Mr. Hay to Mr. Wu .
Washington , January 11, 1899 .
Sir: Referring to your note of the 21st ultimo, in relation to the detention at New Orleans by the United States customs authorities [Page 202] there of Mr. Lei Yok, a Chinese merchant, I have the honor to inform you that a letter has been received from the Secretary of the Treasury on the subject, dated the 3d instant, in which he says that admission to the United States was denied to Mr. Lei in accordance with the instructions based upon the opinion of the Attorney-General, dated August 21, 1898, wherein it was held that there is no authority in existing laws under which consular officers of China in foreign countries may issue to Chinese subjects of the exempt classes the certificates prescribed by section 6 of the act of July 5, 1884. With that opinion you are already familiar.
The Secretary of the Treasury adds that until the opinions of the Attorney-General as to the construction of the laws governing the operations of the Treasury Department are overruled by the courts they are necessarily controlling upon that Department, and that it is therefore impracticable to direct the collector at New Orleans to release Mr. Lei.