Sir Julian Pauncefote to Mr. Olney.

Sir: With reference to Mr. Gresham’s note, No. 20, of the 26th January, 1895, and to previous correspondence calling attention to the [Page 311] large number of fires that occur on board cotton ships in United States ports, I have the honor to forward to you herewith, in accordance with instructions which I have received from Her Majesty’s principal secretary of state for foreign affairs, copy of a letter which has been received at the foreign office from Mr. James Knott, of the Prince Line of steamers, Newcastle-on-Tyne, reporting the discovery of a box of matches and a pin-fire cartridge in a cargo of cotton shipped at New Orleans for Genoa.

Mr. Gresham, in his above-mentioned note, informed me that an investigation of the causes of the New Orleans fires was not yet completed.

If there be no objection I should be glad to be favored with a copy of a report on that investigation, which must since then have been concluded.

In view of the importance of suppressing these continued incendiary fires, I venture to request that you will be good enough to bring the facts contained in Mr. Knott’s letter to the notice of the State authorities.

I have instructed Her Majesty’s consuls at New Orleans, Galveston, and Charleston to keep on the alert in case any similar incident should come to their knowledge.

I may mention that I have received a further communication from the Marquis of Salisbury containing copy of a second letter from Mr. Knott, stating that he had been in communication with the various underwriters in Great Britain who are now writing to the National Board of Underwriters at New York requesting them to go thoroughly nto the matter.

I have, etc.,

Julian Pauncefote.

Mr. Knott to Lord Salisbury.

Sir: I take the liberty of laying before you the following facts, viz: Owing to a fire having occurred in a most mysterious manner on board the steamer Egyptian Prince, belonging to the Prince Line, and bound from New Orleans to Genoa with a cargo of cotton, I gave instructions to my representative at the latter port, on the arrival of the later vessel of the line, viz, the Tuscan Prince, that a most careful search be made among the cargo while the discharge was going on, with the result that a box of matches was discovered, together with a pin-fire cartridge.

Your lordship will doubtless appreciate the serious consequences that might have arisen had the vessel fallen in with bad weather when I explain that the cotton is compressed in hydraulic presses and then bound together with steel bands which, with the work of the vessel, often break. It is therefore little short of a miracle that the latter vessel reached her port of destination without disaster, and if infamous practices such as these are allowed to continue the result will inevitably be a serious loss both to life and property.

I trust that your lordship, seeing the extreme gravity of the case, will instruct the representatives of Her Majesty’s Government in the United States, particularly at New Orleans, to cooperate with the agents and [Page 312] representatives of the British steamship lines, or take such other steps as you may deem desirable, when, I have no doubt, practices such as I have referred to above will be stamped out.

Apologizing for encroaching upon your lordship’s valuable time, I have, etc.,

James Knott,
For the Prince Line of Steamers.