Mr. Olney to Mr. Patenôtre.
Washington, May 2, 1896.
Excellency: Referring to my conversation with you on Thursday last in relation to the proposed exercise of French jurisdiction in Madagascar for that now enforced with respect to American citizens by the United States consular representatives under the treaties between Madagascar and the United States heretofore concluded, I have the honor to inform you that positive instructions in this regard have not as yet been sent to the United States consul at Tamatave, in view of the somewhat indefinite character of the response of your Government to the inquiries recently made by the ambassador of the United States.
A note from Mr. Bourgeois to Mr. Eustis, under date of April 16 last, is identical in terms with that addressed by you to me under date of April 18, in stating that “in the opinion of the French Government the maintenance of the treaty concluded May 13, 1881, between the United States and Queen Ranavalo is not compatible with the new state of things created by the taking possession of Madagascar, but that the Government of the Republic is quite willing to extend to the great African island all the conventions whereby the Government and people of the United States are benefited in France and in the French possessions.”
The information so conveyed as to the opinion entertained by the Government of the French Republic touching the incompatibility of the treaties between the United States and Madagascar with the new state of things resulting from the French occupancy of Madagascar does not positively apprise this Government that Madagascar has become French territory, governed or governable by French laws alone, and the expressed willingness of the French Government to extend the effects of existing treaties between France and the United States to that island, for the benefit of this Government and its citizens, appears rather as a discretionary act of comity than as a necessary result of the conquest of that territory and its absorption into the domain of France. In your conversation with me I understood you to distinctly assert that the conquest of Madagascar by French arms was complete, with consequent extinction of the Madagascar sovereignty and substitution of that of France. A categorical statement on the part of your Government that this is the case and that the treaties between the United [Page 127] States and France are applicable to that island as French territory would enable me to definitively and positively instruct the United States consul at Tamatave to discontinue the operations of the American consular courts in that island whenever competent French jurisdiction shall be established to take its place. I understand from your note, as well as from your statements made to me Thursday, that the establishment of French courts and judicial administration in Madagascar, while having been initiated and now in progress, is not yet complete, and that the relinquishment of the jurisdiction of the American consular courts was invited and expected by your Government pari passu with the effective substitution of French courts and jurisdiction.
In the meantime, and until I shall receive a categorical statement in lieu of the apparently ambiguous and provisional declaration contained in your note of April 18, 1896, and in the note addressed by Mr. Bourgeois to Mr. Eustis, I shall, in order to avoid possible opportunity of misunderstanding and consequent friction, instruct the United States consul at Tamatave by telegraph to suspend, until further instructed, the exercise of consular judicial functions in all cases where the operation of an established French court is ascertained to be available for the disposition of judicial cases affecting American citizens or interests.