Lord Gough to Mr. Rockhill.
Newport, R. I. , September 21, 1896 .
Sir: In my note of the 7th ultimo I had the honor to inform you that a detailed reply would be sent in due course to the suggestions made [Page 278] in Mr. Olney’s note, No. 454, of July 2, on the subject of arrangements supplementary to those already adopted in regard to the firearms of vessels entering Bering Sea during the present season.
The measures described in Sir J. Pauncefote’s note of June 19 were adopted to insure that firearms should not be carried by those vessels, and were also designed to protect the sealing vessels from interference in the course of their voyages and sealing operations.
Arrangements were made for the issue of certificates to all vessels clearing from Canadian ports direct for Bering Sea and for the collection of the firearms from vessels which had previously been engaged in the fishery off the coast of Japan; and it was hoped that these arrangements would satisfy the United States Government that no firearms could be used, especially in the case of the Vessels which were provided with certificates.
In Mr. Olney’s note to Sir J. Pauncefote, No. 434, of July 2, supplementary arrangements were suggested by the United States Government to the effect that vessels proceeding direct to Bering Sea should present their certificates to some United States authority at Unalaska; that the vessels should be searched, and that the certificates, after being indorsed, might be accepted by the officers of the patrolling fleet as evidence that no firearms were concealed on board; and further, that a representative of the United States Government should be allowed to inspect all seal skins taken in Bering Sea and landed at British Columbian ports, in order to discover whether or not the seals had been shot.
As I had the honor to inform you in my note of the 7th ultimo, Her Majesty’s Government regret that they can not enter into the supplementary arrangements suggested by Mr. Hamlin (contained in Mr. Olney’s above-mentioned note). Besides the objections which might be raised to the nature of the proposals, Her Majesty’s Government have had some misgiving whether the sealing vessels would be guaranteed from interference after the observance of the preliminary formalities and previous experience, notably in the case of the agreement for sealing up arms in 1894, has shown that such expedients have not had the desired effect.
Her Majesty’s Government would, however, be disposed to agree to the provisions for a search by duly authorized patrolling officers at Unalaska and for the indorsement of the certificates, if it were understood that the indorsed certificates should be regarded as an absolute proof that no firearms were carried.
Acting under instructions from the Marquis of Salisbury, I have the honor to propose to the United States Government, with reference to the certificates, that the words “shall be accepted “should be substituted for the words “may be accepted,” and to state that, with this alteration, Her Majesty’s Government would be prepared to accept the first portion of the supplementary arrangements suggested by Mr. Hamlin.
The examination of the seal skins by United States officers in British ports would involve a fresh departure from ordinary international usages, and, as such, would require very serious consideration. There are, moreover, reasons for doubting the expediency of relying on this investigation for the purpose of ascertaining whether firearms have been used, owing to the well-known difficulty of arriving at any conclusive results.
I am, therefore, instructed to state that Her Majesty’s Government do not, in the present circumstances, feel able to adopt the latter part of Mr. Hamlin’s suggestions, but I am confident that the additional precautions to which Her Majesty’s Government are now prepared to [Page 279] give their assent, and which I have described above, will be found fully sufficient to meet the requirements which both Governments have in view, and I venture to express the hope that the United States Secretary of the Treasury may, under the altered circumstances, see fit to instruct Capt. C. L. Hooper, Revenue-Cutter Service, accordingly.
I have, etc.,