. Bowler to don the prison garb be suspended.

It may not be improper in this connection to suggest that upon a reexamination of the facts and law your Government may come to the conclusion that the proceeding itself, as well as this portion of the punishment, are not sustainable, in which event I feel assured that it will be prompt to take proper action in the premises.

I am, etc.,

Albert S. Willis.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 88.]

Mr. Hatch to Mr. Willis.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 18th instant in respect to the case of Mr. J. F. Bowler, said by you to be an American citizen, in which you make the following requests:

  • First. That Mr. Bowler he permitted to leave the country upon the terms extended to other prisoners alleged to be guilty of the same or greater offenses.
  • Second. That for the information of my Government a copy of the record and evidence in his case he furnished.
  • Third. That, pending the time necessary to communicate with my Government upon the subject, that portion of the punishment which requires Mr. Bowler to don the prison garb be suspended.

The Government has given to this subject the earnest consideration which requests submitted by the diplomatic representative of the United States must always receive.

I have first to point out to you that Mr. J. F. Bowler is a Hawaiian citizen, he having been naturalized as such on March 18, 1885. No irregularity appears in the record of the interior department on this subject.

This Government is therefore compelled to consider him as a Hawaiian citizen only.

I forward for your information a copy of the record in his case. I must point out to you, however, that no inference must be drawn that we at present concede that any question concerning his case can properly be made the subject of discussion between us other than that of his naturalization.

[Page 839]

Prima facie, at least, Bowler is a Hawaiian citizen. If any grounds can be shown for questioning the fact of naturalization or the legal effect of it they will receive due consideration, but as a preliminary matter only.

It is difficult to conceive any just reason upon which your first request can be founded. No person who has been convicted before the commission now in session has been set at liberty and allowed to leave the country. The option has been given to several persons held under arrest whose cases have not been reached by the commission to stand trial or depart. The latter alternative has been accepted by them. To make this course a precedent for the release of a convicted person would speedily bring the administration of justice in these islands into deserved contempt. If it once could be understood by foreigners that the greatest risk run in the commission of crime here would be to be given a free passage to the mainland, the attraction of these islands would at once prove irresistible to the criminal classes. Another reason of weight why such a course can not be followed (except under peculiar circumstances) is the impression of inequality which would be made upon the minds of Hawaiian prisoners of aboriginal blood.

To open the jail doors to them upon such conditions would be exile; to a person of foreign birth it is no punishment at all. In a comumnity such as this, made up of persons of so many nationalities, it is especially necessary that all appearance of favor in the administration of the criminal law should be avoided. The Government therefore feel constrained to deny the request that John P. Bowler be set at liberty and permitted to leave the country.

The third request made by you, which involves a question of prison discipline, must be considered as controlled by the foregoing considerations, and is also denied.

I have, etc.,

Francis M. Hatch.
[Inclosure 4, in No. 88.]

Mr. Willis to Mr. Hatch.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 18th instant, and also your two letters of the 21st instant.

At the request of your Government, I furnished a list of citizens of the United States who, in my judgment, are entitled to its protection. One of these, T. B. Walker, I have since learned is a British subject. I note your statement that J. F. Bowler, Charles Creighton, C. F. Gulick, Charles F. Moltino, and A. P. Petersen are Hawaiian citizens. To this, as now advised, I can not agree, but have considered it my duty, in view of the conflict of opinions and decisions upon the subject, to submit the question of citizenship with other questions to my Government and await its decision.

For this purpose I requested copies of the record of the proceedings. The request for copies of record “before final sentence” was, as I have heretofore orally explained, to avoid the appearance of “reviewing” the deliberate final judgment of your Government. Copies of the record in all cases, including those whose status as United States citizens is in dispute, will, as I understand, after final sentence be supplied by your Government. This considerate course will be duly appreciated by my Government.

[Page 840]

Of the three requests submitted in the case of J. F. Bowler, your Government has granted the one asking for a copy of the record. The other two you discuss at some length, but decline to hear discussion. I shall refer his case to my Government, and will hereafter present its views.

The inquiry in your letter of the 18th instant as to whether “protection” will be extended to citizens of the United States, irrespective of their having taken part in this insurrection, is, I beg leave to suggest, premature. The “protection” now asked for is that such citizens, upon the question of their guilt as indicated, may be accorded such trial and punishment as can be justified under your law, under treaty, and under international law.

With renewed assurances, etc.,

Albert S. Willis.