Mr. Sherman to Sir Julian Pauncefote.

No. 704.]

Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 9th instant, in reply to mine of the 7th, in which you state that British sealing vessels are now subject to regulations prescribed under acts of Parliament, and that any extensions or alterations imposing any new restrictions would require a further order in council to bear any force or validity. You further state that the regulations prescribed for American sealing vessels for the season of 1897 go beyond the scope of the so called arrangement of 1894, and therefore in the absence of a new order in council you are not empowered to agree upon said regulations. You conclude by stating that the arrangement of 1894 was of a largely voluntary nature, and you ask whether your proposition to agree to a renewal of such arrangement is acceptable to my Government.

I have the honor to reply that I am well informed that the regulations for 1897 now applicable to American sealing vessels contain much that is beyond the scope of the agreement of 1894, which was merely of a temporary and provisional nature, the same being prepared hastily during the early part of May, 1894, after the sealing fleet had put to sea. It is evident, therefore, that to accept the said regulations of 1897, a new order in council will be necessary, but I had no reason to assume that your Government would not be willing to enact a proper order in council to bring about this result.

The provisions of the arrangement of 1894, as I have stated, were merely of a temporary and provisional nature. Experience has shown the necessity of further and more stringent regulations properly to carry out the true intent and purpose of the Paris award. For example, there were no provisions in the arrangement of 1894 as to lights on sealing [Page 294] vessels at night, nor as to storing of arms, nor as to the sworn returns required of American vessels, nor was there anything contained in said arrangement as to the inspection of seal skins landed in ports of the United States or Great Britain. The latter safeguard (the inspection of skins by pelagic inspectors) the United States regards of the utmost importance.

Even with all these precautions, however, American sealing vessels undergo rigid search when met at sea by American cruisers. If, on examination, all firearms found on board are sealed, this fact constitutes evidence that they have not been used since the sealing up for illegal purposes and may save the vessel from seizure in those cases where skins are found on board with some evidence of having been shot.

It is not unnatural that both Governments should desire that the inevitable annoyance caused by the searching of vessels should be reduced to a minimum. My predecessor, on July 2, 1896, made certain suggestions which would certainly have reduced to a minimum this annoyance, at least as regards vessels clearing direct from Victoria for Bering Sea. His suggestions were: First, that all British sealing vessels, before entering Bering Sea, should be searched at Unalaska by United States revenue officers, and the fact that they have on board no firearms should be duly certified to; secondly, that all skins landed by said vessels should be examined by expert inspectors at the home port to discover whether any had been shot. The reply of your Government, communicated by Lord Gough on September 21, 1896, was substantially to the effect that unless said preliminary search and certificate should absolutely exempt British vessels from further search by American cruisers, the proposition could not be entertained. Your Government also declined to authorize the examination of skins landed in British ports by pelagic inspectors, on the ground, among others, as stated in your note, dated May 18, that such examination was not of practical value.

Although the British Government may not consider such an inspection of value, it is to be regretted that it could not have consented to such an inspection, in view of the fact that the United States Government, advised by eminent experts, deemed it of great value, and was willing to make certain arrangements, based in part upon such examination which would, as stated above, reduce to a minimum the inevitable annoyance resulting from a search by our cruising vessels.

I regret that the views of the right of search, expressed by my predecessor in his note to you of December 15, 1896, are not agreeable to your Government. I feel constrained to state that this Government regards this right as indispensable to a proper execution of the intent and spirit of the Paris award. The fact that firearms are sealed up has not in practice released American sealing vessels from most rigid search whenever fallen in with by an American cruiser, nor should any different result follow in the case of a British sealing vessel.

In view of the fact, however, that said sealing up may be regarded oftentimes as a most important piece of evidence to prove that the vessel has not used, illegally, firearms in Bering Sea, and that sealing up may relieve the patrolling vessels of much extra trouble, this Government is willing to give to British vessels the benefit of articles 4, 5, and 6 of the regulations controlling American sealing vessels for the season of 1897, and it will accordingly so instruct its naval officers, should your Government intimate its desire to this effect; at the same time informing said officers that the fact of sealing up firearms shall afford [Page 295] to British vessels the same protection and immunity against seizure after search as is now afforded American vessels.

I would respectfully suggest an answer to this suggestion at your earliest convenience in order that proper instructions may be speedily prepared to officers of the patrolling fleet.

I have, etc.,

John Sherman.