Mr. Uhl to Mr. Olney.

No. 239.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your instruction No. 256, of the 22d ultimo, in regard to the release by order of the German consul at Apia, Samoa, of two sailors from the German war ship Falke, who had been arrested by the police at Matafele, on a charge of having been drunk and disorderly and of willfully damaging private property, and to inclose a copy of a note addressed by me to the German foreign office, making representations on the subject as directed.

I have, etc.,

Edwin F. Uhl.
[Inclosure in No. 239.]

Mr. Uhl to Baron von Rotenhan.

F. O. No. 155.]

The undersigned, ambassador of the United States of America, acting under instructions from his Government, has the honor to bring to the attention of His Excellency Baron von Rotenhan, acting secretary of state for foreign affairs, an incident which occurred in Samoa in June last, in which, as it has been officially reported to the Government of the undersigned, it appears that two sailors from the German warship Falke were arrested by the police at Matafele charged with [Page 453]being drunk and disorderly and with willfully damaging private property; that the chief of police reported the case to the local magistrate, Mr. William Cooper, by whom the amount of the bail was fixed, and the chief of police instructed not to release the prisoners unless the bail was deposited; that they were shortly thereafter released by the direction and order of the German consul, who did not confer with the magistrate, but stated to the chief of police that he would assume all responsibility in the premises; that no bail was furnished, and the prisoners did not appear before the magistrate as ordered by the court, and that the municipal magistrate strenuously objected to this assumption of authority by the German consul, in a communication addressed to the municipal council, insisting that the order of the court had thereby been treated with contempt, asserting that neither the municipal court nor its magistrate were subject to the control or supervision of the German consul, and pointing out that if the sailors of one nationality were to be thus withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the court, the sailors of other nationalities might with equal right claim similar exemption. It is further reported that in January, 1896, the president of the municipal council instructed the chief of police that if any sailors from the German warships were at any time arrested by the police they were to be released on a watch being sent ashore for them.

In the judgment of the Government of the undersigned it is beyond, question that the German consul exceeded his authority in directing the release of the two sailors in question; and as respects the president of the municipal council, although, as the chief executive officer, he is in charge of the administration of the laws and ordinances applicable to the municipal district of Apia, he is not authorized or empowered to order the release or discharge of persons who have been legally placed in custody charged with an offense triable by a municipal magistrate. It is rather the duty of the president to see that the laws are faithfully executed. Under no circumstances should he arbitrarily overrule the municipal regulations, set them at naught, or assume functions clearly not within his province. Such acts, besides being illegal, tend unnecessarily to create ill feeling, discord, strife, and dissatisfaction, whereas the letter and spirit of the general act are to conciliate all differences and to restore peace and harmony. The chief aim of the three Governments concerned, no less than the officers appointed to execute its provisions, should be to administer the laws impartially and compose all differences in the interest of order and good government.

Touching this aspect of the case, the municipal magistrate, in his communication to the municipal council, pertinently observes:

If the responsible head of the municipal administration himself sets the laws and ordinances at defiance, it can not be expected that other persons will pay much respect to them.

The undersigned is instructed, in bringing this subject to the attention of the Imperial German Government, to suggest the propriety of adopting the necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of such arbitrary and unlawful acts in the future.

The undersigned avails himself, etc.,

Edwin F. Uhl.