Mr. Hay to Mr. Loomis.

No. 268.]

Sir: Our consul at Maracaibo, in his No. 1220, of the 15th ultimo, complains of the embarrassment caused him by the detention of the ships’ papers of American vessels in the hands of the port authorities.

This matter has been the subject of frequent discussion between your legation and the Venezuelan Government (see Foreign Relations, 1882, 1883, 1885, and 1888), and it appeared in 1883 that Venezuela was disposed to yield the point.

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This would seem natural, as, according to Mr. Baker’s memorandum to the foreign office (Foreign Relations, 1883, p. 921) the Venezuelan law requires the deposit of the papers of Venezuelan ships with the consuls of their nation while in foreign ports.

You will observe also that Article XXXII of the treaty of 1836 and the last paragraph of Article XXVI of the treaty of 1860 between the United States and Venezuela (both now abrogated) apparently contemplated that the consuls of the respective nations should have in their possession the registers, the crew lists, and other documents relating to vessels of their nationality. The crew list, shipping articles, and register constitute “the ship’s papers,” and are regarded by international custom, sanctioned expressly or impliedly by 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 consulate officer of the nation in a foreign port.

The laws of the United States require, under a penalty of $500, every master of an American 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.

You will bring this matter to the attention of the Venezuelan Government, pointing out that the practice of the Venezuelan authorities causes great inconvenience to our consular officers, involves violation of our laws and consular regulations, and, according to your predecessor’s statement above referred to, is inconsistent with the Venezuelan law relating to its own vessels.

I am, etc.,

John Hay.