Mr. Gresham to Mr. Willis.
Washington, February 25, 1895.
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 86 of the 8th instant, in relation to affairs in Hawaii, and particularly in relation to the forcible deportation on the 2d instant of three men, one of whom, Mr. J. Cranstoun, claims to be a citizen of the United States.
I inclose herewith copies of certain depositions made by Mr. Cranstoun on the 11th and 12th instant, before Mr. Peterson, the commercial agent of the United States at Vaucouver. These depositions leave the question of Mr. Cranstoun’s nationality in doubt, and Mr. Peterson has been instructed to obtain further statements from him on that subject.
Under these circumstances the Department does not now instruct you to make any representations to the Hawaiian Government in regard to Mr. Cranstoun, but it is proper to express to you, for your own guidance in similar cases, should they arise, the views here entertained in regard to the course of action taken in that case.[Page 843]
It appears that after having been kept in jail for nearly a month, without any charges having been made against him, he was taken under a heavy guard to a steamer, and would, in spite of his request to see you, have been deported without having had an opportunity then to do so had it not been for the accidental, but timely, interposition of the British commissioner.
You state that when you asked the attorney-general for an explanation of the proceeding, he replied that the cabinet had determined to deport the men “in the exercise of the arbitrary power conferred by martial law.” As this was the only explanation he gave, it is assumed that it was all he had to offer, and he gave it without suggestion of any question as to Mr. Cranstoun’s nationality.
If the position thus assumed be sound, the very proclamation of martial law in Hawaii renders all foreigners there residing, including Americans, liable to arrest and deportation without cause and without any reason other than the fact that the executive power wills it. They may be taken from their homes and their business; they may be deprived of their liberty and banished; they may be denied the ordinary as well as the special treaty rights of residence without offense or misconduct on their part, simply in the exercise of “arbitrary power.”
To state such a proposition is, in the opinion of the President, to refute it. “Truly viewed,” says an eminent author, “martial law can only change the administration of the laws, give them a rapid force and make their penalties certain and effectual—not abrogate what was the justice of the community before. The civil courts are in part or fully suspended; but, in reason, the new summary tribunals should govern themselves in their proceedings, as far as circumstances admit, by established principles of justice, the same which had before been recognized in the courts.” (Bishop’s Criminal Law, sec. 45.)
In view of what has been stated, your course in protesting against the position assumed by the attorney-general of Hawaii is approved.
I am, etc.,