Mr. Sherman to Mr. Hay.

No. 28.]

Sir: The British ambassador called upon me on the 3d instant and handed me a copy of a dispatch to him from Her Majesty’s principal secretary of state for foreign affairs, bearing date the 21st ultimo. [Page 281]This dispatch constitutes the reply of the British Government to the proposals of the President, as presented in the note of your embassy of the 10th ultimo, for a modus vivendi for the suspension of all killing of seals for the present season, and for a joint conference of the Powers concerned with a view to the necessary measures being adopted for the preservation of the fur seal in the North Pacific. It will be seen that both proposals are rejected.

I need hardly say that the President is greatly disappointed at this action, especially when it is based upon such unsubstantial and inadequate reasons. The President’s concern, in view of the depleted condition of the seal herd, was occasioned not alone from an examination of Dr. Jordan’s report of 1896 and what he had reason to suppose were the conclusions of Professor Thompson, but it was based upon a series of observations and statistics covering a much longer period than that treated by those gentlemen, establishing a state of facts beyond refutation and which is in part set forth in my note to the British ambassador of the same date as my cablegram to you. It is therefore quite surprising that Her Majesty’s secretary should base his rejection of the proposals of this Government, so impressively presented, upon the report of one scientist whose facts and conclusions are in correctly apprehended and the delayed report of another, which is for the first time made public concurrently with the receipt of his lordship’s note.

It would have been gratifying to me and useful to my Government, in studying the important subject under consideration, if Professor Thompson’s report could have been made public with the promptness which marked the appearance of that of Dr. Jordan. In that case there would have been ample time for both Governments to have examined the reports of these two eminent scientists before tire opening of another sealing season. But it seems to have better suited the purposes of Her Majesty’s Government to withhold Professor Thompson’s report until an opportunity was afforded to examine that of Dr. Jordan, and thus enable the former to pass the latter in review, criticise its statements, and as far as possible minimize its conclusions. It is not pleasant to have to state that the impartial character which it has been the custom to attribute to the reports of naturalists of high standing has been greatly impaired by the apparent subjection of this report to the political exigencies of the situation. It is further to be regretted that the report was so long delayed that no opportunity was afforded this Government to examine it before the definite and final rejection of the President’s proposals, based mainly upon its conclusions, was communicated to me. This conduct recalls the incident which preceded the arbitration at Paris, and which came near rendering that arbitration abortive, when a similar report of a British commission was withheld until after the case of each Government was exchanged and the report of the American commission made public.

Lord Salisbury asserts that Dr. Jordan’s report does not contain any facts warranting the statement that there is a “depleted condition and prospective early extinction of the herd.” The note of your embassy of the 10th ultimo does not attribute such a statement to Dr. Jordan, but it is difficult to understand how anyone can read his report without reaching the conclusion that such is the real condition of the herd. On page 18 he says: “From this time (1886) on the decline has been more rapid and has been continuous.” On page 21 he clearly recognizes diminution, as evidenced by photographs, as also by decrease of harems. On page 66 he uses this expression: As the herd is steadily [Page 282]diminishing, the spring or northwest catch is becoming relatively unimportant.” Other citations might be made, but it would seem unnecessary in view of his declarations, often repeated in his report, respecting pelagic sealing, from which I give only one extract (p. 29):

Pelagic sealing, in the judgment of the members of the present commission, has been the sole cause of the continued decline of the fur-seal herds. It is at present the sole obstacle to their restoration and the sole limit of their indefinite increase. It is therefore evident that no settlement of the fur-seal question as regards either the American or Russian islands can be permanent unless it shall provide for the cessation of the indiscriminate killing of fur seals, both on the sealing grounds and on their migrations. There can be no “open season” for the killing of females if the herd is to be kept intact.

Professor Thompson’s report is plainly written with a view to minimize as far as possible the depleted condition of the herd on the Pribilof Islands, and requires a critical examination not possible within the limits of the present instruction, but its general purport may be briefly stated. It is to be regretted that he should have contracted his study far within the purview of his instructions. In the outset of his report he says: “The main object of my mission was the collection of information and statistics with regard to the working and effectiveness of the regulations” of the Paris Tribunal. But we look in vain in his report for any discussion of that all-important subject. He confined his inquiry and report to the subordinate subject of the number of seals resorting to the islands and particularly to the relative numbers in 1895 and 1896. The result of his observations and inquiry seemed to be that on some rookeries there was an increase and on others a decrease, but on the whole a possible state of equilibrium for the past two years, although he concedes a diminution as compared with 1892. If all the professor claims is admitted, it does not militate against the contention that since pelagic sealing became general the decline of the herd has been steady and rapid. The apparent equilibrium noted in his report is well explained by Dr. Jordan when he says (p. 18):

There is evidence that the modus vivendi of 1892–93, by which Bering Sea was closed to the sealing fleet, has produced for 1895 and 1896 a slight check of the diminution. The reason for this is that in addition to the saving of mothers no pups were starved to death in 1892 and 1893, and those which might have been starved have returned as breeders or as killable seals in 1895 and 1896.

Since the receipt of Lord Salisbury’s dispatch explicit inquiry has been made by Dr. Jordan as to the relative condition of the herd in 1895 and 1896 and in previous years, and he has furnished the chapter on the “Decline of the herd,” from the forthcoming final report of himself and associates, from which the following extract is taken:

While the amount of the decline can not be stated with mathematical exactness, it is possible from the data at hand to make an approximate estimate. From a careful study of all the conditions, in our opinion the fur-seal herd of the Pribilof Islands has decreased to about one-fifth its size in 1872–1874; to somewhat less than one-half its size in 1890; and that between the seasons of 1895 and 1896 there has been a decrease of about 10 per cent.

Although Professor Thompson has been very careful throughout the report to say nothing likely to embarrass his Government, in the “conclusions,” the voice of the true scientific investigator speaks in firm and certain tones. While he regards “the alarming statements * * * of the herd’s immense decrease” as overdrawn, he says “there is still abundant need for care and for prudent measures of conservation in the interest of all. * * * It is not difficult to believe that the margin of safety is a narrow one, if it be not already in some measure [Page 283]overstepped. We may hope for a perpetuation of the present numbers; we can not count upon an increase. And it is my earnest hope that a recognition of mutual interests and a regard for the common advantage may suggest measures of prudence which shall keep the pursuit and slaughter of the animal within due and definite bounds.” In view of” such explicit language it is not easy to understand how Lord Salisbury can reconcile his refusal to entertain the proposals of the President with the interests of his own countrymen, to say nothing of the friendly relations which he desires to maintain with the United States, Russia, and Japan.

The experience had with the scientific commissions of 1892, as well as the reports of 1896 just under review, shows that it is difficult through them to reach a harmony of views; but we have at hand certain. statistics of undisputed authority pointing unmistakably to conclusions which should be controlling.

The operations of the pelagic fleet in Bering Sea since the Paris regulations have been in force are as follows:

1894, thirty-seven vessels, 31,585 seals taken, or an average of 853 per vessel.

1895, fifty-nine vessels, 44,169 seals taken, or an average of 748 per vessel.

1896, sixty-seven vessels, 29,500 seals taken, or an average of 440 per vessel.

It thus appears that nearly double the number of vessels in 1896 were not able to take as many seals as were taken in 1894, and the catch per vessel fell off nearly one-half. Lord Salisbury attributes this large falling off in Bering Sea “to the stormy weather prevailing,” but does not cite his authority. I am not aware of any published report to that effect. Captain Hooper, who commanded the American cruising fleet in Bering Sea in 1895 and 1896, reports:

The weather in Bering Sea was not materially different in the past two years. Conditions admitted of boarding operations by the fleet twenty-five days in 1895 and twenty-four days in 1896.

An examination and comparison of the logs of sealing vessels for 1895 and 1896 confirm Captain Hooper’s report. The above figures, with the statistics contained in my note of the 9th ultimo to the British ambassador, make it very clear that the seal herd is becoming rapidly depleted, and that “the margin of safety,” as Professor Thompson expresses it, has been “already overstepped.” It is to be inferred that “the margin of safety” is intended to signify the point at which pelagic sealing ceases to be profitable. He can not have in mind biological extermination, for that point could not have been reached so long as a single bull and harem existed. The point when sealing ceased to be profitable seems to have been reached during last year. A table appended to his report shows that the product of the pelagic catch of 1896 in the London market was about half the amount of that of 1895, and Lord Salisbury informs us that this result has “brought many owners of the sealing vessels to the verge of bankruptcy.” It thus appears that the condition of things predicted by the Government of the United States, as quoted below, has already come to pass—the commercial extermination of the seals. If pelagic sealing continues to be tolerated, a limited number of vessels will carry on the indiscriminate slaughter in the hope, by a favorable cruise, of recouping the losses of the previous year, and the rookeries on the islands will be still further depleted. But the biological existence of the fur seal may [Page 284]still be continued and Her Majesty’s ambassador may repeat the declaration so often made during the past two years that there is “no reason to fear that the seal herd is threatened with early extermination.”

In this connection it may not be unprofitable to recall the action of the two Governments respecting the efforts made to revise the regulations adopted at Paris. The expressed object of the Paris Arbitration was “the preservation of the fur seals,” and the regulations adopted by the Tribunal were framed with a view to “the proper protection and preservation of the fur-seal * * * resorting to Bering Sea.” On January 23, 1895, Secretary Gresham addressed a note to the British ambassador stating that the first year’s experience had “convinced the President that the regulations enacted by the Paris Tribunal have not operated to protect the seal herd from the destruction which they were designed to prevent,” and he asked that a commission of scientists and experts be appointed by the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, Russia, and Japan to report upon the proper measures to be adopted, and pending the deliberations of the Governments a modus vivendi be agreed upon suspending sealing in Bering Sea. Nearly four months elapsed without an answer from the British Government, when, on May 14, 1895, a second note was sent, reiterating the President’s solicitude, urging a reply, and predicting that unless some further restrictions were adopted the seal would “be exterminated for all commercial purposes within a very few years.” On May 27 the British answer was received, in which it was complacently stated “that the condition of affairs is not of so urgent a character as the President has been led to believe,” and that there was no “such urgent danger of total extinction of the seals as to call for a departure from the arbitral award by which the two nations have solemnly bound themselves to abide.”

Secretary Olney, June 24, 1895, by direction of the President, renewed the proposition in different terms, but the British Government repeated its declination to make “any extension of the regulations solemnly laid down by an international board of arbitration.”

After a second year’s experience of the regulations, Secretary Olney, March 11, 1896, called the attention of the British ambassador to the catch of 1895 in Bering Sea (the largest ever made in that sea) and expressed the hope that the British Government would realize “the absolute necessity of consenting for the coming season to some further regulation* * * to the end that the valuable herd be saved from total extinction.” On the 27th of April, Sir Julian Pauncefote replied that Her Majesty’s Government saw no reason to believe the catch in Bering Sea was “so large as to threaten early extermination,” and that there was no “necessity for the immediate imposition of increased restrictions.”

This correspondence is recalled to show that from the first year the Paris regulations were put in force each succeeding President and Secretary of State has been firmly convinced that they were inadequate for the purpose for which they were adopted, and that the British Government has just as firmly resisted all overtures for even a conference of the Governments concerned for the purpose of considering whether further regulations were required to protect the seals, and has rested its refusal upon “the arbitral award by which the two nations have solemnly bound themselves to abide.”

In view of this attitude of the British Government, I deem it opportune to make an examination (even at the risk of being somewhat tedious) into the manner in which it has responded to the action of the [Page 285]Paris Tribunal, and to what extent and in what spirit it has observed the decision and recommendations of that tribunal.

A perusal of the protocols of that tribunal will show that the preparation of the regulations was intrusted to the three arbitrators nominated by the neutral Governments, and when their unanimous report was presented it was provided in article 2 that the regulations should be applied to all the waters of the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea north of the thirty-fifth degree of north latitude, thereby including all the waters east of Japanese and Russian territory. Lord Hannen, the British arbitrator, objected to this provision and moved an amendment limiting the area to all that part of the ocean and sea east of the one hundred and eightieth meridian. Baron Courcel, president of the tribunal, stated on behalf of the neutral arbitrators that, in framing article 2, “they had acted out of regard for Russia and Japan, powers not respresented before the Tribunal of Arbitration, and toward the waters of whom it appeared not equitable to drive back the English and American pelagic sealers during the whole time of the close season.” But he acquiesced in Lord Hannen’s amendment and it was adopted. (Protocol LIV.) It is plain from the proceedings that the tribunal regarded the extension of the regulations to the Asiatic waters as a matter of justice to Russia and Japan, and they would have been so extended if those powers had been parties to the arbitration.

When, in accordance with Article VII of the treaty of 1892, the Russian and Japanese Governments were approached with a view to securing their adhesion to the regulations, they both” replied they could only do so on their extension to the Asiatic waters. Secretary Gresham reports that as early as October, 1893, he verbally brought this attitude of the subject to the attention of the British ambassador, who recognized the force of the position assumed and said the situation seemed to suggest the propriety of a treaty between the four powers “for the preservation, for their common benefit, of the fur seals between the two continents and north of the thirty-fifth degree of north latitude.”

Mr. Bayard was instructed, October 27 and November 20, 1893, to seek to bring about such an arrangement or treaty; January 23, 1894, Mr. Gresham brought the subject to the attention of the British ambassador, and on May 2, no answer being received, the proposition was again urged. Secretary Olney brought the subject again to the attention of the British Government in a note dated June 24, 1895, the proposition being presented in a new form; and on August 19 a general negative reply was made to Mr. Olney’s note.

Under date of April 2, 1896, Secretary Olney informed Mr. Bayard that the Russian Government was about to initiate negotiations at London for the extension of the Paris regulations over the Asiatic waters, and at the request of the Government Mr. Bayard was instructed to cooperate in such negotiations. Mr. Bayard at once put himself in communication with the Russian ambassador, but on May 14 he was informed by Lord Salisbury that Her Majesty’s Government had decided to dispatch a naturalist to the Russian seal islands, and that pending the receipt of his report his Government would not enter upon negotiations. The British naturalist returned to Loudon in October, 1896, but up to this date his lordship has given no indication of a desire or intention to open the negotiations. In fact, the dispatch to which I now reply rejects the proposition of the President for a similar conference or negotiation. The effect of Lord Hannen’s amendment of article 2 of the regulations has been to bring about the state of affairs which the neutral arbitrators desired to avoid, to wit, to transfer the [Page 286]sealing vessels to the Asiatic waters during the closed season in the American waters, which they expected would be prevented by negotiations between the interested Governments. Such negotiations Great Britain has steadily omitted and declined to enter upon.

Again, the arbitrators appended to their decision or award a series of declarations, not binding upon the contracting Governments, but which were recommended for their adoption. The American arbitrators at once accepted the declarations, but Lord Hannen hesitated to accept the second paragraph, which is as follows:

In view of the critical condition to which it appears certain that the race of fur seals is now reduced, in consequence of circumstances not fully known, the arbitrators think fit to recommend both Governments to come to an understanding in order to prohibit any killing of fur seals, either on land or sea, for a period of two or three years, or at least one year, subject to such exceptions as the two Governments might think proper to admit of.

Such a measure might be recurred to at occasional intervals if found beneficial.

Lord Hannen declared that, “although approving the spirit in which it (the second paragraph) is conceived, and although regarding as very desirable that the destruction of the far seals might be entirely suspended during a certain period of time, so as to enable nature to retrieve the losses which this race of animals has undergone, he does not feel authorized by the terms of his mandate to express an opinion on the subject;” and the Canadian arbitrator concurred with his British colleague. (Protocol LIV.)

Immediately after the receipt of the official copy of the award and declarations, September 12, 1893, Secretary Gresham cabled instructions to Mr. Bayard to ask the concurrence of Great Britain in the enforcement of the second declaration. Mr. Bayard reported, September 13, that he had made known his instructions to the British Government. No answer having been received on this point, Secretary Gresham repeated the offer to Sir Julian Pauncefote January 21, 1894. I do not find that response to this proposition was ever made. The wisdom of the recommendation is abundantly proved by the experience of the past three years, and it strongly supports the repeated applications which have been made by the Government of the United States for a modus suspending all killing of the seals until a conference could be had to readjust the Paris regulations.

The indifference with which the British Government treated the repeated appeals of this Government for prompt action toward the adoption of measures to enforce the regulations “solemnly laid down by an international board of arbitration,” illustrates the measure of respect entertained for that august Tribunal. On September 12, 1893, within a month after the award had been rendered, Secretary Gresham instructed Mr. Bayard by cable (cited above) to inform the British Government of the desire of the Government of the United States to take up without delay the subject of the enforcement of the regulations, so as to make them effective before the next sealing season. This notice was given to the British foreign office September 13, more than three months before the opening of the sealing season. No progress having been made, November 17, Secretary Gresham cabled Mr. Bayard that the President was anxious that an agreement on this subject should speedily be reached. On the 4th of December, Secretary Gresham consented, at the desire of the British Government, that the negotiations might be transferred to Washington, but he gave notice to Lord Rosebery that “the rapidly shortening interval before the next season will commence admonishes both Governments to expedite the negotiations.” On the 24th of January, 1894, the Secretary addressed an urgent note [Page 287]to the British ambassador, complaining that nothing had yet been accomplished, and the time lost had brought them “to the opening of another sealing season without any definite steps having been taken for the execution of the Paris award.” A month later, February 22, the Secretary cabled Mr. Bayard that, in answer to his repeated inquiries, the British ambassador informed him he was still without instructions, and he was directed to say “this long delay is difficult to understand, and it is the President’s desire that you represent the matter impressively to Her Majesty’s Government.” On March 17, Secretary Gresham sent another urgent cablegram to Mr. Bayard, complaining of still further delay, for which “this Government is not responsible,” and which was threatening to “become embarrassing for both Governments.” The negotiations were not entered upon until six months after they were invited by the United States; the British act (April 23, 1894) to enforce the regulations was not passed until four months after the sealing season had opened, and the final order in council (June 27, 1894) on the subject was not issued until six months after the sealing fleet had put to sea in disregard of the award of the Tribunal.

The manner in which the British Government has discharged its police duties under the award is in marked contrast with its appeal for a strict observance of the five years’ period of the regulations. An equal obligation rests upon each Government to patrol the waters embraced in the award area, in order to see that the regulations are not violated by the sealing vessels. In 1894 the Government of the United States furnished twelve vessels for the patrolling fleet, at great expense, and only one vessel was furnished by the British Government. In 1895 five United States vessels patrolled the award area and only two British vessels, one for a short time only in Bering Sea, and the other took no part whatever in the patrol, as its presence was almost constantly required in Unalaska Harbor to take over the British sealing vessels seized in Bering Sea. Owing to the repeated complaints of the Government of the United States as to the inadequacy of the British patrol, an additional cruiser was ordered into Bering Sea during the season of 1896, although it was stated by the British Government that “so far as they have been able to judge, the force employed up to the present time has been sufficient.”. As it is shown that practically no patrol service had been rendered in Bering Sea by the British cruisers during the previous year, the inference from this language would seem to be that Her Majesty’s Government understood that the American cruisers only were to perform the patrol duty and the British cruiser to take over and act upon the validity of seizure of British vessels.

The detailed enforcement of the regulations has further developed on the part of the British Government a strange misconception of the true spirit and intent of the arbitrators. Under article 6 of the regulations the use of firearms in Bering Sea was prohibited, and to enforce that prohibition it was agreed between the two Governments for the year 1894 that sealing vessels might have their arms and ammunition placed under seal. But on May 11, 1895, although this Government had every reason to believe from the order in council that the British Government had given its concurrence to the arrangement, the British ambassador gave notice that his Government would not renew the arrangement as to the sealing of arms for the coming season, and defended its action on the ground that the possession of arms, etc., by a sealing vessel was “not forbidden by the award regulations.”

This tardy action of the British Government in refusing to renew the arrangement of 1894 led to much trouble and inconvenience in connection [Page 288]the patrol of Bering Sea. The British Government made grievous complaint against the severe measures of search resorted to by the American cruisers, which gave rise to a lengthy correspondence. On July 2, 1896, Secretary Olney submitted a proposition to put an end to the controversy by an examination of vessels entering Bering Sea and an inspection by a representative of the United States at British Columbian ports of all skins taken in Bering Sea, to discover whether or not firearms were used; but this proposition was not accepted. A further attempt was made by Secretary Olney to procure some agreement for the season of 1897, when it was urged that American vessels frequenting Bering Sea were required to have their arms sealed and on returning to their home ports their skins were carefully inspected, while Her Majesty’s Government refuses to enforce the provision as to arms and declines the inspection of skins—measures which this Government regards as “absolutely essential for preventing the unlawful destruction of the seals.” Nevertheless, another season has been entered upon without any settlement of this vexed question.

In this connection I recall the serious defect, pointed out in the correspondence, in the British act for the enforcement of the regulations. Under the British act passed to carry out the modus vivendi of 1891, whereby all killing of seals was prohibited in Bering Sea, it was provided that the presumption of guilt would lie against the vessel “having on board fishing or shooting implements or seal skins.” A provision of a kindred nature was inserted in the British act for the enforcement of the Russian modus of 1893. The act of Congress of 1894 to enforce the regulations of the Paris award contained a similar provision; but the British act of 1894 for the same purpose contained no provision whatever as to presumptive guilt respecting the possession of firearms or skins at forbidden times or in forbidden waters. And to emphasize its purpose in the matter, when the British act to enforce the Russian agreement was reenacted in 1895, the pro vision of the act of 1893 as to presumptive illegality was omitted. This action of the British Government was made the subject of an earnest protest on the part of my predecessor, but to no purpose. The practical effect is to make it impossible in many cases to convict British sealing vessels, although there may be the strongest presumptive evidence of guilt, evidence which, under the act of Congress, would in most cases procure the conviction of an American sealing vessel.

I shall only cite one further instance of the failure and refusal of the British Government to give full effect to the Paris regulations. Article 5 provided that the vessels engaged in sealing should enter daily in their official log books the number and sex of the seals taken and that these entries should be communicated by each Government to the other at the end of each season. This regulation was prescribed in order to procure reliable statistics as to the proportion of female seals killed, but it was found to be unsatisfactory and imperfect in its practical operation. The catch of American vessels was subjected to an official inspection at the home port, and it was found that they reported a much greater proportion of female seals taken than the British sealers. Although in many instances the British sealers were close to the American sealers, yet the American sealers reported from two to five times as many females as males, a result entirely at variance with the British returns. This state of facts led the Acting Secretary of State, May 10, 1895, to request of the British Government their consent to the stationing of United States inspectors at British Columbian ports for the purpose of verifying the log entries of British sealing vessels, with the offer [Page 289]of a reciprocal privilege in American ports to British inspectors. No answer having been received, on September 13 and again on September 18 the request made in the previous May was renewed. On the 24th of September the British ambassador replied that the request for inspectors was not acceptable to Her Majesty’s Government “on the ground that the matter is already provided for by the award regulations, the sealers being bound themselves to keep a record of sex.”

The measure was regarded by this Government as so important that, December 15, 1896, Secretary Olney recalled it to the attention of the British ambassador in connection with the sealing of arms. The answer of the British Government to this second application was that “the compulsory examination by experts of skins on landing at British ports would require legislation in Canada,” and that the views of the Canadian Government would have to be ascertained. In answer to the inquiry of Secretary Olney on January 23, 1897, as to when the Canadian Government was likely to take action, the ambassador replied on March 24 that Her Majesty’s Government were “still in correspondence with the Canadian Government” and that a further communication would be made as soon as possible. No further communication has been made.

I regret that this statement has become so lengthy, but in view of the fact that the British Government, when pressed for a remedy to well-established defects in the regulations or the acts and rules agreed upon for their enforcement, has appealed to “the arbitral award by which the two nations have solemnly bound themselves to abide,” I have felt the present occasion opportune to make a review of the events which have transpired since that award was rendered, and to challenge a comparison of the conduct of the two Governments with regard to the final action of the International Tribunal of Arbitration. In no respect has the United States Government failed to observe the exact terms of the award or to accept its recommendations in their true spirit and full effect, even though they have entailed heavy expense and caused great damage to long-established interests of this nation.

On the other hand, I think I have shown that the British Government has from the beginning and continuously failed to respect the real intent and spirit of the Tribunal or the obligations imposed by it. This is shown by the refusal to extend the regulations to the Asiatic waters; by the failure to put in operation the recommendation for a suspension of the killing of the seals for three, for two, or even for one year; by the neglect to put the regulations in force until long after the first sealing season had been entered on; by the almost total evasion of the patrol duty; by the opposition to suitable measures for the enforcement of the prohibition against firearms; by the omission to enact legislation necessary to secure conviction of the guilty; and by the refusal to allow or provide for an inspection of skins in the interest of an honest observance of the regulations.

The obligations of an international award, which are equally imposed on both parties to its terms, can not properly be assumed or laid aside by one of the parties only at its pleasure. Such an award which in its practical operation is binding only on one party in its obligations and burdens, and to be enjoyed mainly by the other party in its benefits, is an award which, in the interest of public morality and good conscience, should not be maintained. Having in view the expressed object of the arbitration at Paris and the declared purpose of the arbitrators in prescribing the regulations, when it became apparent, as it did after the first year’s operation of them and with increased emphasis each [Page 290]succeeding year, that the regulations were inadequate for the purpose, it was the plain duty of the British Government to acquiesce in the request of that of the United States for a conference to determine what further measures were necessary to secure the end had in view by the arbitration.

A course so persistenly followed for the past three years has practically accomplished the commercial extermination of the fur seals and brought to naught the patient labors and well-meant conclusions of the Tribunal of Arbitration. Upon Great Britain must therefore rest, in the public conscience of mankind, the responsibility for the embarrassment in the relations of the two nations which must result from such conduct. One of the evil results is already indicated in the growing conviction of our people that the refusal of the British Government to carry out the recommendations of that Tribunal will needlessly sacrifice an important interest of the United States. This is shown by the proposition seriously made in Congress to abandon negotiations and destroy the seals on the islands, as the speedy end to a dangerous controversy, although such a measure has not been entertained by this Department. We have felt assured that as it has been demonstrated that the practice of pelagic sealing, if continued, will not only bring itself to an end, but will work the destruction of a great interest of a friendly nation, Her Majesty’s Government would desist from an act so suicidal and so unneighborly, and which certainly could not command the approval of its own people.

The President therefore cherishes the hope that, even at this late day, the British Government may yet yield to his continued desire, so often expressed, for a conference of the interested powers; and, in delivering to Lord Salisbury a copy of this instruction, you will state to him that the President will hail with great satisfaction any indication on the part of Her Majesty’s Government of a disposition to agree upon such a conference.

Respectfully, yours,

John Sherman.