Mr. Hay to Mr. Sherman.
London, April 27, 1897.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I have received your cipher telegram, dated the 24th, on Sunday, the 25th, a copy of which I inclose.
To-day, at the earliest hour possible, I went to the foreign office and asked for an audience with Sir Thomas Sanderson, the permanent under secretary who, in the absence of Lord Salisbury on the Continent, is in charge of foreign affairs. I expressed to him the earnest desire of the President for an immediate and, if possible, a favorable reply to your suggestion of a new modus vivendi for the suppression of pelagic sealing for this season, and for a conference of the Powers interested for the purpose of adopting some definite plan for the preservation of the seal herd now threatened with extinction. I went over some of the considerations embraced in your instruction showing the rapid decrease in breeding seals and the necessity for prompt action to prevent the total extinction of the species. I said the interests of England and the United States were identical in the matter; that the business of sealing would be lost to the Canadians by the extinction of the seals, as well as the handling of the product in London. I mentioned the 1st of May as the date of sailing of the patrol fleet and of the departure of the sealing vessels, and explained the urgency of the President in requesting immediate light upon the intentions of the British Government, so that if they should unfortunately conclude to decline the suggestion of the President for a modus vivendi he might be free to take such other measures for the protection of the seals as the exigencies of the case might seem to require.
Sir Thomas Sanderson said the information in the possession of the British Government led them to a conclusion altogether different; that [Page 273]while there might be a certain diminution in the numbers of the herd, there was no danger of entire extermination; that the number of sealing vessels was considerably diminished from that of last year; that with the diminution of the seals pelagic sealing would doubtless become less profitable and would gradually be given up, and that those engaged in the land-killing of seals would then have control of the business. He said that the fact of the sealers starting about the 1st of May was less important in view of the fact that they went first to the coast of Japan and could be communicated with, if necessary, later on.
Referring to the mention of the reports from the British commissioners, I said that the conclusion of Mr. Thompson did not seem in entire accordance with the facts on which they were based. His statistics showed great mortality among the young seals, which apparently was caused by starvation.
In reply to my repeated solicitations for an early answer he said Lord Salisbury would not arrive until about the 1st of May; that the matter could not be fully brought before him until his arrival; but he proposed to consult with the colonial secretary, Mr. Chamberlain, and with Mr. Bertie, who had been paying especial attention to the matter. He regretted the absence of Mr. Villiers, who was particularly informed as to this subject, but who was away on a week’s vacation.
Sir Thomas Sanderson then took me to see Mr. Bertie, who at the outset of our conversation mentioned the subject of compensation to interests involved in pelagic sealing. I told him that the President proposed that any modus vivendi adopted should contain equitable provision for legitimate interests involved. He said it was not probable that the Government of Her Majesty would be inclined to make any change in the present regulations; that they did not believe the seals were in any danger of extermination; that an instruction had been sent to Sir Julian Pauncefote last Friday, which ought to be in Washington the last of this week. In reply to my inquiry as to the drift of this instruction, he said it could not be communicated until confirmed by Lord Salisbury, but that the substance of it was that the British Government saw no reason to make any change in the existing regulations. He repeated the belief of the Government that there was no danger of the extinction of the seals. I told him that the opinion of the President, derived from a careful study of the subject, was exactly the contrary.
Returning from the foreign office, I sent you the telegram, a copy of which I inclose.
I have, etc.,