Mr. Adee to Mr. Conger.

No. 82.]

Sir: I inclose copy of a dispatch from our minister to the Argentine Republic, reporting that the Brazilian consul-general at Buenos Aires declined to furnish the captain of the U. S. bark Antioch with a bill of health to enable him to clear his vessel for Rio de Janeiro, unless he presented the original of the ship’s articles to him for certification, and to be by him affixed to the manifest.

As the ship’s articles were, in accordance with the laws and consular regulations of the United States, deposited in the hands of our consular officer at Buenos Aires, and could not be lawfully restored by him to the captain until the latter had presented his manifests, bill of health, duly certified by the Brazilian consular officer, and clearance papers from the Argentine authorities, the captain offered to furnish the Brazilian official with a certified copy of them. This he declined to receive. To prevent detention of the ship, our minister advised the captain and the vice-consul of the United States to present the original to the consul-general, who attached the document, together with his certificate as to its “genuineness,” to the ship’s manifest by a card.

The ship’s articles or shipping articles are defined as containing all the conditions of the contract with the crew as to service, pay, voyage, and all other things, and, in accordance with paragraph 194 of the United States Consular Regulations, must be produced by the master to any consular officer of the United States, whenever the latter may think it necessary to the discharge of his duty toward any seaman. They are needed by the consular officer in the case of a dispute between the master and seamen, and on many other occasions. The crew list, shipping articles, and register constitute “the ship’s papers,” and are regarded by international custom, sanctioned expressly or impliedly by most modern commercial and consular treaties, as the national papers of the ship, the originals of which should always be in the custody of the master at sea, and in that of the consular officer of the nation in a foreign port.

As above stated, the laws of the United States require, under a penalty of $500, every master of a United States vessel which sails from a port of the United States, on his arrival at a foreign port, to deposit his register, his sea letter, and Mediterranean passport, if he has any, with the consular officer of the United States at the port. Paragraph 175 of our Consular Regulations adds that—

It is usual also to deposit with the consular officer the crew list and shipping articles; and these documents, together with the register, are generally described as the “ship’s papers.”

Article XXXI of the treaty of 1828 between the United States and Brazil (which was abrogated in 1841) indicates that the Brazilian laws, [Page 43] like our own, contemplated that the ship’s papers, as national papers of the vessels, must be in the hands of either the master or the consul.

It provided that the consuls shall have power to require the assistance of the national authorities for the arrest of deserters, “proving by an exhibition of the registers of the vessel, or ship’s roll, or other public documents that those men were part of said crews.” The ship’s articles form a part of this evidence. In the case under consideration they could not have been presented to the Argentine authorities by our consular officer if they had been in the hands of a Brazilian official.

Moreover, the strength of their evidence as “national” papers is impaired when they bear a certification of their “genuineness” from the official of a foreign nation.

In this connection it may be well for you to examine the laws of Brazil in regard to ship’s papers. They are probably, as above indicated, very similar to our own.

There has been at times an effort on the part of certain of the South American Republics to require the master of a foreign vessel to deposit the ship’s papers with the port authorities, instead of with the consul of his nation. This contention has been uniformly resisted by the United States, as well as by other governments, on the ground of its inconvenience, its inconsistence with the spirit of international law and with the express or implied stipulations of treaties. Colombia and Venezuela both receded from their position. You will find the correspondence with Colombia published in Foreign Relations, 1879 and 1880; that with Venezuela in Foreign Relations, 1882 and 1883.

You will observe from Mr. Buchanan’s dispatch that the Government of France is understood to have protested at Rio de Janeiro against the practice of the Brazilian consul general at Buenos Aires.

The Department will be glad to have you present its views on this subject to the Government of Brazil, pointing out the inconvenience, if not impropriety, of the course pursued by its officer, which it trusts will be abandoned.

Respectfully, etc.,

Alvey A. Adee,
Acting Secretary.