Mr. Loomis to Mr. Griscom.

No. 30.]

Sir: I inclose herewith a copy of a dispatch and of its inclosures from the American vice-consul at Tamsui on the subject of the wreck of the American ship Benjamin Sew all and the killing of several members of her crew by the savages of Botel Tobago.

In the letter dated November 17 last from the chief of civil administration, Formosan government, to the vice-consul at Tamsui, it is stated that the government has “efficiently and strictly censured the savages and will warn them not to repeat such misconduct again in future.”

You will bring the matter to the attention of the Japanese Government and suggest to it that something more impressive than censure may suggest itself to the mind of that Government, which, it is not doubted, is earnestly desirous to fulfill all its international duties in regard to the protection of mariners shipwrecked on its coasts.

I am, etc.,

Francis B. Loomis,
Acting Secretary.

Mr. Lambert to Mr. Loomis.

Sir: In reference to the wreck of the ship Benjamin Sewall, I have the honor to inclose for your information copies of the correspondence between this consulate and the Formosan government on the subject of the wreck and the killing of several members of the crew by the savages of Botel Tobago.

* * * * * * *

[Page 441]

I have the honor to call your attention to the fact that the Formosan government have “severely and efficiently censured the natives” for their “ill treatment of the crew of the ship’s boat.”

With all due respect to the Formosan government, I do not consider that severe and efficient “censure” will be a sufficient deterrent to the said natives from repeating the offense should occasion arise. These people have caused a great deal of trouble and, what is more important, sorrow by their heartless behavior.

Eight livs have been lost through their acts of barbarism, and two men are even now seriously ill through the hardships they have been forced to undergo on account of their ill treatment at the hands of the islanders.

To what extent the “censure” has been carried I have not inquired, as I considered it an improper course to take without further instructions. I have, however, sent copies of the inclosed correspondence to the American minister at Tokyo, with a copy of this dispatch.

So far as kindness and attention to the survivors have gone, the Formosan government could not have exceeded their endeavors on the unfortunates’ behalf. Doctor Goto, chief of the civil administration, has done everything possible to protect and succor them, and the island has been searched as thoroughly as possible for the missing.

But little is known of the natives of Botel Tobago, and the best authority is my colleague, Mr. James W. Davidson, at present in the United States on leave. Might I respectfully suggest that should the Department require information on the habits, etc., of the islanders Mr. Davidson be communicated with? He spent some time on the island and studied the natives thoroughly.

I have, etc.,

A. C. Lambert.
[Subinclosure 1.]

Mr. Lambert to Doctor Goto.

Sir: Referring to the wreck of the American ship Benjamin Bewail off the coast of Formosa on October 5 last, I have the honor to inclose herewith for your perusal and infomation a copy in English of a statement made and signed before me, at the Taihoku civil hospital, by Shikatare Iwate, Japanese, an able seaman on board the above-mentioned vessel.a

Iwate was one of the crew of the ill-fated ship’s boat which was lost in the neighborhood of Botel Tobago.

From Iwate’s statements there seems to be little doubt that the boat’s crew were very badly received by the Botol Tobago islanders. In fact, the islanders were responsible for the death by drowning of at least six members of the crew, three of whom are American citizens, i. e., Joseph Morris, first mate; Thomas Pickle, third mate, and Henry Adams, able-bodied seaman. Peter Johnson, able-bodied seaman, came from one of the South American republics—Chile, I believe.

Had the natives not attacked the boat and overturned it, there is no doubt but that all the crew might have been saved, as the boat had already once made the shore, but had been pushed off again in order to escape from the natives who appeared in numbers and of threatening aspect. I gather from the statement of Iwate, and also from that of the Russian Reinwald, that the natives did not at any time do bodily harm to the occupants of the boat, but none the less they made no effort to assist them in any way, but deliberately compassed their death by breaking up the boat and overturning them into the water. No effort appears to have been made by the natives to save any of the persons in the boat after it was capsized, with the exception of the Japanese woman, whom it appears they took away with them.

The names of the persons originally in the boat are as follows: Joseph Morris, first mate; Thomas Pickle, third mate; Henry Adams, A. B.; Peter Johnson, A. B., missing and reported drowned. Ah Hing, cook; Wo Bing, carpenter; [Page 442]Japanese woman, wife of third mate; Shikatare Iwate, A. B.; Yoshize Aoki, A. B.; Juzo Hayashi, A. B., saved.

I should be extremely obliged if you could give me any further information on the above subject, particularly as to the fate of the Japanese woman, if anything is known of it.

The original statement of Iwate, taken down in Japanese, is on file in this consulate, and should you desire a copy of the same I shall have pleasure in supplying you with one.

This question of the attitude of the Botel Tobago islanders toward shipwrecked persons seems to me to be of a serious nature, and I have no doubt, sir, that that is your own opinion. In view of the fact that this is the second American sailing vessel wrecked off the coast of Formosa during the past year (the Otelia Pedersen was wrecked on October 6, 1902), and the possibility of other wrecks occurring in the future in much the same place, it is to be hoped that in the event of any other unfortunates being cast up on Botel Tobago the natives will treat them with more hospitality than they have hitherto shown.

I may state that Iwate and Hayashi are at present in the civil hospital, Tai-hoku, suffering from fever.

I have, etc.,

A. C. Lambert.
[Subinclosure 2.—Translation.]

Doctor Goto to Mr. Lambert.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch of the 7th instant, inclosing a copy of the statement of Shikatare Iwate, A. B., concerning the wreck of the Benjamin Sewall, and informing me of the misconduct of the Botel Tobago islanders toward the shipwrecked persons, and wishing that such ill treatment should not be repeated in future in the event of any other unfortunates being cast away on the island. In reply, I have the honor to state that with regard to the ill treatment shown by the Botel Tobago islanders toward the unfortunates of your nationality, this Government have efficiently and strictly censured them, and will warn them not to repeat such misconduct again in future.

S. Goto,
Chief of Civil Administration.
  1. Not printed.