Mr. Hay to the chairman of the committee of miners, Porcupine mining district, Alaska.

Sir: The President has referred to me, after acknowledgment in regular course, your letter of the 11th ultimo, with which was inclosed a protest of the miners of the Porcupine mining district of Alaska against the provisional demarcation of the boundary in the vicinity of the Klehini River, which has been recently made in virtue of the modus vivendi concluded on the 20th of October last.

The arguments and statements presented in the petition with great clearness were fully understood here, and the circumstances that the negotiation of a modus was prolonged for some two years before the agreement was reached was due to the insistence of this Government that no solution was admissible which should not recognize and guard all rights and privileges gained by the American miners and other citizens who had settled in the disputed territory. This position was assumed very early in the negotiation, after consultation with the representative Senators and Congressmen, especially from the Pacific and Northwestern States, and it was well understood that our demand that the American citizens who, by the operation of any provisional arrangement, might be found within the temporary jurisdiction of Great Britain should suffer no diminution of their existing rights was an essential condition from which no recession was possible. The other details of the arrangement were in like manner the subject of constant consultation with the best-informed representative authorities throughout the negotiation, and were generally and fully acquiesced in, with a clear realization of the fact that a settlement of the character sought to be reached was necessarily a temporary compromise, involving mutual concessions, although without prejudice to the complete establishment of the rights of either party in the eventual permanent adjustment of the treaty boundary.

I inclose for your information a copy of the modus vivendi of October 20, 1899. I beg you to observe:

  • First. That the arrangement is provisional merely and without prejudice to the claims of either party in the permanent adjustment of the international boundary.
  • Second. That the inconvenience of a provisional line crossing and recrossing the shifting waterway was foreseen and expressly provided for by the engagement “that persons proceeding to or from Porcupine Creek shall be freely permitted to follow the trail between the said creek and the said junction of the rivers (Klehini and Chilkat) into and across the territory on the Canadian side of the temporary line whenever the trail crosses to such side, and, subject to such reasonable regulations for the protection of the revenue as the Canadian government may prescribe, to carry with them over such part or parts of the [Page 332] trail between the said points as may lie on the Canadian side of the temporary line such goods and articles as they desire, without being required to pay customs duties on such goods and articles.”
  • Thirdly (and most important in its relation to the grounds of your protest). That it is stipulated “that the citizens or subjects of either power, found by this arrangement within the temporary jurisdiction of the other, shall suffer no diminution of the rights and privileges which they now enjoy.”

The provisional arrangement so entered into by the United States and Great Britain was made public in October last, so that its provision became widely known to all parties interested, affording ample opportunity to forsee its effects when the officers of the two Governments should have completed the mechanical operation of marking the temporary line agreed upon by the erection of posts, stakes, or other appropriate temporary marks. To enable a full understanding in these particulars, the published copies of the modus vivendi were accompanied by a map, carefully prepared from the latest and most authentic sources. The arrangement and the map were printed in nearly all the newspapers at the time, constituting an abundant public notification. It would seem, therefore, that the recent action of the surveyors named by the two Governments in setting up the prescribed marks can not be deemed a surprise. Neither does their action involve any new procedure or compromise amounting to an alteration of the engagement entered into in October last. The surveyors had no discretionary powers as to the subject-matter of the boundary dispute, their sole function being to mark upon the surface of the ground the provisional line upon which the two Governments had reached a compromise for the time being.

The rights of the United States in the matter of the treaty boundary are absolutely intact, and their assertion in due time will be earnest and thorough. In the meantime this Government foregoes no part of its right and power to protect its citizens in the Porcupine Creek region, whether they be temporarily within American or British jurisdiction, in the full enjoyment of all rights and privileges which they had before the modus was concluded, and to see that their freedom of access and exit with their goods is not unreasonably impeded.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

John Hay.