Mr. Olney to Sir Julian Pauncefote.

No. 410.]

Excellency: Referring to your note of the 16th ultimo, relative to the application of the master of the British steamship Cuban for the remission of a fine of $300 imposed upon him for a violation of the immigration laws of the United States, I have the honor to inclose for your information a copy of a letter of the 3d instant from the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, in which he sets forth the grounds upon which he feels constrained to decline to remit the fine complained of.

You will observe that Mr. Curtis states that the collector of customs at New Orleans has been instructed to refrain from proceedings for the enforcement of an additional fine of $300 incurred in the case.

I have, etc.,

Richard Olney.
[Page 302]
[Inclosure to No. 410.]

Mr. Curtis to Mr. Olney.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated the 22d ultimo, transmitting, for the information and consideration of this Department, a note from the British ambassador at Washington relative to the case of the master of the British steamship Cuban.

The ambassador remarks that as the proceeding in the matter appears to be contrary to the ruling of the United States courts, and to the Treasury instructions, he trusts that orders may be issued for the remission of the fine.

The case has heretofore been considered by this Department, and on the 21st ultimo the collector of customs at New Orleans was advised that the Department would not remit the fine of $300 imposed, but would authorize him to refrain from proceedings for the enforcement of an additional fine of $300 incurred in the case.

The collector reported, under date of the 12th instant, that two persons of the objectionable classes enumerated in the acts of March 3, 1891, and March 3, 1893, paupers and criminals, desiring to emigrate to the United States, attempted to procure employment in the crew of the steamship Cuban, with the presumable purpose of deserting after arrival of the vessel in the United States; that being refused employment in the crew of the said vessel, they concealed themselves on board as stowaways, and being discovered after the vessel was at sea, were permitted to sign the ship’s articles, and were enrolled as members of the crew; and that on their arrival at New Orleans, and the facts becoming known to the Government officers, the men were ordered to be detained on board the vessel and to be deported by the Cuban, but that they escaped and are now at large.

Masters of vessels at New Orleans seem to be of opinion that the placing of a stowaway on the crew list is one of their prerogatives, and that such action will prevent future trouble in connection with the immigration laws. The case has been the same at other ports, at each of which it became necessary to enforce the penalties prescribed by the act.

Apparently the captain has deliberately violated the law of his own Government, with a view also of violating ours, and this Department, therefore, can not see its way to order a further reduction of the penalties imposed by the collector than that above specified.

A copy of the Department’s instructions to the collector is inclosed herewith for your further information.

Respectfully, yours,

W. E. Curtis,
Assistant Secretary.
[Subinclosure in No. 410.]

Mr. Hamlin to the Collector of Customs at New Orleans.

Sir: This Department is in receipt of your report, dated the 12th instant, on an application of James L. Bertie, master of the British steamship Cuban, for relief in the matter of a penalty of $300, stated to have been incurred through a violation of section 10 of the act of March 3, 1891, and of section 5 of the act of March 3, 1893.

The facts are understood to be substantially as follows:

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The steamship Cuban left Liverpool for New Orleans April 15, 1896; on the second day out two stowaways were found aboard the vessel—Patrick Downey and Michael Cavanagh—both of whom had applied before the departure of the Cuban to ship as members of the crew, but had been refused by the chief officer; the master, some time during the voyage, placed the names of these men on the crew list, and permitted them to sign the ship’s articles for the voyage to New Orleans and return to Liverpool. Upon arrival of the vessel at New Orleans, these facts came to the knowledge of the immigrant inspector, and at a meeting of the board it was ordered as follows:

“After hearing the statements of Inspector Montgomery, Customs Inspector W. E. Kirk, Capt. James Bertie, and the defendants themselves, it is the judgment of this board, based on the law and the evidence submitted, that the two above-named defendants are stowaway paupers and persons likely to become public charges. As such it is ordered that they be remanded to the custody of Captain Bertie, of the steamship Cuban, to be deported on that vessel upon her next sailing to the country from whence they came.”

It was contended by Captain Bertie, as well as by the British consul, that the persons named were not immigrants, but duly enrolled members of the crew of the vessel, and for such reason not subject to the provisions of the immigration laws of the United States. But, as from appearance both stowaways were under age; as upon their own admission both had been recently arrested before leaving Liverpool; as both had admitted that, they intended to remain in the United States if possible; and as both had been apprehended in an attempt to leave the vessel, the board felt justified in issuing the order above cited. As shown in the application, the two men have since escaped from the vessel and are now at large.

Your report shows that the applicant does not claim ignorance of the immigration laws; that he understood or had opportunity to ascertain, before enrolling these men as members of his crew, their character, condition, and purpose in concealing themselves on board of his vessel after having been refused employment by his chief officer; and that it had come to be believed by the masters of vessels trading to New Orleans that the placing of stowaways on the crew list “is one of their prerogatives,” and will prevent trouble in connection with the immigration laws.

It is apparent that an effort was made to violate the immigration laws of the United States, and also, as the Department understands, the laws of Great Britain governing such cases. Two fines of $300 each were incurred.

The Department declines to intervene further than to authorize you to refrain from proceedings for the enforcement of the additional fine of $300.

The Commissioner of Immigration suggests that you invite the attention of the British consul to the British shipping laws, which he thinks provide that the crew must be enrolled before the vessel sails, and that no addition can be made at sea unless by death, accident, or other disability a seamen is unable to perform his duty. He states that in the present case he has no doubt that it was by the order of the British consul that the master was not permitted to confine the men.

You may take action according to the Commissioner’s suggestion.

Respectfully, yours,

C. S. Hamlin,
Assistant Secretary.