Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 5, 1899
Mr. King to Mr. Hay.
Bangkok, December 21, 1899.
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Inclosed yon will find a copy of my correspondence with the foreign office on two cases which occurred so near together that I thought it wise to make them the subject of my first protest.
The result is in every way satisfactory, the arms having been returned in a few days, and after a delay and a little pressure the letter of explanation came.
In my first letter I state my position on the question of the rights of American citizens in Siam as laid down by the treaties.
I am quite convinced that it is time to take such a stand and hence report to the Department. If my position is in any way in opposition to the views of my Government I shall be glad to learn what will be expected of me in the event of other cases arising of similar nature.
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I have, etc.,
Mr. King to Prince Varoprakar.
Bangkok, Siam, October 31, 1899.
Monsieur le Minister: On the afternoon of Thursday, October 19, two ponies belonging to Mr. Bartine Carrington, a citizen of the United States, were taken into custody by the police of Ban Moh Station. Mr. Carrington immediately applied at the station for his property and was denied possession of the same. He informed the policemen in charge at the time that he was a citizen of the United States, and that he was the owner of said ponies, of both of which facts there seems to be no doubt that the policemen were well aware at the time they took possession of the property.
Mr. Carrington then reported the matter to me and, as consul-general for the United States, I wrote a letter to Mr. Jardine, which was conveyed to him by Mr. Carrington in person, and which received from your inspector-general of police the respectful attention which is set forth in the inclosed letter of Mr. Jardine by the words “I sent him (Mr. Carrington) with your letter to Mr. Lawson” (inclosure No. 1). Mr. Lawson, your superintendent of police at Ban Moh Station, read my letter and told Mr. Carrington that the ponies would be given up only on payment of a certain fine he mentioned, a knowledge of which fine or of the power that presumes to impose such a fine upon a citizen of the United States I must confess I know nothing. Mr. Carrington replied that he was not there to discuss the matter, but simply to present the letter of his consul-general as the case was now entirely in the hands of his consul-general. Your superintendent of police refused to comply with the request of the consul-general of the United States to deliver up goods belonging to a citizen of the United States, which request had been passed on to him by your inspector-general of police. And Mr. Carrington referred the case back to me. About 4 o’clock on the following day the ponies were released after the owner had been deprived of their use for twentyfour hours, and I received a letter from Mr. Jardine, a copy of which I inclose, and to the words of which I respectfully call the attention of your royal highness (inclosure No. 1).[Page 677]
On Friday, October 20, about 11.30 a.m., the revolver and sword of Mr. J. B. West, a citizen of the United States, were seized by one Chom, constable No. 2, in the district of Paklat, which arms Mr. West was carrying as chief inspector of the Spirit Farm at Ratburee. Mr. West was about to depart for his district by his boat at the time. The property was detained under the protest at the time of Mr. West as a citizen of the United States. Mr. West is well known to all the officials in this district, having lived among them now for several years, and it is well known to all implicated in this matter that he is a citizen of the United States. After waiting for more than three hours for his property to be returned to him, Mr. West reported the case to me, as his consul-general, in the evening.
On the morning of October 21 I wrote a letter to Mr. Jardine calling his attention to the irregularity of the proceeding and requesting him to give order that the property be returned to the owner immediately, as the man had already been detained from his business over twenty-four hours. It seems that Mr. Jardine sent an order to the police authorities at Paklat, the contents of which I do not know. On the presentation of this order, the police inspector, one Luang See Sitikdate, refused to give up the arms on the ground that they were now in the hands of the court; the court official, one Luang Cha Muang, second magistrate, the same, however, who accepted the arms the day before, now refused to give them up until his superior should return, who he said was to be absent some week or more; the governor, one Phra: Khajann Songkramm, refused to give them up on the ground that he had nothing to do with the matter, and Mr. West referred the case back to me. I wrote Mr. Jardine a second letter saying that if the matter was not cleared up within twenty-four hours I should be obliged to report it to the foreign office. The result was a letter from him, a copy of which I also inclose (inclosure No. 2). I then wrote His Royal Highness Prince Nares, a copy of whose reply, to the effect that he would investigate, I inclose (inclosure No. 3). After waiting four days I advised Mr. West to secure other arms and to proceed on his way to his business.
Of the property of Mr. West the consul-general of the United States as yet has no knowledge; and as a reply to his final request to have them returned to the owner, he is informed by an official of your Government that he will investigate the matter; a matter which he has never been asked to investigate, inasmuch as the investigation of such a question as the right to detain United States property can in no way be conceded to lie within his province.
Your royal highness is well aware that since my arrival in Siam my Government has been most active in her endeavor to render the Siamese Government every assistance in enforcing her laws, and stands alone in her endeavor to do away with the protégé questions, the only question out of which a case of doubtful jurisdiction can possibly arise. In the light of this fact this positive infringement of the rights of men whose appearance permits of no doubt as to whether they be under Siamese jurisdiction and whose familiar acquaintance with all concerned leaves little doubt that their nationality was known at the time of the several actions becomes all the more serious.
In interpreting all incidents growing out of the protégé questions, I have always exercised the fullest liberty granted me in behalf of your Government, feeling that Siam might be suffering from some things that could not have been foreseen when her treaties were made. In the exercise of police control in the city, unless further abused, it will continue to be a pleasure, in cases of necessity, to grarit the right of seizure, on condition always that the case be immediately reported to the United States consular court, the only court which my Government can recognize as having jurisdiction over such cases. Indeed, it shall be my chiefest pleasure to continue the cultivation of those friendly relations between our two nations, the development of which relations constitutes my special mission to Siam. But I would respectfully call the attention of your royal highness to the fact that I can not lose sight of the fact that in the two unfortunate incidents that occurred in my predecessor’s time, and to which I have sincerely hoped there would never he a necessity to refer, the Government of the United States put herself on record that the treaty rights of her citizens in Siam must be considered sacred. The decision in the incidents referred to took this question out of the domain of discussion and declared that if the words. “British subjects, their persons, homes, premises, lands, ships, or property of any kind shall not be seized, injured, or in any way interfered with by the Siamese,” which words apply equally to United States subjects by the most-favored-nation clause, mean anything, they mean that the entire jurisdiction over the interests of the United States in Siam reside in but one place, and that place is the court of the consulate-general of the United States.
In the light of this fact, I would respectfully invite the attention of your royal [Page 678] highness to the words of the letter from your inspector-general of police (inclosure No. 1) and to the attitude of his subordinate, Mr. Lawson, in your endeavor to discover the cause of these unfortunate incidents—incidents which have been brought about by the action of Siamese policemen who are under the tuition of such instruction.
In passing, permit me to refer to the entire body of correspondence inclosed as a most discouraging comment on that municipal reform of which I know your royal highness to be so sincerely desirous.
Your royal highness is aware that the right to hold a pony or a revolver involves the right to hold property to the value of an estate; that the right to impose a tine of 2 ticals involves the right to impose a fine to any amount; that, while the largest liberty in other matters may be granted to one as representative of his government, treaties can be changed only by governments, and that a decision so definite as that which has been made upon this point leaves the representative no choice of action.
The minister of the United States can not view these proceedings in any other light than that of a grave incident and a serious infringement of the treaty rights of American citizens. It is with feelings of personal regret that, yielding only to the demands of duty, he enters a solemn protest against these proceedings throughout, requests that the goods of Mr. West be delivered to this consulate-general at once; that an explanation be required from those whose authority so obviously has brought about these unfortunate incidents, contrary, as he must believe, to the spirit of the Siamese Government, and in the event of a repetition of such must claim the right to refer the whole matter to his home Government at once without discussion.
I avail myself, etc.,
Mr. King to Prince Varoprager.
Bangkok, Siam, December 8, 1899.
Monsieur le Ministre: The minister for the United States not having received any acknowledgment of his letter of October 31, in which he requested an explanation of the treatment accorded to two citizens of the United States by His Siamese Majesty’s Government, begs to inform His Royal Highness Prince Krom Luang Devawongse Varopraker, His Siamese Majesty’s minister for foreign affairs, that he feels it his duty to lay the whole matter before his Government at Washington.
This he the more sincerely regrets since this case is so related to the assault case of November 19, 1896, that in connection with the same he must of necessity inform his Government also of the fact that His Siamese Majesty’s Government has not complied with the requirements of the decision of the arbitrators in that case, although made known to both Governments at so remote a date as September 20, 1897.
I avail, etc.,