Mr. Sherman to Mr. White (charge).
Washington, April 8, 1897.
The President is greatly concerned as to the present depleted condition and the prospective early extinction of the Alaskan seal herd. In the midst of the cares attending organization of his Administration the subject has forced itself on his attention, and he is convinced that it is indispensable that immediate steps be taken to stop indiscriminate slaughter through pelagic sealing.
This is result of Jordan’s investigation and believed confirmed by Thompson. You are instructed to bring subject to immediate attention of British Government, communicate President’s concern and urgent expectation that effective measures be at once adopted by the respective Governments. He deems it requisite that a modus vivendi should be agreed upon with equitable provision for interests involved suspending all killing for the season ’97 in Bering Sea, taking modus of ’91 as basis. This is to be accompanied by an arrangement for a joint conference at an early day of Powers concerned to agree upon measures necessary to preserve the seals of the North Pacific from extermination and to restore them to their normal conditions for insuring continued existence. It will not satisfy the President to be informed that the British Government proposes to take up the subject at the close of next year’s season, as contemplated in the Paris award. If destruction goes on meanwhile, there will be no occasion for conference then. Action as indicated must be taken now if herd is to be saved. If modus agreed to, full liberty will be given Professor Thompson and assistants to visit islands. You will urge an early answer to proposal, [Page 264]as President desires to know whether he can rely upon friendly cooperation with Great Britain. In case of refusal, he must early consider what measures independent of that Government he shall adopt
It is suggested that you communicate to Russian ambassador purport of this instruction, with a view to securing his cooperation on assurance that modus should, in opinion of President, include waters of Russian islands and conference embrace his Government.