Report of the Secretary of State
Washington , December 7, 1896 .
To the President:
The relations of the United States with foreign powers continue upon that footing of harmony and friendliness which has been their fortunate characteristic for so many years.
The following statement, prepared in the Department of State, is a brief summary of the more important questions which have occupied the attention of the Department during the current year:
The long unsettled claim in behalf of W. J. Hale against Argentine Republic, concerning which Congress has heretofore testified an interest, has been adjusted by acceptance of the offered indemnity. The associations of the two countries have been agreeably stimulated by the visit of a number of representatives of American industries to Buenos Aires, where they were cordially received and thence taken on an extensive tour through the vast and productive Argentine territory.
On several previous occasions the attention of Congress has been directed to the questions arising with Austria-Hungary growing out of arrests of returning naturalized citizens on the ground of unfulfilled military service accruing before they acquired our nationality. The progress steadily made toward their settlement has been most satisfactory, and the published correspondence will show the disposal of a residual issue touching the treaty exemption of such citizens from liability for constructive offence in the act of emigration itself, while the understanding of the two Governments as to the class and scope of punishable acts committed by such persons prior to emigration has become more precise. In consequence, arrests on this score have become infrequent in Austria-Hungary, and release promptly follows the representations of our agents in all worthy cases.[Page LXIV]
Provision having been made by law for the participation of American exhibitors in the international exposition to be held at Brussels in 1897, commissioners have been appointed, in response to the Belgian invitation.
Efforts continue for the removal of restrictions on the importation of American cattle into Belgium.
Certain diplomatic and treaty questions having gravely disturbed the intercourse of Brazil and Italy, the two Governments concerned have united in requesting the President of the United States to arbitrate whatever points may fail of settlement by direct negotiation, and the invitation has been accepted.
The vast fields for the commerce and enterprise of our citizens which Brazil affords may well merit the attention of Congress, in view of the excellent disposition of the Brazilian Government in this regard.
By a treaty concluded in June, 1895, and lately ratified and exchanged, the Republics of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Salvador (adopting the name of the Greater Republic of Central America) have undertaken to merge their common interests, so far as their relations with foreign powers are concerned, and to put them in charge of a diet consisting of three persons, one designated by each of the constituent States. As the exact interpretation and effect of the articles of association between the three Republics is not yet fully apprehended, the action necessary or proper to be taken in consequence thereof is still under consideration by the Department.
Negotiations still continue for the completion of the unfinished work of the United States and Chilean Claims Commission of 1894, and the discussion has been simplified by an arrangement between the Chilean Government and the interested corporation whereby a large claim preferred by the North and South American Construction Company has been settled and so withdrawn from the docket. There seems to be every prospect that the negotiations will be speedily consummated.[Page LXV]
In the President’s annual message to Congress of December, 1895, reference was made to the outbreaks in various provinces in China against foreigners residing therein and to the sending of a special American commission to the province of Szechuan to there investigate the origin of this hostile spirit; to ascertain whether all those who had in any way taken part in the riots had been duly punished; to determine if possible the best way of preventing the recurrence of such lamentable outbreaks, and to fix the actual losses suffered by American citizens as a basis for indemnification. This commission fully performed the task assigned it and the report which it has made, together with that made by the other commissioners who, at a little earlier date in the same year, investigated jointly with the commissioners of Great Britain similar occurrences in the eastern Chinese province of Fukien, has served as a basis for instructions to our minister at Peking which may lead, it is hoped, to some understanding with the Chinese Government rendering such outbreaks less frequent and more readily and satisfactorily dealt with. The claims for losses sustained by our citizens in these antiforeign riots have all been settled by the Chinese Government.
As most encouraging to the future peaceful residence of our citizens in China, it may be mentioned that the Chinese Government has extended to our citizens the right to purchase land—a right which it had previously conceded to France.
Under the treaty of peace between the Empires of China and Japan, five new ports have, under the general provisions of the favored-nation clause of our treaty with China, become opened to American trade. At one of these, Chungking, the great emporium of western China, this Government has now a consul, Congress having appropriated for that post during its last session. The interests of many American citizens residing in the remoter parts of western China will now be better and more promptly attended to, and it is confidently believed that the establishment of this consulate will also contribute to further develop American trade with this rich section of the Chinese Empire.
This Government has persistently impressed upon that of China the necessity of awarding signal punishment to the local authorities high in office in the provinces, to whose indifference, or, as events have only too plainly and painfully indicated, actual connivance, the recent attacks against the missionary establishments of our citizens in China have been mainly due. At the same time, overtures have been made to the Imperial Government looking: to the more [Page LXVI] formal recognition of the right of citizens of the United States engaged in religious and educational teaching in the interior of China to follow their peaceful and humane calling, to acquire and hold property, to receive express protection from the general and local officers of the sovereign, and in all things to enjoy the fullest measure of the rights and privileges established by custom or recognized by convention in favor of the citizens or subjects of any other power. The response of the Chinese Government has been most encouraging, and the conciliatory disposition thus shown augurs well for an early and entirely satisfactory adjustment of this important class of questions as well as the removal of occasion for similar complaints in the future.
An agreeable occasion to testify alike the sincere regard of the American people for China, and the high appreciation here felt for one of the most eminent of oriental statesmen, was afforded by the recent visit of Li Hung Chang. No proper opportunity to manifest these sentiments officially or in private was omitted by the United States Government or by the communities through which Earl Li passed, and in his capacity as premier of the Chinese Empire bearing an introductory letter from his sovereign, he was received in personal audience by the President.
The claim of Italy on behalf of an Italian subject, Cerruti, against Colombia, which the two Governments referred to the President’s arbitration, is under examination.
Attempts to bring about a settlement of the American claim of the Panama Star and Herald newspaper against Colombia have so far proved unavailing.
costa rica and nicaragua.
Another encouraging instance of the effectiveness of arbitration in composing disputes between nations is afforded by the action of Costa Rica and Nicaragua in agreeing to refer to the President of the United States the appointment of an engineer commissioner to aid in determining the remaining questions of detail in regard to their boundary dispute, the principal points of which were covered by the President’s award of 1888.
The claim of Julio R. Santos, an American citizen, against Ecuador having been brought to the arbitral stage by a convention, was finally adjusted directly between the Ecuadorean Government and [Page LXVII] the claimant on the eve of the organization of the stipulated commission. The composition so reached has been confirmed by a formal award of the arbitrator.
It is very desirable that the United States should be adequately and, if possible, conspicuously represented at the Paris Exposition of 1900. According to all information, that friendly contest of the world’s inventions and industries will fitly round the progressive series of international exhibitions which have made the latter half of this century so notable. Such generous appropriation as is needful to put this country on a proper footing thereat is, it is believed, required both by the dignity of the United States and a true regard to its material interests.
The last annual message of the President adverted to the then unsatisfactory position of the Waller case owing to the refusal of the French Government to furnish the requested record of Waller’s military trial in Madagascar. The United States ambassador was, however, afforded opportunity to examine the full record, and upon his report of its tenor, coupled with the evidence already in this Government’s possession, and especially the personal letters of the accused, there seemed to be no escape from the conclusion that Waller was unquestionably guilty of a serious offense against the French Government, fully justifying severe punishment, and that his only relief from the consequences was to be sought through an application for clemency. In response to further urgent representations an offer was made by the French Government to release and pardon Waller on condition of thereby closing the affair as between the two Governments and foregoing claim for indemnity by the United States on behalf of the prisoner. This offer was accepted, and Waller’s release followed. He, however, did not consent to this adjustment, and asserted a claim to indemnification, which, upon further examination, appeared to be open to him by suit in person in the French courts. For this recourse every opportunity has been afforded him.
The French occupation of the Island of Madagascar has been followed by the incorporation of the territory into the Republic as a formally proclaimed colony. This Government has been assured of the fullest extension to American citizens and interests in that quarter of all rights and privileges under the treaties between the United States and France. The extraterritorial jurisdiction of our agents in Madagascar will accordingly be relinquished as fast as effectively replaced by the jurisdiction of established French courts.[Page LXVIII]
An important commerce, fostered by treaties with the Hova Government, had been built up by American interests during recent years, and it remains to be seen whether the natural advantages of that traffic will outweigh the reserved trade of the colony with the mother country or enable it to enter into successful competition with the trade of other countries which enjoy the reciprocal benefits of the minimum customs tariff of France.
In January last, General Runyon, the United States ambassador to the German Umpire, died at his post. The signal tributes paid to his memory by the Imperial Government alike displayed appreciation of his high worth and of his earnest efforts to subserve and fortify the cordial relations of the two countries.
The recurring claims of the Imperial German Government and of the several States of the Empire concerning the liability of naturalized Americans of German birth to unfulfilled military duty and to penalties for its evasion have been discussed during the past year in an accommodating spirit. In the majority of cases, representation of the just rights of the parties under current treaties has been followed by prompt release, but not infrequently the sovereign right of expulsion is asserted on the ground that the individual’s continued presence is at variance with the public good.
By the President’s proclamation of January 26, 1888, the provisions of section 11 of the shipping act of June 19, 1886, were applied to vessels entering the ports of the United States from any port of the German Empire by suspending, in their favor, the collection of the whole of the ordinary tonnage tax of 6 cents per ton, not to exceed 30 cents per ton per annum. That suspension was proclaimed in view of the declaration made January 24, 1888, by the Imperial representative under his instructions, and deemed by the President to be satisfactory proof that “no tonnage or light-house dues, or any equivalent tax or taxes whatever, as referred to in said act of Congress of June 19, 1886, are imposed upon American vessels entering the ports of Germany, either by the Imperial Government or by the governments of the German maritime States, and that vessels belonging to the United States of America, and their cargoes, are not required, in German ports, to pay any fee or due of any kind or nature or any import due higher or other than is payable by German vessels or their cargoes.”
The said act of 1886 being mandatory in directing the suspension of so much of the ordinarily prescribed tonnage tax upon vessels entered from any foreign port “as may be in excess of the tonnage [Page LXIX] and light-house dues, or other equivalent tax or taxes, imposed in said port on American vessels by the Government of the foreign country in which such port is situated,” the proclaimed suspension was necessarily total as to all such dues or taxes in view of the explicit declaration of Germany, as aforesaid, that no taxes of or equivalent to the character so defined were collected by the Imperial or State Government in any German port.
While it does not appear that any differential treatment to which the proviso of the act of 1886 relates is suffered by United States ships or their cargoes in German ports, it was reported to the Department some time since by the consul at Hamburg, and later in April last by the consul at Bremen, that light-house and other taxes assessed upon tonnage had continuously been and were still being collected from vessels of the United States entering those German ports. An investigation was thereupon ordered, which not only confirmed those reports, but showed that in every other German port entered by an American ship similar dues had been levied, in varying amounts, according to locality and the law of the respective German State. On the 31st of July last, under the Department’s instructions, the ambassador at Berlin asked for an explanation, emphasizing the statutory provision recited in the President’s proclamation of January 26, 1888, that the suspension of tonnage dues in respect to German vessels in United States ports “shall be continued so long as the reciprocal exemption of vessels belonging to citizens of the United States and their cargoes shall be continued in the said ports of the Empire of Germany, and no longer.”
The reply of the German Government, under date of November 2, made in advance of the result of an inquiry being conducted in the premises, while not denying the collection of the dues or taxes in question from American vessels in German ports, took the ground that such charges were not politically identical in character with the tonnage and other dues enacted in the United States under the constitutional powers of Congress.
The position so taken was necessarily regarded as establishing the nonexistence of the essential condition prescribed by section 11 of the act of June 19, 1886, and under which alone exemption in whole or part from the regular tonnage dues could apply to vessels of any flag, whether native or foreign, coming from the ports in question, inasmuch as tonnage and light-house dues or other equivalent tax or taxes were and are in fact imposed upon American vessels by the government of the German country or State in which those ports are situated. Being thus satisfied that the proclamation of January 26, 1888, both in its operation and in its effect, contravened the [Page LXX] explicit meaning and intent of the said mandatory section of the act of 1886, the duty of the Executive to revoke the proclamation became imperative. After notifying the German Government of this conclusion and receiving a response simply reaffirming statements and arguments already made and fully considered, the revocation of the proclamation of 1888 was effected by due proclamation in turn, under date of December 3, 1896, to take effect after thirty days from date, thus affording ample notice to all interests affected.
The stringent measures adopted by Germany, on assumed grounds of public health, against the importation of American cattle and meat products have not been ameliorated, despite the urgent representations of this Government tending to prove the nonexistence of pleuro-pneumonia among our cattle, the efficiency of the sanitary inspection now enforced, and the vigilance of our authorities in regard to exported animals and meats. On the contrary, the disposition of Germany, visible for a number of years past, to still further impede and virtually inhibit this legitimate traffic is evidenced by fresh restrictive measures, national and local. Their unjustifiability and the erroneousness of the supposed premises on which they rest have been again pointed out and the healthfulness of our exports supported by amply conclusive proof. The correspondence in this regard will be laid before Congress in the annual selection of diplomatic correspondence and attention invited thereto.
Continuing endeavors have been made to secure for American life insurance companies doing business in Prussia a hearing in remonstrance against the restrictions sought to be imposed upon them, and fair prospects exist of the ultimate removal of the interdiction.
The International Geodetic Association, after several years of useful operation, has been reorganized in consequence of a congress held at Berlin in September, 1895, and the accession of the United States to the amended arrangement has been notified in the prescribed manner. As the new arrangement materially widens the scope of the association and contemplates systematic observations of variations of latitude, by the establishment of stations, two of which are to be placed in the United States, the annual quota to be contributed by this country is increased about one thousand dollars.
The long-protracted dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela in regard to the boundary between the latter Republic and British Guiana has for a number of years past attracted the earnest attention of this Government and enlisted its often renewed friendly offices to bring about an adjustment of the question in the best interests of [Page LXXI] right and justice as determinable by the historical record and the actual facts. The extended discussion of the subject culminated in July of last year by an elaborate presentation to the British Government of the views of the United States touching the opportuneness and necessity of a final disposition of the points at issue by the pacific resort of an equitable arbitration.
The entire correspondence having been laid before Congress by the President with his message of December 17, 1895, that body provided for the appointment of a domestic commission of eminent jurists to examine and report touching the ascertainable facts of the controversy, with a view to enable this Government to determine its further course in the matter. That commission has pursued its labors unremittingly during the present year, its researches being greatly aided by the elaborate statements placed at its disposal by both the interested Governments, together with a mass of documentary evidence furnished from the archives of the European countries that shared in the early discoveries and settlement of South America.
Pending this arduous investigation, however, the Governments of the United States and Great Britain have omitted no endeavor to reach a friendly understanding upon the main issue of principle through diplomatic negotiation, and it is most gratifying to announce that amicable counsels have prevailed to induce a satisfactory result, whereby the boundary question and its associated phases have been at last eliminated as between this country and England. A complete accord has been reached between them, by which the substantial terms of a treaty of arbitration to be concluded by Great Britain and Venezuela have been agreed upon, the provisions of which embrace a full arbitration of the whole controversy upon bases alike just and honorable to both the contestants. It only remains for the two parties directly concerned to complete this equitable arrangement by signing the proposed formal treaty, and no doubt is entertained that Venezuela, which has so earnestly sought the friendly assistance of the United States toward the settlement of this vexatious contention, and which has so unreservedly confided its interests to the impartial judgment of this Government, will assent to the formal adjustment thus attained, thus forever ending a dispute involving far-reaching consequences to the peace and welfare of the Western Continent.
Coincidently with the consideration of the Venezuelan boundary question, the two Governments have continued negotiations for a general convention, in the line of the recommendations of the British House of Commons, to which previous messages of the President [Page LXXII] have adverted, that all differences hereafter arising between the two countries and not amenable to ordinary diplomatic treatment should be referred to arbitration. The United States and Great Britain having given repeated proofs of their acquiescence in the great principle involved, not only by treaties between themselves, but severally by concluding like adjustments with other powers for the adjudication of disputes resting on law and fact, the subject was naturally approached in a benevolent spirit of agreement, and the negotiations have so satisfactorily progressed as to foreshadow a practical agreement at an early date upon the text of a convention to the desired end.
A joint commission of arbitration has been appointed under the convention of February 8, 1896, for the settlement of sealing claims presented by Great Britain against the United States in virtue of the prior convention of February 29, 1892. The commissioners will sit at Victoria, British Columbia, and possibly also at San Francisco, California.
During the past year little has been accomplished in the matter of additional protection for the fur seals. Unfortunately, the legislation of Great Britain and the United States, enacted to carry out the Paris award, differs in important particulars. Under the act of Congress a vessel seized, having in its possession prohibited arms or implements, or sealskins, or the bodies of seals, in the closed season, is presumed to have violated the law and the burden of proof rests upon the master to show innocence. In the act of Parliament known as the Bering Sea Award Act 1894, on the other hand, there is no such presumption.
The act of Parliament known as seal-fishing (Bering Sea) act, 1891, under which the modus vivendi of 1891 and also that of 1892 were agreed upon, contained such a presumption, but this provision, as above stated, was omitted in the Bering Sea award act, 1894.
The fact that the British Government for the past two seasons has refused to permit British sealing vessels to have their arms placed under seal while in Bering Sea has also led to some friction regarding the searching of vessels. It is to be hoped, however, that this latter question is on the verge of an agreement which will more effectually carry out the purpose of the award.
From incomplete returns received it would appear that the total catch of seals from the so-called American herd has materially decreased during the last year. The cause of this is, unquestionably, pelagic sealing. Every effort has been made to induce the British Government to revise the regulations of the Paris award, looking toward a more stringent method of protecting the seal herd. The [Page LXXIII] suggestion was made of an international commission to consider this whole question, said commission to consist of representatives of Russia, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States, and, pending the report of said commission, that Bering Sea be closed to fur-seal fishing. It is to be regretted that to this the British Government refused its concurrence.
Last summer, however, the British Government requested permission to send naturalists to the Pribilof Islands to examine into the condition of the fur-seal herd, and this permission was promptly granted. The British Government appointed Prof. D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, of University College, Dundee, Mr. James M. Macoun, of the Geological Museum, Ottawa, Canada, and Mr. Andrew Halkett, of the Department of Marine and Fisheries, Ottawa, Canada. Mr. G. E. H. Barrett-Hamilton, of Kilmannock, Ireland, was also sent to the Russian Seal Islands to make an independent investigation there. These gentlemen went to the Pribilof Islands, and have made of will make a report to their Government. Under the provisions of the joint resolution of Congress approved June 8, 1896, Prof. David S. Jordan, of the Leland Stanford Jr. University, of Palo Alto, Cal., was appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury as an expert to examine into the present condition of the fur-seal herd on behalf of our Government. There were associated with him Mr. F. A. Lucas and Dr. Leonhard Stejneger, both of the U. S. National Museum; Mr. Charles H. Townsend, of the U. S. Fish Commission; Lieut. Commander Jefferson F. Moser, U. S. Navy, and Mr. Joseph Murray. Professor Jordan has not yet prepared his final report, but from the preliminary report, which has just been received, it would appear that pelagic sealing is the cause of the great decrease in recent years in the number of fur seals, and of the present critical state of the herd.
The fur-seal herd is threatened with utter ruin unless some changes are speedily made in the award regulations. It is sincerely to be hoped that as a result of the reports of these experts to their respective Governments changes in the law will be agreed upon which will effectually preserve the fur-seal and protect this valuable industry for the use of mankind.
A proposal for the immediate location of the Alaskan boundary line along the one hundred and forty-first meridian by setting international monuments thereon at or between convenient points already determined by independent American and Canadian surveys, and by continuing its demarcation by joint survey, having been accepted, negotiations are in progress toward a convention with Great Britain or the organization of an international survey commission, as contemplated by the act approved February 20, 1896.[Page LXXIV]
The prospects of immediate negotiations for the precise demarcation of the coastwise Alaskan boundary are good. The preliminary survey of that region under the convention with Great Britain of July 22, 1892, was completed within the stipulated time, and, having before them the necessary topographical data, the two Governments are now in a position to consider and establish the boundary line in question according to the facts and agreeably to the true purpose of the treaties between Great Britain and Russia, and between Russia and the United States, whereby it is described.
Under authority of a provision in the sundry civil appropriation act of March 2, 1895, commissioners have been appointed to confer with a similar committee on behalf of Great Britain and the Dominion of Canada to inquire into the feasibility of constructing a deep waterway for seagoing ships between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.
The assent of Great Britain and the other chief maritime States having been given to the lately perfected international rules for the prevention of collisions at sea, and to the proposal of the United States that those rules shall be put in operation on July 1, 1897, the protracted negotiations to this humanitarian end have reached a satisfactory result.
haiti and santo domingo.
The death of President Hyppolite, in March last, called forth appropriate tenders of regret and condolence to the Government and people of Haiti. The few questions remaining between the United States and that Republic are in a fair way to satisfactory settlement.
It is suggested that in view of the expediency and to a great extent the duty of giving to the relations of this country with the neighboring States the largest and most amicable expansion, our missions to Haiti and Santo Domingo may well be put on a plenipotentiary footing. Our present scheme by which the minister resident and consul-general at Port au Prince is simultaneously accredited to Santo Domingo as chargé d’affaires, with scanty compensation for both offices, is not only inconsistent with our national interests in those States, but stands in the way of carrying out the design of that provision of the diplomatic and consular act of March 1, 1893, whereby the President is authorized to direct that the representative of the United States in a foreign country shall bear the same designation as the representative sent hither by that country.[Page LXXV]
No question of importance has arisen with the Government of the Hawaiian Islands during the past year. The cases of the convicted political prisoners, among whom were several citizens of the United States, have been disposed of, in major part, by their release on parole—leaving only residual consideration of the claims for indemnity, which in some instances have been filed. The final chapter in the history of the alleged attempted revolt against the Provisional Government in January, 1895, appears to have been reached in the full pardon of the ex-Queen, Liliuokalani.
Early in 1894 an American citizen, Charles W. Renton, was murdered by a gang of his neighbors in Honduras, and his wife was by threats and ill treatment driven from the estate of her husband, which fell out of her possession. The matter was presented to the Department with particulars of lawlessness and brutality which commanded earnest attention, and steps were at once taken to verify the representations that had been made. Upon the report of the commander of the United States steamship Montgomery, who investigated the case, the Honduranean Government was called upon to apprehend and punish the murderers and restore Renton’s property to his lawful heirs.
After considerable delay, ascribed by the Government of Honduras to difficulties met in securing evidence in a sparsely settled country where its authority could not easily be exerted, five men, all foreigners of different nationalities, were, in the summer of 1895, tried and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment on the several charges of attempted homicide, arson, robbery, and abduction. Appeal was taken by the prisoners and the appellate tribunal has affirmed the judgment of the trial court. It is reported that the ultimate resort of appeal to the supreme court has been taken by some of the convicts, whose cases are thus still pending.
The Government of Honduras contends that it has thus far fulfilled its international obligations and can not be held responsible for the murder of Renton. The Department of State is still without information as to the disposition made of Renton’s property, and the matter continues to have earnest attention. Complications are understood to have arisen also in the Honduranean conduct of the case, owing to the remonstrances of certain Governments in behalf of their citizens accused and convicted as above stated.[Page LXXVI]
The recent incident of the lynching and injuring of five Italian subjects in the State of Colorado had scarcely been closed by the payment to Italy of the indemnity graciously voted for the benefit of the sufferers and their families by Congress in the deficiencies appropriation act approved June 8, 1896, when a somewhat similar outbreak of mob fury occurred at Hahnville, in the State of Louisiana, whereby three prisoners of Italian origin, held on charge of homicide, met violent death.
Upon the assumption that the unfortunate men were, as in the case of some of the victims of the preceding lynchings, Italian subjects, the Government of Italy sought the mediation of that of the United States with the State authorities to the end of investigating the occurrence, and if the facts so warranted, making provision for the families of the sufferers as in the former instances. The State of Louisiana promptly instituted an inquiry, expressing regret and a purpose to seek out the offenders. An independent investigation, set on foot by the Department of State and conducted by a trusted agent, has just been concluded. As its result, it appears that all the normal precautions for the safety of the prisoners had been taken by the local officers, and that no blame can justly attach to them by reason of the sudden outbreak of mob violence against these three men against whom there lay convincing evidence of the murder of two estimable citizens of the neighborhood. That the lawless act was directed against the victims as criminals, and not because of racial prejudice, is shown by the circumstances that three other Italians confined in the same jail on lesser charges were unharmed.
A more important result of the investigation in its bearing upon the possible international features of the case was the ascertainment of the fact that the three lynched men by participating in the political affairs of this country and voting at elections must probably be regarded as having renounced their natural status. It is established by the appropriate record evidence that one had also taken the preliminary steps to abjure Italian allegiance, while the others must be presumed to have done so, since by domicile and sharing in the electoral franchise they had acquired lawful citizenship of the State of Louisiana, a privilege inuring only to such as could show their declaration of intention to be naturalized. Their cases being thus differentiated from the prior instances at New Orleans and Walsenberg, when indemnity was offered to the relatives of such of the lynched men as were found to have remained faithful subjects of Italy, the precedent then set is only applicable now so far as it eliminates [Page LXXVII] all claim by Italy on behalf of those men who were ascertained to have exercised the civil rights of aliens lawfully admitted to citizenship in this country.
Whether or not any obligation rests upon the Federal Government under the circumstances—a matter as respects which the Government has thus far reserved its decision—the existence or the absence of such obligation can not diminish the feelings of abhorrence with which all good citizens must view such brutal acts of blind vindictiveness in defiance of the justice of a Commonwealth and in disparagement of its good name.
As a friendly recognition of the assistance rendered by the diplomatic and consular officers of the United States to Japanese subjects during the war of 1895 between Japan and China the Japanese Government tendered, through the representative channel, valuable gifts to those officers. Inasmuch as the friendly offices so exerted by the agents of the United States in that quarter were in pursuance of formal instructions, and were impartially given, as well to Chinese in Japan as to Japanese in China, at the request of each Government and as a usual act of international consideration, motives of delicacy prompted avoidance of all appearance of personal service on the part of officers who only discharged a simple duty imposed by their own Government. The Japanese Minister at Washington was therefore requested to make known to the Japanese Government the sentiments of this Government in the matter, expressing due appreciation of its amicable desires with equal regret at being unable to permit acceptance of the proffered gifts.
Under authority of a provision in the deficiency appropriation act approved February 26, 1896, the minister at Tokio was instructed by telegraph to complete at once the conveyance to the Government of the United States of the ground and buildings theretofore rented for the use of the legation. This was speedily done, the price paid amounting, at the increased rate of current exchange, to $16,462.50, the slight excess over the sum appropriated being otherwise met from the proper fund available for emergencies. The Department of State has so often recommended this purchase as a convenient and indeed necessary step that it is gratifying to note its accomplishment.
Since June, 1890, when a provisional agreement was entered into by the United States and Mexico defining and regulating their reciprocal right to pursue hostile Indians across the boundary line, [Page LXXVIII] the two Governments have by successive renewals and amendments continued the practice so established. The last agreement in this regard was signed June 4, 1896, having particular reference to the mutual pursuit of the notorious and dangerous hostiles led by the Apache Kid, the extermination or complete subjugation of these Indians having become an imperative duty toward the inhabitants on either side of the border line.
The operations of the international commission organized under the convention of March 1, 1889, between the United States and Mexico to determine disputes which have arisen by reason of changes in the fluvial boundary of the two countries, having been extended for another year, until December 24, 1896, by a convention signed October 1, 1895, occasion was taken at the same time, by a friendly understanding between the two Governments, to enlarge the duties of the commissioners by charging them to examine and report touching questions of irrigation and storage dams on the Rio Grande. Important issues are involved therein, only to be determined in principle, and, as to that part of the river which forms the common boundary, in fact also, by a conventional agreement of the two countries, so that it naturally behooves them to approach the discussion and negotiation with all possible knowledge, in order that the riparian rights of the respective owners of the river banks may be justly determined and intelligently enforced.
These several duties make the extension of the Boundary Commission for another year at least very necessary to the satisfactory conduct of its work, and a supplementary convention to that end having been signed will be laid before the Senate.
The commissioners on the part of the United States who were appointed pursuant to the convention of July 29, 1882, as subsequently revived and continued to October 11, 1896, in regard to the survey and re-marking of the boundary line between the United States and Mexico, have completed their work and made their final report. An early opportunity will be taken to lay the matter before Congress, to the end that this valuable report, with its accompanying maps and views, may be printed.
In May last, the assassination of the Shah of Persia by a fanatic subject called forth suitable manifestations of abhorrence and condolence.
The Persian Government has been earnest in its efforts to safeguard the American citizens residing in its western provinces, whose situation on the borders of the disturbed and ill-controlled Turkish [Page LXXIX] district of Koordistan, they themselves being surrounded by an excitable populace in fanatical sympathy with the neighboring Mohammedan outlaws, has afforded grounds for apprehension.
In the annual compilation of the diplomatic correspondence for 1895 there was printed an extended correspondence with the Government of Peru concerning the claim of certain American citizens employed upon the hydrographic commission of the Amazon from 1872 to 1877. The correspondence continues in the current volume, showing the eventual settlement of this protracted discussion by an agreement whereby Peru pays the claimants 20,000 soles.
The United States was effectively represented at the coronation of the Czar of Russia by sending to Moscow the American minister and certain special adjoint commissioners.
Good will continues to be manifested by the Imperial Government as regards the efforts of the United States to bring about a comprehensive agreement among all the interested nations for the better preservation of seal life and the legitimate regulation of the seal-hunting industries in the Northern Pacific and Bering Sea. Few countries have more jealously guarded their rights in this respect than Russia has done. Punishment of poachers within the conventional jurisdiction of the Empire on its coasts and islands is rigorously enforced, as the Department of State has had an opportunity to learn in making inquiries regarding the sentences of eighteen months’ imprisonment passed on seventeen seamen charged with illegitimate sealing on Robbin Island. Our minister at St. Petersburg has been instructed to make judicious representations in favor of Imperial clemency for the five prisoners who are ascertained to be American citizens.
The published correspondence for a number of years back has shown the persistence of the United States in endeavoring to obtain for its citizens, whether native or naturalized and irrespective of their faith, the equality of privilege and treatment stipulated for all American citizens in Russia by existing treaties. Holding to the old doctrine of perpetual allegiance; refusing to lessen its authority by concluding any treaty recognizing the naturalization of a Russian subject without prior Imperial consent; asserting the extreme right to punish a naturalized Russian on return to his native jurisdiction, not merely for unauthorized emigration, but also specifically [Page LXXX] for the unpermitted acquisition of a foreign citizenship; and sedulously applying, at home and through the official acts of its agents abroad, to all persons of the Jewish belief the stern restrictions enjoined by Russian law, the Government of Russia takes ground not admitting of acquiescence by the United States because at variance with the character of our institutions, the sentiments of our people, the provisions of our statutes, and the tendencies of modern international comity.
Under these circumstances conflict between national laws, each absolute within the domestic sphere and inoperative beyond it, is hardly to be averted. Nevertheless, occasions of dispute on these grounds are happily infrequent, and in a few worthy cases, where the good faith of the claimant’s appeal to American protection has appeared, the friendly disposition of Russia toward our country and people has afforded means of composing the difference.
The situation in Samoa is practically the same as stated in the last annual message of the President and in his special communication to the Senate of May 9, 1894. A possibility of more effective harmony in the insular administration may be suggested by the resignation of the president of the municipal council and the agreement of the three powers upon his successor, another German subject. The chief justice of Samoa has also resigned, and as he is an American citizen the proposal of his successor will naturally fall to the United States, which necessarily continues to exercise all stipulated rights and duties under the tripartite general act of Berlin during the continuance of that compact, however irksome and unnatural these rights and duties may prove to be.
The situation in the Island of Cuba has largely engrossed the attention of the Department of State during the past year. Its efforts to obtain trustworthy information and to insure due protection to citizens of the United States and their property and interests within the theater of disturbance have been ably seconded by the consular representatives in that island.
As regards the character and scope of the hostile operations which now affect the greater part of Cuba, the reports of our consuls are properly confidential, and while precise as to the several districts touching which reports have been received, the nature and sources of the information obtained are such as to make detailed publication [Page LXXXI] impracticable, so that the Department is not in a position to do more at present than state its general deductions as to the position of the contending parties.
Confined in the outset, as in the ten years’ insurrection which began at Yara in October, 1868, to the eastern portion of the island, where the topography and absence of settled centers especially favored the desultory warfare apparently normal to this class of contests, the present insurrection very early took proportions beyond those of its predecessor and therewith assumed an aggressive phase, invading the populous central and western districts. Passing the defensive lines or trochas traversing the island from north to south, formidable bodies of the revolutionary forces early in the year established themselves in the rich sugar-planting districts of Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, and Matanzas, made hostile forays almost in sight of Habana itself, and, advancing westward, effected a lodgment in the fertile tobacco fields of Pinar del Rio, which has so far resisted all efforts of the Spanish forces to overcome.
No prominent seaport has been attacked by the insurgents or even menaced beyond occasional raids upon the outskirts. A large part of the twenty-two hundred miles of the irregular coast line of Cuba, comprising the comparatively unsettled stretches of its western extremity and the inhospitable mountain shores of its eastern part, is practically in the hands of the revolutionists. The character of these shores, filled to the westward with shallow indentations inaccessible to any but light vessels of small tonnage, and to the eastward with rocky nooks dangerous to approach by night and affording insecure anchorage for larger craft, lends itself peculiarly to the guerrilla warfare of the interior, so that the insurgents, being relieved of the need of maintaining and garrisoning points upon the coast, are effectively able to utilize a considerable part of it as occasion offers to communicate with the outside world and to receive clandestine supplies of men, arms, and ammunition. The situation in that quarter, as regards the ease of surreptitious access and the difficulty of repressing illicit traffic, finds a not unapt parallel in that of the Cornish and Welsh coasts of England or the Scottish Highlands in the last century, where a few adventurers were able to smuggle supplies and land rebel emissaries or forces, baffling the watch of maritime forces much greater than those maintained by Spain along the diversified shores of Cuba.
While thus in fact controlling the larger part of the internal area of the whole Island of Cuba, from Cape San Antonio to Cape Maisi, and enjoying practically unlimited use of an equally large part of the coast, the revolutionary forces are scattered, being [Page LXXXII] nowhere united for any length of time to form an army capable of attack or siege and fit to take the defensive in a pitched battle. Assembling suddenly at a given point, often in a single night, they make unexpected sallies or carry destruction to the tobacco and cane fields of Cuba, and at the first sign of pursuit or organized assault they disperse only to reassemble in like manner at some other spot.
So far as our information shows, there is not only no effective local government by the insurgents in the territories they overrun, but there is not even a tangible pretence to established administration anywhere. Their organization, confined to the shifting exigencies of the military operations of the hour, is nomadic, without definite centers and lacking the most elementary features of municipal government. There nowhere appears the nucleus of statehood. The machinery for exercising the legitimate rights and powers of sovereignty and responding to the obligations which de facto sovereignty entails in the face of equal rights of other States is conspicuously lacking. It is not possible to discern a homogeneous political entity, possessing and exercising the functions of administration and capable, if left to itself, of maintaining orderly government in its own territory and sustaining normal relations with the external family of Governments.
To illustrate these conditions, the insurgent chiefs assert the military power to compel peaceable citizens of the United States within their reach to desist from planting or grinding cane, under the decreed penalty of death and of destruction of their crops and mills; but the measure is one of sheer force, without justification under public law. The wrongs so committed against the citizens of a foreign State are without an international forum of redress to which the Government of the United States may have recourse as regards its relation to the perpetrators. The acts are those of anarchy, and in default of the responsibilities of de facto Statehood in the case, there remains only the territorial accountability of the titular sovereign within the limits of its competency to repress the wrongs complained of.
In opposition to the nomadic control of the interior and the undefended coast by the insurgents, the Spanish authority continues in the capital cities and the seaports. Its garrisons are there established; from them its naval operations are directed and executed. Most of its functions proceed as in time of peace. Its customs and municipal revenues are regularly collected, and with exception of the temporary restraints, alleged to be due to the admitted existence of a state of hostilities, foreign commerce with the island is kept up, although largely diminished by the natural [Page LXXXIII] contraction of the Cuban market of supply and demand. As to those parts of the island with which this country and its citizens maintain legitimately normal intercourse, the Spanish power is supreme, although often exercised in a vexatious and arbitrary way, calling for just remonstrance.
So far, therefore, as the relative position of the Spanish and insurgent forces is comparable with the situation during the Yara insurrection, while the same phases of organized administration in the capital and seaports and effective relations of trade with the outside world on the one hand, and on the other a nomadic association without the insignia of orderly government and strong only to wage harassing warfare in the interior, are now as then apparent, the present insurrection stands in notable contrast with its predecessors both as to force and scale of operations.
Although statistics of their military strength are attainable with difficulty and are not always trustworthy when obtained, enough is certainly known to show that the revolutionists in the field greatly exceed in numbers any organization heretofore attempted; that with large accessions from the central and western districts of the island a better military discipline is added to increased strength; that instead of mainly drawing as heretofore upon the comparatively primitive population of eastern Cuba, the insurgent armies fairly represent the intelligent aspirations of a large proportion of the people of the whole island; and that they purpose to wage this contest, on these better grounds of vantage, to the end and to make the present struggle a supreme test of the capacity of the Cuban people to win for themselves and their children the heritage of self-government.
A notable feature of the actual situation is the tactical skill displayed by its leaders. When the disparity of numbers and the comparatively indefensible character of the central and western Vega country are considered, the passage of a considerable force into Pinar del Rio followed by its successful maintenance there for many months must be regarded as a military success of a pronounced character.
So, too, the Spanish force, in the field, in garrison on the island, or on its way thither from the mother country, is largely beyond any military display yet called for by a Cuban rising, thus affording an independent measure of the strength of the insurrection.
From every accessible indication it is clear that the present rebellion is on a far more formidable scale as to numbers, intelligence, and representative features than any of the preceding revolts of this century; that the corresponding effort of Spain for its repression has [Page LXXXIV] been enormously augmented; and that, despite the constant influx of fresh armies and material of war from the metropolis, the rebellion, after nearly two years of successful resistance, appears to-day to be in a condition to indefinitely prolong the contest on its present lines.
The nature of the struggle, however, deserves most earnest consideration. The increased scale on which it is waged brings into bolder relief, all the appalling phases which often appear to mark contests for supremacy among the Latin races of the Western Hemisphere. Excesses before confined to a portion of the island become more impressive when wrought throughout its whole extent, as now. The insurgent authority, as has been seen, finds no regular administrative expression; it is asserted only by the sporadic and irresponsible force of arms. The Spanish power, outside of the larger towns and their immediate suburbs, when manifested at all, is equally forceful and arbitrary.
The only apparent aim on either side is to cripple the adversary by indiscriminate destruction of all that by any chance may benefit him. The populous and wealthy districts of the center and the west, which have escaped harm in former contests, are now ravaged and laid waste by the blind fury of the respective partisans. The principles of civilized warfare, according to the code made sacred by the universal acquiescence of nations, are only too often violated with impunity by irresponsible subordinates, acting at a distance from the central authority and able to shield themselves from just censure or punishment by false or falsified versions of the facts.
The killing and summary execution of noncombatants is frequently reported, and while the circumstances of the strife are such as to preclude accurate or general information in this regard, enough is known to show that the number of such cases is considerable. In some instances, happily few, American citizens have fallen victims to these savage acts.
A large part of the correspondence of the State Department with its agents in Cuba has been devoted to these cases of assault upon the rights of our citizens. In no instance has earnest remonstrance and energetic appeal been omitted. But the representatives of the Spanish power often find it easily practicable to postpone explanations and reparation on the ground of alleged ignorance of facts or for other plausible reasons.
Its effect upon the personal security of our citizens in Cuba is not the only alarming feature of the reign of arbitrary anarchy in that island. Its influence upon the fortunes of those who have invested their capital and enterprise there, on the assumed assurance of [Page LXXXV] respect for law and treaty rights, is no less in point. In the nature of things, and having regard to the normal productions and trade of the island, most of these ventures have been made in the sugar and tobacco growing and stock-raising districts now given over to civil war. Exact statistics of the amount of such investments are not readily attainable, but an approximate statement shows that American interests in actual property in the district of Cienfuegos reach some $12,000,000; in the Province of Matanzas some $9,000,000; in Sagua, for estates and crops alone not less than $9,229,000, while in Santiago the investments in mining operations probably exceed $15,000,000. For Pinar del Rio, Santa Clara, and the other interior districts tabulated statements are wanting, and so also with regard to commercial and manufacturing establishments, railway enterprises, and the like.
A gross estimate of $50,000,000 would be more likely to fall under than over the mark. A large proportion of these investments is now exposed to the exceptional vicissitudes of the war. Estates have been desolated and crops destroyed by the insurgents and Spaniards alike. Upon those not actually ravaged operations have been compulsorily suspended owing to the warnings served by the revolutionists or the withdrawal of protection by the Spanish authorities, often accompanied by a similar prohibition against continuing work thereon or by forbidding communication and residence, thus entailing enforced abandonment of the premises. Provisions and stock have been seized by either force for military use without compensation. Dwellings have been pillaged.
In short, the cessation of all remunerative production accompanies actual or probable loss of the invested capital. Numerous claims on these several accounts have been filed, but in many instances the sufferers are known to abstain from formal claim or complaint for prudential reasons, lest worse should befall them at the hands of the insurgents and the Spaniards in turn, accordingly as either may gain temporary control of their property. A partial estimate of material claims and injuries of this class already aggregates a trifle under $19,000,000.
Nor does the loss fall upon capital alone. Large numbers of the agricultural laboring classes are driven from the fields to the nearest towns, partly by the peremptory orders of the local military commanders and partly by the cessation or destruction of their only means of livlihood. They are well-nigh destitute. Among them are many citizens of the United States. Some idea of the extent of this calamitous condition is given by the reports which reach the Department from a single district. It is officially reported that [Page LXXXVI] there are in one provincial city alone some 4,000 necessitous refugees from the surrounding country to whom the municipal authorities can afford little or no relief. Over 300 of these are American citizens, engaged in prosperous farming and stock raising at the beginning of the outbreak, whose employment and resources have been swept away by eighteen months of civil strife, reducing them from affluence to penury and throwing them upon the charity of an exhausted community in a devastated land.
All these disastrous conditions, with the evils and disorders necessarily following in their train, are interfering with the insular avenues of trade and very gravely impairing the business operations of Cuba. A measure of the general falling off is instructively found in the monthly returns of the customs receipts at the fifteen ports of entry of Cuba, which, from $5,469,255.77 during the first seven months of 1895, sank to $3,728,107.80 in the corresponding period of 1896. This is but one of many accessible examples to show that the industrial value of the Island of Cuba is fast decreasing under the prevalent conditions.
From whatever point of view we regard the matter, it is impossible not to discern that a state of things exists at our doors alike dangerous to good relations, destructive of legitimate commerce, fatal to the internal resources of Cuba, and most vexatious and trying because entailing upon this Government excessive burdens in its domestic administration and in its outward relations. This situation can not indefinitely continue without growing still worse, and the time may not be far distant when the United States must seriously consider whether its rights and interests as well as its international duties in view of its peculiar relations to the island do not call for some decided change in the policy hitherto pursued.
Besides the cases growing out of the acts of the combatants in the interior, complaints have not been infrequent touching the course of the insular government in the centers where the Spanish authorities assert politico-military powers. Numerous instances of interference with the persons, property, vessels, and interests of citizens of the United States have been brought to notice in the past twelvemonth. In every case where the facts sufficed to impute culpability or responsibility to the agents of the Spanish power redress has been promptly and vigorously sought.
The right of every citizen arrested in Cuba to have the benefit of the ordinary criminal proceedings guaranteed by existing treaties has been energetically insisted upon; the claim of the insular authorities to seize the persons of our citizens without process or charge of crime, and to detain them as suspects upon mere administrative [Page LXXXVII] order, has been met with prompt demand for immediate regular trial or release; arbitrary restrictions upon ordinary commerce, decreed by the military power, and tending to impair existing contracts of our citizens, have called forth impressive remonstrance and promise of redress; the right of our consular representatives to address the local authorities in defence of any assailed interests of Americans, when questioned, has been successfully defended; and unwarrantable acts of interference with our vessels have been at once resisted. The particulars of many of these cases will be found in the collected annual volume entitled “Foreign Relations of the United States.”
In April last, the Competitor, a small schooner of American registry, eluding the vigilance of the Federal authorities, took on board men and supplies presumably intended to aid the Cuban insurrection, and reached the coast of that island near San Cayetano. Being discovered by the Spanish coast guard, a conflict ensued, resulting in the capture of a number of those on board as well as the seizure of the vessel. The prisoners, among them several American citizens, were subjected to a summary military trial, which, although conducted by an admiralty court, alleged to be competent, appeared to have lacked the essential safeguards of procedure stipulated by the existing conventions between the United States and Spain. This Government promptly intervened to secure for its implicated citizens all the rights to which they were clearly entitled, including appeal from the pronounced sentence of death. Their cases were subsequently carried to the higher tribunal at Madrid, which has set the conviction aside and remanded the cases for retrial.
This Government has been constrained to enter earnest protest against a recent decree of the Governor-General of Cuba, ordering the registration of all aliens in the island, and pronouncing all those not registered within a certain time as debarred from appealing to the provisions of existing law. The treaty rights of American citizens obviously depend on their actual allegiance to their own Government, not upon any arbitrary inscription as aliens by the State wherein they may be sojourning; and while this Government is well disposed to admit the convenience of the proposed registry as an additional evidence of the right of such citizens in Cuba to the protection of the authorities, and has signified its willingness to facilitate their registration, it can never consent that the omission of a merely local formality can operate to outlaw any persons entitled to its protection as citizens, or to abrogate the right to the orderly recourses of Spanish law solemnly guaranteed to them by treaty.[Page LXXXVIII]
It would seem very desirable, notwithstanding the abortiveness of the efforts made toward a naturalization treaty with Switzerland between 1882 and 1889, that a conventional arrangement should be perfected with the Confederation for the better determination of the status as well as the personal and property rights of citizens of the United States of Swiss origin. The Helvetian Republic appears to stand, by a somewhat notable anomaly, with the minority of modern States in holding to the now generally abandoned doctrine of perpetual allegiance, and the more remarkably so as its contention seems to rest, not on the old theory of the sovereign’s absolute mastership over the subject, but on the individual’s relation to the local commune, in which he is held to acquire a species of perpetual denization by descendance, inheritance, or even purchase, that can not be dissolved except with the consent of the commune. This pretension has been pushed so far that even native Americans, born of naturalized parents, may, it seems, be held to military duty should they visit Switzerland.
The United States minister at Berne has been instructed to reopen negotiations in view of the more encouraging disposition to conclude a convention in this regard which was disclosed by a certain consultative report made to the Swiss Federal Council in 1888.
While the perturbed condition in Asiatic Turkey continues, with frequent riotous outbreaks in which large loss of human life and destruction of property are lawlessly occasioned, it is gratifying to note that no instance of the killing or wounding in these disturbances of any American citizen among the hundreds dwelling in Armenia and Koordistan has been reported, notwithstanding the circumstance that their benevolent Christian work brings them into association with those native elements against which the traditional rancor of the Moslem race is so often displayed.
That this notable degree of personal immunity is largely due to the demands of our minister for the complete protection of American citizens and their interests in that region can hardly be questioned. The assurances given to Minister Terrell by the Ottoman Government do not, however, seem to fully embrace the protection of American property, and the Porte still resists our just demands of indemnification for the burnings and pillagings which took place a year or more ago at Harpoot and Marash, notwithstanding the [Page LXXXIX] satisfactory proof presented to show the neglect of the native officials to prevent or check these spoliations and the active participation of the Ottoman soldiery in the robberies. Other worthy claims of reparation, for the murder and injury of certain citizens in previous years, remain unredressed. All these will continue to be pressed as earnestly as heretofore, and, it is to be hoped, with eventual success.
Although the present situation in Asia Minor is apparently more tranquil than it has recently been, the grounds of legitimate apprehension are by no means yet dispelled, so that a proper regard for possible contingencies requires the continued presence of several naval vessels in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean, as an indication of watchful solicitude at least, if not in contemplation of any immediate emergency.
After long insistence and many unfulfilled promises on the part of the Turkish Government, peremptory orders have at last been procured to permit the emigration of the wives and children of a number of men of Armenian origin now in the United States, and many of them have already departed from Turkey. This friendly act of deference is appreciated, and it is trusted that no further obstacles will be interposed to the escape of these unfortunate people from the perils which unhappily appear to menace their race in the Ottoman territories.
The recently appointed consul to Erzerum is at his post, provisionally discharging his duties with the consent of the authorities, but the issuance of an imperial exequatur in his favor, although urgently requested and often promised, is still unaccountably delayed.
For several years past the Department has endeavored to conclude extradition conventions with certain countries with which no such engagements exist, or where the number of extraditable offences in existing treaties of that nature has been limited.
The efforts of the minister of the United States at Buenos Ayres have lately resulted in the signing of a convention for the extradition of criminals between the Governments of United States and the Argentine Republic.
A similar convention has been signed with the representative of the Orange Free State. Upon its taking effect, thirty days after the exchange of ratifications, the treaty of December 22, 1871, with that State, which has already been announced to take effect at a given time, is to terminate.[Page XC]
Both these treaties will be laid before yon in the near future, with a view to their submission to the Senate for its constitutional action and their subsequent proclamation.
official residences for ambassadors and ministers.
Recommendation was made in the last annual message, of December 2, 1895, in favor of providing official residences for the ambassadors and ministers of the United States at foreign capitals. Such provision is common in the diplomatic administration of other nations, and several important embassies and legations in this city are established in premises owned by their respective governments. The present custom of throwing upon an envoy, often appointed for a brief, uncertain term, the onerous charge of leasing and equipping a proper official residence develops in practice many objections, personal in part, but also partly official, owing to the frequent changes of quarters it entails.
The experience of many years shows the advisability, if not the imperative need, of governmental ownership of our permanent representative establishments abroad. There is no question that it will largely conduce to the more orderly and effective fulfillment of the purpose of those missions, by affording a degree of permanence, security, and representative dignity which is obviously lacking when the haphazard scheme of annual leases by the envoy, and at his personal cost, is followed.
To the end of testing the views and conclusions of the Department of State by obtaining data in this regard covering the whole field of our diplomatic representation, each ambassador and minister has been asked to report upon the cost of a suitable residence in the capital of the country to which he is accredited, having especial regard to the proper accommodation of the public offices of the mission and the security of its archives. Estimates of the necessary expenditure, based upon such reports, will in due time be submitted to Congress.
Since the 1st of January, 1896, thirty-five appointments have been made in the Consular Service, all to fill vacancies caused by resignation or death, by the establishment of new offices under the provisions of the appropriation bills, by the removal of the incumbents—of which there were two cases—and, in two other cases, by the displacement of aliens in favor of American citizens.
Sixteen of the thirty-five appointments were transfers or promotions from other positions under the Department of State, of a character [Page XCI] tending to qualify the incumbents for the place to be filled, four of them only entailing a change of the title of the incumbents from commercial agent to that of consul; four were of persons having previously served under the Department of State and to its satisfaction; eight persons were appointed, after examination by the board of examiners created under the Executive order of September 20, 1895, and composed of Judge John Davis, of the Court of Claims, W. W. Rockhill, present Assistant Secretary of State, and Robert S. Chilton, jr., chief of the Consular Bureau, to consulates with salaries from $1,000 to $2,500. Five other applicants appearing before this board failed to pass satisfactory examinations.
Three appointments to posts the compensation of which is superior to $2,500 (Apia, Habana, Chung-k’ing) were also made in the same period, the persons appointed to these offices being chosen on account of their special qualifications, and knowledge of the countries in which they were to be stationed and their languages.
Four appointments were also made to posts the compensation of which fell below $1,000, and in these cases American citizens of good standing and well qualified by residence in the countries in which they were to act were appointed.
Congress, in its last session, having appropriated a sum of $10,000 for the inspection of our consulates, to be expended under the direction of the Secretary of State and subject to certain conditions, the Chief of the Consular Bureau, Mr. Robert S. Chilton, jr., began, in the latter part of May last, the inspection by visiting our consulate-general at Habana and our consular establishments in Mexico. As a result of this investigation the Department was at once able to correct some serious irregularities in the mode of conducting consular work in several of the offices, one consul, found unworthy of the trust put upon him, being removed from office and several useless consular agencies closed.
After reporting to the Department of State, Mr. Chilton inspected most of our consulates in Canada, which he found, as a general rule, well managed, though both the consulates and the consular agencies under them are, in his opinion, in which the Department concurs, more numerous than the necessities of commerce require. The general conclusions reached by Mr. Chilton as to our consular establishments in Canada will be submitted hereafter in a special report on the subject.
Leaving Canada, Mr. Chilton proceeded to Great Britain, where all our consulates were most carefully examined by him. The question of unofficial fees collected by consuls, always a source of trouble to regulate and keep down to reasonable figures, received his careful [Page XCII] attention and investigation. Among these fees was one paid to commissioners for taking oath of shippers to their declarations to the correctness of invoices of goods shipped to the United States, which oath, under British law, could not be taken before the consuls themselves. Though under existing regulations it was not necessary that this oath should be required of all shippers and under all circumstances, the practice had grown up of doing so and the fees thus collected constituted a considerable tax upon shippers.
Mr. Chilton carefully examined into this question, and upon his strong representations the Department of State issued, under date of October 21 of this year, an order to our consular officers abroad instructing them to only require the oath to invoice declarations when they covered goods subject to ad valorem of over $100 in value, and when there was reasonable ground for suspecting fraudulent undervaluation or other willful misstatements. This order, which went into effect at once, will relieve shippers in Great Britain and Ireland of the payment annually of a sum certainly not less than $50,000.
Other minor irregularities, mostly relating to excessive unofficial fees, have also been corrected and greater uniformity secured in the methods of work.
Mr. Chilton is now in France, and after having examined our most important consulates there and in Western Europe, so as to enable the Department to determine the general character of the irregularities or abuses prevalent in each country in our consular establishments, will proceed to Asia and thence return to the United States.
Another inspector has been chosen, the secretary of our legation to the Argentine Republic, to examine our consular establishments in Central and South America; and still another, a consular clerk, has been sent to visit the West Indies and such portions of South America as the former inspector could not easily reach. It is confidently expected that a general report embodying the results of this inspection will be ready by February, 1897, and that before the summer of that year all our remaining consulates, including Africa and those in the Pacific, will have been visited and reported upon.
Congress, on July 16, 1894, appropriated a sum of $2,000 for rewriting the Consular Regulations. Although an edition of this work had appeared in 1888, numerous changes in our laws and improvements suggested by the last eight years’ experience required that a corrected edition should be put in the hands of our consular officers. The work was intrusted to Mr. Frank D. Partridge, formerly Solicitor of this Department, and with the assistance of the [Page XCIII] Chief of the Consular Bureau and other officers of the Treasury and the Department of State the work has been carried through to completion, and it is anticipated that it will be possible to submit it for your approval before the end of the current year.
The general instructions for the conduct of our diplomatic officers, the last edition of which was printed in 1885, requiring corrections of a similar nature to those in our Consular Regulations, this work has also been done under the direction of the Assistant Secretary of State, the Second Assistant Secretary, and the Solicitor of the Department, and will be ready for submission to you for your approval at an early date.
the department of state.
As respects the conduct of the business of the Department itself, I take pleasure in highly commending the efficiency of its force. Despite the onerous demands of current transactions, gratifying progress has been made in the rearrangement of the earlier archives for more convenient reference, although in this important particular the lack of sufficient clerical aid has been apparent. Increased regularity has been attained by the redistribution of minor details of the work, as in a reorganization of the passport service.
The scope of the operations of the Bureau of Statistics has been greatly extended during the past three years by the increased activity of the consular service in supplying data of great value to the business interests of the country, and by the progress made in systematizing and developing this important work. The general utility of its publications of diplomatic and consular reports is receiving ample recognition, not only from organized trade bodies but from individual firms in all parts of the country, and from the newspaper press. These results have been accomplished notwithstanding an inadequate force and a relatively insignificant appropriation.
No recommendation of material change in the general administration and functions of the Department occurs to me, except the suggestion that the increase of the working records and the lack of such accommodations as are usual in the foreign offices of other important countries may very soon require additional provision in the shape of a more commodious building designed with especial regard to the representative needs of the service.