Mr. Olney to Mr. Eustis.
Washington, December 10, 1896.
Sir: Our consul at Tamatave, Madagascar, has transmitted to the Department in his No. 169, of October 19, 1896, a copy of the following communication made to him by the French resident-general in Madagascar, September 15, 1896:
Mr. Consul: Madagascar has become a French colony. A decree of the 9th of June organizes the judiciary. Foreign subjects will hereafter be amenable thereto. The [Page 153]Government of the Republic has notified the Government of the United States of this disposition on the 28th of July.
I have therefore the honor to make known to you that, beginning with the 16th of October, our tribunals will exercise their functions over all your nationality, and from now on will entertain, on their part, all suits and actions.
Until October 16 the cases already inscribed upon the calendar of your consular court may be by it wound up, but after that date the consular courts can no longer take cognizance of new cases, nor further count on our cooperation to assure their working and execution of their sentences.
I seize this occasion to renew to you, etc.,
On May 4, 1896, the consul was instructed by cable, at the instance of the French ambassador here, to “suspend until further instructed exercise consular judicial functions in all cases where cooperation of an established French court is available for disposition judicial cases affecting American citizens.”
It appears from the consul’s reply, dated October 5, 1896, to the above quoted note of the French resident-general, that the consul, acting under the telegraphic instructions of May 4, had ceased temporarily the exercise of his judicial functions, and had informed the French resident-general that he would so suspend the exercise of judicial powers in all districts where the cooperation of an established French court was available for the disposition of judicial cases affecting American citizens. The consul goes on further to say that in pursuance of this instruction he had permitted no new case to be entered upon his court calendar after receipt of that telegram. The Department is not informed and can not draw from the consul’s dispatch a clear inference as to whether he continued to exercise his judicial authority in winding up the pending court business after the receipt of the telegram. In the absence of competent French tribunals he might properly have done so.
The establishment of French sovereignty and civil jurisdiction over the Island of Madagascar puts an end to the extraterritorial rights of the United States in that country, and to the judicial powers of our consul dependent thereon. This changed condition is assumed to have gone into effect on the 16th of October, when, according to the statement of the French resident-general, the French courts were to have been opened for business. It does not appear from the communications received from the consul—nor from those received from the French Government—what provision, if any, was made for the disposition of the cases and other pending matters which the consul may have been unable to finally adjudicate and dispose of before his judicial authority became extinct. Did these unfinished matters abate ab initio, or has provision been made for their transfer to the proper French tribunals for complete adjudication?
It is hoped that the French Government has taken care that the lawful rights of citizens of the United States shall not be lost or prejudiced in the transition from extraterritorial to French jurisdiction. I am, etc.,