Mr. White to Mr. Sherman.

No. 914.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith the translation of a telegram which I received from you on the 9th instant, relative to the Alaskan seal question, and of the reply which I sent you yesterday.

I also inclose a copy of a note which I thereupon addressed to Her Majesty’s Government, and which I handed at the foreign office, in the absence on the Continent of the Marquis of Salisbury, to the Hon. Francis Villiers, the assistant under secretary, who has charge of the American department.

Mr. Villiers at once read the note, but was not in a position, of course, to make any reply to the proposal therein made. He said, however, that it should receive the prompt attention of Her Majesty’s Government. I have since received a note from him to the same effect, of which I inclose a copy herewith, together with two telegrams from the American correspondent of the Times, and a leading article from that newspaper on the subject.

I had previously seen the Russian ambassador, to whom I communicated the views of the President and yourself relative to the seal question. His excellency said that the matter is one in which his Government takes much interest, and he promised to telegraph at once on the subject to St. Petersburg.

I shall lose no time in communicating to you by telegraph the substance of any answer which I may receive from the ambassador or from the foreign office prior to the arrival of Mr. Hay.

I have, etc.,

Henry White.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 914.]

Mr. White to the Marquis of Salisbury.

My Lord: I have the honor to inform your lordship that as a result of the investigations made last year in Alaskan waters by Dr. Jordan, with whose views Professor Thompson, who was sent by Her Majesty’s Government to make similar investigations, is believed to concur, the present state of the Alaskan seals has forced itself, in the midst of the many cares attending the organization of his Administration, upon the attention of the President of the United States, to whom the depleted condition and prospective early extinction of the herd are a matter of grave concern.

I have received urgent telegraphic instructions, therefore, to bring the subject to the immediate attention of Her Majesty’s Government, and to communicate the President’s earnest hope and expectation that effective measures may at once be adopted by the respective Governments with a view to putting a stop to the indiscriminate slaughter of the seals through pelagic sealing.

I am instructed to suggest to Her Majesty’s Government that, in the opinion of the President, a modus vivendi based upon that of 1891, with equitable provision for the various interests involved, suspending all killing of seals during the season of 1897 in Bering Sea, should [Page 268] be agreed upon without delay, and that this should be accompanied by an arrangement for a joint conference, at an early day, of the Powers concerned, for the purpose of agreeing upon the measures necessary for the preservation of the seals in the North Pacific from extermination and of restoring them to their normal condition, with a view to their continued existence.

To defer taking up the subject until after the termination of the season of 1898, as contemplated by the award of the Tribunal of Arbitration at Paris, would, in the opinion of my Government, be fatal to the object in view, as, should the destruction continue during two more seasons, there will be no occasion, owing to the disappearance of the seals, for a conference.

The President sees, therefore, no escape from the conviction that there is urgent necessity for prompt action, such as I now have the honor to propose in his behalf, and in so doing I am instructed to say that if Her Majesty’s Government should see their way to agreeing to the modus vivendi herein suggested my Government will have pleasure in giving full opportunity to Professor Thompson and his assistants to visit the seal islands in accordance with the request to that effect which has been made by the British ambassador at Washington.

In view of the approach of the sealing season and of the consequent importance that the President should be in a position to know as soon as possible whether he may count, as he hopes, upon the friendly cooperation in this matter of Her Majesty’s Government, I have the honor, in accordance with instructions from the Secretary of State, to ask your lordship to be so good as to cause a reply to be sent to this note at the earliest date which may be practicable.

I have, etc.,

Henry White.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 914.]

Mr. Villiers to Mr. White.

Sir: I had the honor to receive the note which you were good enough to leave at this office on the 10th instant, conveying proposals from the United States Government for a fresh “modus vivendi,” similar to that of 1891, with regard to seal fisheries in Bering Sea, and for an arrangement for a joint conference of the Powers concerned, to discuss the measures necessary for the preservation of the seals.

Your communication will receive the immediate consideration of Her Majesty’s Government.

I have, etc.,

F. H. Villiers.

(For the Marquis of Salisbury).