Your Excellency: Referring to my conversation with you to-day in relation to the case of the James Hamilton Lewis, I have the honor to submit the following points for your excellency’s consideration:

The Imperial ministry of the marine has, as your excellency informed me, stated that the log book of the James Hamilton Lewis is, in its opinion, fabricated and not to be accepted as evidence of the schooner’s course, but offers no proof whatever warranting such a suspicion. On the other hand, this book is confidently submitted by my Government as a bona fide document, sworn to by the masterof the schooner in an affidavit attached to the book itself, and, moreover, the signatures of the crew to the statements of facts appended to the journal could have been obtained only at Vladivostok, the crew having separated and become widely dispersed thereafter. Further, as this statement follows seriatim and without hiatus the entries in the journal, the book could not have been fabricated after leaving Vladivostok, and it is clear that the master had not the materials necessary for concocting a false log book at that place. These would include a sailing chart of the waters of the Bering Sea.

The ministry claims that the young seals, the skins of which were found on the schooner, were taken on the Russian island, but this again is a mere suspicion, with no proof whatever warranting it.

As pointed out in my memorandum, left with the ministry of foreign affairs on March 17 last, nothing is better demonstrated than that young seals are constantly taken in the bellies of their captured mothers in pelagic sealing. Such skins constitute an article of special trade in the London market. But this, as well as the sworn statement of the captain and the crew that these two pups were taken from the bellies of their mothers captured outside of Russian waters, and many other points in my memorandum above referred to, the ministry of marine quite ignores.

The ministry of marine further argues that the attempt of the captain to escape is evidence of guilt. In reply I have simply to say that he went about, on finding himself close to Copper Island with a Russian man-of-war coming in pursuit of him, to avoid the very event which afterwards happened.

But I would further point out that, in point of fact, the report of Second Captain Brandt, commanding the Aleut, does not state, nor does any of the evidence of the Russian Government, as far as the United States embassy or the United States Government is informed, show that the Lewis was, when sighted or at any other time, within Russian jurisdictional waters. Captain Brandt states that at 4.40 a.m. on August 2, when to the west of Copper Island and about 3 miles to the north of its southern extremity, a sailing schooner was sighted ahead following a northwesterly course and approaching the island. Upon the Aleut pursuing her the schooner went [Page 199] about, and at 5.15, or just thirty five minutes after her being first sighted, she was overhauled at 12 miles from Copper Island. Now, it is quite out of the question to suppose that the vessel was able to observe the chase of the Aleut and go about in less than five minutes, and indeed it is highly improbable that she did so in less than ten minutes after her being sighted by the Aleut, which had to get under way; but allowing that she was chased during thirty minutes, to have been within the 3-mile limit when seen, she must have sailed at the rate of 18 miles an hour, a quite impossible feat for such a vessel. No racing yacht sailing under the best conditions for speed has ever attained a higher speed than 1 mile in five minutes. The Lewis had to cover 9 miles to have been within 3 miles of land when sighted and 12 miles from land when overhauled. To cover this distance, sailing even at the extraordinary rate of 1 mile in five minutes, would have required forty-five minutes.

The situation to-day is as follows: The James Hamilton Lewis was captured and confiscated eight years ago, and our claim remains unsettled. The United States Government has supported its claim in all its details by sworn evidence, duly certified and clearly proving that:

The James Hamilton Lewis was, when illegally captured, where she had a perfect right to be, viz, on the open seas and beyond the jurisdiction of the Russian Government; and this fact is shown both by the affidavits of the captain and crew of the Lewis as well as according to the commander of the Aleut’s own figures as to time and distance.

That the skins of the 2 seal pups were not taken on or anywhere near shore, as is charged by the unsupported claim of the commander of the Aleut; and

That 424 seal skins were taken by the captain and crew of the Lewis in violation of no law.

On the other hand:

The Imperial ministry of marine submits no legal proof of evidence whatever either that the Lewis was within Russian jurisdiction when captured, or that seal pups were captured on land, or that the 424 seal skins were taken in Russian waters.

In calling the foregoing to your attention I avail myself of this occasion to renew to your excellency the assurance of my most distinguished consideration.

Ethan A. Hitchcock.

To His Excellency Count Mouravieff,
Imperial Minister of Foreign Affairs, etc.

I, Herbert J. Hagerman, second secretary of the embassy of the United States of America at St. Petersburg, Russia, do hereby certify that I have compared the foregoing copy of a note to the Imperial Russian ministry of foreign affairs from the embassy of the United States at St. Petersburg, dated July 23/August 4, 1898, with a copy of the original of said note recorded in the archives of this embassy, and that the same is a correct transcript therefrom and of the whole of said note.

Herbert J. Hagerman,
Second Secretary United States Embassy.