Sir Julian Pauncefote to Mr. Sherman.
Washington, May 18, 1897.
Sir: I had the honor of informing you verbally on the 3d instant, under telegraphic instructions from Her Majesty’s principal secretary of state, that her Majesty’s Government are prepared to agree to the renewal of the arrangement made in 1894 for the sealing up by a duly authorized officer, on the application of the master, of the arms on board a vessel proceeding to the fishery in Bering Sea, or returning to port during the close season, but that the Canadian Government found themselves unable to concur in the suggestion that the skins landed from the British sealing fleet should be examined at the port of destination by American experts. The proposals of the United States Government in regard to both these points were contained in your predecessor’s note to me of December 15, 1896.
I am now in receipt of a dispatch from the Marquis of Salisbury, stating the grounds on which this decision was arrived at. As regards the proposed inspection of skins, the Canadian Government are convinced that even were it possible to establish that any punctures which might be found in the seal skins were the results of gunshot wounds, and that they could be readily distinguished from those made by spears, [Page 291]it would still be impossible to prove that the animal from which the pelt was taken had been killed by means of firearms. It is a matter, it is said, of common knowledge that the skins of a large number of seals killed by spears contain shot wounds, so that no weight can be attached to any argument derived from these wounds as to the manner whereby the ultimate capture of the seal was effected. There is no means of proving that these shot wounds were not received during the migration of the seals outside Bering Sea, where the use of firearms is not prohibited, or that they may not have been inflicted by the crew of a vessel other than the one by which the seal was eventually secured by the spear. Moreover, sealers, knowing that an examination such as that suggested awaited them and their destination, could readily add a spear wound to the skin had the seal been shot, thus effectually destroying the utility of any such test.
The case of the Kate is referred to by the Canadian authorities as illustrating the force of the above remarks. As you are aware, this vessel was seized last season because certain skins were found on board believed to have shot holes in them, though it was afterwards found that the vessel had no firearms whatever on board.
The Canadian Government are further of opinion that an examination of the salted skins when landed at the home ports would prove of little use in establishing the sex of the seals killed. They state that when the United States Treasury circular, which is referred to in Mr. Olney’s note, first came into their possession, the matter was exhaustively considered and the conclusion reached that the tests therein indicated were wholly ineffective for determining the question of sex.
I have, etc.,