Statement of the illegal seizure by master and crew.

We, the undersigned, crew of the American schooner James Hamilton Lewis, of San Francisco, Cal., do hereby certify that this is a true and correct statement: That on the morning of August 2, 1891, when 20 miles to the eastward of Copper Island, we were standing in toward the land to test the chronometer before proceeding on our voyage to San Francisco, and about 5 a.m. saw 2 vessels on our lee bow, wind northwest on the port tack, which we steered for the other vessels to speak them. At about 6 a.m. a steamer reported on our port quarter; shortly afterwards she came close up to us, had her flag flying and fired a gun, so we concluded she wanted to speak us, so we hoisted the American flag and hove to for her; so they lowered a boat and crew and sent them to board us; and officer came on deck and demanded the ship’s log book, which I gave him the ship’s official log book, and also showed him ship’s official papers from the custom-house at San Francisco, Cal., which he did not wish to see, but demanded to search the vessel, which I assisted him in doing, as I had nothing on board that I wished to conceal, as everything was on the ship’s manifest, except what had been used on board during the voyage; so he left the vessel, taking my official log book on board the Russian man-of-war Aleut, telling me to wait until he returned, as we would have to follow the steamer; so I told him to return my official log book. Shortly afterwards the officer returned with an armed crew of men and demanded me to leave my vessel and 7 of my crew, which I refused to leave my vessel as I had done nothing wrong, and I was not informed for what I was wanted on board the man-of-war Aleut, so I considered it my duty to remain on board of my vessel and proceed as before on my voyage to San Francisco, Cal., and I put my “vessel on her course, steering east, when upon the man-of-war’s boat returning to their ship, then they began to maneuver, the boat going on one side and the steamer on the other, firing four or five shots at us; then the man-of-war crossed our bow from starboard to port, and just missed running into us, and then she returned and crossing our bow from port to starboard, evidently intending to strike us; when I saw [Page 184] her getting so close, I wanted to avoid a collision and told the man at the wheel to starboard the helm; so the man-of-war got too close to us, and it was impossible to go clear of her when, as the schooner collided with her about midships, carrying away all our headgear, and then the vessels came close together, and the man-of-war made lines fast to our rigging and the two vessels were smashing against one another; then I told my mate to cut the lines that was holding the vessels together and get them apart before they would break up. The mate proceeded to do so, by trying to cut the lines, when some of the man-of-war’s men shouting there was a man with a knife and was afraid he was going to cut some one; in the meantime the schooner’s decks was crowded with Russians and guns and bayonets, and all shouting at once; shortly afterwards we were called on board of the man-of-war, and the commander informed me that I was his prisoner, and the vessels and cargo confiscated, and I was surrounded by guards; then I asked for why I was his prisoner and the vessel and cargo seized, his reply being that I was in Russian waters; then I protested that the seizure was illegal, as I was in neutral waters of the high seas belonging to all nations of the world, as I was outside of 20 miles of the nearest land; furthermore, none of the crew of the schooner had landed on any land since they left Sand Point, Alaska, the 28th June, 1891, and all the seals taken by us during the voyage were killed with shotguns on the high seas and outside of all national limits,” which could be proved by examining the skins and see where they were shot, and the pup skins that were found on board had been taken from the inside of the large seal after they were taken on board of the vessel, and no seals had been on the vessel’s deck for forty hours previous to the time of the seizure; and the report made by the man-of-war Aleut that they had seen something thrown overboard from the schooner is wrong and mistaken, as their imagination must have deceived them, as there was not as much as a bucket of water thrown over the side that morning; so we, the crew of the schooner J. H. Lewis, do declare this to be a true statement, and insert our signatures to the same.

  • Alexander McLean, Master.
  • Joseph McDonald, Mate.
  • Oren Simons, Hunter.
  • A. C. Simons, Hunter.
  • A. L. Donaldson, Hunter.
  • T. W. Lewis, Hunter.
  • John H. Franklin, Hunter.
  • F. Grimsted, Steward.
  • F. Berry, A. B.
  • Frank Little, A. B.
  • J. D. Stephens, A. B.
  • G. Harris, A. B.
  • John Kelly, A. B.
  • Joe Quinn, A. B.
  • Maurice Ratto.
  • Thomas Logan.